Maoz Tzur

I wrote this back in 2007 back on my old livejournal (don’t laugh, you whippersnappers), but I want to bring it forward and preserve it, and it’s timely for Thanksgivikuh this year.

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My all-time-favorite Jewish song is Ma’oz Tzur (no, not Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages”). The song chronicles God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from a series of oppressive regimes in chronological order.

In prior years, I noticed something interesting in the fifth verse, the one about the salvation from the Selucids (translation from Wikipedia):

יוונים נקבצו עלי ‏‏אזי בימי חשמנים,‏
ופרצו חומות מגדלי ‏‏וטמאו כל השמנים,‏
ומנותר קנקנים ‏‏נעשה נס לשושנים,‏
בני בינה ימי שמונה קבעו שיר ורננים.‏

Greeks gathered against me then in Hasmonean days.
They breached the walls of my towers and they defiled all the oils;
And from the one remnant of the flasks a miracle was wrought for the roses.
Men of insight – eight days established for song and jubilation

The third line there is pronounced “u-minotar kankanim, na’aseh nes lashoshanim,” and as it’s spelled out in English letters, the pun becomes clear – “u-minotar kankanim” doesn’t just mean “and out from the flasks,” it also can mean “and the Minotaur is yoked to ploughs” (Jastrow helpfully provided confirmation of the uncommon usage of kankana as a plough)

I checked the assorted Siddurim (prayerbooks) around the house (Sacks, Birnbaum, Metsudah, Artscroll, Koren), and none of them mention the secondary meaning at all, so I asked RBF about it. His response was that he didn’t remember reading anyone talking about it, but that it’s obviously there. He said that the commentators would have eschewed pointing it out because that would imply that they knew something about Greek culture (!) and this was looked at as a gateway to heresy.

I think that the liturgical poets were pretty clever in their use of multilingual puns.

A suprising miss in the Wiki article is associating “Admon” (lit. “the red one”) with a specific ruler rather than with “Edom” (Esau) = Rome = the Roman Catholic Church, who were clearly the opressors of the Jews at the time of its composition – this association seems strikingly obvious to me…

Anyway, I was pleased to have caught something not much discussed.

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XV (not to be confused with Quinceañera)

I’m exhausted, and very happy. In the last week, I’ve built four pieces of furniture (a shelving unit, two bookcases and a crib) to get our house a little more ready for the birth of our daughter.

It wasn’t long ago that this seemed like a chimerical will-o’-the-wisp, and now it feels quite real indeed.

But none of those dreams would have been more than figments, let alone realities, had not Sarah taken my hand in marriage fifteen years ago. That remains the best thing which has ever happened to me. I will always be grateful for her ability to see beyond who I was then, and her willingness to give me a chance – it would have been very easy to write me off.

I fell in love with Sarah right away, but each day is better than the one preceding. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

For fifteen beautiful, wonderful years, I thank you. And for the years to come, I applaud.

My cup of blessing runs over.

A Slip In Time

This is the first original explanation explaining the passage of the “A”CA I’ve yet seen. Everything else looking at the difference between European state-run health care systems and the US one has basically boiled down to either “American Exceptionalism” or “Insufficient Progress” depending on the opinion of the possessor.

I think Hoyt might have really hit the nail on the head with this one.

According To Hoyt

I’m not going to pound on the fiasco that is the “socialist convention named” Affordable Care Act.  (There is no affordable in the care act, just like there was no Democratic in the Deutshe Republic and there certainly is very little input from the people in China’s People Republic.)

I’m not going to pound on it, only examine why our reaction to the fiasco it is (and likely will continue being) is so immediate and in your face, when it is true that in most countries with centralized health care, people are fond/proud of it in some way.

Honestly, I think the left had convinced itself that even if it were a very rough start, as this is proving, we would swallow and go along, because other countries have/had.  They thought we would grumble, and moan, but eventually we’d be happy to have that government-provided-health care and not mind too…

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Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Sarah and I saw the new musical Crossing at the Signature Theater tonight as part of our season package.

In this musical, nothing happens. Eight caricatures of various time periods interact by having conversations which are occasionally interesting but mostly superficial and vapid, while being prodded along by one narrator/angel. The frame of the musical is that these are people from different time periods who are interacting, but nothing special actually makes that particularly interesting, other than perhaps to say that people have in fact been people throughout the decades. Good insight, Einstein.

The music is effectively songs strung together, but they aren’t memorable. I saw it literally half an hour ago, and as a professional musician and someone who has seen oodles of musical theatre, I find next to none of it comes to mind, other than that the penultimate bit included a series where all of the characters are asking “will it end” and “how much longer” and the like, which is a terrible, terrible idea when the play is eighty-three minutes of nothing happening.. And then there is this dance-lit crescendo where the “angel” (in quotes due to lack of explanation) sings a forgettable number and holds a big note. All righty then.

Oh, if you ever wondered whether eighty-three minutes could feel like forever, the answer is yes.

This is worse than just being a show I didn’t like. I didn’t like Arena’s “Red”, but that show was competently done (I just found Rothko so unpleasant that I wished I hadn’t spent two hours in his company, and I have never cared for Rothko’s artwork anyway), and there have been other things that I didn’t like, but I understood why other people did. No, this is different. This is a bad, bad musical. This musical is Spın̈al Tap two-word-review bad. I can’t think of the last thing I’ve seen which is this bad.

I’ve been more moved by high school productions of Chess than this. Someone in Signature Theatre really, really should have watched this in development, and should have realized that it stunk. According to the playbill, it’s been in development for more than five years. Seriously? And in that time, they couldn’t have added a plot? Come on, there are nine characters in an eighty-three minute play. If you can’t have something happen, get rid of most of them, and have them interact in depth (à la Waiting for Godot).

They say that given infinite time, an infinite number of monkeys will eventually type all of the works of Shakespeare. Apparently this is what happens if you don’t have that.

In Which Humble Pie is Eaten, Along with Cookies (or “The Adventures of Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy”)

It turned out that Sarah had long-ago scheduled to go away this weekend as well, and my memory being what it is (more like a steel sieve than a steel trap), I had forgotten until two weeks ago.  So all of a sudden, I found myself with another opportunity for a civilization game!  Hooray!  That one which I had thought would be the last pre-kidlet would merely be the penultimate, simple, cozy, and all could be right in the universe.

I invited a bunch of folks, most of whom hadn’t been able to make it to recent games, and one of whom has a gluten and soy intolerance, necessitating calling the amazing chosenbites.com: two dozen soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free cookies made of pure awesomeness would soon be mine!  Muh-wah-hah-ha-ha!!  The chocolate chip cookies are great, but the ginger snaps are magnificent.

Of course, Der Menscht trakht und Gott Lakht (man plans and God laughs), or “life is apparently what happens while you’re busy making other plans” (John Lennon).

I ended up in the hospital this week for unexplained vomiting which the ER docs thought might be my gall bladder due to a worrisome ultrasound.  An amusing side note: Sarah posted a note to Facebook mentioning that we were in the hospital and mentioning “ultrasound” -and apparently a bunch of folks thought we were there for her which thankfully was not the case (I had a bunch of folks tell me that they were glad it was me and not her – me too!).

Sibley Hospital is still really nice, and their staff is still the most pleasant of any hospital I’ve ever been to.  However, I think with their purchase by the JHU team, they’ve now been discovered by some of the rest of region- the ER was actually really crowded and we had a multi-hour wait (which is much more typical for the region).  The staff said they hadn’t seen it that crowded before.

They kept me there for about a day and a half on some saline, Phenergan and some IV antibiotics.  Interestingly, the nurse told me this time about some people’s complications from IV Phenergan, and that they try to use Zofran instead, but I’ve never had the slightest benefit from Zofran.  Looking now at the pharmacological differences, that makes total sense – they work on completely different receptors, and one of Zofran’s known side effects is headache (while I’ve gotten Phenergan for migraine-triggered nausea in the past).  Anyway, I was kept NPO because the ultrasound and physical exam showed me as a possible surgical candidate.  It’s like Tisha b’Av, but colder!

So they performed a HIDA scan, which was my first exposure to nuclear medicine.  I was injected with Technetium-99m (and some other goop), and told to lie very very still for about 90 minutes. Frustratingly, Sarah was not told how long this test was.  Happily, I apparently studied hard, because I passed this test with a negative, and managed to avoid surgery.  The half-life of the Tc-99m is about 6 hours, so it should be quite gone by now, but I figure I did a reasonable Tony Stark impersonation for a while there, so at least that’s some geek cred.  I had a good time talking to the doctor about how the detector worked and what it was showing.

Sarah did a heck of a job taking care of me through this – I fast really poorly, and so my ability to think straight was reduced.  I can’t say enough how much that meant.  She’s the best.

After they reviewed my results with me, they let me eat (I have never been so happy to see a hospital TV dinner in my life) and let me leave.  They didn’t punch my frequent-flyer card.

But then came the game!  Sarah decided that she was too wiped out from taking care of me to travel for multiple hours each way (and enjoy where she was planning on going) so she stayed, but because she is awesome, she was ok with Civ happening anyway.

The game was shorter than usual, and ended one turn earlier than we thought we would – one player needed to leave, and we called it then.  I got the first civil war early on, and then an iconoclasm & heresy in the last turn took me down to two cities in the final round.  Ouch!  Africa was our bye country, and interestingly, that was precisely what rebelled during my civil war, and I never actually rebuilt any cities there.

Final scores:

Italy: David: 1336

Illyria: Merideth: 1655

Thrace: Erin: 1642

Crete: Michael: 1853

Asia: Toby: 1585

Assyria: Rich: 1534

Babylon: Shoshana: 1933 (winner)

Egypt: Larry: 1425 (new)

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garlic-ring pineapple fried rice (no added salt/gluten/soy free)

one wasserman & lemberger garlic ring (like a bratwurst)

one can pineapple tidbits (or chunks, but cut the chunks in half).  Drain, but reserve the juice.

bunch of scallions

2c cooked white rice, chilled.

three halves of peppers (red/yellow/orange) chopped finely

one onion, chopped finely

three cloves garlic, minced.

sriracha (optional)

 

I needed to make a dish with no added salt, gluten or soy for a fleishig meal, and didn’t have time to make it to a market for many ingredients – I think this experiment pretty much worked, so I’m preserving it.

I don’t have a wok, so I had to use a flat-bottom skillet.  Chop the garlic ring into bite-sized pieces.  Sauté the garlic ring, and that will produce grease for the pan.  After the garlic ring is browned, add the onion & garlic until the onion begins to get translucent.  Stir often because it will tend to stick.  Add the rice, stir often.  When it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a little of the pineapple juice.  Repeat this for about 7 minutes or so.  Add the peppers, most of the scallions and sriracha, continue frying until they start to soften, and then add the pineapple and the juice.  Cover and reduce the heat until the liquid is absorbed.  Garnish with some of the green parts of the scallions.