Blog: July 2020

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Religious uncertainty

The original post had restricted access. While I'm now fine with making my post public, people commented under the assumption of a restricted audience and I'm not going to expose those. Hence, no link to the original for this one.

With some trepidation, I have just sent the email that might lead to me joining an Orthodox congregation. While I always imagined that this would happen someday, I did not expect it to happen out of an acute need and during my Reform congregation's transition year between permanent rabbis. And so I need to be clear and up front about that acute need with the rabbi, that there is a complicating driver mixed in with the pull (and push) I've been feeling for a while. Read more…

Weekly garden report

During 2020 I posted near-weekly updates from my first vegetable garden. I have not imported all of them here, but you can see them on the gardening tag on Dreamwidth.

Last Sunday I noted that the peppers were still green but looked like they were starting to turn yellow. By around Tuesday we had clear signs of yellow, and I thought I knew what kind of pepper plants I had. (These are "lunchbox peppers", which come in any of yellow, orange, or red; any given plant produces one color.)

Ha ha no, that was just stage one. The peppers that have developed color are all solidly orange now. I don't know if this is, in turn, a step on the way to red, or if orange is their final color. I'm also not sure when I'm supposed to pick them.

For the past couple months these plants have been showing four peppers each, and I've been wondering if I was going to all this trouble for eight peppers. Finally some small green ones have appeared farther up on the plants. I don't know what the seasonal yield is supposed to be.

Meanwhile, I've been picking 5-10 cherry tomatoes a day. The plant on the left doesn't have any more green ones, while the one on the right is continuing to make those. These are supposed to be "tidy treats", which are supposed to be indeterminates, which I understand to mean "makes fruit all summer". But these are also clearly different varieties despite the labeling, so perhaps I've now identified which of the two plants is the variety I ordered. The one on the left, whatever it is, started producing earlier, by maybe a week or a week and a half. It also has the smaller pot. (It was, originally, the larger of the two plants originally sharing a pot, before I realized just how much room cherry tomatoes would need.)

Pictures follow. Read more…


A typical day (that is not Shabbat) in the "new normal":

I get up, shower, dress, feed the cat -- all of that was true before. Spending the day in PJs is not for me.

I tend to the garden. This is new and, of course, seasonal -- but "something with plants" runs from roughly May through October, nearly half the year. This would be harder (might not happen) were I driving to work each morning.

I make coffee. I have learned to drink coffee (so long as it's not too dark). I can do this at home; the stuff at the office is more bitter than I like. At the office I drank more diet cola.

Some days I do something with sourdough. This is new and I don't have the kinks worked out yet. Beyond sustaining the starter, how much discard will I want? How much do I want to bake, and will I want to make pancakes too? Feeding the starter involves some planning.

Work is work, spent mostly in front of a computer. Most interactions with other human beings are in written form. Sometimes there are meetings, and if nobody's presenting they're video. Coworkers and I have been reduced to little boxes on the screen. I take frequent breaks to get up and walk around, deliberately make trips downstairs and back up. Sometimes I play with the cat. The cat has gotten used to us being around all the time.

I make real lunches most days, since we're both home and kitchen use is practical. While writing this I'm reminded that I think I have a bag of granola in my desk drawer at work, oops. (I did remember to collect my yogurt from the fridge on that last day in the office.)

I shut down the work laptop at the end of the working day. I intentionally create that break, that metaphorical "getting into the car to drive home" transition. Sure, I might look at email on my phone later, same as before, but work is work and it gets boundaries around it.

I do a lot more cooking than I did before. I like cooking and now I have more time for it.

I have watched almost no television in the last few months. I might be reading a little more fiction; I haven't been keeping track.

I miss spending time with other people in person. I miss my choir. I miss going out. But I'm getting more time with my husband and that's nice. I hope someday we'll be able to travel again; we had just started to hit our groove with that. And it would be nice to be able to go to restaurants someday, much as I also enjoy cooking.

I fill my days and I'm not bored, but one day is much like another. Shabbat is different, and that matters more now than ever.

Out of control

According to Trump, liberal cities are "out of control" and their leaders are "afraid" of the "anarchists" ("these are not protesters", "these are people who hate our country") and that's why they don't want the federal government to "help".

No, I don't think that's it.

What is happening in Portland is appalling, and Trump just threatened to send his goons into other cities over the objections of local governments. The people he's sending in are wearing generic fatigues (making them indistinguishable from mobs of neo-Nazis and other civilian thugs), driving unmarked rental cars, and snatching people off the streets. There is no due process, no accountability, and plenty of reason for those being targeted to fear the snatchers. You just can't tell. Even if you could tell, what they're doing is so far outside the bounds of the law that it's hard to believe it's happening and hard to believe there won't be further abuses even if you comply with these "arrests".

And yet, it is happening. Just when you thought the shenanigans coming from Washington couldn't get any worse.

Triage in Jewish Thought

One of the classes I took at Hadar this week was on making triage decisions -- nicely, and explicitly, topical. The class was taught by Rabbi Ethan Tucker. These are some assorted notes, not a proper write-up.

At the beginning of the class, he asked participants to list things we thought might be factors in deciding which of two patients in dire need gets the ventilator. Other people said age (prefer the younger person), overall health (bias against the person with other illnesses), family status (bias in favor of the person with children to take care of), "merit" in various forms (bias against the drug addict, bias for the "important" person, etc), who you think has a better prognosis of this illness (regardless of other factors), and more I'm not remembering. I said: who got there first or, failing that, lottery. This was not a popular suggestion.

We examined a bunch of sources, some of which were familiar to me from a previous class about programming self-driving cars (whom should the programmer prioritize in an impending accident?). Some key points: Read more…

Followup on SE's revised moderator policies

A few days ago I posted an analysis of Stack Exchange's new, still-flawed policies on moderator reinstatement. An employee who helped to write those policies challenged some of my feedback. This was my reply:

Read more…

Nine months later, some revised policies at SE

Back in October, Stack Exchange posted some policies for moderators to apply for reinstatement. I and many others raised concerns about transparency, fairness, and that the whole thing was a black box. Some also raised the concern that if a moderator was removed capriciously, without any valid process, it made no sense for that person to have to submit to this process that starts from a presumption of guilt. (The whole thing has a vibe of "we'll evaluate whether you're still beating your wife".) I posted my assessment there and also copied it in this journal for safe-keeping. (One never knows whether the original would survive, after all.)

This week they posted an updated version (feedback post). Let's see how it stacks up against the issues that were previously raised!

Read more…

New Judaism community on Codidact!

I'm so excited!

Last Wednesday, an active user on Mi Yodeya asked on meta about trying out Codidact. By the end of the day it has something like 18 votes, which is a strong show of community support on this site.

On Thursday (by which time it had picked up a few more votes), this same user proposed it on Codidact's "site proposals" section. Several people participated in that discussion, including Isaac, the founder of Mi Yodeya (who is one of the moderators there). Isaac also posted an answer on the Mi Yodeya meta question commending my involvement.

On Friday it was pretty clear to us on the Codidact team that the proposal had the support it needed to go forward. We tested Hebrew fonts and the lead developer added a Hebrew keyboard for typing posts, adapted from a userscript a Yodeyan had written for use there. (Eventually Stack Exchange took that script and built it in, so not having it would be a regression for our users on Codidact.) We tried to figure out what to use for a logo.

Saturday night after Shabbat we talked about some final details. Sunday morning we launched the site.

Monday I had a brief conversation with somebody at Sefaria about their source linker, a server-side package that finds citations (like "Genesis 1:1") on web pages and turns them into links to source texts on Sefaria. After a bit of poking and a code review we turned that on. Much excitement on our site ensued.

It's now been a few days, and Judaism Codidact is going great so far! We're still having some initial meta discussions, including what data to import from Mi Yodeya and whether to broaden scope in certain ways, but that doesn't stop us from asking and answering questions right now, which people are doing. People I miss from Mi Yodeya are showing up, and I hope in time more will. I've missed my friends. I've missed being part of this community.

We asked Isaac to be an initial moderator on the Codidact site, and he wrote a thoughtful explanation of why he accepted on Mi Yodeya. This is the model of collaboration and cooperation. Online Jewish learning is not a zero-sum game; Mi Yodeya and Judaism Codidact can exist side by side, working together to spread knowledge and build community. I'm delighted to have him on Codidact along with Mi Yodeya.