Sunday, January 29, 2017

Knitting -- the Brain Cap

This pattern is free.

You need circular needles and double points.

It supports @ScienceMarchDC which protests censorship of science.

Wear it with your Rogue NASA tee-shirt from, part of the funding of which goes to Girls Who Code.

And talk to teachers about helping raise money to send kids to see Hidden Figures.


© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Protest censorship of science #2

Check out @ScienceMarchDC on Twitter.

Now go to #whysciencematters and post what science has done for you.  Twitter accounts are free.

Can't think of anything?  Scroll down the hundreds of submissions.  Like the ones that apply to you.

And don't miss my ICYMI posts outing the people pretending to have contradictory data.

I think I've made at least one head explode.

Maybe two.

It's my purpose in life.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 27, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- SWLT 1 and history

The first rule of SWLT is that cultures use expressions for culture-specific ideas and also shape themselves around the expressions they use.
I’m going back to something I brought up the other week because it’s crucial to understanding how SWLT Rule 1 plays out in other features of language.
I said that Greek culture had two words for animal fat. One was stear, the fat of ruminants, and the other was pmelin, the fat of non-ruminants. But when it comes to sacrifices, the word is diptykha because the fat used in sacrifices had to be double-folded.
But diptykha means “two-folded” or something like that. It doesn’t have a component that means fat.
The understanding that it means “double-folded fat” comes from other knowledge about the culture.
This is one thing that makes languages hard to learn if a) you don’t grow up using them and b) you don’t have a native speaker to work with.
There always comes a point where, to really use the language right, you have to know the meaning of words or phrases which mean something not reflected in their components.
This is why people who read translations of Torah don’t understand the creation story properly. Every translation, as far as I can remember, turns melakhah into “work” which is not precise. As I discussed long ago (in two places), the term melakhah identifies things that are the subject of laws about Shabbat. This fits animals, which must not be slaughtered or worked on Shabbat, but must be fed, and they must be sacrificed on Shabbat if they are chosen for the avodah, which is required on Shabbat. It fits household and tabernacle utensils; household utensils can only be used in limited ways, while tabernacle utensils involved in avodah must be used for the Shabbat avodah.
The meaning of words requires an understanding of how the culture uses them, how they fit in with cultural habits and culture-specific activities. A knife can be used on Shabbat for food, and its Hebrew name is maakhelet, something that feeds you; you are required to eat on Shabbat because that’s part of its joy, and you have to use a maakhelet to cut meat, the premier food of Shabbat, something most people couldn’t afford to enjoy on other days. But you can’t use a sword, a cherev, because the only purpose of a cherev is killing and killing is prohibited on Shabbat except for self-defense.
The other component is how cultures shape themselves around the expressions they use. The best example is the fact that “he” and other masculine gender-specific pronouns used to be the default in referring to individual humans. They were also the default pronouns in legal documents. This came from a culture in which men had legal rights but women didn’t; they had to have a man to represent them in court and administrative processes and were dependent on the kind of support men would give them.
With advances in women’s rights, communications are more precise about using gender-related pronouns, but laws and regulations are being rewritten to eliminate pronouns. This is making things easier for transgenders or people who don’t like to identify themselves by gender – a niece of mine knows somebody like that. But that won’t work with languages that have two plural pronouns, one masculine and one feminine.

So I think that's done to death.  Onward.
 © Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Protest censorship of science

Follow Twitter accounts listed in this article

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- a bit of audio

More about Genesis 1:1.
א בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ:
Transliteration: B’reshit bara elohim et ha-shamayim v’et ha-arets.
Translation:     At the beginning Gd created the heaven and the earth
Letters in this lesson: בּ, ר, א, שׁ, י, ת, ל, וֹ, ה, ם, שּׁ, מ, ץ
Vocabulary in this lesson:
on, in, at, by (swear by), with (by means of), against
at the beginning
direct object particle
הַ, הָ
Sometimes “and”, sometimes “or”, many other functions
earth, land, world
If you really want to hear this verse pronounced, use the link. It takes about the first 17 seconds of the recording. Play it over and over.
If you know French, you will hear this speaker pronouncing the letter resh somewhat like the French letter – which letter? What sound does resh have?
Now for the most important words in this lesson.
One is ha, and it means “the”. One of these days you will hear it pronounced heh, and that will be because of the sound that follows it. I’ll point it out if we get to one.
Notice that ha is spelled two different ways in this lesson. The vowels sound much alike, although most traditionalists will say the little “t” sort of thing more like “a” in “father” and the other flat one, more like “hat”.
The other word is ve (vav). You are going to see this letter an awful lot at the start of words. Sometimes it will have a schwa e vowel, sometimes the flatter of the two “a”s that I just talked about. When it has a dagesh next to it, it might sound like “oo” but it can also sound like “v”.
The traditional translation of this is “and” when it’s at the start of a word. That’s wrong nearly every time and I’ll point each case out and then summarize at the end.

Now it's time for some 21st century grammar.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Garden -- 2017 plans

I know I'm late with this but you haven't missed anything. 


Get ready to beautify your lawn cheaply and help the environment.  Read Mike's article which applies to DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

What do you get for this?  Crabs and oysters.

I don't know what's up with Pennsylvania.  They aren't an island to themselves; no man is..

Next.  If you used to buy Roundup you may see a new company name on it.  When Monsanto's GMOs (inevitably) stopped yielding big crops, they dodged lawsuits from farmers with cancer by selling themselves.  What's the link?  The warranty on the GMOs was null and void unless the farmers used the Monsanto-prescribed pesticide -- Roundup.

It uses the same pesticide as Agent Orange.  Why?  Monsanto invented Agent Orange.  It was used in the 60s to defoliate Vietnam.  The government  has provided specific benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange, obviously agreeing that it was dangerous to humans. Associated cancers include blood cancers like leukemia and both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Apparently Monsanto believed it would lose the farmers' lawsuits, along with those from farmers who lost money on the GMO seed when it (inevitably) stopped yielding big crops, and those from organic farmers who could prove that  the "terminator  genes" didn't terminate and genes from the GMOs contaminated their crops.  So Monsanto sold itself to Bayer. 

Bayer kills bees.  Products on this list contain neonicotinoids which are being banned piecemeal in the US.  You can get ahead of the curve by not using these products in 2017.  Then if your region puts a ban on these products, you won't have to change your ways.

McGrath's archives have lots of ways of making your lawn and garden beautiful without poisoning yourself, your kids, your pets, and the pollinators we rely on to produce our food, and also without  spending a fortune on fixing problems you wouldn't have if you had done what Mike tells you to do.  Read them and if you don't find an answer to your specific question, email him.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 20, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- SWLT 1 and finding the words

The first rule of SWLT is that cultures use expressions for culture-specific features and also shape themselves around the expressions they use.  No two languages have words for all the same concepts because no two languages developed inside the same culture.  Translators must choose words that accurately reflect the meaning used by the culture in which the primary document, the source of the translation, was used.  Otherwise the translation suffers in its value for understanding the features of the culture to which the primary document belongs.
It’s also possible to get a false impression of the culture into whose language the translation is made.  I left a concept hanging last week and I’ll discuss it now so I don’t leave you with a false impression.
I discussed raqia and related words in Torah in Genesis, Exodus and Numbers.
What does Septuagint do with those words?  I already said that it misconstrues raqia and uses stereoma, meaning a hard body, suiting the Greek idea of the celestial spheres and ignoring the idea of a thin layer.
What does Septuagint do with Exodus 39:3?  It gives that label to a verse about taking the half sheqel poll tax for use in building the tabernacle.  Exodus 36:10 describes cutting threads of gold but not hammering them out.  Numbers 17:4 has Elazar make the censers into plates for the altar but ignores the issue of hammering out which is specified in Hebrew in that verse.  Septuagint simply ignores words that relate to raqia. 
There are words for “hammer out” in Liddell such as kopto or compounds of kroteo, but most of them have to do with iron-working or welding metal together.  None of them have to do with creating wires or thin plates.  On the face of it, you might think that Greek metal-workers had no concept at all of ductility or malleability, and never created metal wire even for decorative purposes.
But the real issue is that Liddell and Scott record words referred to in Greek writing, sometimes (in “versions for the schools”) including the New Testament.
The writers in Greece in Classical times were those who had the education of freemen, a liberal education in the trivium and quadrivium.  They didn’t know or care about what artisans did.  They didn’t write about it.  Agriculture was different because they were landowners and were supposed to draw their income from agriculture, and to do that you had to know something about farming.
And heavy metal-working produced chariots and armor, paraphernalia of upper class Greeks who served in the army at some point in their lives in many cases and had a vital interest in their armor being well-made.  Weapons also appeared in various histories of wars, such as Thucydides or the Iliad.
What’s more, Liddell and Scott were restricted to using surviving material.  They didn’t have a work on comic poetry supposedly written  by Aristotle, which formed part of the plot line in Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose.  They didn’t have Agatharchides’ 49 volume work on Europe.  About 80 plays by Aeschylus  have disappeared.  Some histories survive only in fragmentary form.  Sappho was a major poet but only fragments of her work survive. 
In the previous paragraph, I was able to include authors by name because surviving Greek material refers to them.  I couldn’t refer to Greek writers who were neither quoted nor named in the work of another writer.  Some material written in classical Greek perished even to the names of the writers.  That material could not affect Liddell and Scott’s lexicon because they didn’t have it.  “Big” Liddell, the full lexicon of which “Middle” Liddell is an abridgement, might have been ten times the size it is, if everything ever written in Classical Greek had survived.  And then we might know what words in Classical Greek referred to beaten metal thin enough to cut wires from.
Or not.  Depending on whether anybody who wrote in Classical Greek took any interest in the subject.

And now another turn of the screw.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 19, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- letter recognition

All right, here we go.  Genesis 1:1.
א בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ:
Transliteration: B’reshit bara elohim et ha-shamayim v’et ha-arets.
Translation:     At the beginning Gd created the heaven and the earth
Letters in this lesson: בּ, ר, א, שׁ, י, ת, ל, וֹ, ה, ם, שּׁ, מ, ץ
Vocabulary in this lesson:
on, in, at (place or time), by (swear by), with (by means of), against
at the beginning
direct object particle
הַ, הָ
and, or, continuation particle
earth, land, world
Remember I said the letters are used as numbers?  That’s what that alef is doing at the start of the first verse.  It shows this is the first verse of the chapter, which also is numbered alef. 
Oh yeah, you did know that you read Hebrew from right to left, not left to right?  Sorry. So the alef is at the start of the verse and it’s just the verse number.  The next letter is the first letter of the actual verse, and it’s what?  Pronounced how?
First rule.  When I transliterate using a single quote, that’s a shva that you say.  I would put in the upside down “e” that usually represents a schwa e but the single quote is more convenient.  So when you see a single quote that means say a schwa e.
Notice that in this lesson you only have one letter with dagesh.  If you have been practicing, maybe you can remember whether this is a letter that changes sound when it has dagesh.  If you don’t remember, use the transliteration as a clue.
You also have two sofit letters.  See if you can match one of them to its other version, which is also in this lesson.
The vocabulary is in the same order as each word appears in the verse.  Go over them several times and try to say them using the pronunciation in the transliteration.
I’m going to stop here but I will use this verse again in the next lesson. 

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 15, 2017

I'm just saying -- WE CAN DO THIS

But we need to change how we do it.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, did  an interview about peanut allergies.

The conventional wisdom has been if your baby throws out a rash when exposed to peanuts, you make life a misery guarding against any more contact with peanuts, and you give in to corporate greed to make sure you have a couple of epi-pens around.

What Dr. Fauci said is, when your baby throws out that rash, get to the pediatrician and get a referral to a program that prevents the allergy.  (NIH statement)

It's going to break the back of the epi-pen companies.  We need to do more of this.

Tobacco companies.   Nearly 20% of Americans still use tobacco.  Close to 7 million people were diagnosed with cancer between 2006-2010 (2% of US population).  About 2.8 million of those cancers wouldn't have happened -- if nobody in the US used tobacco.

Fake food companies who have made their packet pushing sugar, fat, sodium and chemicals instead of good nutrition.  Kind of like what I posted the other week about getting sodas and fake whipped cream out of your diet and making your chocolates and ice cream yourself.  (Chassaing, B. et al. Nature (2015).)

Supplement companies.  Kind of like what I have posted before about how important sleep is in weight loss, along with exercise and eating fewer and smaller portions of healthy food.

Antibiotics pushers.  Stop demanding antibiotics from your doctor; it helps breed MRSA and the like.  You should, however, demand that meat and egg producers stop feeding antibiotics except in cases of actual illness. 

Chemical companies. Aside from helping the fake food companies, the FDA banned 39 chemicals used in anti-bacterial cleaners because they are no more effective than plain soap.

Hand sanitizers mostly include alcohol, leading to tests showing alcohol in doctors.  Do you want them practicing on you?  And some schools are insisting that our kids use them.

WE CAN DO THIS.  We can drop medical costs all over the country -- if we stop doing things ass-backward.

I'm just saying....

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- SWLT One

The first rule of SWLT is that cultures use language for culture-specific expressions and also shape themselves around the expressions they use.
The first part of the first rule used to lead to the proposal that Eskimos have lots of words for snow, each for a specific type of snow. Where I live we know of only the fluffy dry snow that is easy to shovel, and the heavy wet snow that you break your back clearing. As I draft this, we are emerging from a terribly snowy winter and so the difference is fresh in my mind.
It turns out that what took me three to eight words to say above, needs only one word in Eskimo. My multi-word phrases can be expressed in Eskimo, as a single word root with various modifications to indicate the features of weight, moisture content, and effect on clearing. Or something like that. I don’t know the exact details.
In Lakota, a single word can be modified to tell what its result was, such as by pushing either to fasten something down or to insert something into a container.
Russian has a system of motion verbs which can be translated “go” or “come”, but they differentiate between walking, riding a vehicle, swimming, being carried, and so on.
Languages do not invent words as a game or a scholarly exercise. Words come into existence in response to a cultural need for precision. Precision is culture-specific and I have already given part of one example.
In Hebrew, by Mishnaic times, there were two words for animal fat. One was the Torah term chelev, the fat of the gastrointestinal region in animals, taken off and burned during the sacrificial rite as recorded in Torah. This fat was prohibited in Torah for human food. Hebrew evolved the term shuman out of shemen, “oil”, to mean the fat that could be permitted for human food, the way shemen zait is permitted for human food.
Greek culture also had two words for animal fat. One was stear, the fat of ruminants, and the other was pmelin, the fat of non-ruminants. Aristotle discusses this in On Animals. But when it comes to sacrifices, the word is diptykha because the fat used in sacrifices had to be double-folded.
So cultures have separate words for things that are culturally important.
Another example mirrors the Eskimo issue. In Hebrew, Gd creates the raqia on the second day. The usual English translation of raqia is “firmament,” but that doesn’t capture what raqia really means. The Hebrew word is based on a root which, in modern Hebrew, means ductile or malleable. It also relates to two verses in Torah. Exodus 39:3 describes the beaten gold plates from which threads were cut to weave with colored wools to make the efod. Numbers 17:4 describes the beaten copper censers that had belonged to the 250 elders consumed by fire; they were used to cover one of the altars. Raqia is a thin shell like beaten plate metal.
“Firmament” no doubt comes from Greek stereoma, which the Septuagint uses to translate raqia, but which means “hard body.” The Septuagint sets up or benefits from the Aristotelian concept of the celestial spheres, which had to fit inside each other exactly with no empty spaces. That’s because Greek metaphysics rejected the concept of a vacuum.
Jewish culture describes seven raqiot (the plural) in Talmud, each 1000 parasangs thick and separated by 183,500 parasangs. But Jewish culture never takes an interest in what’s between each raqia.
This created discomfort for that stern Aristotelian, Maimonides, who had to admit there was something between each pair of raqiot but couldn’t admit that it might be vacuum. Vacuum was a concept supported by the Mutakallim philosophers against whom Maimonides wrote. You would have to consult Guide for the Perplexed (with the Leo Strauss introduction) to see how he resolved this. At any rate, Maimonides – like Philo – got himself into a mental pickle by adopting the concepts of an external culture and trying to apply them to words in the Biblical Hebrew language.
The meaning of a word is what falls out of its use by multiple people in multiple contexts WITHIN THE  CULTURE over some period of time.
The meaning of a word is NOT its translation, because translations may be a desperate grab for a way to represent material in a different language from that of the culture that developed the meaning of the word. A translation can suffer from ignorance, misunderstanding, or purposeful perversion.
The meaning of a word is not its translation.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 12, 2017

21st century Bible Hebrew -- project description

These Hebrew lessons are only for the Bible. They are for the Jewish Bible.  I’m talking about the Jewish Torah, the one that your normal translation supposedly came from. You can find it on the Mechon Mamre website with all the vowels.
Biblical Hebrew is not the same as the Hebrew of the Mishnah, which is the basis of Talmud. It is also not the same as Modern Israeli Hebrew. The latter two use verb tenses and they use auxiliary verbs (periphrasis) to express some concepts that Biblical Hebrew can express in morphology.
I am going to teach you declension and conjugation because you need to know them. But I’m not going to ask you to spit out morphology. I’m going to show you how morphology reaches into the heart of the Jewish Bible. In a few places, this explains Jewish folklore – aggadah – but in even more places, it explains Jewish law – halakhah. I’m trying to write a functional grammar, that teaches you why people used the grammar they did in writing Torah.
Some of what I will teach you is totally 21st century. In 2014 I read the doctoral dissertation of John A. Cook which I downloaded from online. I realized that it dovetailed with the basic work on oral narratives by Axel Olrik (Principles of Oral Narrative Research), and the two men not only never met (Olrik died in 1921), I don’t believe Dr. Cook ever read Olrik’s work. If he has done so now, it might be because I emailed him, told him about my first blog, and specifically pointed him to the post that talked about the relationship.
So I will be discussing more than grammar in these posts.  I will also discuss how they fit into a tradition that was transmitted only by word of mouth for centuries, probably for millennia all things considered. Olrik pointed out the sort of features that such material must have, features which show up in oral traditions all over the world. The grammar and oral features dovetail to such an extent that it makes no sense to discuss one without the other.
I will also be using terminology that you probably never saw before. I got the inspiration, if you can call it that, from learning Arabic to study the Samaritan tradition. Unless you’re using a book on Quranic Arabic or one with majority input from somebody who speaks Arabic as a native language, you have probably been exposed to the same grammar terms you used in learning your first language, or your second if it wasn’t a Semitic language. In fact, the labels slapped onto Arabic by western writers don’t really help understand it, they’re just a security blanket for the teachers. They interfere with treating Arabic as something worthy of respect in its own right; they treat it as a left-handed version of western languages.
It’s been the same with Biblical Hebrew. I’m kicking some terminology to the curb because these western labels don’t teach you how to understand why the Bible uses the grammar it does – just like the morphology doesn’t teach you that.
If you don’t want to learn anything new about the Bible, there are plenty of more traditional commentaries on the web. Please use them.

And now...
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 8, 2017

DIY -- emulsifiers

An interesting report last year showed that just as purchases of sodas dropped, the Type II diabetes epidemic came to a stand-still and so did the obesity epidemic.  Now we can turn things around and bring those numbers crashing down.

It's not conclusive, but you can save a lot of money by drinking water instead of sodas, save wear-and-tear on your teeth from the acids in sodas, avoid DNA-altering BPA that's in the lining of the cans, and probably also lose weight and fat.

Here's the next target.  Food preservatives.  Specifically, emulsifiers.

Where do  you find  them?

Chocolates.  This includes everything from expensive Godiva down to Reese Cups and Hershey's bars.  It's not the sugar or fat; the experiments delivered the emulsifiers in the  water supply, not the food supply.

If you need your chocolate, make brownies, chocolate cake, DIY chocolate buttercream frosting (not the canned crap, that's mostly chemicals) and make truffles according to the on-line recipes.  They won't have preservatives in them; freezing them works pretty well.

Polysorbate-80.  Check the ingredients listed on your ice cream and your Jello pudding.  Both these product types also contain fat and sugar, which you should be cutting down on anyway.

Iced tea is just as cooling as ice cream -- I've been testing this for two summers now using Constant Comment, and in 2016 I made sun tea almost every time.  So is lemonade.  Try making ice cubes from fruit JUICE, the ones with no sugar on the label.  But if you have to have your ice cream, invest in an ice cream maker and you won't get the chemicals.

Ditch the Redi-Whip and Cool Whip.  These are mostly chemicals anyway; what isn't chemicals is fat and sugar.  And yes, they both contain polysorbate. 

DIY with some heavy cream if you have to have a whipped topping -- but mostly you put it on sweets, don't you?  And you're cutting back on sugar for your health, right? 

So when you are indulging -- hey, you MUST indulge once in a while -- make it from scratch, not from a box or a can, and avoid the emulsifiers.  WE CAN DO THIS.

Chassaing, B. et al. Nature (2015).

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Friday, January 6, 2017

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Two which are Four

Wait, did you think the blog was over last week?  I have promises to keep, like proving WHY Septuagint is such a bad translation.  It will feed into the fourth part of the blog, which will begin in nearly 7 months.
The scientific basis for what makes a correct translation or an accurate commentary is a linguistic theory called Sapir-Whorf.  I will abbreviate it SWLT.
When I say “theory”, I am using the scientific meaning of the word.  A scientific theory is an hypothesis that has undergone testing by experiment or observation and has held up under criticism from experts in the field, or has benefited from other sciences to develop modifications that lead to acceptance. 
A scientific theory is a fact.  It may undergo modification as other sciences discover new facts that affect it.  The only way to disprove it is through valid scientific results that contradict it.
The basic concept of SWLT has two rules which I believe are actually four. 
The initial two rules say:
1)  Cultures use language to express themselves and also build themselves around the expressions they use in that language.
2)  Grammar encodes cultural nuances that affect the connotations of words in ways different from their base meaning.
My proposed third rule is that context is king.  The context of the discussion determines the accurate meanings of words; thus the meaning of my use of theory above in the context of science means it cannot mean simply an idea, guess, or untested hypothesis.  What’s more, culture is part of the context.  We all know that Americans don’t react the same way to “bloody” that the British do, even when it’s used in its context as a harsh or even obscene adjective.  And “culture” refers to a specific period in history.  We may think of “buxom” as meaning bosomy, and it shows up with that  meaning  in Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels written  in the early 20th century.   But in the 1600s John Milton thought of it as “flexible” and used it that way in Paradise Lost.
Finally, I believe that expression is shaped by the context of its setting.  By which I mean that material transmitted orally has a different format and impact than material transmitted in writing.  I think of this as the “zeroth” law, like the “zeroth” law of thermodynamics, because the same phrase will be set into a context of a different format, impact, and meaning in orally transmitted material than if it is being transmitted in writing.  Everything else may function the same – the meanings of the words, the nuances of the grammar, the cultural context – but the difference of setting may determine how and where the phrase transmits, to whom, and over what period of time, as well as the meaning of the entire expression.
This last issue will take the most wording to explain because it’s a new idea, not just to me, but also to linguistics and so the best I can do will be to give examples.  But it underlies material at the end of this blog so I will do my best to convince you that it’s a fact, not an interpretation.

But the devil is in the details....
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, January 5, 2017

21st Century Bible Hebrew -- basic concepts

Just so you know, the Fact-Checking blog will continue tomorrow with a new post. 
This is a reboot of the Bit at a Time Bible Hebrew page. I had already posted a lot of the original page when I read a dissertation by Dr. John A. Cook that overturned much of what I had always been taught about Hebrew. During two years of study, I learned things that completely changed how I understood Biblical Hebrew. I ended the original page with lessons on what I learned.
The posts on this page repeat some of what I did on the original posts, like going one verse at a time at first, to help you learn the letters, and giving conjugations and declensions. But when I explain grammar, I do so in the terms I use in my book Narrating the Torah, which relies on what I’ve learned since 2014. This is not how you learned Hebrew before. It is not how anybody learned Hebrew before.
If what you want is to learn Hebrew the way everybody learned Hebrew before, there are plenty of websites that do that. They all have their strong points; they all have their weak points. If you think learning things that way is important, use them.
Here are some terms you need to know.
The Hebrew alphabet is really a syllabary. Each letter is thought of, by default, as a consonant plus “a” as in “father”, but in words they use all the vowels you are used to: “a”, “e”, “i", “o”, “oo”, plus “ai”. There are long and short versions of each vowel except the diphthong. There is a “schwa e” (which got its name from the Hebrew reduced vowel shva) and a “null vowel”. And there’s a set of markings for a vowel which is used when spelling and grammar collide.
Sofit This is a description of some Hebrew letters which have two shapes, one of which only appears at the end of a word. Count yourself lucky. Arabic has four shapes for some letters, and so does its descendant Syriac.
One letter does have four forms, if you want to count it that way: one plain with the “kh” sound back in your throat; one with a dot in it that is “k”; one at the end of a word with a vowel that makes it “kha” which is a masculine gender ending; and one at the end of a word with a shva in it that makes it “kh” again, a feminine gender ending.
Dagesh This is a dot in the middle of some letters. It changes the sound of some of them. It is part of the spelling rules and all you care about is to recognize when you have to say a letter differently because of dagesh. Some letters never take dagesh and I’ll point them out.
Shva is two vertically placed dots under a letter. This is also a spelling rule, but sometimes shva has a sound you may have been taught about in school, the schwa e, which is kind of a half-vowel sound. Schwa is a German version of shva.
A little orientation.
Hebrew is a Semitic language. It is a northwest Semitic language from the same sub-family as K'naani/Ugaritic, from which it got its original alphabet and letter forms. The ancient Mesopotamian language Akkadian is a northeast Semitic language.
The northwest Semitic languages began splitting from Akkadian about 2300-2000 BCE. Ugaritic had a written form by 1300 BCE and notes in its writing system appear on tablets in Egypt from the reign of Akhenaten about that same time.
Hebrew developed a writing form distinct from Ugaritic by 800 BCE. One tablet from 1000 BCE is probably also Hebrew.
Hebrew letters double as numbers, in a base-10 system.
Somebody once suggested to me that since there are no letters in Hebrew that always represent vowels, a given set of Hebrew letters can represent almost any word. That's not true. If you wrote down a sentence in English without the vowels, after some puzzling you could make out what it means.
Writing is only a record of words already known from a spoken language. Before developing a system of writing, a spoken language develops a grammar, a syntax, a set of idioms, and a morphological system for action words, substantives, descriptives, and for reflecting the mental state of the speaker. But every word has to be set in some context to have meaning, and the same word can have slightly different connotations in different contexts, whether used in speech or writing, in one period of time or centuries later.
When writing develops, it has to record the spoken language, not make the language up, and people who know how to read, know when the grammar is wrong because it doesn’t agree with proper speech formats. It's not free form at all.
People usually learn to speak their languages before the age of 5, which is when most kids begin to learn their letters. You don’t have to know your letters to communicate.
All right. That's a lot of words but hopefully you now understand that the written form of Biblical Hebrew, even without vowel marks, means what it means because it records the words used in speaking Biblical Hebrew, as the Jewish people did up to about 25 centuries ago.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 1, 2017

DIY -- when good products go bad

When I was much younger, Vita Lox was the gold standard.

Bought some last week to have lox and bagels on New Year's Day.

I'm going back to my DIY cured salmon.

The lox I bought smelled like chemicals, was rubbery, and didn't come off in nice slices.   It didn't have much flavor either so the "smoke flavor" contributed to the chemical stink and price but no added value.

Vita does not have a customer response form on their website.

So I can't tell them in private how disappointed I am.

So I'm telling them in public.

If you really want lox, don't buy Vita.  Not any more.  They don't deserve your money.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved