Just when you thought the world was getting a little too sane…

First, the politics part:

Latest news, compliments of the New York Times: The Israeli government has decided to open the temple mount to the general public, Jews, Christians and Muslims. (This is a change from the current de facto situation, where the Muslim waqf that runs the mosque basically controls access to the mount itself) Basically, it’s setting the place up as a tinderbox, apparently on the theory that the area doesn’t have enough of them. Both sides starting to act like they usually do in the vicinity of the heart of the old city, namely like frightening madmen; most of you have probably heard me try to explain this before.

(Actually, it’s more likely on the theory that establishing a status quo on the ground counts for everything in Middle Eastern politics, which is actually a pretty accurate theory, although it tends to only be applied to things that are likely to lead to bloodshed)

Second, an amusing side note

Published in: on August 28, 2003 at 22:32  Comments (4)  
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Conversations on the mathematics of belief

(or, The Gods Must Be Crazy)

Last night, aided by a great deal of coffee and a strange mood, hansandersen, jrpseudonym and I had a discussion about Pascal’s Wager and the mathematics of belief. The results were… well, somewhat strange, but some of you may find them amusing or interesting, so here’s a brief summary. It’s incomplete – guys, you want to add in some comments with your own notes and thoughts from last night? I know there’s plenty.

So, without further ado: Magic 8 ball, what should I believe?

Published in: on June 19, 2003 at 11:40  Comments (12)  
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Observations on words

[From some thoughts while slightly inebriated, last night]

The news story of the apocalyptic carp – the one which started to spout revelations in Hebrew in New York – was described as “ichthyological theology,” that is, Deus ex Piscem. In Hebrew one may refer to this as “Torah min hamayim” – Torah from the waters, as opposed to the more common Torah min shamayim, coming from the skies. (This is because “sky” – “shamayim” is actually a degenerated compound word, “sham-mayim”: there-water. “Sun” – “shemesh” – similarly degenerates from “sham-esh,” there-fire. This is a very old degeneration, probably predating Hebrew)

Ichthyological theology should not be confused with eschatological scatology (“Oh, shit. There goes the planet.”) nor scatological eschatology. (“Well, the world seems to be going to shit today…”)

On the subject of other word constructions, as I was discussing with hansandersen and doublefeh on the way home last night, Greek particles are fun. And there are some words that need to come into more widespread use: not just mythology but logomythy, the lore of learning, the secrets I tell my students about how to survive in physics; topology and topography need to be supplemented by topomythy, place-lore, not just an area knowledge but the stories of a locale; similarly mythography, the charting of legends, which keeps track of the ley lines and so on, and its linguistic dual graphomythy, the lore of mapmaking.

English is a great language.

Correction: It occurs to me that logomythy shouldn’t be the lore of study, but word-lore itself: that is, the content of this posting.

OK, I need to stop trying to avoid work now.

Published in: on March 16, 2003 at 11:39  Comments (17)  
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It’s the end of the world as we know it (And I feel hungry)

Just in case the news reports weren’t enough to convince you that something big is at hand, we now have icthyological theological backing.

Um… that doesn’t make much sense. Neither does the original story: From the NY Times

In other news, B-1 bombers associated with the 24th MEU in Jordan have begun heavy bombing of radar installations in western Iraq. Story & photos here.

Published in: on March 15, 2003 at 12:35  Comments (5)  
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In Kaddish (one of the core Jewish prayers, a general statement of the blessing of the Name,
which is medieval in origin and in Aramaic) the name is said to be “blessed beyond all prayers
which are uttered in the world.” (da’amiran bealma)

However, this (standard) translation doesn’t quite seem correct. Da’amiran, which is usually translated
as “which are uttered,” should really be translated as “which can be uttered.” (Aram. “Da” =
Heb. “she,” which; aram. “-an” = heb. “-im,” plural suffix; “amir,” in both Aram and Heb., is the
adjectival form of “le’emor,” to utter, and thus means “utterable.”)

Or am I mistranslating the suffix? Hmm, not sure…

This has been another useless fact.

Published in: on March 3, 2003 at 11:23  Comments Off on Aramaic  
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The top headline of this week’s Weekly World News reads “Three new commandments discovered!”

Published in: on November 8, 2002 at 18:22  Comments Off on Discoveries  
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Biblical Exegesis

So I just picked up a Hebrew copy of the Bible (which, for some odd reason, is impossible to find in the States) and was scanning through it, and had some random thoughts come to mind on the interpretation of the second genesis story and the story of the Tree of Good and Evil.

Things that didn’t occur to me before

Published in: on October 3, 2002 at 18:56  Comments (15)  

A good morning

I just got back from morning services for Rosh Hashanah at a very small, Orthodox synagogue in Boulder. There was something very good about this group; they weren’t obsessed with ritual forms like far too many of the Orthodox seem to be, but rather seemed to be people who just wanted to be together both for the liturgy and for discussing the ideas behind it. Prayer was mixed with discussion, and a great deal of singing and dancing. (Random language thought, not from today but relevant: The Hebrew word for ‘to rejoice’ is literally more or less ‘to be filled with song.’ The word for ‘rich’ is ‘joyful.’ Says something about the underlying ideas there)

Anyway, it was really all the things that a religious occasion ought to be — people there out of will and happiness, rather than out of some abstract obligation, and participating actively rather than just reciting from memory. Definitely a good morning.

And now, to get some sleep… 🙂

Published in: on September 7, 2002 at 12:10  Comments Off on A good morning  
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