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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Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln . . .

It’s taken rather longer than expected for the ship to come in but come in it has. From what I hear on social media, people not only across the country but around the world are cheering, setting off fireworks, and dancing in the streets. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 was big, but this is bigger, because even more is at stake. Bush II was a terrible president, true, but Trump and the current Republican Party are a serious threat to the Constitution, the rule of law, civil rights, and basic decency.

Election night I went to bed around midnight, read for about five minutes, then fell asleep. I very, very rarely have trouble sleeping, and I’m one of those insufferable people who bounds out of bed in the morning — once I’ve persuaded Tam to get out of my way — wide awake and ready to go.

Tuesday night was looking good for Trump, but I expected that and saw no reason to stay up. Wednesday morning, however, I had to screw up my courage to wake up Matilda (laptop) and check out the news. When I did, it was looking pretty good for Biden-Harris, disappointing for the U.S. Senate, and all too obvious that going on four years of Trump’s incompetence, ignorance, corruption, and hatred-fueling antics haven’t budged his base one bit. They had voted in droves. Fortunately we had too.

Nov. 5, some Americans, including the soon-to-be-ex president, were celebrating Guy Fawkes Day by trying to blow up the election. Trumpers were attempting to intimidate ballot counters in Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Trump, who doesn’t understand how elections work, continues to tweet demands to “stop the count.” What’s interesting about Guy Fawkes is that the bonfires and fireworks celebrate a plot that failed, or, rather, the failure of a plot.

It won’t become official till the Electoral College meets on December 14: the Monday after the second Wednesday in December. Because of the goddamn Electoral College we’ve been biting our nails for weeks, and we were still biting our nails when the Democratic ticket was ahead by 3.5 million in the popular vote. As been said in various ways in recent days, “I didn’t get this far to be tearing my hair [biting my nails, losing my sh*t, etc.] over Pennsylvania.”

Around noon today, once Pennsylvania was called for the Democrats, NBC, MSNBC, and AP projected Biden-Harris the winners. Fox soon followed suit. Arizona and Nevada have been declared firmly blue, with only Georgia and North Carolina still in play. Here’s what the Associated Press (AP) map looks like at 1:30 p.m. ET, Nov. 7. Biden’s ahead by well over 4 million votes.

And here is a cool GIF about where people actually live in this country.

The Democrats have won the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections (the exception was 2004, when Bush II ran for re-election against John Kerry), but in 2 of the 6 (2000 and 2016) they lost in the Electoral College. To put it politely, 2000 was a hot mess because it all came down to Florida’s electoral votes. Which is how we got the Iraq War, Dick Cheney, and an economic meltdown.

About what we got, and are still getting, and will be living with for quite some time now, from 2016? Let’s see: A raging pandemic, obviously, and a crashed economy. White supremacy unleashed, often with guns. Escalating police violence against people of color. A gutted State Department, EPA, and other agencies. Corruption of the Department of Justice. Courts packed with judicial conservatives, many of them less than competent. Loss of world standing. I could go on.

I won’t say I’m exactly shocked by the number of U.S. voters who are OK with Trump’s incompetence, corruption, ignorance, bellicosity, and hatred, but I am disappointed. I’d hoped for better.

On the Atlantic website, Tom Nichols, a fairly conservative guy, published a piece headlined “A Large Portion of the Electorate Chose the Sociopath.” The headline says it all, but Nichols elaborates:

Nearly half of the voters have seen Trump in all of his splendor—his infantile tirades, his disastrous and lethal policies, his contempt for democracy in all its forms—and they decided that they wanted more of it. His voters can no longer hide behind excuses about the corruption of Hillary Clinton or their willingness to take a chance on an unproven political novice. They cannot feign ignorance about how Trump would rule. They know, and they have embraced him.

That’s not going away. At the moment Trump and his minions are doing everything they can to stop the count, undermine confidence in the process, and fire up “the base” by making legal challenges, circulating disinformation, attempting to intimidate election workers, and even threatening violence.

But we’ve won. We’ve won the opportunity to continue to perfect the democratic experiment, instead of flushing it down the toilet into the Trumpist swamp. The way forward is going to be grueling, a challenge that will almost certainly demand more of us than just defeating Trump. But that is worth celebrating, so celebrate we did, on Eastville Beach last night.

Most of the heart of the Vineyard resistance. From left: Kathy Laskowski, Carla Cooper, me, Lorraine Parish, Holly MacKenzie, Cathy Walthers, and Maria Black.

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October License Plate Report


October is a boring month in the license plate game. A reliable nothing-burger. How reliable? Well, from 2012 through 2019 the only year anything new showed up in October was 2016: the sighting was Montana.

Which makes this October even more stupendous. Look at the scrawl at the bottom of the map: Mississippi and Alaska are #45 and #46 for the year. Mississippi is arguably one of the three hardest-to-spot states, and Alaska isn’t far from the top five.

Could those numbers be significant? 45 is the number of the current U.S. president, and also his undisputed ranking if U.S. presidents are listed in order of competence. The guy who, gods and voters and everyone fighting vote suppression willing, will serve 45’s eviction notice this week will be 46.

Even if the numbers are just the numbers, this is pretty amazing.

I’m not 100% sure where I spotted Mississippi. I think it was at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, in the small lot just off Eastville Ave. that hosts a remarkable variety of plates considering its size. I still pass through it from time to time, although I hadn’t seen anything new there in months. Until, well — Mississippi.

I remember exactly where I spotted Alaska: downtown Edgartown. I was driving, which I try to avoid doing in downtown Edgartown because it’s a maze of one-way streets that seem determined to keep you from getting to wherever you’re going. However, I was picking up yard signs from a friend’s house and I didn’t feel like walking several blocks with signs in hand. At last I found the house. Then, after making a left turn out of my friend’s street onto North Water Street, I found myself behind an SUV with a plate I didn’t immediately recognize.

Alaska.

The SUV’s driver seemed unclear about where he was going; I say this because he looked as bewildered as I had about 10 minutes before. My hunch is that he was looking for the Chappy ferry line, but that’s just a guess.

It turned out that the signs I was supposed to pick up were actually at the airport, but did I begrudge the 20 minutes I spent trying to get to my friend’s house? I did not.

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Stillness in the Wind

Dylan’s “When the Ship Comes In” has been running through my mind for the last several days. I know it well enough to sing it as I walk, fudging some of the lyrics and mis-ordering some of the verses, but these opening lines I know cold:

Oh, the time will come up when the wind will stop
and the breeze will cease to be breathin’
Like the stillness in the wind before the hurricane begins
The hour when the ship comes in

The run-up to the 2020 election isn’t still at all. The last four years have been getting crazier and crazier, and the last couple of months have been way over the top. But I’m feeling that hush, that waiting, that faith that the ship is coming in.

Sometimes I sing this verse right after the first, though that’s not where it comes in the song:

And the words that are used for to get the ship confused
will not be understood as they are spoken
for the chains of the sea will have busted in the night
and be buried at the bottom of the ocean

For years a torrent of words and images have been “used for to get the ship confused,” and their effect has been disastrous, but the ship is coming in anyway. Coming in strong, with all hands setting aside their not inconsiderable differences and pulling together.

For what it’s worth, the “When the Ship Comes In” cover I’ve been playing most often is by Cindy Kallet, Ellen Epstein, and Michael Cicone. I like Peter, Paul & Mary’s but for this moment it feels a little too bouncy, and I like Arlo Guthrie’s, but for this moment it feels too pensive. So here’s Kallet, Epstein, and Cicone:

It’s not quite “all over but the shouting,” of course. The candidates — all the Democratic candidates, from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, to all the Senate and House candidates hoping to flip or hold on to their seats, to all the candidates seeking to do likewise in state legislatures and other down-ballot races — aren’t stopping now. Last-minute volunteers are phone banking and text banking, because in the age of Covid-19 there’s very little door-to-door canvassing.

Also thanks to Covid-19, 27 states and Washington, D.C., have expanded access to “absentee” voting, aka mail-in voting. (Five states were already conducting their elections primarily by mail: Colorado, Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, and Utah.) Many millions of voters are getting used to new systems, or voting early when they haven’t done so before.

And of course the current president and the Vote Suppression Party are doing everything they can to limit turnout and discredit the process, ranging from removing drop boxes to filing lawsuits to sandbagging the U.S. Postal Service.

Nevertheless, I do believe that the ship is coming in, and that the words and lawsuits and general chicanery that have been used to throw it off course or delay its arrival aren’t going to work.

In the last couple of months I’ve written postcards for several down-ballot candidates: Diane Mitsch Bush for Congress from Colorado (CO-03); Cal Cunningham for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina; Jon Ossoff for the U.S. Senate from Georgia; Aimy Steele for the North Carolina house of representatives (district 82); Margaret Good for Congress from Florida (FL-16); and Abby Finkenauer, for re-election to Congress from Iowa (IA-01).

One thing I’ve loved about volunteering with Postcards to Voters (PTV) is learning about the amazing Democrats running for down-ballot offices all across the country, and about the districts they’re running in. It’s also brought a bunch of local activists together to write postcards. For those of us who don’t quilt, it’s the next best thing to a quilting bee.

In an effort organized by Indivisible groups, I also wrote a bunch of postcards supporting Democrats Sheila Lyons and Mark Forest for the Barnstable County Commission. We here on the Vineyard are in Dukes County, but Barnstable is Cape Cod so we take an interest in what happens over the water. Also the two Republicans running (one of whom is an incumbent) are, to put it politely, whack jobs.

Postcards to Voters is already gearing up for new campaigns. That’s another thing I’ve learned: there’s always an election going on somewhere, and candidates who could use our help to get out the vote. Mailing deadline for all 2020 campaigns, however, was this past Tuesday; a day later if you live in the same state or one next door to the candidate, which I didn’t. It’s not too late to sign up!!

So at the moment PTV wants to send handwritten postcards thanking everyone who donated to make this outfit grow exponentially since it began very small in early 2017 to support Jon Ossoff’s run for Congress from Georgia. (He came close, and now he’s running for the U.S. Senate.) I’m all in with that!

Since I started with PTV, I’ve been making my own postcards with the help of Avery templates and postcard stock. (You can find a few of my early efforts here.) For the most part, I’ve used a different template for each campaign, but for my “donor appreciation” cards I went back to the very first design I used: for Doug Jones in his successful campaign in the special election for the U.S. Senate from Alabama in December 2018. That was an upset win, and his bid for re-election to a full term in that deep red state is considered at best a toss-up, but hey, when the ship comes in, all things are possible.

Here’s the card. The ship is coming in, and this is a big part of why.

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Walking for RBG

I got my first cell phone less than two years ago. During the 10 years that I spent a lot of time out in the woods on horseback, people were amazed — shocked, even — that not only did I not take a cell phone with me when I went riding, I didn’t even own one. “What if something happens?” they asked.

Well, I survived a childhood on horseback and a young adulthood commuting by bicycle in Washington, D.C., not only without a cell phone but without a helmet, so I was willing to take my chances.

It does come in handy, I have to admit. These days I would have a hard time living without the ability to text. But I usually leave it home when I go out unless I don’t know where I’m going. You will not catch me texting or making phone calls while driving.

I also swore that you would not catch me taking my cell phone when I go for a walk, which I do twice a day: long one in the morning, shorter one in the afternoon, always with Tam Lin, my walking buddy. When I want to take pictures, I take my digital point-and-shoot camera. I don’t need to take my goddamn phone.

Until this morning.

It’s all because my friend Carla introduced me to Run for RBG. A scheme to raise funds for four women-focused organizations: Planned Parenthood, NOW, Girls Who Code, and the Foundation for Women’s Cancer. The RBG part was easy: anything to honor the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg was OK with me. But run? Moi?

Well, it turns out you can walk or bike as well as run, and you can do it cumulatively, not all at once. You can choose among a 5K run/walk, an 87-mile walk/run/jog challenge, or an 87-mile bike challenge. Since I walk every day, I went with the 87-mile run/walk challenge.

To track my miles, I downloaded the Map My Walk app to my phone. It tells you all sorts of stuff, like route, mileage, time, and how many steps you took. I tested it yesterday: I delivered two Biden-Harris signs to Carla’s house in Katama, it was a gorgeous afternoon, and she suggested a walk to Edgartown Great Pond. Well, yeah!

Our route looks sort of like someone reclining on the beach with one leg bent. For some reason my phone logged 2.5 miles and Carla’s logged 2.47.

From where we stood on the shore, we glimpsed a bit of the beach that goes with the property the Obamas closed on last December. If you want to know what the whole thing looks like, see this Vineyard Gazette story. Carla has seen Michelle Obama walking by her house, where several pro-Democrat signs are clearly visible from the road. We hope the former First Family knows they’ve got friends in the neighborhood.

Susanna and Tam on the beachTam Lin came along too, and since this was totally new territory for him, he did plenty of sniffing. This may explain why I clocked 0.03 more miles than Carla did. No idea how many steps add up to 0.03 miles, but as the Run for RBG website says, quoting the lady herself: “Real change happens one step at a time” — and every step counts.

Note, of course, the Ditch Mitch T-shirt.

All of the above is to explain why I took my cell phone with me when Tam and I went for our walk this morning.

Turns out our usual route is not the 3+ miles that I’ve been guessing. According to the Map My Walk app, it’s 2.0 on the nose. I’m also told that this was 4,888 steps and my actual walking time was 44 minutes, 11 seconds. This does not include the time I spent visiting with David Whitmon on the bike path: I hit Pause for that. Tam has already figured out what the late Travvy knew: that flashing headlights up the bike path probably mean David’s coming in the orange Velomobile with treats in the cockpit.

The discrepancy between my average pace (22:07) and my maximum pace (13:52) has to be due partly to Tam’s stopping to sniff and/or pee and our pausing to do a little training (sit, down, front, pivot, side step, etc.) along the way.

Here’s what our usual morning walk looks like. Sometimes we do it clockwise, other times counterclockwise. Once in a while we go to the post office instead. That’s in the other direction. It’s 2.22 miles round-trip. I know that because we did it yesterday morning.

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Why You Should Vote YES on Question 2

Question 2 on the Massachusetts general election ballot is about Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV), so this is primarily for Massachusetts voters. I do believe, however, that RCV is an idea whose time has come. It may be coming to your state or municipality sometime soon, so if you want to know more — read on! I am so unabashedly for it that I helped collect signatures to get it on the ballot.

What RCV Is and How It Works

In most elections you only get to vote for your first choice. (If there are two seats open for, say, school board, you can vote for two candidates.) With RCV you can rank the candidates in order of preference. Think of the times you didn’t vote for your favorite candidate because s/he was a longshot and you didn’t want to “throw your vote away.” With RCV, no votes get thrown away.

When the votes are tallied, if no candidate has a majority of the votes cast, the candidate with the lowest total is eliminated. If that candidate was your first choice, your vote will now be reallocated to your second choice. This process continues until one candidate has a majority.

Here’s a handy video about how it works:

Why RCV Is a Good Idea

The 2020 Democratic primary for the 4th Massachusetts Congressional District (MA-04 for you political wonks) provides a great case for Ranked-Choice Voting. The incumbent, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III, didn’t run for re-election. As often happens in races with no incumbent, the field of hopefuls was large: in this case, seven. Jake Auchincloss won with 22% of the vote. The second-place finisher had 21%. The rest of the votes were scattered among the other five candidates.

Tam Lin supports RCV.

MA-04 is a reliably blue district. (There are currently no Republicans in the Massachusetts congressional delegation. All nine representatives and both senators are Democrats.) It’s highly likely that Auchincloss will win in the general election.

Something similar happened in MA-03 in 2018. Rep. Niki Tsongas didn’t run for re–election. In a field of 9, Lori Trahan won the Democratic primary with 21.7% of the vote. The runner-up had 21.5%. Not surprisingly, there was a hand recount before the results were certified. Trahan was elected to Congress that November.

With Ranked-Choice Voting, no recount would have been required in MA-03 in 2018. In both examples, the Democratic candidate would have advanced to the general election with the support of a majority of primary voters. Primary turnout tends to be pathetic, but 50% plus 1 is a much clearer mandate than 22% or 21.7%.

Maine was the first state to institute RCV in statewide elections. This year it will be expanded to include the presidential election. Why Maine? Well, in 2010 ultra-conservative Paul LePage was elected governor with 37.6% of the vote in a five-person race. In 2014 he was re-elected with 48.2% of the vote because the Democrat (43.4%) and the Independent (8.4%) split the anti-LePage vote. In 2016 Maine voters passed RCV in a ballot initiative. Under Maine law, LePage couldn’t seek a third successive term in 2018, but it’s reported that he’s planning to run again in 2022.

Other Perks of RCV

  • Candidates with similar or compatible platforms and priorities can encourage their supporters to pick the other as #2.
  • Negative campaigning is discouraged because candidates don’t want to turn off voters who might rank them #2 or #3. This might also limit the effect of the big outside money that often fuels the worst attack ads.
  • Voters are encouraged to support lesser-known candidates without fear of splitting the vote (and winding up with a Governor LePage).
  • The GOP, the political party that’s never met a voter-suppression technique it didn’t like, is dead set against Ranked-Choice Voting. The last thing they want is liberals, progressives, and feminists banding together to send those old white guys packing. RCV might also make it harder for “dark money” to drive wedges between various parts of the Democratic coalition.

Vote Vote Vote Vote!

This info is specific to Massachusetts. No matter what state you’re in, you can go to Vote Save America’s interactive States page and find out everything you need to know about voting in your jurisdiction.

Voter registration deadline: Saturday, October 24.

If you’re voting by mail, you should have your ballot by now. Get it in early! When you fill out the ballot envelope, make sure you give the address at which you’re registered. On Martha’s Vineyard and other rural or semi-rural areas, this is often not where we get our mail. Don’t fill in your PO box number.

Many jurisdictions have drop boxes where you can deposit your vote-by-mail ballot instead of putting it in the mail. If you have this option and can take advantage of it, it’s a good idea, especially the closer we get to Election Day.

Early voting is Saturday, October 17, through Friday, October 30. Check with your local election official (in all Vineyard towns it’s the town clerk; see the chart below) for location and hours.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (I’ll be working the polls in West Tisbury from 7 a.m. to 12 noon.) Think of it as your last chance to vote in the most important election of our lifetimes.

If you’re on Martha’s Vineyard, here’s almost everything you need to know except who and what to vote for. In Tisbury, there’s no drop box, but you can leave your ballot envelope in the town clerk’s office during open hours.  Also note that the registration deadline is October 24, not the 23rd.

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September License Plate Report

If the new map looks a lot like the old map, it’s because it is. No new sightings in September.

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