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.

Armageddon, version 2

Nuclear fallout shelter in Kose

I remembered and dug up the source of the quote in yesterday’s

It’s from Farnham’s Freehold by Robert
A. Heinlein.

The bomb has just hit, and the family in the fallout shelter
is evaluating damage. The patriarch says, ” “We seem to be
in fair shape, except for water. There are some
plastic jugs of water but we need to salvage the tank water; we may
have to drink it. With
Halazone tablets. Joe, we need utensils of any sort, and everybody
bail. Keep it as clean
as you can.” He added, “When Joe can spare you, Karen, scrounge some
breakfast. We’ve
got to eat, even if this is Armageddon.”

And the daughter replies, “And Armageddon sick of it.”


Armageddon (N.Roerich)

I keep thinking of a joke from some book I read as a teenager,
or maybe even before that.

There’s a minor crisis, and one character says, “This is
Armageddon,”, and another character replies, “And Armageddon tired
of it.”

I have a vague idea it might have been a Young Adult novel, or
a nursing novel or something, and the second character was the
life-of-the-party type.

Rescued the tennis court

Last Monday, the City of Cambridge issued a number of
including this about parks:

The City of Cambridge’s playgrounds (areas with play
structures of any kind) are closed, effective March 16, until
further notice. Parks, fields, and courts, with the exception of
playground areas, will remain open for passive use. No
congregating, group activities or game playing is allowed. Please
maintain a distance of 6 feet from other people while enjoying
these spaces.

[locked tennis court]
I was surprised the next day when I went to the park across the
and found that the tennis court was locked. I kept
muttering to myself about this — there is a playground in that
park. I had seen a family on Sunday where the mother was freaking
out because the 10-year-old son wanted to play on the swings
without putting his gloves on. I suspect that family will be
pretty crabby for a while whatever restrictions are or aren’t
imposed, but I could see a reason for the playground

But the tennis court doesn’t have any equipment that users
would normally touch. There is a rule in tennis that if you touch
the net, you lose the point. There are tennis nets with a crank
for adjusting the height, but this one would need a wrench.

So on Wednessday I wrote an email to the Department of Public Works:

I’m writing to protest the closing of the tennis court at Green-Rose
Park. The policy
states: Parks, fields, and courts, with the exception of playground
areas, will remain open for passive use.

I’m not sure what “passive use” means in this context, but I don’t see
that tennis players are usually in violation of current social
distancing guidelines. The net on that court is not adjustable
without bringing equipment, so I don’t see that it’s more of a public
health concern than a basketball net would be.

I think whoever locked the gates misunderstood the stated policy of
your department, and the mistake should be corrected.

Thank you for your attention to this matter,

On Friday morning, I got a reply:

The tennis courts were mistakenly locked. We will get someone out to
unlock them as soon as we can. We have limited crews available right
now, but they have been instructed to unlock when they are able to get

And on Friday afternoon, there were people playing tennis.

This may not seem like much, but I felt the world was a little
bit better of a place because of something I did.