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We have previously learned that if the woman accused of infidelity refuses to drink the bitter sotah waters, she is divorced and does not receive the ketubah payment. (That is, they can't compel her to go through with the ordeal, but she also doesn't get a divorce settlement.) The mishna on today's daf talks about some similar cases. If the couple had marital relations on their way to Jerusalem (where the ritual is conducted), or if the husband is unwilling to let her drink (presumably at the last minute, else they wouldn't be in this situation), she receives her ketubah and does not drink. If the husband died before she could drink, Beit Shammai says she receives her ketubah and does not drink, but Beit Hillel says she either drinks or does not receive her ketubah. (24a)

In the cases where they have relations or he prevents her from drinking, it sounds like they are nonetheless divorced, which seems odd. Unless the mishna is telling us that she's not disqualified from her ketubah if they later get divorced. I'm not sure; need to do more reading.

Today my phone buzzed with an emergency notification. The icon resembled the hurricane symbol used by weather alerts. The text said "shelter in place". I looked out the window at the clear blue sky.

I opened the notification and got a slightly longer notice (maybe this was a Google Card?) saying something like "sent on behalf of the emergency something-or-other, Allegheny County, shelter in place". Still confused, I opened that to get the full notification...which said people in such-and-such township are to shelter in place because of a fire at the site of a chemical spill.

Needing to get an alert out and using a system already in place for that (the weather service) makes sense. And, of course, you'll have to use their icons, and of the weather symbols on tap, a hurricane is probably reasonable.

Sending alerts based on current location is a well-understood problem. My provider -- or rather, whatever computer at my provider pushes these notifications -- knew that I was, in fact, in Allegheny County.

But didn't that same system also know that I was nowhere near such-and-such township? And would it have been too hard to put that very important location information into an earlier phase of the alert, instead of waiting for people to click through twice?

I sure hope nobody in such-and-such township got the alert, looked at his phone, looked out the window, said "hurricane? are you nuts?", and went out to rake his leaves.
About a year and a half ago, I backed a Kickstarter campaign for Solartab, a heavy-duty solar charger that can power, as the name implies, tablets. Delivery was expected before Pennsic in 2014. Well, that was super-ambitious, so I wasn't surprised that that didn't happen. I was disappointed to not have it in time for Pennsic 2015 either, but I borrowed a battery charger and carried on. Yesterday, finally, my Solartab arrived.

I haven't had a chance to test its solar capabilities yet (it's November in Pittsburgh...), but last night I used its wall charger to charge its battery so that today I could try using it to charge my tablet. (The Amazon product page, by the way, makes an even bolder claim than "tablet": it says "Charge your phone, tablet and all other USB powered devices anywhere and anytime!". We'll come back to that.)

I plugged my Asus Transformer Infinity into the Solartab using the Asus's USB cable and got nothing. No charging light on the tablet, no "dispensing power" light on the Solartab. I plugged the cable into the wall adapter instead and the tablet started charging. I plugged my phone into the Solartab and it started charging. Off to Google.

Ok, according to the Internet Collective, you can't charge the Asus's keyboard, to which I usually leave the tablet connected, from anything but wall current. (I think I charged it via a heavy-duty jump-start battery at Pennsic, but maybe I'm misremembering.) So I disconnected the keyboard and connected the tablet directly to the Solartab.

After about a 30-second delay, the Solartab indicator lit. But the tablet reported that it was not charging. Off to Google again.

I found a thread about a different charger that somebody was having trouble getting to work with an Asus tablet, and the verdict there was that charger would charge it very slowly (like 3% an hour), and only if the tablet was turned off. So I noted the current battery level and turned the tablet off, and I'll see where it is tomorrow.

I get that tablets are thirsty and maybe Asus is especially thirsty (beats me; it's the only tablet I've ever had), but I bought the Solartab to charge my tablet, and according to the specs it ought to be able to supply enough power to do so. I'll be disappointed if it can't do that.
The torah (Numbers chapter 5) describes the trial of the sotah, the woman accused of adultery by her husband (but there aren't witnesses to testify against her). The priest writes curses (the mishna here argues about exactly what he writes) on parchment and dissolves it in water. He also adds some dust from the floor of the tabernacle. Raba asked: why does the torah command the dust? He answers: because if she is innocent she will produce a son like Avraham, who said "I am but dust and ashes", and if she is guilty, she reverts to ashes (she dies from the effects of the trial). (17a)

Once a year the local SCA group has an informal gathering that includes a pie competition. "Pie" is pretty loosely defined. For today's I set out to make a ginger cheese pie, extrapolated from the cheesecake recipes in Digby and Platina. Basically, I used Digby's proportions for cheese, butter, and eggs, but replaced his cinnamon and nutmeg with Platina's ginger. I didn't just start with Platina because he uses lard. (In the filling! Ick!)

I wanted to make a ginger-lover's pie, though, and the small amount of fresh-grated ginger called for in Platina just would not do. So I expanded on that, but it still wasn't ginger-y enough, so I'll keep tweaking. Mind, it was still good; it was just...understated.

Here's what I did:

First, turn a pound of fresh ginger into crystallized ginger. Read more...Collapse )
The mishna describes some cases of "what goes around comes around": Samson followed after the desire of his eyes (i.e. he lusted after Delilah), and so the Philistines put out his eyes. Absalom cohabited with the ten concubines of his father, and so he was stabbed with ten lances. The same idea applies to good too and not just bad: Miriam waited by the banks of the river to see what would happen with her baby brother Moshe, and later all of Israel waited seven days for her to be cured of her affliction so she could rejoin the camp. And Yosef went up to bury his father Yaakov in Cana'an, and later Moshe took Yosef's bones up out of Egypt to bury in the land of Israel. (9b)

According to the midrash, Moshe recovered Yosef's bones on the night of the exodus -- while everybody else was occupied with gathering their own households and Egyptian loot (as commanded), Moshe was tending to the dead.

(Today's daf is 10.)

We start a new tractate this week, Sotah. The sotah ritual is described in Numbers chapter 5; if a man accuses his wife of unfaithfulness but there aren't two witnesses to testify against her, he can force her to undergo a ritual in which a kohein (priest) writes a curse on parchment and dissolves it in water, she drinks the water, and if she's guilty she will become visibly ill and die. If she's not guilty, nothing happens and she is declared to be innocent. (There's much more detail in the torah passage.)

The first mishna of the tractate teaches: a man can warn his wife not to associate with a certain man (of whom he is jealous). This warning requires two witnesses. Then if she associates with him anyway, R' Eliezer says he can force the sotah ritual with one witness while R' Yehoshua requires two witnesses. (The man can be one of the witnesses.) These witnesses are testifying to opportunity; if there were two witnesses who directly witnessed them having relations, we'd be out of sotah territory and into adultery territory instead.

If the man warned his wife and she then talked with the other man, she is not yet forbidden to him -- they can continue to have marital relations. But if she was secluded with him long enough for them to act, then she is forbidden to her husband until the matter is resolved and, should he die before the sotah ritual is completed, she is not eligible for levirate marriage (wherein his brother would marry her to, effectively, continue his marriage to produce a child). (2a)

(Today's daf is 3.)

Today I used Uber for the first time (aside from a shared ride a couple months ago that someone else booked). It wasn't mainly because of the better price, though that's nice too. And it wasn't mainly out of objection to the monopolistic protection racket that runs transit in my city, though yeah, that too. It was mainly because of UX.

Here's how things go with Yellow Cab:

  • Attempt to make online reservation. After completing all fields, get told that online reservation is not possible and I need to call. Every. Single. Time.
  • Call, wait on hold for too long, and eventually make reservation with brusque or disinterested agent.
  • Usually but not always, cab shows up. If it's going to be a no-show, you won't know until it's too late.
  • Get bombarded by video ads in the cab until I figure out how to make it stop, which is hard because the LCD touch-screen is at a bad angle so I can't see the buttons well.
  • Pay using that same bad touch-screen. I seem to be incapable of seeing the UI for specifying a tip amount without opening the car door and half-lying on the seat. Buttons for 20% and 25% are easy to access, presumably by design.

So I got disgusted enough to try the competition. You can't make a reservation, which concerned me a bit, but I checked the app earlier than I needed to leave, saw multiple cars within a couple miles, and relaxed. When I was about ready to book, the app told me we were in a higher-price (prime time) period that would end in two minutes. So I waited. When I called for one it took no more than five minutes. I could watch the driver's progress on a map.

The driver was fine and the car was clean -- that and punctuality are really all I require.

Payment was simple, through the app, with an emailed receipt. The trip cost about 65% of what the last cab trip on the same route cost.

Yellow Cab's user experience is terrible. Uber's is good. I know which one will get my business next time.

I do have to ding Uber on one thing, though. When the driver heard that this was my first time using them he gave me a promo code for a significant discount. I tried to enter it during the ride and the app said I couldn't use it on an in-progress trip. Fine. But later I tried to enter it for future use and the app said it was only good for a first-time ride. So... if it's not available until it's too late, what's the point? If the driver had never given it to me I wouldn't have noticed the lack, but because he did I feel Uber goofed here.
The mishna teaches: gentiles are not competent to become nazirim (because, the g'mara says, it says "speak to the children of Israel"), but women and slaves are able to do this. Further, this mishna teaches, the vow is more stringent for a woman than for a slave, because a master can compel his slave to break his vow (so long as the slave belongs to him) but a husband cannot compel his wife. But a mishna on the next page is going to argue the opposite, that the slave's vow is more stringent than a woman's, because a man can annul his wife's vow (on the day he hears about it). (61a)

Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a site for writers, gamers, and others who build settings and have questions about getting the details right. Questions cover a wide variety of topics -- astronomy, biology, chemistry, sociology, urban planning, creature design, magic, and more. Last month we launched a blog for the kinds of posts that don't really fit the Q&A format so well.

One of the requests from the community was posts about how, as a writer or GM, to effectively reveal the interesting details of your world, so you're not just presenting big blobs of exposition or confusing the heck out of people. Some years ago I played in a D&D game that did this really well (run by ralphmelton), so I've started a series of posts about what I learned from that.

Here are the first two: Revelation for RPGs 1: Setting the Stage and Revelation for RPGs 2: The Written Word. Future articles will cover NPCs (there are lots of people in the world who aren't your players' characters; use them well), player meta-game contributions (in this case an in-character journal), prophecy & visions, and geography, at least.
The talmud discusses a variety of sources of ritual impurity and how they affect a nazir. One such source, listed in a mishna on today's daf, is "the land of the gentiles" -- one who has taken a wow to be a nazir is apparently expected to stay within the land of Israel for the duration. The g'mara then analyzes this case more closely, asking what exactly it is about gentile lands that causes impurity. Some say it is breathing the air, while others say it is contact with the soil. The g'mara here is a little confusing, but it appears to conclude that the impurity comes from the soil. (54a-b)

I've been thinking about updating my streaming. You can help. :-)

Apple TV (forthcoming) and Roku are both attractive and are clearly competitors. Both offer voice input, and "hey Siri, find $movie_title" would be way, way easier than using a remote control or phone to type a search, perhaps multiple times (once per channel/app). How well it works, and whether Siri will make it hard to find free alternatives to things in the Apple store, are open questions. I do not care one whit about playing games on my TV.

I have a first-edition Roku ("Roku 1", except it was just "Roku" then) and its user interface is pretty good, though I haven't gotten software updates for a year or two now (no longer supported) so I don't know what the modern UI looks like. One thing that I find annoying on my Roku is that you can only rewind or fast-forward in "steps" that are about 10-15 seconds apart, and when you jump it pauses to contemplate its navel before resuming (at which point you find out if you hit the spot you meant). So advancing to the end of the opening credits or backing up to hear that dialogue again is tedious and should be seamless. I much prefer the conventional rewind/fast-forward of my DVD and TiVo, where you see sped-up video as it goes by.

I mentioned TiVo, which streams. But TiVo's UI for streaming is really bad for people with less-than-stellar vision and measly little 42" TVs. If I can't read the titles from my chair, it's not very useful.

I also have a (new) Chromecast, an inexpensive experiment to see if that would do the job. I like it in principle, and you can't beat either the price or the footprint, but I've run into two issues. One is that it needs my phone's WiFi to be on and that sucks battery. That's probably livable because I keep a spare battery charged. The other is that Chromecast is only as good as the phone apps that drive it, and I really, really need a better Netflix app and haven't been able to find it.

The Netflix Android app is all about the eye candy. When viewing either my queue or search results, it shows me the cover art for each title -- but not the names in plain old text. Consider cover art, three to the row, scaled for a phone. I can't see that, and the app doesn't support zoom. I've found no setting to toggle between cover art and a text list. I've searched the app store for "Netflix" hoping to find third-party apps, but no luck so far. (By the way, the Crackle app has the same problem.)

Also, rewinding or fast-forwarding by moving a YouTube-style pointer really, really stinks. Netflix, where are the rewind/fast-forward buttons?

I'm mentioning Netflix a lot because that's really the only thing I stream from now. Roku has hundreds of channels but you have to interact with them individually, so I never do -- a unified search, on the other hand, would provide an entry to that. Since I'm already paying for Netflix I'm otherwise only interested in the free ones; I had thought that included Hulu but the phone app suggests that it's all paid now.

Dear readers who are technologically way ahead of me, any input?
Today the talmud talks about priorities and the honor due to the dead. The mishna says: a high priest and a nazir may not defile themselves (become ritually impure, tamei) through contact with their dead relatives, but they may do so to attend to a dead person who has no one to bury him. If they were walking together and encountered such a deceased person, which one of them should act? R' Eliezer says the high priest should, but the sages say the nazir should. R' Eliezer argues that because the high priest does not bring an offering if he becomes defiled but the nazir does, the high priest should do it. The sages argue that the nazir's restrictions are temporary while the high priest's are permanent, so the nazir should do it (his degree of holiness is lower because it is temporary). However, the g'mara clarifies, all this applies only if they are both present; if either is alone and comes across a corpse with no one to tend to it, the one who found the body must defile himself. (47a mishna, 47b g'mara)

Our director of engineering paid a visit to our local office today. The meetings were productive and didn't have too much growling and snarling.
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The mishna talks about someone who cuts his hair before his period of being a nazir is completed, saying he incurs a penalty. This leads to a discussion in the g'mara about how hair grows, because they're trying to figure out if the hair that was on his head at the time of his vow (which became consecrated) has been cut off. So does hair grow from the scalp or from the tips? The g'mara argues and then counter-argues for each of these possibilities, before finally resorting to this argument: when sheep are tithed every tenth one is marked with a bit of paint; the mishna providing this instruction would not have done so if that paint would soon be covered by new growth; therefore wool grows from the roots. An argument based on an explicit teaching of the mishna is more credible than one made from reasoning alone. The g'mara then observes that when old men dye their beards they grow white at the roots, so sheep's wool and men's hair both grow from the roots. (39a-b)

(Today's daf is 40.)

Yesterday at our Yom Kippur beit midrash (afternoon study session, to fill time between services so we can just stay there all day), our new associate rabbi taught sources related to the fast. I'm repeating something I learned there instead of returning to the regular cycle (which is at Nazir 33).

The mishna lists the restrictions on Yom Kippur: we may not eat or drink, wash, anoint, wear (leather) shoes,1 or have intimate relations. Rabbi Elazar says that a king and a bride may wash their faces and a pregnant woman may wear shoes, but the sages forbid these. What are the exact parameters of "may not eat or drink"? Whoever eats food to the size of a large date or drinks a mouthful is guilty. All kinds of food are counted to the size of the date and all liquids are counted to the size of the mouthful -- we're talking totals here, not saying that you can eat up to the size of a date and then do it again if you wait long enough.

The g'mara discusses the "date" measure, looking to other cases where there is a minimum amount of food to count. (Surely the maximum you can eat on a fast day must be less than the minimum needed to count as "eating" for another purpose.) The g'mara talks about how much you need to eat in order to qualify for grace after meals, though the first case that came to my mind was how much matzah you have to eat at the seder to fulfill your obligation. These minimums are the volume of an egg, and there's discussion in the g'mara here about whether a large date is larger or smaller than an egg. I think for this reasoning to work it must be smaller, so we have a continuum from "no food" to "limit for a fast" to "minimum to fulfill a positive food obligation" to "plenty".

Finally, I note that today serious questions are raised about taking pills on Yom Kippur, though a pill is certainly (I hope!) smaller than a date. So these size rules have probably been refined since the talmud. (Also, this is for pills that are in some sense optional, like your daily vitamin or aspirin for your caffeine headache. If it's medically necessary you not only can but must take it regardless of the fast.)

1 The mishna here says "lace on shoes" and doesn't mention leather, though leather is discussed elsewhere in this tractate. Since it says "lace" this raises the question of slip-on shoes; the answer is that all leather shoes are forbidden whether laced, slip-in, sandals, or other, but I don't know where this is resolved.

I've written before about the alternate service my congregation has on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Ruach service. It's very much in the style of our Shabbat minyan -- musical, participatory, full of spirit, and way more traditional than the Reform norm. Originally my rabbi led this service, though a few times he had to leave early (to be at the main service) and said "Monica, take over" -- once with a new prayer book I had not seen before, with the high-holy-day-only special liturgy. (I love the trust he places in me but that one was "exciting".) Then last year he couldn't be there at all and asked me to lead it along with somebody else. The other person was, to put it mildly, quite problematic.

This summer we hired a new associate rabbi and she's been coming to the Shabbat minyan and enjoying it. My rabbi asked the two of us to lead this service. I'm very pleased that he kept me as part of this; it would not have been completely unreasonable (in our congregation) to say that when we have an actual rabbi, the lay person is no longer needed.

We'd only led one service together (a minyan service when the senior rabbi was out of town), but it turns out that she and I work really well together. It usually takes people collaborating on services a little more time to start developing the "hive mind" where things just go. (Yes, of course there's a lot of prep involved, and sticky notes in the book for who's doing what in places, but even with that, services led by people who aren't used to working together often don't look smooth.)

Rosh Hashana was last week and the service went very well. It flowed, it wasn't rushed, and we finished exactly on time. We got lots of compliments. Yom Kippur is Wednesday and I expect we'll have even more people then. I feel really good about this.

Also, chanting Unataneh Tokef on Rosh Hashana clicked for me. I don't mean musically (though that too); I mean the text. This is a grave prayer and I felt it in a way that I haven't felt it when merely reading or listen to it. Oh Rosh Hashana it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed: who shall live and who shall die, who shall be content and who troubled, and so on. Since Rosh Hashana I have attempted to do teshuvah for some specific things, and I hope that come Yom Kippur, when I chant this same text again, I will feel I succeeded.
In honor of the season we deviate from the Daf Yomi cycle. On Yom Kippur we read about the service of the kohein gadol (high priest) on Yom Kippur, when he enters the Holy of Holies, pronounces the divine name, and seeks atonement for the people of Israel. The mishna in the first chapter of Tractate Yoma describes what happens before that:

Seven days before Yom Kippur they remove the high priest from his house and move him to the cell of the counselors. Another priest is prepared so that, should something happen to the high priest, another can take over. A substitute wife is also prepared for the high priest lest his wife die, because the torah says he makes atonement for himself and his house, and "his house" requires a wife. (But only one wife because it says "house", not "houses"; there is some complexity in the discussion here.)

During these seven days they provide elders of the beit din (rabbinic court), who read before him the order of the service and urge him to memorize it, because perhaps he forgot or never learned. On the day before Yom Kippur they bring before him all the animals that will be offered, so he will recognize them and be familiar with what is to be done. Late in the day leading up to Yom Kippur they prevent him from eating much, lest he eat too much and fall asleep. They then take him to the elders of the priesthood and make him swear that he will not change a single thing from what they have taught him. Then he (if learned) or others (if not) would expound on torah, and read from Job, Ezra, Chronicles, and sometimes Daniel. And they would keep him up all night occupied with torah.

(It may sound like they're treating him as a child or an ignoramus. Perhaps they are (under Roman rule the position of high priest was sold to the highest bidder, for instance). But it's also important to remember that this service is essential for the people's relationship with God and that we've seen what happens when instructions for service aren't followed correctly -- Aharon's sons Nadav and Avihu brought aish zarah, an "alien fire", and were struck down. Had they been representing the whole people, what might have happened? Even the most learned must study the haggadah at Pesach, and even the most learned high prist must study the Yom Kippur service.)

(Today's daf is Nazir 26.)

I met Countess Aidan ni Leir when I became Chronicler for the East Kingdom. I'd been active in the SCA for some years by then, including having been chronicler for my local barony for four years. Our barony was, at the time, somewhat isolated from the main body of the East: aside from Pennsic the bigwigs didn't come here much, and I hadn't been to much of the rest of the kingdom then. I was an experienced writer, editor, and publisher, but working at the kingdom level with its attendant quirks and politics was new. So becoming a kingdom officer had something of a feel of a kid from hicks-ville moving to the big city.

My predecessors in the job helped guide me, and there were people in the local group with more kingdom-level experience. But regular contact with the Kingdom Seneschal was especially helpful. That seneschal was Countess Aidan.

Adian had been royalty (hence the title) and had worked with royalty for years, and from her I learned how to handle them. I knew that just because a guy has a crown on his head doesn't mean what he's saying is reasonable, but that guy with the crown could also fire me. And sometimes the other kingdom officers had unreasonable expectations; I remember one officer who sent something like ten pages of advice for the space-constrained "laws and policies" issue, who didn't take kindly to my saying that that was really too much and I'd need him to cut that down to just the part that was actually, you know, laws and policies, and I was expecting more like a page or two, not ten. Aidan taught me some useful things about diplomacy -- but also about when to wield the stick and just say "no" -- clearly and politely, in a way that would survive escalation.

One of my funniest memories of Aidan is a conversation we had, oh, maybe two years into my stint as chronicler. This was an actual phone call, not email (email still wasn't ubiquitous then, though she had it), so I remember her tone of voice too. I was talking about the accumulation of different kinds of paperwork -- reports from the local groups, my quarterly reports, stuff from other officers that wasn't newsletter submissions, minutes from board meetings, correspondence of lots of different types -- and how I was having trouble organizing it usefully. Did she have any advice? She said the way she handled that kind of stuff was to make one big pile, and every now and then stick a marker in with the month and year. If you ever actually needed any of that stuff that was probably good enough, but... she left the sentence incomplete.

I in fact didn't need the vast majority of that stuff (though there were expectations of keeping records). I tried to neaten it up some before passing the office on to my successor. I also passed on the advice.

At the time Aidan lived in New York. Several years ago she moved to my barony so I got to see her more, though not as much as I now realize I wish I had. Aidan was friendly (yet did not suffer fools), highly competent, and fun to be around. I'll miss her.
(Today's daf is 19.)

The mishna teaches: if two groups of witnesses testify about a man, one saying that he vowed to become a nazir for two years and the other that he vowed for five, how do we resolve the difference? Beit Shammai rules that because there is conflicting credible testimony he is not a nazir at all -- we can't tell, so we eliminate both. Beit Hillel, on the other hand, says that five includes two -- those who say five agree that he vowed for at least two. Thus he is a nazir for two years because everybody agrees on that much. (20a)

I wonder if the "at least this much" approach applies to torts too, like disputed loans or damages. It seems reasonable that it should.

(Today's daf is 12.)

A nazir is forbidden, among things, to consume wine (or grape juice). If a man says: "I declare myself a nazir on the condition that I can drink wine", he becomes a nazir and is forbidden wine -- a condition on a vow can't contradict torah law. If he says "I didn't know that a nazir is forbidden wine", he is still forbidden (but R' Shimon releases him from his vow). If he says "I knew that a nazir is forbidden wine but I thought the sages would give me permission because I cannot do without wine", he is released from his vow (but R' Shimon binds him to it). Why is he released if he thought he would get an exemption? Because we don't hold people to vows broken under pressure. (We accept his claim that he can't live without wine and thus we know he will violate the vow.) (11a-b)

When I was in college, some people thought it was a right fun prank to sign other people up for wildly-inappropriate catalogues and suchlike. These days they use the Internet for that. Any site that blithely accepts an email address without sending confirmation email to that address is contributing to the problem, big-time.

I know that already, but reading this article about a victim of the Ashley Madison breach -- spoiler alert: not an actual user -- reminded me how problematic this still is. Definitely worth five minutes of your time.
I want to ask you, Internet, to please stop taking all of this [supposed evidence] at face value. Please stop taking things like lists of names stolen from a company as a reason to abuse others — online or offline. When you see a story about someone doing something you think is either wrong or even just lame, it’s not a reason for you to abuse, stalk or attack someone you don’t know.

A friend whom I trust quite a bit not to be using their services is also on that list. So if you don't believe a random person on the Internet, there's that.
The torah teaches that one may become a nazir (Nazirite) by taking a vow to do so, and during the time it applies he does not cut his hair, drink wine, or come in contact with that which defiles. Our most famous nazir was Shimshon (Samson), though in his case he didn't make that vow himself. We begin a new tractate this week that's all about the nazir.

The mishna teaches: if a man says "I vow to be like Shimshon" (with some additional language) he becomes a nazir like Shimshon. This is different from one who vows to become a lifetime nazir. How so? A life-nazir may thin his hair with a razor when it becomes burdensome (and then bring animal offerings), and if he becomes ritually impure he brings an offering. A nazir like Shimshon, however, may not thin his hair, and if he becomes ritually impure he brings no offering. The mishna then goes on to say that the default length of a nazir vow, if not specified, is 30 days. (4a, 5a)

We recently had a pot-luck lunch at work. I was short of time, so had my slow-cooker do most of the work:

- 2 sweet yellow onions, diced
- 1 pound butternut squash, cubed (~ 0.5" cubes)
- 2 sweet potatoes (not yams), cubed
- 8oz bag frozen cauliflower
- 8oz bag frozen peas
- 15oz can chickpeas, drained
- 2 12oz jars Madras curry sauce (I used this)

Put all ingredients in slow-cooker and cook on high for 3 hours. Then add:

- 4 sturdy tomatoes (I used Romas), diced

Reduce heat to low for 8 hours or so. (I went to bed at this point.)

Eat straight or serve over rice. With fresh-baked naan is even better but not always practical.
I recently traveled for business, and the hotel where I stayed -- as is becoming the norm in my limited experience -- asked clients to consider not having linen service every day to avoid waste. I don't replace my towels and sheets at home every day and I really don't need somebody else to make the bed (in the room I have to myself), so I've been on board with that for a while.

One morning as I was leaving my room, with the "do not disturb" sign on the door, I ran into one of the housekeepers. The conversation went something like this:

Her: You don't want me to clean your room?
Me: No it's ok; I've only used these towels once.
Her: Are you sure? It wouldn't be any trouble!

If I'd been caffeinated I might have picked up on the subtext, but it wasn't until later that I found myself wondering: is this policy costing people jobs? I'm guessing that very few people become hotel housekeepers if they have other options; is my desire to go gently on the planet at odds with my desire not to make it harder on people in low-end jobs who want to work?

This is far from the first time I've faced the "but the candle-makers will go out of business if we adopt lightbulbs!" idea, but this may be the first time that the "other side" of the issue isn't either convenience or economics but, rather, a liberal value. I mean, I pump my own gas even though there used to be people who do that, and I'm fine with that. I'd use the grocery self-checkout if it worked better, but I find the human cashiers to be faster and more accurate. I do stuff online that used to require dealing with a (paid) human being. Somehow this feels different. I'm not sure if I should care, but I did take notice of it.

I left a decent tip on check-out day.