daf bit: Sanhedrin 11

Jul. 27th, 2017 08:47 am
cellio: (talmud)
[personal profile] cellio

Remember that mishna I summarized last week, the first one of this tractate? The g'mara is still discussing it (not surprising, given its length). On today's daf the discussion turns to intercalating of years, the decision by a beit din to add a leap-month to the current year. The g'mara tells a story about a case of this and from it we learn lessons of humility:

The year can be intercalated only by a beit din appointed for that purpose. It once happened that Rabban Gamaliel had called for a court of seven to assemble early in the morning, but when he arrived he found eight people there. He asked the group: who has come without permission? Let him leave. Shmuel the Little said: I'm the extra; I didn't come to sit on the court but to learn the process. But Shmuel the Little wasn't the extra person; he spoke up to save the intruder from humiliation.

The g'mara tells another story of this kind of face-saving, this time about R. Meir. A woman came to his study hall and said: rabbi, one of you here has taken me to wife by cohabitation. R' Meir immediately arose and wrote her a get (a bill of divorce), after which every one of his disciples did likewise. And the g'mara says that he learned this from Shmuel the Little. (11a)

a signage mystery

Jul. 25th, 2017 03:00 pm
cellio: (sleepy-cat)
[personal profile] cellio

I-376, like many other highways, has those overhead digital signs that somebody updates with topical messages like "accident, right lane closed 1 mi" or "stadium parking exit 72A" or, when they've got nothing better to say, "buckle up -- it's the law". There are two of these signs on my commute that, in their default states, say "distance to downtown: N mi, M min". Which, while usually not especially helpful to me (I live five miles from downtown), is still more useful to me than seatbelt nags. (I always use seatbelts.)

This morning, while stopped in traffic near Oakland, I saw one of those signs update from "4 mi, 5 min" to "4 mi, 6 min". That was less inaccurate, but far from accurate -- I reached downtown about 25 minutes later. (This is all very unusual; two of three lanes were closed due to a bad accident. My commute is sometimes slow, but I don't remember the last time I was in stopped morning traffic.)

It got me wondering -- do the indicators on those signs update automatically based on sensor data or are they human-controlled? The fact that an update happened but didn't jump to a more-appropriate number makes me think that we're dealing with an automated system that only bumps one unit at a time. (I would hope that a human would have updated it to warn about the accident.)

Why would it be designed to only increment in single units? Or is it a bug? What are the inputs to these signs, anyway?

daf bit: Sanhedrin 2

Jul. 20th, 2017 08:55 am
cellio: (talmud)
[personal profile] cellio

We begin a new tractate, Sanhedrin, which discusses court cases. Unlike in many secular court systems, the judges are active participants (they're the ones who question witnesses) and the ultimate decisors; there are no lawyers or juries.

A court is made up of some number of judges, depending on the type of case (at least 3, sometimes 23 or 71 or occasionally other numbers). Here are some of the cases listed in the first mishna of the tractate (this is not a complete list):

  • Various types of monetary damages are judged by three.

  • Rape, seduction, and libel require three according to R' Meir, but the sages say libel requires 23 because it could involve a capital charge. (A note suggests this comes up with adultery but doesn't connect the dots. Also, rape and seduction can involve capital charges too, so I don't know why they only call out libel. Perhaps it's addressed later in the g'mara.)

  • Capital cases, as implied in the previous bullet, require 23.

  • Cases for which the punishment is flogging require three, but according to R' Yishmael, 23.

  • Calendar decisions (witnessing the new moon, adding a leap month) are judged by three, though R' Shimon b. Gamaliel describes a more complicated scheme.

  • A tribe charged with idolatry, a false prophet, and a high priest can be tried only by a court of 71.

  • The following require 71: authorizing wars of free choice, adding to the temple courtyards, establishing small sanhedrins (of 23) for the tribes, condemning a city, condemning frontier towns.

Why is a great sanhedrin 71? Because Moshe was commanded to gather 70 (other) men. And why is a small sanhedrin 23? It's complicated. (I don't completely follow their math, sorry.)

This is all from 2a. The mishna continues onto 2b before the g'mara starts there.

(Today's daf is 4.)

almost helpful

Jul. 18th, 2017 08:52 pm
cellio: (house)
[personal profile] cellio

My (Android) phone alerts me when traffic is bad near me. This can be handy at the end of the day because I work downtown. Except... it's telling me about traffic on roads I don't use to get home. Sure, there's spillover so it's not unhelpful, but it'd be great if I could tell it -- maybe by gesturing on a map -- what paths I care about, so it could tell me about those ones.

Does anybody reading this know of an app that does that, or a way to get Google Maps to do it? It needs to be fire and forget; I don't want to have to open the map app to look for red lines on it.

It feels like all the information is already there, if only my phone were making use of it.

(This would also let me know before I leave in the morning if traffic is still bad at the other end. At that time I don't really need extra information about traffic near my house; I need it 3-5 miles away.)

embedded geek

Jul. 13th, 2017 09:58 pm
cellio: (B5)
[personal profile] cellio

A friend shared this with me earlier today and I literally laughed out loud:


The second-last column is about a famous Zulu leader. The last one is about walled cities under fire.

"Shaka, when the walls fell" is a key phrase in a rather unusual episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, named "Darmok". The famous universal translator doesn't work when the Enterprise encounters these particular aliens, because their language doesn't work at the word level. They speak in what the crew calls metaphor. I've seen discussions of this over the years ("could that really work?" "improbable, because..."). The post about the Jeopardy episode links to this Atlantic article about the episode that argues that we're looking at it all wrong. I found it an interesting read.

Also, Atlantic does in-depth articles about episodes of SF shows? Who knew?

(I don't have a Trek icon. Here, have one from one of my favorite shows instead.)


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