What Do You Do On a Long Shabbos Afternoon “Out-Of-Town”?

I find that long Shabbos afternoons (over here, sunset can get as late as ~9 PM) present a type of programming problem; how can I seize the day and use the available time enjoyably for Jewishly meaningful activities? In our case, without young kids in the house, with extended families hundreds of miles away, and in a neighborhood sparsely populated with Jews (any type), I often descend into boredom by late afternoon.

Naps are not meant to fill the time available. The Hebrew and English seforim sit there wondering why I’m so lackadaisical about reading them, now when I have the time. Where’s the fiery enthusiasm I ought to have? Does it depend on others being around to engage in the give-and-take? That is very likely, but the potential “others” have their own family lives or worthy pursuits, or maybe their own forms of boredom.

So, I’ll throw this out to the readers here: What solutions have worked for you or your community under comparable circumstances to enrich the typical long Shabbos?

Purim and Science

There are those who have tried to combine Torah and Science, with varying degrees of success. Here is my humble contribution to the literature.

There is something called the “observer effect” which has often been connected, maybe inaccurately, with the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. Background on this effect is found here, for example:

One section of the above article describes a few of its psychological aspects:

“Use in the social sciences
In the social sciences and general usage, the effect refers to how people change their behavior when aware of being watched (see Hawthorne effect and Observer’s Paradox). For instance, in the armed forces, an announced inspection is used to see how well soldiers can do when they put their minds to it, while a surprise inspection is used to see how well prepared they generally are.”

Now what does this have to do with Purim? After a little wine, this secret might be revealed even better, but here is one example:

My father described his sisters’ attempt to document his mother’s recipe for hamantaschen. Grandma Gussie was a cook from the old school, brought up in Galicia and trained further in cooking by her Hungarian mother-in-law. Nothing was ever written down. Like any artist, she improvised a little in each cooking performance as the spirit moved her. Nevertheless, because her hamantaschen tasted so good, Aunt Ruthie and Aunt Shirley decided they had to get the recipe down on paper. So, Grandma Gussie started making her recipe from scratch, as one aunt took and weighed each ingredient from her as it was ready to go into the mix, and the other aunt wrote down its weight. The result was a batch of hamantaschen that was maybe world class, but not nearly as good as usual. The observers unwittingly spooked the process!

I should wind up here with the actual recipe, but I don’t have a copy, and maybe it’s been lost. At any rate, the hamantaschen used a milchig (I’m pretty sure) dough that was soft but flexible and not crumbly after baking. Not the hard, cookie-like type you buy in stores. The usual filling was prune. The side of each big triangle was around 4 inches long (~10 cm).

While the combination of Torah and Science is often called Torah uMada, or TuM for short, eating many of these hamantaschen never made us need Tums.