Happy 72nd Birthday to me

Thanks to everyone who sent birthday wishes, either in person, by phone, email, or post.


Someone emailed me that 72 is a perfect square (9) times a perfect cube (8).

We had a small dinner party, with roast beef, a good wine that (serendipitously) went very well with the blackberry appetizer, and a chocolate cake.

A friend who couldn’t come to the dinner party because of having covid called. He’s on the Paxlovid, and his symptoms are pretty much gone except that he gets tired with very little exertion.

Someone posted that he hopes my housing situation is resolved.



Not yet, but there is some hope. We got the electricity connected.

This means that soon we can get gas connected (which we requested last May). They wouldn’t do the gas because the first thing they want to do when the gas is connected is test the furnaces, and that requires electricity.

Once we have both gas and electricity, we will have heat, and the people who are doing the floors will be able to do the urethane.

Once the floors are done, we can start moving things in like appliances and plumbing fixtures, and then it should be a small number of weeks.

I don’t have a schedule for any of this happening, but I believe all the people who are working on it want it to be over.


For those of you who missed it, Maia died last May. She is missed, especially in the current situation. I’m not doing anything like enough walking, and I don’t think it makes sense to adopt a new dog until I have my house back.


Orion is doing his best to be helpful.

Moebius Hat


I always wanted to knit a moebius strip. I did one in college, but it was before I had circular needles, so I had to do it on 7″ double pointed needles, so it ended up too big for a ring but too small for a bracelet.

Now I have circular knitting needles in lots of sizes, and a person named Cat Bordhi has figured out a much better way to cast on a moebius strip than I did in my dorm room in 1972. So when I had lots of yarn left over from the sweater I made last year, I knit myself a moebius hat.

I had originally planned to cast off only half the stitches and with the other half knit a top, but I had a new project calling to me, so I cast it all off. The ribbing makes it cover most of the top, and it wouldn’t be a super-warm hat in any case.

RIP Maia, c. 2013 – May 10, 2022


Figure 1: December 20, 2016. photographer Ishmael Stefanov-Wagner

Maia’s many friends will be sad to learn that I had to put her down on Tuesday, May 10. She had completely lost the use of her hind legs, and control over bowel and bladder, and was needing increasing amounts of pain-killers.


After Sammy died in February of 2014, I thought I’d wait a year to get another dog, and I did in fact wait past the summer, when I had a good trip to Spain with my sister and a friend. But life is so much better with a dog than without one that in the Fall I started looking at options.

In December, my sister, who had lost Phoebe in September, adopted Orion, and was having so much fun with him that I couldn’t stand being dogless any more, and I went to Buddy Dog and looked at the dogs they had and adopted Maia. The shelter story was that she and her sister had belonged to a homeless person who had decided he couldn’t take care of them properly. The vet who gave her a full exam and spayed her thought she was about two years old.

The shelter was calling her Mia, but I thought that with a cousin named Orion, she should also have an astronomical name, so I changed it to Maia, who is one of the Pleiades. (The one who appears in one of the Mary Poppins books.) You find the Pleiades by following the line formed by the three stars in Orion’s belt upwards, past Aldebaran.

Life in Cambridge

The day I met her, the early winter weather was fine and dry. When I went to pick her up a week later, it was snowing, and there was a couple of inches of slush on the ground. Within a week the 2015 snowpocalypse was in full swing. My promise to walk her all over Cambridge remained unfulfilled until March, although we did get as far as Cambridgeport a couple of times.


Figure 2: This seeems to be the first picture I took of Maia. She got more comfortable fairly soon.

Nest-building seemed to be one of her favorite activities:


Figure 3: I abandoned the shawl, and invested in a slipcover for the chair shortly after this.

She had dog aggression issues, so I didn’t turn out to be able to take her to the dog park, but we soon settled into letting her chase balls on the tennis court in the morning and getting walks in the afternoon and at bedtime. She’s fine with dogs she’s been properly introduced to, so she had a couple of dog friends who would join us on the tennis court.

Another thing that happened that first year was that some friends decided to hike the Camino di Santiago and left their dog, Beau, with us.


Figure 4: Maia and Beau, who were properly introduced.

When we visited Fall River, Maia and Beau both got to run through the woods when we went on hikes.


Figure 5: Maia tended to explore farther away, so she didn’t make this picture.

On one of the first of these hikes, I noticed that she was running on only three legs. Three surgeries later, both rear legs had been treated for CCL (Caudal Cruciate Ligament) injuries, and she was again able to run and jump on all four legs.


Figure 6: Maia sharing her chair

Life in Fall River

On July 14, 2020 at 11 or so in the morning, I finished doing something on my computer, and noticed smoke filling the apartment, grabbed Maia and her leash and left the apartment. Most of my neighbors had grabbed their laptops, but I only took Maia. The fire was covered by Channel 7, including a video of me and Maia crossing the street, but they don’t seem to keep their video clips up.

So we went to live with Judy and Orion in Fall River until the building was fixed. (If it ever is.)

She adapted to life in Fall River pretty well. She missed her friends in Cambridge, but she basically liked being in a bigger pack (two humans and two dogs, instead of one human and one dog). She got along with Orion pretty well. One thing she didn’t like was that I couldn’t just leave food out for her as I had done in Cambridge, because Orion would have eaten it. But she liked being able to be tied out in the yard to sit in the sun and eat grass.


Figure 7: Maia and her cousin.

Between her penchant for exploring on her own without checking back with the humans, and her urges to kill dogs she met when off-leash, we weren’t able to take her to the woods regularly, but we both enjoyed walks around the Bristol Community College campus, with a pond and small wooded areas, and the Oak Grove Cemetery. She also found a corner with a couple of benefits:

  • There was a community of feral cats whom the neighbors left food out for.
  • Also a house had been converted into an storage facility for the hospital across the street, so teenagers felt able to hang out on the steps and eat pizza, and they sometimes left the bones for Maia to find.

She would have gone to this corner three times a day if I’d let her, but I insisted on going to the campus and the cemetery and other parts of the neighborhood sometimes.


Towards the end of April, Maia started walking slower. After a few days of this, I took her to the vet. Several hundred dollars of tests later, it looked like she was healthy except for some weakness in the back legs, and they prescribed some pills and said that if that didn’t work, the next step was to do an MRI.

The pills didn’t seem to work in that she was getting worse instead of better, so I scheduled the MRI on a Thursday for the following Tuesday. Over the weekend, she stopped being able to use her hind legs at all.

She was still remarkably game – she kept pacing around the coffee table in the house, and when I took her out, she wanted to go all around the house, and maybe even farther. (I didn’t want to go farther.)

But she needed more and more of the pain killers, and wasn’t in control of either her bowels or her bladder. When I took her in for the MRI, she had managed not to urinate in the car, but let loose with it as soon as she was lifted onto the stretcher.

The neurologist who’d seen her two weeks before called me before doing the MRI and said that with something moving that fast, it was very unlikely that the MRI would find anything fixable. The most likely thing was a large and fast-growing tumor, and while of course they could operate, the prognosis was not good for recovery. The less likely possibilities didn’t have a good prognosis either.

So we decided to put her down. They have a nice room with living room furniture instead of doctors’ office furniture. She attempted to pace around their coffee table, too. I played her the final chorus from the “St. Matthew Passion” and sang her lullabies, and the vet came in and gave her the two injections and it was over.

More on the building permits

Cambridge MA City Hall

I spent a good chunk of this week writing, and I thought I’d share some of it with you. The email to two city councilors who helped us get the first permit last November was full of dates and permit numbers, so while it took a long time to write, it wouldn’t be very interesting to people not directly involved in the problem.

But one of the councilors suggested I “reach out” to the person in the City Manager’s office who was going to be looking into it. The reaching out that I could think of to do was to explain why people are getting angry and frustrated about the problem, and I thought some other people might want to read that.

To skip to the end of the story, shortly after I sent this email, I got one from the person I sent it to saying that it was likely the permits would be issued that day, and later in the day, they were issued.

But here’s the email:

Matt, thanks for agreeing to look into this. I think the email I sent Alanna and Quinton has all the facts you would need, but I thought I would send a personal note to clarify why we are so frustrated about the situation.

The fact is that there are 6 people, including a child who was an infant at the time of the fire, removed from their homes by the fire that happened on July 14, 2020. I am personally living with my sister in Fall River, MA, one to two hours away from most of my social life and other commitments, in about a third of a dark attic room, with all but a closet and 3 drawers of my stuff in storage.

It took from July to November to get the check from the insurance company that enabled us to hire a contractor. We really thought that when we signed the contract on December 24, 2020 that we were on the way to getting the work done.

Then in January 2021, the demolition our contractor did revealed structural problems that were unrelated to the fire, meaning that instead of just a regular permit for fixing the fire damage, we needed a structural permit with signoff by an architect and a structural engineer. It took until the end of June to get that submitted, and again, we thought we were on our way to getting the work done.

I think it should have been obvious a month or two later that just waiting for the city to move through its procedure wasn’t going to be sufficient to get the permit, but our contractor was (and still is) uncomfortable going outside the established procedures, so it wasn’t until November 2021 that we emailed the city council and received support from several members, which led to the issuance of the permit for 231 Broadway. Again, we thought we were on our way to getting the work done.

Our contractor had been told that the permits for the four units had been consolidated into one. He did enquire when we got the permit for 231 Broadway whether that did in fact cover the work that needed to be done in 231 1/2, 233, and 233 1/2, and was eventually (weeks later) told that it did not, but that as soon as he paid the fees for the other permits, they would be expedited. The fees were paid last Thursday (January 13, 2022), and we hoped that the permit problem was solved, and we were on our way to getting the work done.

This week, they told our contractor that he needed to submit 3 more affidavits about noise abatement, architecture, and structural design. This seems very strange to us, since if those affidavits are indeed necessary, why didn’t someone ask for them last June, or at least before issuing the permit in November?

Even if you and the councilors and the City Manager manage to get the permits issued now, there is still several months of work which can’t happen until we have the permits. So the total time between the fire and us homeless refugees being able to move back in is going to be little if any less than two years, even if there are no more delays.

I realize the city procedures are only 6-7 months of the delay (so far), but it seems even less comprehensible than the insurance company delays, and much less comprehensible than delays involving planning and executing the actual work.

So we really appreciate anything you can do to get this part of the process of rehoming some refugees completed.

Party Invitation


You’re all invited to a party on New Year’s Day (Note, not New Year’s Eve) starting at 4 pm, at the home of Wendy Goble and Richard Schmeidler in Arlington Center.

The invitation is to come and tell everybody you know to bring everybody they know. People who might be interested in playing with the The Cantabile Renaissance Band, which meets on Tuesday evenings to play Renaissance polyphony in an informal setting, would be especially interested.

The house is big by the standards of the number of people we got even in the before times, so social distancing shouldn’t be a problem, but we expect enough eating, drinking, singing, and playing wind instruments that there won’t be as much masking as some people might like. So don’t come if you think you’ll be uncomfortable.

Bring any instruments you want to play, and if there’s music you’d like to contribute bring some copies. The music we usually use is still in storage, but I will attempt to bring all the favorites.

Please let me know if you’re planning to come, and what (if anything) you want to contribute in the way of food and drink.

This invitation is what I do instead of a Christmas Card, so even if you can’t or don’t want to come to the party, consider yourself wished a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and joy in any other holidays you celebrate.

If you want a printable version of the invitation, it’s here.


Mood Cardigan

I finished the sweater I told you about in my New Year’s post.


I’ve been wearing it most days since – it’s really well-designed for this time of year. The open lace pattern lets air through, but the 50% merino wool in the yarn I used makes it a warm snuggly thing anyway.

The pattern advertises that it can be worn either way up. The pictures I saw before I made mine suggested that it would look better with the ribbed border around the neck. But the way mine turned out on my figure, I definitely like it better with the ribbed border at the hips.


It was actually quite fast knitting when I was just knitting straight in the pattern. The reason it’s taken this many months is that I put it aside whenever there was anything else I needed to do, like sew things together or bind off the cuffs in Kitchener stitch (which was actually named after Horatio Herbert Kitchener, who didn’t invent it but he encouraged its use in the socks patriotic women were knitting for the WWI troups). It’s not at all difficult, and if you knit socks every month you probably eventually can remember how to do it, but I always have to look it up and concentrate on what I’m doing.


The pattern came from the Modern Daily Knitting site, which I enjoy drooling over even when I’m not actually going to do any of that kind of knitting.

Thanks for the birthday wishes

Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday wishes. An intersecting set is all the people who send me interesting pictures of serpents – thanks to all of them, too.

A quiet celebration

We celebrated my birthday a week early. My sister did an organ concert on Friday, February 19 and invited Anne Kazlauskas to come narrate an introduction to the organ stops. Anne has been part of our pod since the beginning of the shutdown, when she was staying over at my house a couple of nights a week to use my computer.

So we had a celebratory lunch, with kale soup (made the previous day, since you don’t run home after a concert and cook lunch) and a good bottle of wine. The Fall River supermarket hadn’t had a cake that looked good to Judy, so she bought frozen cream puffs and put candles in some of them.

The memorable part of this celebration was the exploding candle. It was supposed to turn around and gradually unfold lotus petals, which it did, but it also hissed and threw off sparks and eventually turned into a small bonfire which ended up destroying the glass plate the cream puffs were sitting on. We felt like we should have been wearing protective eyeware, and one person did in fact have an eye problem although it didn’t start until several hours later, so it might have been unrelated.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of the candle exploding. Someone told me when I first started posting on facebook that nobody would read my posts unless they had a picture, so I looked at my recent pictures and this one of Maia and Orion snuggling was the best. I took it because, while they’re quite friendly, they don’t usually snuggle like this.

House status

Unfortunately, no good news on the housing front. For those who don’t follow me regularly, there was a fire last July 14. My apartment wasn’t damaged much by the fire, but did have smoke and water damage, and is missing both a bathroom and a kitchen, so since then I’ve been living with my sister in Fall River.

The insurance company will pay for all or most of it, but because of waiting around for the insurance company to give us money, we weren’t able to hire a contractor until Christmas. When we hired him, the first thing he did was some more demolition, which turned up structural problems that are unrelated to the fire but have to be addressed.

In addition, the insurance company decided to hire an expert to advise on fire mitigation and detection, so even if our architect and structural engineer had figured out what to do about the structural problems, they still couldn’t apply for a building permit until they get the expert’s report.

I still believe things will move very fast once the actual work starts getting done, but I don’t have even an educated guess about when that will be.