Dick and Jill
011030; last updated 060112.
"Station Tree" on Winter Street in Natick:
13, 2005: The web page we host for Maureen Sullivan's fine "Natick Walking Tours"
brings a request from The
Extraordinary and Historic Trees Project, for more
information about one of Natick's most famous trees. We look, learn and
From 1711 to 1797, long before Wellesley,
now immediately east
of Natick, was
carved from Needham
in 1711 was carved from Dedham), a
1,656-acre projection of Needham
Lake Cochituate. This "Needham Leg" was surveyed and "station trees"
were selected to mark its corners, as often was done with town
white oak station tree marking the
that historic "leg" still stands on the north side of Winter Street
in Natick, just east of Hovey Avenue and near
the Weston town line. An historic marker is on its trunk, and in 2005
money was appropriated for its maintenance.
This station tree and others (and the Needham Leg) may be found on old
Map of Natick and Lake Cochituate
Map of Natick and Lake Cochituate
Extraordinary and Historic Trees Project
will catalog famous trees of the northeastern United States, from Maine
to Virginia. Can
you suggest a local tree or
two worthy of inclusion?
If so, send
Farewell, Forth! New vanity plates on car:
1st, 2005: Once again, it's time to renew our car's license
plates. That is, to replace the twenty-something FORTH
plates which have outlasted several cars, and show it! After
many years on the road they are faded, and cracks and tears are
beginning to show. They're a little like us in that regard, and a lot
use of Forth.
Forth is a great computer language, but we no longer provide regular Forth support.
MMS still sells Forth
books, and not much of that.
So, bidding a token farewell to the Forth computing language that was
much of our life in the late 1970s and 1980s, we traded up to a
new WIN LIN
plate because now Miller Microcomputer Services works with Windows and
is shifting to more and more open-source
Win-Lin, get it? It's a win-lin situation. At least, it would
be if they'd printed that plate right...
What's simpler than ordering new license plates? After all, we're all
professional adults. What could go wrong? Well, if you read on you'll
discover vast new areas of incompetency to explore. We now call it, the
compares the old "Forth" plate to the new "WIN LIN" plate. In the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Registry of Motor Vehicles doesn't
new license plates regularly. Although there's an extra charge for
plates, that doesn't include
fresh plates every few years.
Instead, and beyond that initial surcharge, vanity plates cost even more
to replace. Each year, the
RMV just sends you a tag to
stick onto your rear plate. In the close-up, you can see what
thick stack of those thin tags we stacked up, over the years! (Click
the image to enlarge it.)
vanity plates rate less in other ways, too. Three times, the Registry
that it would make our vanity plates with a space between the WIN and
LIN. ("No more than six characters, no punctuation marks, but a space
okay.") And three times we waited, only to receive identical
without that space! Instead, they try to appease us with small spaces
around each of the "I" letters, but that won't work.
The first round of ordering included assurances, but it did not include
accurate listening. I was told that the RMV had no way of receiving my
instructions by e-mail. And when I asked the lady to repeat the order,
she'd deleted the spacing issue until I emphasized it again.
After the first license plates arrived without that central space (and
with lesser spacing around each "I" letter), I phoned again and spoke
to two RMV staffers who thought spaces are not allowed. One of them
said that a separating dot was possible, but the other said no
separators could be used. I asked for their manager, who confirmed that
the central space could be done, and that I was welcome to e-mail my
written description to her.
I found the RMV staff to be uniformly courteous, but unclear about its
own practices, unable to coordinate information, and quick to waste
vast amounts of my resources (and presumably not just mine). Typically,
there's a half-hour wait before receiving service at the local Registry
office, but they do provide seating. After repeating their own
mistakes, each staffer explained to me that the licenses were made in
prison, so it was out of their direct control.
The third time our
request was ignored we had no choice but to accept, because on Dec. 1st our unrenewed
FORTH plates became illegal. By now, we didn't drive through a parking lot without scanning the Massachusetts license plates for current ones with two letters separated by a space. And once we started looking, we did find them!
In theory, the Registry could fulfill our order. But one cannot ignore the Registry's Revenge. Would the
Registry eventually succeed in solving its internal (and by now, very
evident) communications and printing problems? Or, was it fated to remain forever out of reach?
After many false starts, the Registry phoned us early on Monday,
January 9th, 2006. We were pleasantly surprised to hear that it now had
two new sets of vanity plates: one with "a small space" in its center,
the other with "a dot" in its center. Which set would we like sent to
our nearest Registry office? Not wanting to choose blindly, I asked
whether both sets could be sent on for our inspection. "Not a problem,
they'll be there by Wednesday." I phoned back to ask whether there
would be any problem getting another new annual sticker, or any other
further delay. "No, you'll just exchange your plates for these new
ones, and they'll provide you with a new sticker."
2PM Wednesday, I decided to phone our local Registry office to confirm
that the plates had indeed arrived. That simple telephone call left me
mostly on hold for more than an hour before I gave up. First the phone
promised me that it really cared about my call. Finally, a live man
asked how he could help. I explained once, waited a long time, and then
he asked me to explain it again. When he asked me the same questions
the third time and still wouldn't (or couldn't) connect me with the
local Registry office, I said I was running out of time to go there and
would take my chances.
At the Registry office, they showed me a single pair of plates, which
proved to be ones I'd rejected weeks earlier. "Nope, no other WIN LIN
plates here." I asked whether they'd checked today's delivery, and they
allowed as to how they hadn't. That produced the two pairs of plates. One pair was just about identical to the first three sets, with no significant space between WIN and LIN. Happily,
the other pair (with a half-high dot between them, just like half
the staffers had told us couldn't be ordered) was a winner! We ran out, used our new battery-powered screwdriver to unscrew our license plates, and came back inside to swap them out. Here are our month-old plates on the Registry counter, to be replaced by the new ones (still bagged) behind.
But wait! The lady now said we had to get a new letter from
our insurance company, because of the changed plate. The Registry's
Revenge, but this time I had an antidote. We said we'd just been
through that in triplicate, and that the main office has assured us
that no other steps were necessary. To our relief, she agreed.
She handed me a new annual sticker. As I peeled off its backing, a
piece of its "Massachusetts" got left behind. Ever so politely, she
supplied a replacement sticker and it worked. We thanked her again,
went outside, and screwed on the new plates without incident. We
admired them, and drove on home.
Back home, I went to remove the screwdriver bit from the power
screwdriver before putting them away. And that's when the Registry's
Revenge struck again. The quick-release wouldn't even release slowly.
The black ring you push in wouldn't push in. Or out. Or turn. For no
obvious reason, it had become immovable. Black and Decker; good
support, right? But blackanddecker.com showed no support information on
this matter. Toll-free number advice? Just before 5PM Eastern time (and
not even 2PM Pacific time), Black and Decker's national support line is
closed for the day. We can't change screwdriver or drill bits. Here we
go again! Well, you can't expect the Fates to relinquish these license
plates without exacting tribute...
The tear in the old plate's upper right? That's another story. Late last winter, and
about an hour from home, we bought our new car on the spot. The dealer
had a much lower price for the car we wanted, combined with a great
trade-in offer. The net cost was about $1,500 less, the car was mint
and drove just right, and we decided to pounce.
By the time we'd completed the deal it was getting dark,
first flurries of a snowstorm were in the air. The final step of the
transaction was to swap our plates from the old car to the new. And that
was when we all discovered that our small screwdrivers couldn't budge
one tight license-plate bolt, just before we discovered that the
mechanics had gone home early.
Out in the dark and cold, the salesman sold us on the idea that it
would only hurt for a minute. He gave a mighty tug and the aluminum
license plate tore loose. We straightened it out somewhat, re-mounted
it grabbing just an edge of that tear, and we got to test the
wipers as, snug and smug, we drove our new car home through the wind
Our old license plates are filled with memories of pleasant trips. So far, our new ones have just
a dot. And this dotty story.
(we drive across the USA and back in three weeks):
(Barely started. We have a lot
and story to fill in here. Enjoy now, and come back later!)
16th-August 7th, 2005: Oh, what a trip!
Jill's nephew, Adam Hardtke, is marrying Tyrell Coates in Seattle.
We'll stay with friends Rita and Bob Moore on Mercer Island. Say,
Interstate 90 cross that island just north of their home? Hmm, I-90
runs just north of our home, too...
Our car is new, two of us can drive as cheaply as fly, and we
won't have to wait on all those airport lines. Sure, it will take
longer. But we
haven't seen the country for many years, and never drove this northern
route. There are a lot of friends we'd like to visit, including
relatives that Jill hasn't visited in far too many years. If not now,
then when? We clear
three weeks for the round trip, buy an inexpensive cell phone, and
we're off. Only half our overnights are laid out in advance, but we
have many friends and a bunch of them are conveniently located along
our route. A cell phone, and a fact-filled notebook computer with
wireless Ethernet, will keep us connected.
7,000 miles and 23 days and only 3 motel nights later, we have pleasant
memories and photos and stories to tell. Here's
a first draft, with many gaps to fill later.
Saturday morning, July 16th: We're off for lunch with Bob and Sandy
Miller in Clarksville NY, then on to Kelly Beller in Rochester
Into Canada at Niagara Falls, cross Ontario to re-enter the
Flint, Michigan, and evening with Les and Barb Hyman in East Lansing,
Past Chicago, Illinois for an evening in Minneapolis, Minnesota with
Ann (Buzzie Witt) and Harry Lutz.
In the morning, we get a guided tour of Shakopee, Jill's
mother's home town, by Aunt Rosemary Witt. Well into afternoon, we push
on to Bismarck, North Dakota for our first night in a motel.
A morning visit to an Indian village, and by night we're visiting
Dick's old Cambridge roommate John Sidle in Twin Bridges,
Up over the Rocky Mountains, high-plateau country, the Cascades,
and to Rita and Bob Moore's wonderful home on Mercer Island,
short of Seattle, late Thursday afternoon.
Settled into Rita and Bob's guest house, we enjoy Mercer Island and Bellevue
Hardtke wedding madness begins on Saturday and lasts through Tuesday
breakfast with Jim and
Melissa, then an hour's drive north along Puget Sound before climbing
east up the Skagit River, where we've watched bald eagles
on a prior visit. But this time we keep going up over the Cascades, to
John Andrist and Mary Koch on the Okanogan River in Omak WA, for a
morning, we're off to John Sidle in Twin Bridges
MT (again!). We don't take the Badlands
Loop Scenic Byway
(we should have), do spend too much time in the Spokane Valley Mall (we
shouldn't have), and arrive too late to socialize with John.
next day, we drive about fifty miles to Virginia City,
where John is the Town Clerk, and we take him
By late afternoon, we've reached Gardner and Mary Perry in Driggs,
Idaho. They're very close to the Tetons, but it's a long way
around to the Jackson Hole side that we know.
Saturday afternoon, we take that drive. It's a high and winding one,
ending in a breath-taking drop down into Jackson, Wyoming where we
settle in for two days with Adrienne and Peter Ward.
Monday, August 1st, we push on east over the Rockies, rush past Mount
Rushmore, and arrive late in Rapid City, South Dakota where we guess
wrong. Suffice it to say that the Colonial Inn Motel (doesn't that sound
nice?) is not
We're on our way early the next morning, on to Donna (Andrist) and John
Wees in Rochester, Minnesota. It's our first meeting with anybody
from that Andrist branch, but Jill has been sharing family-history
information with Donna for years and we all have a good time rummaging
through scrapbooks and computers. Next day, they introduce us to other
Andrists young and old (Florence Andrist
Beugler turned 100 in October!), and to many historic family locations;
near Mantorville, heartland of the (Swiss) Andrists in the USA.
Dipping down through Iowa, we visit Effigy
a museum stop and a hike up a steep
overlooking the Mississippi River. Then we cross the
mighty Mississip' and spend our final motel night (a good one) in
Swinging well south of Chicago, by late afternoon we reach Ellen Rice's
new home in Dayton, Ohio. The next day Ellen shows us one museum after
another. We liked the open-air SunWatch
Indian Village/Archaeological Park,
even though its interpretive center was closed for construction. This
is Wright Brothers country, as half the museums make plain. We thought
Museum of Flight was
wonderful – but the
Museum of the United States Air Force at
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base simply blows it away.
On to George and Jo Houghton in Caroline, New York (just east
Ithaca). We're on familiar ground again; not home, but beginning to
feel that way.
Next morning, we know the way back to Bob and Sandy Miller's, have a
late lunch with them, and drive the familiar MassPike to our home.
We loved reunions with family and friends,
seeing some friends in homes new to us, and finally meeting some
distant family members. We particularly like friends showing us their
favorite places, and had many such opportunities – in three
we only spent three nights in motels. We liked seeing the vastness of
our country and watching the changing topography roll on past
often punctuated by spectacular scenery, some of which we duly
reduced to image files which are slowly making their way to this web
Our new Ford Focus wagon made the driving
carefree; okay, carefree except for some very sheer and winding
mountain passes. We grumbled about the highest gasoline prices ever
($2.00-$2.50 per gallon for regular) – but later were glad
got home just before Hurricanes Katrina and Rita pushed gas prices up
yet another dollar per gallon!