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.

Spring is Sprung


Lots of indications. Pictured is the first dandelion. There
are other flowers that we planted on purpose, but the dandelion
decided to grow and bloom on its own.

My bedroom windows have a northeast exposure, so half the year
they don’t get direct sunlight. Yesterday was the first day I
woke up to sunlight streaming in my window. I intended to take a
picture, but didn’t think of it until later in the day. And this
morning it was too cloudy to tell whether there was direct

Maia’s new dog license arrived. In Cambridge they expire on
April 1, so the new license is a harbinger of Spring.

The birds are making, “Goody, Goody, here’s a nesting site!”
noises. This means I have to remember to renew the duct tape over
the vent for the bathroom fan, and play the bathroom vuvuzela very
loudly at frequent intervals. Otherwise they decide that’s a good
nesting site, and when the babies start moving around, they can go
in the wrong direction.

I’ll be posting every day while the plague restrictions are in
force. I do this from time to time when I’m feeling depressed or
unproductive. See 59th-year and
circa63 for
previous examples.

Modern Technology: phones talking to cars

New Car

I bought a new car last spring. My old car was a 2004 Honda
Civic, which had a radio and a cd player, but no auxiliary jack or
bluetooth. So when my mechanic told me the front end was rotting
out, I thought, “Goodie, I can buy a car that will talk to my

[old car]

So in May I bought a bright yellow 2019 Honda Fit. It packs
easily with lots of instruments and suitcases, and the bright
yellow makes it easy to find in a parking lot even before you get
close enough to see the bumper stickers.

[new car]

Connecting the phone

The sales person showed me how to make a bluetooth connection
between the phone and the car, but what the car really wants is to
have a USB cable connection to the phone, so Android Auto can put
maps of where you are and where you want to go on the screen, and
play the music or audiobooks from the phone through the car

Unfortunately, this connection was unreliable. Part of the
sales pitch was that if you were in an accident serious enough to
deploy the airbag, the car would call 911 for you. So I kept
muttering, “If it disconnects every time I go around a corner,
what would you bet that it would be still connected after a
serious accident?” I also muttered, “I bought an expensive car
and an expensive phone (Pixel 2XL) and they can’t talk to each other.”

Googling the problem, I found that it wasn’t at all uncommon.
Google’s response was to blame the cable, or dirt in the USB port
on either the phone or the car. I cleaned both ports with a
toothpick, and bought a USB cable directly from google (for $20).

Completely disconnected

The next thing that happened was that the problem stopped being
intermittent; the car and the phone stopped ever connecting at
all. Sometimes plugging in the cable would cause the phone to

It was past time to take the car to the dealer for the first
oil change. It turns out that it isn’t the repair people who deal
with phone connection; you go talk to your sales associate. He
was quite calm and pushed some buttons in the phone settings
(faster than I could follow) and said that the phone had gotten
into “safe mode”. This causes the phone to go dead when you’re
driving, and I’m sure I never told it to do that, but Mike said it
sometimes happened with a software update. There had in fact been
a software update about the time I was digging pocket lint out of
the USB port. But Mike was never able to find the “safe mode”
option so that I could do what he did the next time. And he
wasn’t interested in my complaints about how intermittent the
connection had been when it was working.

So the phone disconnected three times in the two miles between
the dealership and my house.

With the phone disconnected, I can play the radio in the car,
but it doesn’t have either an auxiliary jack or a cd player, so I
actually have fewer audio options than I did with the 2000 Civic.


So I googled harder, and found people who had managed to work
around the problem. One person said it never happened in Airplane
mode, and another person said it happened when Google drive was
updating in the background. There are several ways to work
around this, but what I’m doing now is making sure I have “data
saver” mode set when I’m driving. This means that google drive
will not update if it isn’t in the foreground.

Unfortunately, I have to turn off the data saver mode if I want
to use the phone as a hot spot. Which I wouldn’t normally do very
often, but between how often Comcast unprovisions my cable modem,
and how often Eversource has been turning off my electricity, I’ve
been using the hotspot a lot more than I wish I were. But the
data saver setting is close to the hotspot setting in the menu, so
as long as you remember that you have to set it, it isn’t much


One moral of the story is that when you solve a problem like
this, you should always post the solution to the internet (as I’m
doing here), since it’s likely nobody else will tell you.

Another is that maybe there should be better support for
automobile telephony? I’m sure Honda gives their sales associates
some training in how to fix problems, but I doubt that being a
gifted tech support specialist is high on their hiring priority
list for sales people.

Trombone progress

I notice my playing
alto sackbut
is one of the top posts on I also notice that I
promised to update you on my progress.


I managed to sell the cliffbut to an instrument collector. I
asked Catherine
, who was the sackbut faculty member at the Amherst Workshop about the
cheap (under $1000) sackbuts on the market, and she thought Nartiss
looked better than the Wessex Tubas (which seems to have fallen
off their website) one. So I bought that.

[alto sackbut]

I thought I should have a better high range (given how high I
can play on other instruments) than I was getting on the
mouthpiece than I could get on the one that came with the sackbut,
so I also ordered an Eggar
mouthpiece, which looks quite similar to the Nartiss one, but does
give me a better high range.

[alto sackbut mouthpiece]

Playing opportunities

Of course, I sometimes play on Tuesdays,
and the Boston Recorder
loud band has people who want to play the high parts
on shawms, so I sometimes play it there. (Otherwise, they’d
rather I played cornetto on the high parts).

But on the whole, the early music desire for everyone to play
one on a part means that for learning to play an instrument,
you’re better off joining a community band with people who already
know how to play. Then you can sit next to them and watch what
they do.

So the last two or three summers, I’ve played alto trombone on
the first trombone part in the Wakefield
Summer Band

I started out playing on my red plastic pbone, but I decided
that even on my level, the slide was holding me back, so I got
ebay to sell me the frankenbone, which is a chinese copy of a
famous German alto sackbut, with a lead pipe from the actual
German company. Some of these Chinese copies aren’t anything you
want in your house, but this one seems like a pretty good


I got bored with practicing trombone exercises even faster than
I have on some other instruments. I’m currently playing a lot of
Country Dance
tunes. I’m also playing a lot of duets from
facsimile, and I usually read the ones in alto (C3) clef on the
alto sackbut.

I notice people try to think of other instrumentations when I
bring out the sackbut, but it’s definitely getting better.

My goal is to be playing trombone respectably by the time my arthritic
fingers get bad enough that I can’t play recorder, serpent or cornetto.

Sourdough rye chocolate cake

My new chocolate cake recipe is from my new favorite baking
book, 100% °F
Rye by Shannon Stonger

I believe there are actually health benefits to cooking with
sourdough and whole grain flour and maybe even rye versus
wheat. But the reason I’ve adopted it over my previous bread
machine sprouted wheat chocolate cake is that it’s so moist.

The picture is of the version I baked for the twentieth
anniversary of the West
Gallery Quire
. People said it was good, and most of it disappeared.



  • 2 cups rye flour
  • ½ cup starter
  • 1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1 cup honey, softened to a pourable consistency
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup melted butter or coconut oil (I have coconut oil
    somewhere, but I can’t find it, so I used almond oil, which I
    keep on hand for oiling musical instruments.)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt


Whisk together the flour, starter, milk, and honey in a medium bowl until just combined. Cover tightly and set aside to ferment for 6-12 hours, or longer if desired.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare a 9×13” pan (I
have one somewhere, but I can only find a 10×14″ pan, so it bakes
a little faster) by buttering and flouring it. Add the eggs,
melted butter, and vanilla to the fermented dough and just begin
to stir it together. Sprinkle over the cocoa, baking powder,
baking soda, and salt and finish mixing until all ingredients are

Scrape batter into prepared pan and place pan into the preheated
oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted
into the center of the cake comes out clean. (I use an
instant-read thermometer, and it’s done when the probe comes out
clean, but just to check I make sure it’s in the 190-200°F

Allow to cool before slicing and serving.


I’ve only baked it twice. The first time I baked it plain, and
I loved the texture but thought the flavor was a little boring.
For the pictured version, I made a chocolate ganache frosting, and
used almond slivers and dried apricot pieces for decoration. Next
time I’ll try doing what I did with the bread machine cake, which
was add chocolate chips and dried cherries.

First Crocus of Spring

I know lots of people already have lots of more impressive flowers than this. But these bulbs were only planted last fall, and it’s been a difficult March.

My downstairs neighbor and I cleared the weeds out of this part of the front yard last October, and I ordered bulbs. They arrived a couple of days after I broke the ankle, so she and her husband put them in.

I ordered a cheap assortment, because I wasn’t sure whether they would all get eaten by squirrels or rabbits, but they seem to have come up pretty well. There are other buds, so there will be better pictures in a couple of weeks.