On Sunday, the Palm LifeDrive that I'd ordered a week and a half ago arrived, tossing me into a tizzy of "new toy!" excitement. This tiny computer is a lot like any other Palm Pilot or similar PDA, but it's packed with high-end features like a 4 gigabyte hard drive, a (relatively) large color screen, sound recording, the ability to play music and videos, and (most importantly) wireless communication with other computers. Together with a fold-out IR keyboard accessory, this is meant to provide me with a computer to use for work when I'm away from home, since I have concluded that every affordable laptop in existence is far too heavy and fragile for me to enjoy as a travelling companion.
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Thursday night, the third and final night of the Klezmer festival seemed a little less crowded than the previous two nights. Mark and I had spent the day touring art galleries in town, and so we were both well rested for the concerts of the evening. We started out at the stage near Rebecca and Avraham's house. The first act of the evening was very talented solo violinist. It was exactly what I was looking for in this festival, since I'd heard relatively little violin music so far, whether because there were fewer violinists this year or simply because of bad luck. Although this violinist was technically excellent, she didn't project a very charismatic stage presence so the crowd didn't seem as engaged as it could have been. She simply walked on stage after her introduction, played some songs wonderfully, and walked off.
My previously mentioned friend, Mark, arrived in town at around 5pm yesterday. He got a late start on his travels from Jerusalem because he got occupied with finishing up at his job, where he works overnight hours. Despite the fact that he hadn't slept for well over 24 hours, he still showed no inclination to sleep. I made chili for dinner and showed him how I did my job. He talked a lot about his workplace. He's a manager at a big communications company that has a big branch in Jerusalem. The work itself is pretty meaningless to him, and he's sick of being forced into the role of pointy-haired boss. Unfortunately, he's been completely unable to find opportunities in his original and preferred profession of social work in the several years that he's been living in Israel. Eventually, Mark got his work stress out of his system and he gave me a little gossip about the old neighborhood over dinner.
Yesterday I helped Becca learn how to successfully shrink movies recorded with her camera, including an overview of the fundamental concepts of digital video encoding. It was a bit frustrating for a while, since Apple's QuickTime encoder seemed to think that her movies contained no audio track and MEncoder's Mac OS X wrapper is just generally rough around the edges. But we eventually figured out how to produce a file that balanced size and quality and compatibility. Afterward, she rewarded me with lunch at the Canaan Gallery where a couple of her friends work. We enjoyed sandwiches and quiche and a mango milkshake, while Ashira entertained us endlessly, snatching at everything within reach and blowing bubbles into her water bottle with a straw.
I went shopping for a bigger fridge. The little counter-top fridge I've been using for the past couple months, while cute, just isn't cutting it. I can deal with its tininess, since a life filled with an excess of playing Tetris has trained me well in the art of efficient packing. But it just isn't strong enough to wage battle against the Israeli summer heat. After a day of heat soaking into the environment, its internal thermometer hovers around 20 degrees Celsius. The new fridge uses more conventional refrigeration technology rather than a dinky little Peltier engine. It should be delivered either tomorrow or Sunday. In preparation, I moved the dead washing machine that came with my apartment out of the way by sliding it next to the kitchen stove, providing a pleasant side effect of a little more usable counter space in that area.
I've added a few new features for you beloved diary readers. Yesterday, I activated the ability to add your own comments to each entry. I don't know if anyone will actually care to use this, but it was requested by a vocal minority.
After over a year of procrastination, I've placed the finishing touches on version 1.5.2 of Moosic. There's nothing terribly exciting about this version, which is why it incubated for so very long. I didn't want to release a new version until I'd added a significant feature or two. My particular goal for this release was to implement support for a configuration file that would alleviate the need to specify options on the command line if you happened to always use the same options. The most significant reason why I never did this illustrates what is probably the weakness in this program's development model. Since the only real motivation for development is to satisfy my own personal wants, any issue that doesn't affect me personally probably isn't going to get that much attention in the long run, no matter how much a particular idea appeals to me theoretically. And since I, the author, get to set the built-in defaults, I'm just never going to care *deeply* about making it convenient to override those defaults. I suppose the exception to that rule is the program's documentation, but we can attribute the painstaking work done in that area to my own private little obsession.
After Tisha B'Av ended, Avraham invited me home to break the fast with Becca and Ashira, as we found ourselves both at the Abuhav shul for evening services. Together with Guy and Tiferet, who were visiting from Jerusalem for the "holiday", we dined upon Becca's delicious delicacies, including her amazing-as-usual challah. A fun time was had by all, and I got the opportunity to be impressed with Rebecca's and Avraham's newfound obsession with the Kotel camera, continual live video and audio straight from the Wall, running full-screen on two monitors. There was still quite a crowd leftover, apparently lingering even after the completion of services.
...or, you know, the night after tomorrow night; because Tisha B'Av.
Lately, the deep-summer heat has been discouraging me for going outdoors for extended periods of time. I hadn't done much in the way of walking for a few weeks, so last Wednesday I took advantage of the cooling evening to hike out toward the hills to the southwest of town. I followed the trails and dirt roads that snake around the hills until I saw some lights from must have been the village of Akhbara. Across the valley I saw a small light that I thought must have been a campfire.
I made an apple pie, rectangular though it may be. I tossed in raisins and prunes that I had lying around in an attempt to keep them from going to waste. It's still too hot to know if it was a success or not.
The most important book I got last week was Wrestling with God and Men. It is a call to the Orthodox Jewish community to find an acceptable solution for people with a homosexual orientation who do not wish to reject Orthodoxy. It pains me greatly that I feel the need to clarify that a halachic view which sentences any person to a life in which any kind of meaningful, loving partnership is categorically denied is not acceptable, but Rabbi Chaim Rapoport very clearly asserts that such a level of cruelty is indeed acceptable in his comprehensive and technically expert treatise, Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View.
Today I got an email message from a helpful stranger telling me that all the links in my entry for ParseTime on PyPI were broken. Indeed they were. I had submitted the information about ParseTime to PyPI when I first developed it, and the software led a quiet and happy life on my Web server until the early summer of 2004, when I lost a rather significant amount of data in a hard drive crash (the most powerful lesson in proper backup procedure). This little slip of a Python extension module was one of the more significant things lost.
This afternoon, Becca needed a nap but Ashira wasn't the least bit tired. So the bat-signal strobed across the sky and I swooped in to save the day. Boobalah greeted me with her usual beaming smiles. I can't help but get the impression of Avraham's face when looking at Ashira smile, which is weird because I can't consciously see it when I look at Avraham himself. It could be the beard getting in the way. I'll have to dig up and scrutinize some of his old baby pictures.
I had yet another "Oh, you're Rebecca's brother" moment today at the post office when I met her friend, Neely (sic). She heard my name as I was collecting the first half of my recent order of books and DVDs from Amazon and recognized it as Becca's maiden name. With no other introduction, she simply stated, "You're Rebecca's brother." "Yes, I am," said I, with little surprise. After the briefest of introductions, she wandered off, and I finished receiving my package. But as I was tearing the box open to see the order of the episodes on the Wonderfalls DVDs (the proper order in which to watch my low-quality, bootleg copies of the episodes is rather suspect in some cases), she appeared once more. We chatted a bit about the quantities of the taxes applied to imported items in Israel, and collectively decided that the 17% VAT tax in my case wasn't too grievous an offense, considering that far worse tariffs are far from unknown.