Getting ready for winter

We’ve been having mild, September-like October weather, but the
last couple of days have been the dank, November-like October.

So last night, with threats of snow in the forecast, I brought
in the plants from the fire escape, and this morning I filled
the humidifier.

I thought you’d like to see some of the plants.

The basil is from a branch from the farm share that grew
roots before I could use it, so I planted it in the windowbox.

[basil in bloom]

The rosemary I just bought at the store, but it’s done well in
the windowbox. I hope it likes being indoors until Spring.


Some winters here are mild enough that rosemary survives
outside, but of course then it isn’t as easy to go pick a

I haven’t turned the heat on yet, so it’s a little early for
the humidifier, but even if I don’t turn my heat on, the
neighbors might turn theirs on and make the air drier.

Dog park conversation

One of the people I talked to at the dog park last night was
complaining about her neighbor, who, although he lives in a
densely populated part of one of the most densely populated
cities in the country, has decided that he should
never have to hear a dog bark.

Her dog is a very nice labrador retriever, but he does think
it’s his job to tell people when someone walks down his street.
He barks 4 or 5 times and stops; it isn’t that he thinks it’s his
job to bark until someone does something about
whoever’s walking down the street.

In any case, it sounds like the situation is under control.
The neighbor suggested they get one of those electronic collars
that does does something unpleasant to the dog when it barks,
and my friend’s husband suggested that they test it on the
neighbor first.

So the neighbor called Animal Control, who came and explained
to everyone that you can’t remove a dog because it barks
occasionally. The whole neighborhood would have to support
removal of the animal.

So then the grumpy neighbor went around to the neighbors to get
support, and apparently didn’t get any. (There’s at least one
other dog in the neighborhood who barks a lot more than this one.)

But this dog owner is feeling a little guilty for not having
been more sympathetic to the grumpy neighbor. He apparently
grew up on a farm, and the noise level in his current home is
making him very tense and upset.

Where I was…

September 11, 2001 is one of those dates that everybody who was
around remembers where they were and what they were doing. In my
case, it wasn’t anything very interesting, so instead of telling
you about that day, I’ll tell you about September 10, 2002.

Dog Walking

The first interaction I had with a human being that day was
when I was walking the dog on a public sidewalk and the owner of
a pit bull snarled at me for walking my dog on his sidewalk.
(Note that pit bulls never scare me personally, but pit bull
owners frequently do.)

Recorder Society

Then I was working on my responsibilities as administrator of
the Boston
Recorder Society
(I’m no longer involved, but at that
point they were paying me some money to keep things going.) I
received the news that the prominent coach who had wanted to be
named music director had decided that she needed to completely
break with the Boston group because of my completely
unreasonable request that other webmasters should link to the
up-to-date information on the official BRS website instead of
the out-of-date stuff she had on her site.

This sounds like something that should just be laughed off, but
in fact, at that time in the Boston early music world, if this
person blew up at you because you said “Good morning” (or “Please
link to the correct information”), a whole bunch of people would
tell you that you were being tactless.

Homebrew Club

Then the homebrew club blew
up, because someone decided to quit because the October picnic
organzers hadn’t taken his recommendation for what kind of
Octoberfest beer to buy a keg of.

Condo Association

Then I was going out to walk the dog for the afternoon and
there was a packet of papers from the condo association. At
this point I was serving as president, and was scheduled to
chair a meeting that evening.

One item in the packet was labeled “Action by the Association’s
Trustees without a meeting”, and contained statements about a dispute
I was having with my then next-door neighbor about how noisy the
Cantabile Band
rehearsals were. None of the other three trustees had ever
spoken to me about the issue, but all three of them had signed
this “action”. There was also a letter that one of the other
trustees had written independantly to a lawyer the association
was consulting, officially through me.

So I decided that if all
three of the other trustees didn’t want to work with me, I would
resign and go to a bar instead of to that meeting.


This was the one good part of the day. Several of my
friends from the homebrew club were there, the beer was good, we
spent part of the evening at the tables outside, and I was able to
tell them all about my terrible day.

One theory my friends proposed about why everything blew up in one day was that
people were unconsciously stressed about the one year anniversary
of 9/11. I’m not sure I believe that theory, but it’s certainly
the most blowups in one day I’ve ever had to deal with, in a long
life of organizing.

Read the other stuff I’ve written this morning

Once again, it’s almost lunchtime on Wednesday, and I’ve been
writing all morning, and I don’t feel the necessity of writing a
blog post to keep my hand in as a writer, so you can read the
other stuff I’ve written.

Not the emails

I will spare you the emails I wrote to the person I’m trying to
schedule a December concert with, and to the condo association about
the time and date of the proposed meeting, although there was a
lot of thought that went into how to word those.

Comment on another blog

Reading my RSS feeds before breakfast, I found that Phil
Greenspun has been writing a long article about health care
reform, which expresses a lot of the same frustrations I feel
about the current discussion, but missed a couple of points I’m
frustrated about, so I
wrote him a comment. Actually, the page that comes up when you
say you want to comment strongly suggests that you might rather
write an email if you aren’t sure your ideas will still be
interesting in two years, so I originally wrote him an email, but
he emailed me back suggesting I post it as a comment, so I did.
When you read the article,
mine might still be the second comment, or if you only want to
read the comment, you can go to my
comment space
and see the health care comment, plus an
anti-Verizon diatribe I wrote last winter.

Posts on my own blogs

I wrote a report
on last night’s band meeting.

For the meeting, I had as usual transcribed a new piece, and we
found a bad mistake in a previous transcription, so there’s a post
on the Serpent
Publications blog
about those things.

Crime in the Broadway Building Condominium

I got home last night after band rehearsal and the sidewalk in front of my house was crawling with

The yappy little dog that my next door neighbor was taking care
of for his parents was yapping his head off, and one of the
officers asked me if I knew whose dog it was, because someone
had complained that it was barking and they were worried that it
was dehydrated. I told them, and
gave them his phone number. At this point I saw that they had
opened the door, so I was a little confused that there was still
a problem with the dog. The neighbor, arrived as I was
going into my unit.

I walked my dog, and when I got back there were still lots of
policemen around, and my neighbor was sitting on the steps looking glum
and explaining to a woman about where the dog’s pills were. I
kept thinking that this was an awful lot of police attention for
a crabby neighbor complaining about a barking dog.

When I got up this morning to walk my dog, there was a police
officer standing in front of the building, and she was still
there when I returned from the dog walk. I asked her what was
happening and she said that she couldn’t tell me, but they were
watching the building today, and we’d be very safe for the day.
When I looked out during the morning, there were frequently lots of
police officers and other onlookers.

Here’s what the online police blotter has to say about the

On 8/17/09 at 9:15 PM, 31-year-old *redacted* of *redacted* was arrested for Possession of Class D w/ Intent to Distribute & Violation of the School Zone. Police were dispatched to the residence to investigate a noise complaint and found a large amount of marijuana plants being cultivated on the third floor of the residence.

I still think the next time the police complain about not
having enough resources I will be thinking about all the
officers spending all this time on this particular case. I
support legalizing marijuana, and if it is going to be illegal,
and people are going to smoke it anyway,
I’d rather they grew it in their apartments for their friends
(which I would assume is what my neighbor has been doing)
than that they pay lots of money to organized crime for it.

In any case, if you live somewhere where there are crabby
neighbors, you clearly should be careful about what you do
that’s illegal. I don’t know for sure that a good lawyer
couldn’t get this thrown out of court for search with a lack of
probable cause, but even if that happens, it will still be a lot
of trouble for a little bit of marijuana. (Yes, the blotter
says it’s a lot of marijuana, but it’s an 1100 square foot
apartment, with the usual amount of furniture, clothing, kitchen
equipment, … so there’s a
limit to how many plants there could be.)

Bicycle lock

I was just sitting down to write this, when my doorbell rang.
It was a young man who said he was a locksmith and needed a
place to plug in his saw to saw the lock off a bike parked in
front of my house.

I decided I should be responsible and ask for ID, and he was
willing but also called over the owner of the bike, who was
someone I’d seen going off for a day at the beach with one of my

It took the locksmith a good 15 minutes even with power tools to get the
lock off, which speaks well for how secure Kryptonite bike locks
are. Kryptonite had also told the owner that they’d replace the lock
for an $18 fee, if she sent them back the pieces.

She said that she’d lost all her keys, but getting
into her house hadn’t been a problem — she just went in a
window. And then she had a duplicate key for the house, but
hadn’t had the second key for the bike lock for some time.

So there are good urban neighbor stories.

Garden, May 31, 2009

Sad news about the Angelica

[replanted angelica]

Sunny and I went to look at the garden after our morning walk,
and the angelica wasn’t there. There was a shallow hole

I looked in the compost bin, and there it was, but all the
flower stalks were broken or smashed. I put it back, and gave
it compost and water, and maybe it will survive, but I would
guess there won’t be flowers this year.

It was looking happy after being transplanted, but of course I
dug it up carefully and took as much of the roots and soil it
was used to as I could. The vandal who put it in the compost
bin didn’t bother with that.

Here’s the email I wrote the condo association:

In the minutes to the last owners’ meeting, I wrote:

Nobody in attendance requested any changes to the existing
plot assignments.

Secretary’s note: this means that the plot formerly assigned
to Mary and Jeff is currently unassigned. I put a couple of
things there last summer when I was cleaning out my deceased
friend’s house and garden, so if you want to put anything
there, feel free, but please ask if you want to take anything

Someone pulled up the angelica plant which I had carefully moved from my
deceased friend’s garden in Salem, and which was about to burst into
bloom, and put it in the compost bin.

I have replaced, it, but the bloom stalks are broken, so I don’t have
much hope for it at all, and none for this year. I am really upset; I
was looking forward to having that plant.

I think it would make sense to assign that plot, so this sort of thing
doesn’t happen in the future. If someone else wants it, I will move
both the angelica and the lavender, which is also about to bloom.
Otherwise, I will take it, and please, nobody else pull anything else

I don’t understand this vandalism. Why would anyone not want a blooming
angelica in their back yard?

[angelica flower stalks]

Upset was actually putting it mildly. I was weeping
hysterically for most of an hour, and I still tear up when I
think of it. Of course, it being a condo problem, I also
started thinking about all the other things I’ve been mad at the
possible suspects about, but I’m trying to control that.

I’d probably be upset anyway, but it being one of the things I
took from Bonnie’s garden makes it worse.
That was something she put a lot of herself into, and I wanted
to save as much of it as I could. Other friends took things
too, so even if the vandals pull up both the angelica and the
lavender (I think the daylilies I put in the front yard are
already gone), there will still be some, but I won’t have


On a more cheerful note, the vandal(s) didn’t pull up the
lavender, which is also about to bloom.

[lavender buds]


The roses are blooming.



The iris and the Siberian Iris are blooming their heads off; I
cut two stem of iris for my tall blue winebottles.

[Siberian iris]

Overall view

You can see from this that the Alliums and the lillies of the
valley are over, but there’s still a brave little pansy. I forgot
to take them, but there are drumstick alliums with buds.



I had been thinking that I might be moving towards not being an
organizer for a while. The thing that started this line of
thought was the number of places I’ve been (including NEFFA without bringing flyers for the Cantabile

But this week has refined that perception. I’ve done two
competent pieces of organizing (see below), and so I think the
problem with the Cantabile Band is that at this point in its
life it’s starting to need a different kind of organizing than
that flyer represents, so I haven’t been feeling like printing
off the flyer and taking it places.


The first piece of organizing I did this week was the next
condo meeting. This could have been a pretty routine thing, not
requiring any special organizer gifts. But I decided to address a
long-term problem of the association: a lawyer bought a unit in
the building 15 years ago, and he read the rules to say that
nobody who wasn’t an owner should come to the owners’ meetings.
This has effectively disfranchised the one absentee owner, who
would have liked to send her property manager as a
representative. There are also
units where the owner has a roommate or partner who isn’t named
on the deed but who might be a good person to do some of the condo work. Since it’s only an eight unit building, and
there are always some owners who aren’t willing or able to
contribute, having even one unit that could be contributing and
isn’t makes extra work for the people who are.

I have in the past tried to get the rule clarified so that
owners could send representatives and roommates could come, but haven’t gotten any
support for that.

So my strategy this time was to concede the point about owners’
meetings being only for owners. The rules require one owners’
meeting a year, for the purpose of electing 4 trustees, who have
the power to make most of the decisions without necessarily
consulting the other owners. We had that meeting in April.

So instead of organizing an owners’ meeting, I organized a
meeting of the trustees, to which other residents and owners’
representatives are invited to come. I got all the other
trustees to buy into doing it this way, so that if the lawyer
decides to complain about it, I should be able to depend on some


The other piece of organizing (still not completed) was to
revive the newsletter of the Homebrew Club.

This used to be an important organizing tool for the club,
which came out every month, and if you were trying to organize
an event, you knew you had to write it up for the editor (who
knew he had to twist your arm to write it up before the

The club went through a rough patch a couple of years ago, and
got out of the habit of recruiting an newsletter editor every
month. We’ve
has been adding new members pretty regularly over the last year
or so. But of course, they aren’t members who know about
writing up their proposed events for the newsletter, or
volunteering to be the editor and twisting the arms of people
who were organizing events.

So we’ve had a committee to revive the newsletter, and I
foolishly volunteered to be the new editor. I figured this week
would be a good week to do it, because all my performing
commitments would be over, and it wouldn’t yet be time for the
Boston Early Music

I’d done what used to be the normal thing, of sending out a
request for articles as soon as I got the editor job, and
reiterating the request a few days before the deadline. That
didn’t produce very many articles.

I was feeling like I might be getting too old for this
business, because there was a meeting last week that I just
didn’t have the energy to go to. Or rather, if I’d saved the
energy for that, I would have done less practicing for the recital, and that was the priority.

But yesterday I looked at what I had (the original deadline had
been Monday), and wrote a post nagging the people whose stuff
was still missing, and for some reason, this turned out to be a
better description of what the newsletter could be than my much
more general request for articles.

So I now have several articles that I hadn’t explicitly
solicited, and the promise of a couple more by tomorrow or


I’ll write up why the Cantabile Band probably needs different
organizing now than it did a couple of years ago later.

Snow Shoveling

I live in an 8-unit condominium building on a fairly major
street in Cambridge Massachusetts. The condo rules state that
each owner is responsible for clearing snow from the area in front
of their door. Cambridge law allows the police to ticket a
homeowner who has not cleared the snow within a day of the
snowfall stopping. This has been on the books for some time, but
this year is the first I’ve heard of anyone actually getting a ticket.

I interpret the condo rule as meaning that everybody is
responsible for getting one eighth of the snow shoveling done.
There are storms big enough that I can’t do that much in one
outing, because it causes the arthritis in my hands to act up.
I’ve told people this, and both the owner downstairs and one of
the ones next door have responded that they don’t mind doing my
share. And in fact, they frequently do do the area in front of my
door as well as the one in front of theirs.

I really can’t figure out how people came to this conclusion
that they should do the area in front of their door, and no more
and no less. Maybe they never walk anywhere, and don’t know that
two well-shoveled doorways separated by an area of unshoveled snow
is just as useless as no snow being shoveled? Maybe all they’re
trying to do is avoid a fine, and they don’t care about making
walking easier for the pedestrians?

At the condo meeting before Christmas where we discussed this
issue, I tried to go on after my speech about not always being
able to do my share of the heavy lifting to explain that therefore
I tried to do more than my share of putting down salt and sweeping
the steps clear. This fell on completely deaf ears. I don’t know
whether it was the idea of doing anything in front of anyone
else’s door, or the idea that the job of dealing with the snow was
more than just the initial shoveling that was too foreign or
complicated for them.


When I’m one of the first people out shoveling, I try to do a
complete one-shovel path across the entire lot before I go on to
clear more of the section in front of my door. Nobody else does
this. If I hadn’t done it yesterday, there would be a section
with no shoveling, because one owner didn’t do any. He may be out
of town; he usually shovels his doorway.

If we were really public-spirited, we would not only all
contribute to clearing the whole of our own sidewalk, but also
assist the people on either side of us in cutting an outlet to the
street at the corner and at the neighbor’s driveway. This is much
harder than just shoveling the sidewalk, because the stuff the
plow leaves at the side of the road is much harder work to move
than the snow that falls on the sidewalk. Also, it has to be well
timed, because if you do it too early, the plows come and plow it
up again, and of course if you leave it too late it turns even
icier and harder to deal with.


I haven’t even tried
explaining the part about helping our neighbors at a condo meeting.

For a while, I was grumbling that it would be easier for the
city to buy little plows for the sidewalks and just do it for
people than to go around ticketing people who don’t do it and
having a complicated system of exemptions for people who shouldn’t
get tickets. But then I had lunch one day in downtown Haverhill,
where they do have the little plows. For some reason the little
plows hadn’t gotten to the block I was on before the snow turned
into ice, and nobody had shoveled or put salt or sand down either.

Snow Shovels at Amazon