May 19, 2006

It’s great that David Plotz wants to read the bible

Filed under: Judaism — marcstober @ 4:46 pm

It’s great that David Plotz wants to read the bible, but I have some issues with his assumptions about synagogue and those of us who go there more often. He writes:

I made a rare visit to synagogue for a cousin’s bat mitzvah and, as usual, found myself confused (and bored) by a Hebrew service I couldn’t understand. During the second hour of what would be a ceremony of NFL-game-plus-overtime-length…

Services really aren’t beyond the grasp of anyone who can understand a football game, and this is certainly the case for an educated journalist. I’m not a big sports fan and have felt “confused (and bored)” at a game. But you know what? I’ve found it’s better to show a little interest than to try and engage everyone in my own boredom.

It’s true that you do need to learn a little a bit to appreciate services (or football). It’s also true that what many of use learned (or didn’t) in Hebrew school wasn’t sufficient. However, I don’t think what I’d learned in English class and Social Studies by the time I’d reached bar mitzvah age was enough to appreciate Slate, either, and it frustrates me when otherwise well-educated people expect that they’re going to be satisfied (and fail to be) by what they learned about religion as a kid. Anyhow, here’s my standing-on-one-foot explanation of services:

  1. In the beginning things seem disorganized because, while there are specific prayers, this is a chance for everyone to warm up;
  2. The Barchu serves to get everyone on the same page, so to speak, in preparation for the Shema;
  3. Then the Amidah, which religious Jews say three times a day, is the ordinary climax of the service. If it doesn’t feel that climatic, remember that it was originally pretty dramatic but then we gave up animal sacrifices a couple millennia ago;
  4. The Torah reading isn’t really part of the service, at least in the sense that it’s not praying. It, along with the sermon, is like a little bible class we’ve ritualized to make sure it happens every week;
  5. On Shabbat, the Musaf (translation: additional) Amidah is, in my opinion, the real climax of the service, particularly the Kedushah during the reader’s repetition, when, as a community, you come closest to being an angel in heaven near God or something like that. In the Sephardic version of the service there’s the Keter Kedushah with even more mystical implications that I don’t understand but still think is pretty cool. (Note that Shabbat is the only time there religious Jews say the Amidah four times a day, including afternoon and evening services, and Yom Kippur afternoon there is a fifth Amidah, which I would contend is the most special/holy time of the year—as opposed to the more popular Kol Nidrei the night before.)
  6. Then there are some concluding prayers, like Aleinu, and by Ein Keloheinu everyone’s just singing and transitioning back into the slightly more mundane matters such as the inevitable announcements and what’s for lunch.

That, and a bit of the Hebrew, is most of what I know; it doesn’t make me an expert, and in a few months David Plotz will probably know the Bible better than I do. While he’s certainly free to read the Bible on his own terms, hopefully he’ll have moderated doing-so-as-rebellion-against-organized-religion, because those of us who think we can learn something from going to synagogue and reading the established commentaries can probably learn something from him, and he from us, too.

Oh, and since it’s that on a Friday: Shabbat shalom.

p.s. Etz Hayim was prepared by Conservative Jewish scholars, with a capital “C”; it’s the name of a movement that may or may not be conservative, depending on your perspective.

May 13, 2006

This morning’s high tech experience

Filed under: Software Blog — marcstober @ 6:01 am

Had to change the address on my Gap Card account (which I think might be some financial services part of GE, who in a reassuringly scary way seems the be the underlying creditor behind everything…but I digress).

Anyhow, the whole conversation involved talking to a computer. Surprisingly, it was more accurate at recognizing my address than some human reps I’ve gotten (and only got confused once by the toddler in the background).

But it would have been a lot faster if I could have just typed it on their web site–where I went first but didn’t find a change of address form.

May 12, 2006

MSDE to SQL Express upgrade manifests problems with msdb database during a restore

Filed under: SQL Server — marcstober @ 2:15 pm

When restoring a database to an SQL Server 2005 Express server, where that server had been upgraded from MSDE, we get errors like the following:

Msg 207, Level 16, State 1, Line 2
Invalid column name 'mirror_count'.
Msg 207, Level 16, State 1, Line 2
Invalid column name 'is_password_protected'.
Could not insert a backup or restore history/detail record in the msdb database. This may indicate a problem with the msdb database. The backup/restore operation was still successful.
RESTORE DATABASE successfully processed 8081 pages in 10.138 seconds (6.529 MB/sec).

This is running the RESTORE command through SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), or through our own utility, which is where we found the problem. We don’t get the error doing a restore through SSMS, but there’s no record of the restore in the MSDB restore history table so it’s probably just ignoring the error; in either case the database actually is restored.

Googling the error returned only this thread but a little more searching found this thread and Knowledge Base article called Changes to the readme file for SQL Server 2005 says that “During upgrade from MSDE to SQL Server Express, the msdb database is not upgraded.” This explains the problem but isn’t a solution. Apparently there’s a file called instmsdb.sql that will rebuild your msdb database, or we could just ignore the error, but neither seems like a foolproof solution. Interesting the master database is still version 80 in the upgraded-from-MSDE server. It’s not fixed in SP1 but we can hope for SP2.

May 10, 2006

Theme of the Day: Triage

Filed under: Personal Blog, Software Blog — marcstober @ 11:19 am

Software development and taking your sick kid to the doctor have a lot in common.

Yesterday morning at work, we were discussing how to deal with support issues that needed being escalated to get assistance from QA and/or Development.

Then, daycare called that Hannah has a fever. And suddenly I was on the other end of the same problem.

I see it like this:

New development=preventative checkups, etc.

Bugs=non-urgent visits about a specific ailment

Support issues=sick

How does a doctor’s office fit in urgent care visits with the regularly scheduled appointments? How do developers fit in support issue work? How do you escalate a case from the initial phone call, to needing urgent care? How do you escalate a support case to a developer?

Specifically, I’m OK with not bringing her in right away if it’s just a routine virus that needs rest and tylenol. Which it seems be in this case, but how do I know it’s not an ear infection if I don’t bring her in? What’s a good parent to do, other than be the “squeaky wheel” to get an appointment?
If anyone has answers (from a software development or pediatric perspective) let me know!

May 6, 2006

The Garden

Filed under: The Garden — marcstober @ 6:32 pm

What I like most about the house is having a back yard, something I grew up with. Hannah likes to call it “the garden” and I like that term as well. Sure, it sounds a little pretentious (or maybe just British!) but I think there’s a specific architectural meaning to “garden.” The idea is to have a space outdoors for eating, playing, or just hanging out on a nice day and that’s an important feature of a house; it’s something, for example, that Moshe Safie included in the homes of Habitat ’67 or that is talked about in A Pattern Language. Moreover we certainly don’t have a big, mowed space where you could throw a football which would really qualify as a yard!

What is new about having a garden is that there are things that grow. These purple and while wildflowers sprouted up over the past couple of days:


I think these are related to the spade-shaped ground cover that also seems to have sprouted up througout the yard; I don’t know what it’s called but I remember them (without the flowers) as being all around the house I lived in in elementary school. There is also some clover, and a lot of unmowed grass and weeds. I suppose if someone was actually mowing the grass the flowers wouldn’t have grown in.

In the category of new toys, I also got a new Weber Genesis Silver A gas grill. I bought it from Harvey’s Ace Hardware in Needham, where it came delivered, delivered, assembled, with a tank of gas, by a technician with the patter of an experienced tour guide who spent about 20 minutes explaining how to maintain it. Not the sort of experience I’d expect from the big stores. It also came with stainless steel, not the standard porcelain or cast iron, cooking grids and “flavorizer” bars. For all this it was about $100 more than you could get the same model elsewhere, but the tank of gas alone makes up a big part of the difference and having it delivered was just convenient. When we were at Yale Appliance a couple weeks ago I saw that they were also selling a Silver model with stainless steel cooking grates; I guess it’s something the independent dealers do to differentiate from the big stores.

May 2, 2006

Home Sweet Investment

Filed under: House Blog — marcstober @ 3:20 am

We closed on our condo yesterday. Now I will finally have time do all those other things I’ve wanted to get to, like start a blog. 🙂