I knew I shouldn’t go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles right after lunch. I knew there would be a long line. I knew I’d have to wait forever. I was there 3 hours. A 30 minute drive each way made it 4 hours total.

And before you ask, no I couldn’t use a runner. No I couldn’t make an appointment. No I couldn’t go to the local AAA office. If you’re transferring an out-of-state registration, you go in person and wait in line.

Having said all this, the RMV staff were all polite, knowledgeable, and efficient. The long wait is mostly the fault of Massachusetts voters who don’t want to fund adequate staffing for the RMV.


Granitic rock with a gray-green crustose lichen growing on it.
Porpidia albocaerulescens?

This crustose lichen caught my eye while out walking today. I was especially taken by the dramatic apothecia, those dark gray spots outlined in a very dark gray. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my hand lens with me, so I couldn’t take a good close look at the apothecia. But here’s what they look like when I blow up the photo:

Close-up of the above photo, showing the cup-like apothecia a little bit better.

I believe this lichen is Porpidia albocaerulescens, which is sometimes called the Smoky-eyed Boulder Lichen. However, identifying crustose lichens accurately seems to require a rock hammer (to get the sample off the rock) and a chemistry set (to carry out the chemical tests used for identification).


Cohasset Central Cemetery

I first noticed the doll leaning up against a child’s grave back in August. The doll was a bit faded and weather-beaten even then, so it has been standing at the grave for some time now. The child died in 1862, so the doll could not have been left by someone who knew her. I like the fact that whoever cuts the grass has left the doll in place.

Fall color

I took a walk at Weir Hill Farm in Hingham today. The fall colors are really starting to come out. Looking at them made me realize how much I missed the bright autumnal colors while we were living in California. There’s something about the fall colors in southeastern New England that really gets to me. Autumn in the San Francisco Bay Area had its own attractions, but nothing as thrilling as what I saw today.

Fifth shot

I got my fifth COVID shot today, the so-called bivalent booster.

Getting a COVID shot is boring now. But it didn’t used to be.

We got our first shots the day after our age group was eligible. We had to drive an hour to find an appointment. There was an elaborate check-in process. After getting the Pfizer shot, we had to sit down for fifteen minutes until they were certain we weren’t going to pass out or go into anaphylactic shock. Four weeks later, we got the second dose at the same drugstore, going through the same elaborate process. I was ill for two days after the second shot. Then it became a big topic of conversation for the next month: Did you get vaccinated yet? Which vaccine did you get? How long were you sick for afterwards?

We felt invincible for about four months, until the Delta variant hit. Then at last we were eligible for our first booster. This time, we got an appointment at a mass vaccination clinic, held at the San Mateo Event Center, formerly called the county fairgrounds. We waited in a long line of cars while volunteers in fluorescent yellow vests directed us into a big barn. Did we want Pfizer or Moderna? We had heard that you should get the one you didn’t get the first time. So we got Moderna. Then we had to drive into a big parking area while they monitored us to make sure we didn’t pass out. Once again, it was all very dramatic. And I was ill for a day after I got the booster.

For the second booster, I went to the Redwood City medical center where my primary care physician had her office. It was just like getting my annual flu shot. A nurse told me I shouldn’t worry about sitting in the waiting area after getting the shot. I got the shot, left the building, and drove home. My arm hurt for the rest of the day, but I didn’t feel ill.

Today I drove to Braintree to get both my annual flu shot and my third COVID booster. My appointment was at an older, somewhat dingy pharmacy. This time I remembered to wear a short-sleeved shirt. After I got my shot, the pharmacist told me to sit and wait fifteen minutes. I heard the man talking to the pharmacist as he got his shot. “Another shot, I can’t believe it! We’re going to be doing this forever,” he said, in his high querulous tenor voice. She murmured something soothing. “I guess it’s like getting your flu shot every year, isn’t it. And these people who don’t get shots. Can you believe them?!” Another soothing murmur. By this time I had waited five minutes. I decided I wasn’t going to pass out and walked out of the store. There was nothing exciting about any of it.

I still worry a little when I hear about people I know getting COVID. But getting your COVID shot is no longer exciting. It’s just part of the annual routine.

Posts and beams

Some photos from the attic of the 1747 Meeting House in Cohasset:

Truss joint

This image shows the joint in the middle of the second truss from the north end. The ends of the trunnels (treenails) are clearly visible, as are the adze marks.


This photo shows an unusual joint between a beam and a post. This kind of joinery probably resulted because the carpenters also built boats. This photo was taken along the north wall where the Meeting House butts into the tower. The beam across the top of the photo is sawn, not hewn, and is from a later repair. In the background, you can see a PVC pipe, and coaxial cables running up to the cell phone antennas in the steeple.


Early New England meetinghouses, used for both public worship and for town meetings, differ from later church buildings in a couple of ways.

First, meetinghouses lack the axial orientation of churches. A church is rectangular, and you enter through the main door in one of the short walls. The congregation is aligned along an axis facing the pulpit. Meetinghouses are either square, or the main entrance is on the short wall; typically there would be entrances on three walls. Instead of an axial orientation, a meetinghouse has (to my mind) more of a communal orientation. You can see the lack of an axial orientation in the photo below, which shows the interior of the meetinghouse of First Parish in Cohasset, my new congregation.

Interior of the meetinghouse, First Parish in Cohasset

Second, meetinghouses were typically not built with a bell tower. If a bell tower was added to a meetinghouse, it would often be placed to the left or right of the pulpit, not opposite the pulpit. A church, by contrast, typically has the bell tower over the main entrance, opposite the pulpit. The placement of the bell tower in a church has the effect of reinforcing the axial orientation. The meetinghouse of First Parish in Cohasset has the bell tower off to one side, which to my eye tends to diminish any sense of an axial orientation in the building.

Front of the building with the main entrance, First Parish in Cohasset

A final difference: meetinghouses typically have less ornamentation than a church. A meetinghouse tends to place the emphasis, not on the building, but on the people in the building.

I’ll be interested to see whether the form of the building makes any difference in the way people interact. Ask me about this in six months or so….

Heat and humidity

The National Weather Service calls this “oppressive” heat and humidity. When I got up at 6:00 a.m., the temperature inside the house was 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was maybe two degrees cooler outside.

I went for a walk while it was still relatively cool. A light breeze was coming in off the water, just strong enough to blow the deer flies away. Down on the town beach, you could see maybe a few hundred yards out into Buzzard’s Bay — it wasn’t exactly fog, the air was just murky with moisture. There was no horizon: the gray water shaded into the gray murk which got slightly brighter as it shaded into the gray sky.

Double Crested Cormorants rest on rocks in Buzzard’s Bay

I walked slowly, stopping to look at the periwinkles slowly making their way along the sand, and at green seaweed (Ulva intestinalis?) waving in the water. Though I walked slowly, within a quarter of an hour I was drenched in sweat.

This heat humidity has been going on for weeks now, with only an occasional break. This is not the summer weather we had in New England twenty years ago. It feels more like summers in Philadelphia when I lived there in the 1980s. Or maybe even summers in the Deep South.

Scientists tell us that you can’t tell if climate change is happening based on one weather pattern of a few weeks. So OK, I’m willing to trust the scientists on this one. Nevertheless, this doesn’t feel like the New England weather I remember from the past. Maybe I’m just another old guy waxing nostalgic for lost youth. (Or maybe I’m just an old guy who can’t take the heat any more.) Then I read about the extreme heat in Europe this summer, and what I’m experiencing fits into a larger pattern. Climate change is happening.