February License Plate Report

In general, when January yields a bumper crop, the pickings in February are sparse, but when January’s haul is relatively meager, February makes up for it. 2021 proves the latter point. Ten new sightings in February: Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Oregon, Michigan, South Carolina, and Minnesota.

Oops — just realized I wrote “27” on Minnesota. Should be 28. Will correct next month, but for now the tally stands at 28.

Oh, and you may notice that Mississippi is colored in, but there’s no number on it. That’s another oops. I colored in Mississippi instead of Alabama. When I spot Mississippi for real, it’ll get a number.

Alabama and Mississippi make up one of the three pairs of states that I sometimes flip if I’m not careful. The other two are Arizona and New Mexico, and Colorado and Wyoming. The farther I get from New England, the sketchier my geography gets, which is why you’ll never catch me flipping Vermont and New Hampshire. I can, however, see how people from other parts of the country might get them confused.

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It’s a Bouncing Baby Blog!

I just launched my long-fantasized-and-procrastinated-about blog about my ridiculously large T-shirt collection!! Which keeps growing despite my repeated attempts to put a cap on it.

You can find it at https://the-t-shirt-chronicles.com/. Please let me know what you think, because it’s very much a work in progress.

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Of Cords, Cables, and Cobwebs

As a self-employed editor who’s been working from home full-time for more than 20 years, I’m my own IT person. I’ve been my own IT person since I got my first PC in 1985 (a Leading Edge Model D with a 10MB hard drive and one 5 1/4 inch floppy drive, in case you’re wondering).

Most of the time this works out OK. Sometimes I even get a little cocky because I’m more computer-savvy than most of my friends and clients. This says at least as much about my friends and clients as it does about me, but it’s true, over the years I’ve been able to solve most of my computer problems by either Googling (these days there’s a YouTube video for just about everything) or consulting my editorial colleagues, some of whom are serious computer whizzes.

However, when a task presents itself that’s way out on the outer limits of my competence, I get very, very nervous. Like what if I get myself into trouble I can’t get myself out of?

My workspace. It’s more cluttered now than when I took this picture 8 years ago. A lot more cluttered.

This is why the monitor and keyboard from Morgana V, my ancient WinXP desktop PC, have been gathering dust on my desk for years. As her name suggests, Morgana was the fifth of that name. She was also my last desktop PC. Since she retired, I’ve worked exclusively on laptops, sitting in my comfy recliner. IOW, I never sit at my desk.

For eight or nine years Morgana V was good for playing CDs and the occasional round of Rat Poker (I miss Rat Poker), then she went kaput.

Since then, well, monitor, keyboard, and rollerball mouse have been gathering dust. I could have carted them all off to the semi-annual electronics disposal day at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, but I didn’t need the space so I put it off, and off, and off.

Then, abruptly, I did need the space.

For my soon-to-launch blog about my T-shirt collection, I’ve been mucking around in the 1970s and ’80s, when I was immersed in the lesbian community, the women in print movement, and women’s culture in general. I have plenty of LPs from that era. Plenty of them have never made it onto CDs, never mind MP3s. It’s been at least 20 years since I had anything to play them on.

Yes, I did know that I could pay someone, maybe even someone on the Vineyard, to convert a few LPs, but the matter didn’t become really pressing till a few months ago, and then, well — Covid-19.

Then what to my wondering eyes should appear, probably in an online ad, but a handsome stand-alone Any Music Format Stereo from Hammacher Schlemmer that played LPs, cassettes, and CDs. I took the bait — and shortly discovered that for $100 more (about $350) I could get an equally handsome stand-alone unit that promised to convert LPs and cassettes to CDs.

OMG. The reviews were mixed but HS is a reputable company with a money-back guarantee, so I ordered one. It arrived two days ago. The time had finally come to clear the dead electronics off my desk.

This was the scary part. Remember what I said above about venturing out to the outer limits of my computer competence? The dead monitor, keyboard, and rollerball mouse were still connected to the old CPU (which can stay where it is because it’s not in the way). This meant crawling under the desk to the tangle of cords, cables, and cobwebs behind it. What if I disconnected the wrong thing and disabled one or both of my printers, or, worse, the router/modem that brings the internet into my apartment?

Well, to make a long story short, and to spare myself having to describe my minutes of desperation, at one point I thought I’d done exactly that: both the printers had gone offline and I couldn’t access the internet. But with a little more crawling and jiggling and invoking the cyber gods, everything came back into working order.

Voilà! A clean, flat surface on which to set up my new gizmo, side by side with my laser printer, seen here covered with the remains of a seriously ancient beach towel. (The all-in-one inkjet is on a roll-out shelf on the right, at ground level. The CPU is in the cupboard at left. )

To store the dead equipment till the next Electronics Disposal Day, I cleared the haphazardly stacked, mostly empty cardboard boxes from the top of the desk unit — discovering, among other things, a large sketch pad I’d forgotten I had. It now looks uncharacteristically orderly up there.

Later today, or maybe tomorrow, I will set up the miracle unit and try it out. Meanwhile, I am admiring the one flat uncluttered surface in my apartment. I uncluttered it, to make room for something I wanted. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, if only I can figure it out.

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January License Plate Report

I’m not 100% sure that the month just finished was really the first month of 2021 — did 2020 maybe have 13 months instead of 12? Maybe the new year really started on January 20?

Maybe it did, but reckoning lunar months and solar months at the same time is confusing enough so I’ll go with the flow and start 2021 on January 1.

It wasn’t a spectacular month, true. The total was 18, when I generally expect to find almost half the states in January. However, we’re still not out on the road as much as usual — and my second sighting of the year was IOWA facrissake! The last time such an unusual state showed up in the #2 spot was 2014 (I looked it up), when I spotted LOUISIANA while on my usual morning walk.

Strange but true, I spotted Louisiana yesterday, February 2, at the trailhead for the field at Misty Meadows that’s also part of my usual morning rounds. What it was doing there I have no idea.

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2020 License Plate Report

The map at the very end of 2020 looked exactly as it did at the end of October. Missing were West Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming, and (surprise, surprise) both Dakotas. This isn’t bad for a year-end tally. In fact, it’s refreshingly normal for a year that was anything but.

The new year’s first big surprise was that IOWA was the first non-Massachusetts plate I spotted. It passed me on State Road in beautiful downtown West Tisbury — headed in the opposite direction, I should add, because State Road in beautiful downtown West Tisbury is a sedate small-town road whose 25 mph speed limit is widely observed.

The last outlier to appear in the #2 spot was Louisiana, which in 2014 I spotted in a summer resident’s driveway on my first round-the-neighborhood walk of the new year. I marked it on the list with an exclamation point. Those particular summer residents are from New York, and what Louisiana was doing in their driveway on January 1 I never learned.

A Facebook friend from another midwestern state wondered why Massachusetts and/or the Vineyard was allowing people in from Iowa, given the hypocrisy of Iowa’s U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, who after downplaying the seriousness of Covid-19 was among the first in line to get the vaccine. This would apply to quite a few other states whose registered vehicles frequent Vineyard roads. Florida, whose plates are almost as common here as those of the other New England states, might head the list.

Florida, however, was not among my top 10 for 2021. They are, in order, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Virginia, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maine, New Hampshire, and Texas. Last year, Maine, at #17, barely made the top 20, and Vermont hasn’t shown up yet, but the year is very, very young.

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Christmas 2020

Not being a Christian, I don’t celebrate Christmas, but it’s impossible to avoid observing it when the world around me makes it so clear in myriad ways that, first, Christmas is coming, and, at last, Christmas is here.

Fine with me. I especially love the music and the lights of the season, and when a cyclist called “Merry Christmas” on the bike path this morning, I called “Merry Christmas” back. If I know which of the winter holidays someone celebrates, I’ll wish them a merry one, and if I don’t I’ll return whatever greeting they give me, perhaps with a “Bright Solstice” added.

Truth to tell, it’s not just the world around me prompts me to observe Christmas: it’s the memories within. I was raised in the Episcopal Church; my mother was more religious than my father, but we attended St. Peter’s Episcopal as a family, my sibs and I attended Sunday school, and I sang in the junior choir from fifth grade through eighth, when I aged out. That was also the year that I and my agemates got confirmed as full members of the church, after which I ceased to be a churchgoer.

My stocking, side 1

My stocking, side 2

My family continued to celebrate Christmas, of course, with “stockings hung by the chimney with care.” Santa kept coming even after the youngest of us no longer believed; we’d all play Santa, stockpiling small gifts for each other and averting our eyes as we stuffed each other’s stockings. My mother, an expert knitter, had made stockings for each of us when we were babies. Mine, the first made, was the biggest — too big, my mother realized, which led to my brother’s being the smallest. With the third and fourth kids, she achieved a happy medium.

The decades since have made it clear that though you can take the girl out of the church, you can’t take the church out of the girl. Some 55 years later I still know the Apostles’ Creed by heart, and a lot of the Nicene, not to mention Bible stories and dozens of hymns. It’s very possible to be a cultural Christian without being a believer. I may not believe, but the imagery, the stories, and especially the music are part of my cultural tradition.

In the last few days, and right this minute, I’ve been listening to the songs pretty much non-stop. They sing of community celebrations — wassail! wassail! — and of the Christmas story itself, from various angles. Some are funny, some are sly (have you listened to “The Cherry Tree Carol” lately?), and many are profoundly moving. Giving birth to your first child in a strange town? Journeying great distance to witness you had no idea what but you felt compelled to go? Wanting to offer a gift but fearing you had nothing worth giving?

I’m thinking of all the people who either made up these songs or thought it important to sing them and pass them on.

And I’m wondering about all the people in power who claim to believe but haven’t paid attention to the songs.

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Getting My Music Back

I’m not a musician, but my life has had a great soundtrack, starting in the mid/late 1960s when the likes of Simon & Garfunkel and Dylan (whose songs to this day I generally prefer performed by someone other than Dylan) were staples on AM radio. With the advent of Covid-19, that soundtrack faded into the background, not because I turned down the volume but because, well, circumstances conspired . . .

  • Covid made it impossible for us to gather together and sing.
  • During the Trump administration, I’ve become a big fan of podcasts, among them Deep State Radio, Preet Bharara’s Stay Tuned and then Cafe Insider (with Anne Milgram), Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick, and anything from Crooked Media. Spoken words pushed music aside, even though I can’t listen to spoken words when I’m editing but I often listen to music.
  • Matilda, the new laptop I bought with my “stimulus check” last spring, doesn’t have a CD/DVD player.
  • The CD changer on my old, bought-used Bose radio/CD player was getting funkier and funkier.
  • Music rarely figures in the demos and rallies I participate in, and my political compañeras either aren’t a musical bunch or they’ve been keeping it under wraps the way I have.

Taken one by one, these are all excuses rather than reasons, but taken together, and combined with [euphemism alert!] Everything Else That Was Going On, they pushed music to the margins of my life.

Mid-November Zoom sing with Susan Robbins. Susan is 2nd from top in the middle column. I’m NW of her.

However, song was pushing its way up through desert, almost from the beginning. Somehow I learned (email list?) that Susan Robbins of Libana was doing regular Zoom sings for women. According to my checkbook, I went to my first one in late May or early June. Susan teaches chants, rounds, and other songs that aren’t hard to learn by ear; some of them I’ve known since my feminist community days. The downside of Zoom singing is that you can only see but not hear the other singers. This has an upside: you’re free to experiment with harmonies you might not have the nerve to attempt in others’ hearing.

The other big upside is that there’s no way I could travel to Boston every week or so to participate, and the attendees came from all around the country. Most of the Zoom sings attracted 30 to 35 participants. The Solstice Eve sing this past Sunday brought 120 of us together, including one singer from Italy, where it must have started at one or two in the morning. (The program was repeated on Monday night.)

When I set up my new laptop, all the cover images transferred from my iTunes folder, but the music files got lost — all except one track from Jesse Winchester’s Gentleman of Leisure. It was a musical Potemkin Village: when I clicked on an album cover, the expected track list would appear, but no matter what song I chose, Matilda’s response was that she couldn’t find the corresponding file. No wonder, since the file was marooned on Kore. The only albums that would play were two very recent purchases: Rhiannon Giddens’s There Is No Other and Songs of Our Native Daughters, which features Rhiannon Giddens — do you see a pattern here?

It looked like I was going to have to transfer everything manually and, well, I procrastinated.

By the time December rolled around, I was ready to get serious. What I love best about the holiday season are the lights and the music, and I was itching to play my Christmassy stuff. (You didn’t ask, but it includes several Christmas Revels LPs, two from the Mediaeval Baebes, two from Nowell Sing We Clear, and the wonderful Wassail!, “a traditional celebration of an English midwinter,” led by John Kirkpatrick.) I ordered a plug-in CD/DVD player for Matilda. I set up Kore on my bed (Tam Lin only takes up half of it so there’s plenty of room for a laptop) and prepared to move all those music folders via Dropbox, two or three at a time.

At some point I realized that anything I’d bought through iTunes could be downloaded again. Why hadn’t that dawned on me in June? Hey, later is better than never, right? That still left all the music I’d bought or downloaded from elsewhere, and the CDs I’d imported into iTunes. This has been time-consuming for sure, and there have been a few glitches, but I’m close to the end and everything’s playing the way it should. (At the moment Paul Simon’s Graceland is glitching more than almost all the others put together, but it’s getting there. Or here, wherever that is.)

The big bonus is the opportunity to get reacquainted with some LPs and artists I haven’t listened to in a while. They’re back, even though they never went anywhere.

Sort of like the music in my life.

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Fixed

The cone is barely visible, but Tam’s expression is pretty clear. This was taken shortly after he came home from the vet’s.

Tam Lin got neutered, aka “fixed,” last Tuesday. He’s doing fine. He doesn’t like being a conehead, although he does put up with it. I take it off when we go out walking or driving, and I often leave it off at home, since the cone makes it hard to navigate the close quarters of our studio apartment. I can keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn’t lick or worry at his stitches. When I’m distracted with work or cooking, the cone goes back on.

Both Travvy and Rhodry before him got neutered at a younger age, around 7 or 8 months. Tam will hit 21 months on the 20th of this month — the eve of the winter solstice. With Trav I did a fair amount of research before deciding whether and when to neuter. With Tam I did some more reading and picked the brains of dog friends I respect; the general feeling was that if you could wait till the dog was physically full grown, that was best.

Around Tam’s first birthday, I started thinking that the time had come. He’d been good playing with other dogs at the dog park in Vineyard Haven — till he and another male dog took a disliking to each other. Fortunately Tam was leashed at the time so there were no ill effects. But after that we only went to the dog park when no one else was there, or when he could have the small-dog section to himself. However, Covid-19 arrived in force right around that time, putting all non-essential vet surgeries on hold.

Not to mention we were in the run-up to the most important election of my lifetime, and I was paying off a large dental bill . . .

After we got past the election — well, thanks to the antics of the current president and his party, we still aren’t really past it, and even though the Electoral College votes today, December 14, its repercussions are likely to be roiling the waters for a while yet — I got down to business. My regular vet has a small practice out of her home, so Covid-19 restrictions have made it difficult to maintain a full schedule, so she recommended the larger Animal Health Care. I made an appointment and last Tuesday the deed was done.

Puppy Travvy was a conehead after he got neutered. He quickly figured out how to flip his food bowl into the cone to get my attention.

Tam got plenty of sympathy when I posted his conehead photo on Facebook. One FB friend noted that neutering dogs was illegal in Norway. I hadn’t known that, so I Googled and turned up this article from 2011. Indeed, neutering dogs is illegal unless there’s a compelling health reason. One government animal welfare official noted, however, that neutering is allowed for cats because “they wander freely on their own and this can lead to homeless kittens, which in turn is an animal welfare problem.” Norway, she said, “has no stray dogs.”

When I was growing up, male dogs were rarely neutered and female dogs almost always were. Dogs roamed loose in my neighborhood, so I suspect that the difference had a lot to do with the fact that it was the owners of unspayed females who would get stuck with, uh, unplanned puppies, and who would have to deal with intact males hanging around when the female was in heat.

On Martha’s Vineyard when I arrived, loose dogs were less common, not least because plenty of people keep livestock and/or fowl and as in any other rural or semi-rural area, livestock keepers have the right to shoot any dog hassling their animals. By the time my Rhodry was born, in December 1994, the question about neutering was when, not whether. I don’t remember doing much research with him, but when Travvy came along, I did a lot. Nearly all of it was “on one hand . . . on the other hand”: it didn’t offer clear advice one way or the other. Not unusual when you’re trying to apply the findings of scientific studies to your particular dog.

This helps explain why the debates about neutering so often take on a religious fervor: all sides have evidence on their side but the evidence is not conclusive. In addition, neutering has become something of an orthodoxy among rescue groups and shelters, and like just about every other orthodoxy, it’s generated an anti-orthodoxy of people who strenuously disagree. (I hear some echoes of that in the statements of the Norwegian animal welfare official in the article linked to above. The vets quoted seem to have a more practical take on the matter.)

Over the years, more dog-owning men than dog-owning women in my circles of acquaintance have expressed discomfort with the practice of neutering male dogs, so I’m guessing there might be some identification going on. 😉

At any rate, I’m comfortable with my own choices. I don’t expect neutering to make big changes in Tam’s behavior, though I do hope it will somewhat curb the instincts related to testosterone. He’s going to be fine — he was pretty much fine as soon as he came home, and he doesn’t get why I want him to stop doing zoomie circles at the end of his leash.

I do think we could use better terms for “the procedure.” Tam hasn’t been neutered in the sense of nullified or weakened, no way. He hasn’t been fixed either, because he was never broken. But I keep using those words anyway, because de-balled is never going to catch on.

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November License Plate Report

If you’ve guessed this report is late because there’s nothing new to report, you’re right. Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and both Dakotas are still AWOL. Given the incidence of Covid-19 in both Dakotas, this may be a blessing.

I still cruise through the hospital parking lot from time to time. Montana was there yesterday, but Montana has been on the map since, gasp, January. That sighting may have been at the hospital too. The travel docs and nurses come from all over, even in the dead of our off-season.

This may be it for the year, but who knows? One year I spotted Nebraska in the week after Christmas.

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87 Miles (and Counting)

Not quite a month ago I posted “Walking for RBG,” about a scheme to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, raise money for several pro-woman causes, and spend more time in the great outdoors. I chose the Run/Walk 87 Miles Challenge option. The miles can be accumulated over time, and I don’t need to tell you I had no intention of running.

So this past Friday, a dreary, drizzly, unseasonably warm morning, I passed the 87-mile mark. Here’s my virtual certificate:

I’d sworn never to take my phone on walks, but I needed it to keep track of miles. I installed the Map My Walk app and changed my vow: I would not make or take phone calls or texts on walks. I’ve pretty much kept to that, but I’ve often used the phone to take photos. Since I was already in the habit of doing this with my point-and-shoot, I don’t consider it cheating.

Statistics can only tell you so much, and I don’t want to become one of those people who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing (as an Oscar Wilde character described a cynic), but at the same time I’ve learned a few things from packing my phone on my walks.

My expanded morning walk loop. I alternate clockwise and counterclockwise.

Like my regular morning loop around the neighborhood is 2 miles almost on the nose, not the 3 to 3.5 I’d been guesstimating. When time allows, I’m now expanding the loop to bring the total up to 2.5.

My evening walks are usually a little under 1.5 miles. My daily total is around 4 miles, not the 5 I’d been guessing.

The Map My Walk app tells me both my average pace and my fastest pace for each walk. My average works out to just under 3 miles per hour. My fastest works out to 4. I’ve long believed that my usual walking pace was about 4 miles an hour. The slower average must have something to do with the fact that I’m always walking with Tam, who moves briskly but stops often to sniff or mark a tree. When he stops, I stop but the app doesn’t.

I could test this theory by going for a walk without Tam, but he would have quite a bit to say if I tried it. The Map My Walk app has a Dog Walk setting. Would it compensate for all the stops and starts of walking with a dog? I tried it. The results were identical to the Walk setting, so I guess not.

Several of us local activist types are doing the Run/Walk for RBG challenge and keeping track of our progress (with maps and photos) in a Facebook group. I was the first to reach 87 miles, and #2, very close behind, also has a dog — more than one dog, as a matter of fact. Moral of story: If you want to walk more, get a dog. Truth to tell, though, I did it backwards. I walked regularly, so friends would ask me to take their dogs with me. One thing led to another and eventually Rhodry came into my life. I’ve been walking with a dog ever since.

Thanks to our Facebook group, I finally figured out how to do screenshots with my phone. I get nearly all my tech support from YouTube, but this was a challenge because the technique seems to differ from phone to phone, even those from the same manufacturer. So if you’ve got a Samsung Galaxy J7 and haven’t figured it out yet: Press the volume button (on the left) and the power button (on the right) at exactly the same time. (It seems to help if I press both buttons at their lower ends, but this may be magical thinking on my part.) The edges of the screen will close in a bit — click! — and voilà, the image appears in your Gallery.

Speaking of galleries, here are some photos from my recent walks, some in the neighborhood and others further afield.

The savanna at Waskosims Rock Reservation, October 21

Autumn light on the Dr. Fisher Rd., October 24

Fallen tree at Sepiessa Point, Tisbury Great Pond, October 31

Donkeys on Elias Lane, November 7

Very red tree, Elias Lane, November 7

Afternoon sky at Great Rock Bight, November 15

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