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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Josh's LiveJournal:

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Sunday, April 6th, 2014
6:08 pm
word association graph game thing?
Hey...does anyone remember that word graph association game thing that was popular on LJ a few years ago? The one where there was a growing graph of words/phrases/names, each connected to other words/phrases/names they were somehow associated with, either by being members of the same category (e.g. poker players) or in some other way. The words weren't initially visible, and the object was to try to traverse the entire grid, which spanned something like 5x5 screens, by guessing the words. I'm trying to find it and (ironically, perhaps) having trouble thinking of the right words to Google it with...

EDIT: I found it! http://shygypsy.com/farm/p.cgi

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Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
4:12 pm
I feel like my hobby these days, and how I spend my free time, is convergence. Everything I want to do is of the form "Make X work on/in Y" or "Get information about X via my Y". I've been interested in this for a few years, ever since I got my Ambient Orb to tell me about Phillies scores on Shabbat.

* Get information about [the Center City eruv] via [Twitter, and therefore, via text message]
* Make [the multi-synagogue Shavuot program I went to in DC last year] work in [Philadelphia]
* Get information about [the time of day the way the rabbis of olden times calculated it] via my [future Pebble wristwatch]
* Make [my Wii remote] work on [my new Kindle Fire tablet]
* Make [NES games] work on [my tablet]

And none of this even mentions my Raspberry Pi, which is great at this sort of thing, and which I haven't even really started playing with.

Oh, and I guess my other hobbies these days are playing / learning to play bridge, and planning for my upcoming spring training & cruise trip in March. Those aren't about convergence.

And all of this explains why I feel so busy lately even though I "don't have that much going on". Huh! There you go, then.

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/441499.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Monday, February 11th, 2013
10:39 am
Today's XKCD reminds me of my time as a LiveJournal volunteer.

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/441282.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
8:33 am
Accuweather accuracy
So a few months ago I decided to start a Wordpress blog on which to post occasional things that aren't really about me personally and that I'd be happy to have reach a wider audience. And yesterday I posted something fun: the first data I've gotten from my research into whether Accuweather's 25-day forecasts are at all accurate. Have a look, if you like.

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/440443.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Tuesday, December 4th, 2012
12:22 pm
When I was a kid, it used to really bother me if I (or even other people) did certain things in one direction without later "reversing" it. For example, if there was a room with two entrances, such that I could leave the room by one entrance and come back in through the other, I'd then want to go back and cycle around the other way to make it even. If I did that 3 or 4 times in the same direction, I might want to "undo" it 3 or 4 times.

It annoyed me that I did this, and I tried to break myself of it. One thing I tried was to take note of a particular TV commercial that I saw a LOT at the time. In part of it, a kid spins around clockwise in a chair, maybe once or maybe a few times. Of course, he never goes back and spins counterclockwise. So I tried to watch the commercial as much as I could, and convince myself that the kid was just never going to "even things out". It bothered me at first, but in the end, I think it helped.

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/440194.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Friday, November 2nd, 2012
12:01 am
exerpt from a great conversation I'm having right now
("Great" because it involves me talking about myself a lot, natch.)

"So I guess the theme to my questioning these days is, how compelling/important/required does Judaism (in the form of Shabbat practice, or anything else really) seem to me in the presence of strong community? Weak community? Community that I have to work really hard to create? No community?"

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/439480.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
2:21 pm
x-post from a Facebook comment
I am embarrassed to admit that I subconsciously know which parts of my 6-block walking commute have trees with low branches overhanging the sidewalk. I find myself cringing when I get near them, head buried in my phone reading some interesting blog post, because I've probably run into all of them before.

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/437346.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Thursday, July 5th, 2012
11:09 am
Maybe call me?
Bringing this over here from Facebook. Your challenge: Create the best possible poem or very short story, using only words found in the lyrics of the song "Call Me Maybe". [personal profile] synecdochic and others might enjoy the challenge!

word listCollapse )

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/437183.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012
11:15 pm
Parx report
Up $10 on the living social deal ($20 cash -> $30 in slot dollars), even on slots, down $30 on Pai Gow Tiles, up $85 on Craps, net up $65. And I'm in line for free food. I'll take that any day!

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/436831.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
11:37 am
horizontal Shabbat elevator
Another post in the series of exploring the less logical sides (at least as viewed by an outsider) of my Jewish practice:

So I don't usually travel on Shabbat, from Friday sundown to Saturday after dark. This is one of many Shabbat restrictions I observe. But it's not really just one restriction. There are a handful of more fundamental Shabbat restrictions that lead to reasons why one might not travel:
  • One may not kindle or extinguish a fire on Shabbat, which is perhaps part of what you're doing if you're operating a vehicle.
  • Even if you question the "fire" one as it applies to vehicles, operating a vehicle certainly involves manipulating current electricity, which is something else people (including me) avoid, even if its connection to pre-modern restrictions is tenuous. Does your car have spark plugs?
  • If someone else is driving you, they are probably doing some of the above things specifically for your benefit, which can be seen as comparable to doing them yourself. (Are they dropping you off somewhere other than where they're getting out? Do they idle the car longer for you to get in? And so on.)
  • If you are taking public transportation, you are typically engaging in a commercial transaction, exchanging money for a ticket and/or exchanging a ticket for access to a vehicle. In addition to the above problems. (Does the bus driver make a stop for you? Do you have to swipe your subway pass through an electric reader?)
  • Outside an eruv, one may not carry on Shabbat. Do you have keys with you? A bus ticket? Your bike? (Yes, riding a bike may be considered carrying; it tends to be defined a bit more broadly in this ritual context than in the common English usage of the word.)
  • There is the issue of "t'chum", that one may simply not travel beyond a certain distance on Shabbat. I think the limit is about 2 kilometers, or if you're in a city, then 2 kilometers beyond the edge of the city.

In addition to the negative ("don't do X") commandment to not work on Shabbat, there's also a positive ("do X") commandment to create a holy and restful atmosphere on Shabbat. Sitting in traffic to get to something on time probably does not qualify.

OK. So normally I don't travel on Shabbat, for all of the above reasons. But this Saturday afternoon, I have a wedding to attend in Wilmington. I tried and failed to find a reasonable and inexpensive place to stay nearby, and doing so would anyway possibly have meant spending the first 20 or so hours of Shabbat alone and bored. (Not exactly a holy atmosphere.) So attending the wedding means traveling.

And I think I figured out how. I'm taking a train there. Why is this OK with me? Well, with the caveat that this justification might not work for all Jews who observe similar Shabbat restrictions, here's my thought process:
  • I'm not driving, so there's no kindling anything for me.
  • For the same reason, no electricity either.
  • The way commuter trains operate, they don't do anything different for an extra passenger. They're still making the same stops, for the same length of time, whether I'm on there or not. So I'm not causing any train worker to do the above things for my benefit.
  • Before Shabbat, I am buying a monthly train pass from a friend. When using the pass, no value is deducted from the pass when one takes a train, so there is no real transaction happening. The pass is simply permission to enter the train. In addition, in Philadelphia, commuter rail passes are not swiped or scanned. One simply shows one's pass to a conductor, who then continues down the train without stopping to write you a receipt or anything.
  • I will enter the train inside an eruv, so carrying is not an issue at that point. When I exit the train, I'll just leave the pass there! (Good thing the wedding is June 30th; no one will have much use for a June monthly pass at that point.) I won't need to carry anything else (I can wear my keys), so I'm good on that count.
  • As far as t'chum goes, I'm fine with considering Wilmington part of the same city as Philadelphia. The U.S. Census Bureau does.

And as far as the Shabbat atmosphere goes, I think I'm good on that count too. I'm doing my usual Shabbat things with my usual community for most of Shabbat, before I go and get on a train Saturday mid-afternoon. One might argue that attending a wedding is not conducive to a Shabbat atmosphere, but that's a separate question. (I would be going anyway, even if I didn't travel; I'd just try harder to find somewhere to stay within walking distance.)

Anyway, a train is really a perfect solution to the traveling problem. I have heard it referred to as a "horizontal Shabbat elevator". Some buildings such as hotels operate a "Shabbat elevator" for observant Jewish guests. Such an elevator runs continuously and stops on every floor, enabling guests to ride it without operating electricity themselves. A commuter train is the same thing, just horizontally and over a greater distance.

And congrats to Jeff and Sarah!

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/436543.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Monday, June 11th, 2012
11:14 am
Shabbats this summer
Because I'm crazy:

5/25: Silver Spring, MD (and for Shavuot too)
6/1: Philly (Minyan Tikvah, and a wedding Sunday!)
6/8: Boston (and a wedding Sunday!)
6/15: Philly (no plans yet)
6/22: Philly (and possibly New York on Saturday night to Sunday)
6/29: Wilmington, DE (and a wedding Saturday night!)
7/6: Philly (no plans yet)
7/13: Brooklyn
7/20: DC
7/27: Philly (no plans yet)
8/3: Philly (Minyan Tikvah)
8/10: Rindge, NH
8/17: Schwenksville, PA

Yes, that's 13 straight weeks where I might be home for Shabbat less than half the time. We'll see how nuts I actually am...

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/435581.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
10:26 pm
Rituals and signs of the approaching summer
  • Opening day
  • The first time I wear shorts out of the house
  • When they fill Rittenhouse Square's fountain with water
  • When I find out who's playing at Folk Fest
  • When my Folk Fest volunteer committee asks me if I'm working this summer
  • My first raspberry
  • My first blueberry
  • When I put my winter comforter away
  • The NHL playoffs
  • Finishing all the season finales
  • When both of the above are done, and all that's left to watch is baseball
  • When Friday night services end and it's still light out
  • When the 7-day forecast doesn't show any highs below 70 (21°C)
  • The first time you can find parking in Center City on a Friday afternoon, because everyone's left for the beach
  • When people walking outside start wearing brighter colors
  • When you can see the arms and legs of the people walking outside

Seriously love this time of year.

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/435070.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Thursday, May 10th, 2012
6:07 pm
In honor of Parenthood's renewal, my current TV watching:

Current shows, in approximate order of how much I like them
1. Parenthood
2. Sherlock
3. Arrested Development (yes, it counts as current, dammit)
4. NCIS (yeah, yeah)
5. Girls
6. House (got back in it to see the last half-season)
7. Suburgatory
8. New Girl
9. Modern Family (would be higher if Cam weren't so annoying this season)
10. Glee
11. Law & Order: SVU
Honorable mentions (shows I'm kind of halfheartedly following a bit): Happy Endings, Don't Trust the B---- in Apt 23, Best Friends Forever

Past shows, actively watching or between seasons
1. The Wire
2. Srugim
3. In Treatment

Past or present shows I might watch back seasons of at some point
1. Parenthood
2. Sports Night
3. Friday Night Lights
4. Freaks and Geeks (seriously still haven't seen it)

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Friday, May 4th, 2012
9:42 am

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/433941.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Monday, April 16th, 2012
10:47 am
http://xkcd.com/1043/ is sad to me. Why couldn't LJ or DW have taken off like Tumblr? Is it just because it's harder to post cat macros and other dumb photo-based memes on LJ/DW? I bet it is.

Once again, sad that there's nowhere on the internet where more than a handful of my friends posts and reads long-form personal posts. There used to be, and it was awesome.

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/433725.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Sunday, March 18th, 2012
7:04 pm
Not feeling well. Put on sweatpants and walked outside to head to Walgreen's to get some random antihistamines to try. Ran into someone I know, who I haven't seen in awhile. Found myself walking with him for a block. Explained that I wasn't feeling well and was headed to Walgreen's, as a way to excuse my attire.

Excuse my attire? When it's sweatpants? What has happened to me?!?!?!

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/432975.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Tuesday, March 6th, 2012
10:50 pm
BZ was right
Yes, BZ was right. At least about me. With this post, I am announcing my decision to become a "1-day yom tov (1DYT) Jew", rather than the "2-day yom tov (2DYT) Jew" I've been (with some exceptions) up until now. This is effective immediately and indefinitely. This is a decision I am not taking lightly at all, and I'd like to write a bit about the background of the problem and my thought processes leading up to this decision.


A brief aside -- why am I deciding now? Because there are no major holidays right now.Collapse )


Background of Jewish holidays and their lengthCollapse )

Why add a day?Collapse )


But shavuot is weirdCollapse )

Does the law need to be reasonable?Collapse )


OK, so that's where I've been for awhile. There are 1DYT people, and they're following a legitimate minhag. I adopted their minhag when it comes to Shavuot, but I still accepted the reasoning, the nod to history and messengers, when it comes to 2DYT for the other non-Shavuot holidays. So what changed?

IsraelCollapse )

Modern sensibilities and modern teshuvotCollapse )

And, finally, decidingCollapse )

And I'm confident in my status as an authentic, independent, actualized participant in the living conversation of Jewish law, practice, and life.

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/432476.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Sunday, March 4th, 2012
9:55 pm
February of awesomeness?
So I've had a freaking blast the past month or so. I'm still not that good at February or March, but the combination of the mild winter and keeping super-busy has apparently kept my mind off of the late-winter doldrums at least to some extent.

This weekend, for example! Friday night I was invited to IFE & AE's for dinner. That was awesome, because we've become rather good friends in the 7 months since I've met them, but for various reasons they hadn't had people (that I know of) over for a Shabbat meal yet. They have an amazing house, and make chicken with Terra chips. When a friendship is based around Shabbat meals, there's a certain extent to which it doesn't seem real enough until you've each been over the other's place, and I'm glad we've reached that point. Then, on Saturday, rather than just relaxing like I'd planned, RC had me over for a last-minute cholent lunch. I had meat twice this Shabbat, which I haven't done in as long as I can remember. Seriously, it might be 5 years since the last time.

Post-Shabbat, I decided to bail on a pre-Purim party because I had a big day today. And today! I went on a "Hidden Philadelphia" hike through tunnels and bridges in Center City that I didn't know existed! It was amazing! DS leads hikes every so often, and I've never been before, but I'm so glad I went. Actually getting out and doing something physical for once, triggering my latent sense of adventure, exploring my beloved city, and being social in a way I'm not usually. (Aside from when I go to retreats and conferences, most of my socialization happens with people I already know, at meals or services or smaller parties or whatever. I never go to bars or big parties, and rarely go to events I'm not running. Meeting new people! Outside my comfort zone! And liking it! What the hell!)

Afterwards, went to a Princess Bride viewing party (still one of the best movies ever). And then left when the movie was over to visit another friend and help teach her how to lead services (even though she basically already knew). Even that was fun and a bit of an ego boost -- apparently there's this skill that I not only have, but have strongly enough to teach it to someone else in a strong and coherent way! It felt amazing.

So now I'm home and exhausted, but wanted to take some time to write up about my weekend and the past month before it fades into the background.

Weekend by weekend...Collapse )

Concerts: 3 (Mates of State, The Wild Bohemians (a local Fat Tuesday supergroup), and Heartless Bastards)
Overnight guests: 3
Parties/meals at my apartment: 2 (monthly-ish game night too!)
Times eating meat: 4 (WTF? That's so much!)
Spectator sporting events better than the super bowl: 1
Times seeing out-of-town friends: Over and over...

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/431834.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Monday, January 30th, 2012
10:42 am
Password management: KeePass
I asked on Facebook last week about password management tools, and have been playing around with one ever since: KeePass ( http://keepass.info ). I rather like it, and I figured I would share what I found.

KeePass version 2 (not to be confused with KeePassX) runs on Windows (via .NET), Linux (via mono), and OSX (also via mono), and it has some community-contributed versions for mobile devices. I've tried it so far on Win XP, Linux Mint, and KeePassDroid for Android 2.3.

First of all, it's fully free and open source. The "free" part, in terms of not having to pay money, is nice. But the "open source" part I think is vital for a security program like this. The source code can be and has been fully vetted by programmers, so we know there are no secret backdoors, security holes, or anything along those lines. (Of course no software is fully secure, but open source software has the best chance to be free from already-known problems, and has the best chance to quickly fix problems discovered in the future.) Given that I am creating a database to store all of my passwords in one place, a "single point of failure" if you will, I would not trust anything less than fully open software.

Now, with that out of the way, here's what it can do:

* Store an arbitrary number of passwords. With each password, you can store a username, URL, tags, notes, and so on. You can file passwords into folders within the database if you like. The passwords can be your existing ones, or...

* You can create passwords with it. You can set rules to match the rules of a given site (min/max characters, optionally allow or disallow capital letters, numbers, symbols, etc) and just click a generate button. There's also a neat feature called "generate additional entropy", which assures you a "more random" password, but really it's just fun to wiggle your mouse around for 15 seconds because a program tells you to. By default it hides passwords, but you can always show them. You can also one-click copy a password. But the coolest way to actually use the passwords is...

* Global auto-type. When you're logged into your KeePass database, you can press ctrl-alt-A (or whatever key combination you set) when you get to a login screen for a website. It will detect which website it is, and automatically fill in your username and password for you. It can take a small amount of trial and error to get set up for a given website, which I find easy but which you may not want to do. In that case, you can still use the regular copying feature.

* The database is stored in a single file. I keep it in my Dropbox folder, so it's automatically synced across my work and home computers and half-automatically to my phone. You can unlock the database with a single global password (and for the love of all that is holy please make this your most random, most secure password ever), or you can set a "key file", a random other file on your system that you have to choose instead of a password (and for the love of all that is holy please don't ever edit or delete the key file). I wish you could also use securID or something like that for further authentication, but it is what it is.

And that's all! I think it meets all of my needs, and I'm gradually shifting over to using it for most of my websites. I recommend you try it if you're looking for something like this! And even if you're not looking, how much longer will it be until the next time you get one of those "we've been hacked" emails from Zappos, Dreamhost, your bank, or someone else?

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/430625.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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Sunday, January 1st, 2012
2:00 am
Pearl Jam – Breath
Counting Crows – A Long December
Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams – Alice in Space

.עד כאן 2011

To 2012 — may it not suck.

This entry was originally posted at http://desh.dreamwidth.org/429692.html. Please comment there after logging in with OpenID.
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