Sunday, December 25, 2022

Still Life with Robin: It's the Cleveland Park Listies Show! And the Nominees Are:... (Parts 3, 4, & 5)

by Peggy Robin

Cleveland Park Listies - Nominations Part 3: In the category of BEST QUERY or ISO:

So many great questions posed to the Listserv readership this year.....and even more great answers. The Listserv Hive Mind did not disappoint, whether asked to identify an animal, mineral, or vegetable. There were mysteries solved, and even a bit of adventure along the way, in our five nominated queries.

1.  What is this giant bird? That was Deborah's question, posed to the groupon March 18 -- take a look at the photo in Message  . Deborah writes, "Never seen anything like it. Anyone know what it is and...why?" A good baker's dozen of listserv members had the answer: It's a female wild turkey. Posters wrote about other places they've seen them -- from the wilds of West Virginia to the streets of Cambridge, MA, to Staten Island in NYC -- and told of some strange encounters. Chris posted a picture he'd taken on a wild turkey on the roof of his car when he lived in Berkeley, CA (see Message  ) Lisa wrote:  I once came across a group sauntering across the road (I live in Vermont) - a big tom and 2 hens. He saw his reflection in the side of my shiny black car, and I thought he was going to start attacking my car - thinking another tom was impinging on his territory! (Message    ) They may be magnificent birds, but Cathy issued a very practical warning: " Beware if they take to roosting in trees overlooking your patio — they poop a lot. But they are fascinating to watch from a distance."

2. $5k to rent your backyard for a film shot. No kidding. (Sept 28, Message   Laine, proud mother of a production assistant for a film, asked if anyone would like to rent out their backyard: "The film crew needs to rent a backyard and 1st floor to walk out into the backyard, and will pay $5,000 for 12 hours. Dates: November 12 & 13, one day prep, one day shoot." Guess what? She got 40+ responses! Let's hope we can spot the Cleveland Park backyard when the movie is out -- and that it wins an Oscar for best set design.

3. Sheets for Orangutans. Therese, on Oct 28, message   , had a most unusual request: she wanted to collect "clean sheets and pillowcases for the Orangutans at the Smithsonian's Zoo." As she explained, "Orangutans make a new bed every night. Because they do not have an endless supply of foliage at the zoo, they love playing and sleeping in clean sheets. I am in contact with the primatologist at the Smithsonian's zoo and will deliver these goods in person."Do you think CP neighbors came through for the primates? You bet they did! You can see a photo of Zoo primatologist Becky, standing by Therese's car, which was loaded to capacity with donated linens (Nov 4, Message   ). Therese writes, "All 7 orangutans are set for the winter"

4. Azalea Emergency! May day! May day! (But it's only April 2.) Dan called for "an emergency consultation on planting azaleas in front of my house." Here's the agonizing choice: "We bought eight azalea bushes at Johnson's today to plant in front of my house, where we had some overgrown junipers removed in the fall. But the two decisionmakers in the house have divergent views about how to plant them: All in a row? Or staggered, in two rows?.... The azaleas are supposed to be three feet apart. There are complications, in that there are two very pretty hinoki cypress bushes on either side of the walk that would probably need to be removed if we planted them all in a row (which would, however, let us reclaim that space for the lawn. Are there any amateur or expert landscapers out there who could help us decide in the next day or two?" Photos of the available planting area, shown in Message , don't show much space to fit eight bushes. How did it work out? Did an off-list expert swoop in with the solution to the crisis of the shrubbery? There was just one on-list answer, from Caroline, in message , voting to stagger the azaleas, instead of making a neat row -- so they'd look more natural. We eagerly await photos of the blooming azaleas, whether in a row or staggered, in May of 2023.

5. The Case of the Curious Spoon. This oddly shaped utensil was shown in a photo in
Message , posted by Don, who writes that he came upon it "while sorting through a family silverware set." He says "It sort of looks like bites have been taken out of the upper edges of the spoon but there must be some very specific serving function that this spoon is supposed to serve. Anybody know what it's for?

Just two days later, on Valentine's Day, the mystery was solved. It's a Stilton cheese scoop. Don writes: "Many thanks to the amateur sleuths on this listserve who investigated the case of the curious spoon. There were numerous solutions propounded (berry spoon, jam spoon, salt spoon, absinthe spoon(!), grapefruit spoon) but none seemed to quite fit the bill. One of the more plausible solutions was a marrow spoon, an implement used to daintily scoop the marrow from bones. Upon investigation, it turned out that marrow spoons are quite narrow, as they must be, to navigate the channel in which marrow is normally to be found. The Sherlock Holmes Award, however, must go to those savvy few who suggested that the implement is a cheese spoon favored by Victorians to consume Stilton cheese. Anna and Vera in particular produced photos of such spoons which indisputably resembled the mystery piece. With the mystery now solved, I plan to celebrate by lifting the civilization level of my Super Bowl snack a notch. I will eschew the traditional nachos slathered in molten cheese washed down with quantities of beer. Instead, I will procure a fine, aged Stilton from Calvert-Woodley, build a cozy fire in my fireplace, retrieve the cheese spoon neglected these five decades or more, and put it to its proper purpose, accompanied by slices of a crisp, tart apple (preferably a pippin) and sips of a sturdy Port. Thanks again to all in who joined in this little adventure."

Now for Don's final thought on the deeper revelation that comes out of this story: "Today the internet was used to spread accurate and useful information. Mark your calendars! It won’t happen again soon." (Message  )

Nominations, Part 4: BEST ADVICE or most helpful or most creative solution to a problem.

1. Who Accepts What? On Nov 3 (Message  ) Jeff posted a phenomenally useful document that came from Iona Senior Services,  titled "Who Accepts What.," It was an Excel format document listing a wide variety of charities and nonprofit organizations that will take your old.....appliances, bicycles, books, building materials,  cell phones clothing, computers, food, furniture, household goods, hygiene supplies, knickknacks,  linens, luggage, medical equipment, vehicles, wheelchairs and walkers.... I'm stopping at the Ws, as I did not see any charities listed that accepted Xylophones or Xray machines, Yule logs or Yarn, or Ziplock bags or Zucchini. But with so many organizations listed and the contact information for each, it wouldn't take you long to find out. I converted the document to a .PDF and saved in the Files section of the listserv - it's here: Scroll down the list and click on Donations - Who Accepts What - Donations List.

2. What to do with plastic bags? The original message is this thread was an offer on Nov 8 by Elizabeth, giving away plastic newspaper sleeves to dog walkers for use poop bags. The next few messages gave information on stores that provide plastic bag recycling bins, but that discussion morphed into advice on how to reuse the bags in creative ways. Suggestions included: continuing to use the clean ones as shopping bags; turning them into wastebasket liners, bringing them back to Safeway, which sends truckloads of bags to a company that uses them in the manufacture of Trex, a lumber-like material used for decks, park benches, picnic tables, and more. But the suggestion that earns a nomination for "best creative solution to a problem" came from Michaela, who writes: "This is one way you can recycle plastic bags - crocheted tote bags!" See her example in the photos found in Message   , Michaela, if you win a little plastic trophy for this creative idea, you can carry it around in your amazing tote bag made of crocheted plastic bags.

3. What to do with wine corks? Compost or recycle?
Here's another example of amazingly creative repurposing of an ordinarily disposable object. When Penny asked the listserv members to tell her where she could bring in old corks for recycling (October 26), she kicked off a lively thread about the different things you can do with your old wine bottle stoppers, including composting the cork,, dropping it off at recycling bins at various wine shops, or creatively reusing the corks. On the creative re-use side of the ledger, the top response had to be the one posted by Sim on October 30: She made a beaded curtain room divider, attractively displayed in the photo in her message, Message  

4. What to do on a trip to the Hudson River Valley? Sharon wondered if there would be enough to do on a trip to the Hudson River Valley. She came to the right place with her questions. She got sixteen responses, and every single one of them made you want to go right to the recommended spot or do the recommended activity. So many great ideas: Historic houses to see (Franklin Roosevelt's mansion and Eleanor Roosevelt's separate but nearby cottage; Olana, the home of painter Frederic Edwin Church; the Vanderbilt mansion; the Rockefeller estate); fun activities, such as a walk over the scenic Hudson River Walkway; apple picking; a boat tour; unique institutions, such as West Point and the Storm King Art Center. And be sure to book dining reservations at the Culinary Institute of America (reserve early, as they do book up!) Who gets the nomination among all these enthusiastic contributors? Nina, who advised listserv readers about glory of Hudson River Valley apples -- and I quote: "Speaking of apples, Dutchess County’s are the best in the nation — if not in the world— and the best place to buy them [is] at Adam’s Farm, on your left on Rte 44 heading East, about 3 miles from downtown Poughkeepsie/2 from Vassar. Adam’s grows its own apples and a lot more, and has products from all over the Hudson Valley." Look it up, it's Message   on August 15.

5. For a foodie couple honeymooning in Paris - where to have a fabulous meal? Laine posed that question in Message   on Feb 21. and within a couple of days got back nine delectable suggestions, proving that Listserv members are a well traveled, gastronomically sophisticated bunch!. Laine posted the compilation of recommendations on Feb 24, Message   - c'est magnifique!


Part 5: Best Long Discussion Thread.
Now it starts to get harder. First of all, the category itself needs to be defined. "Best Long Discussion Thread" has some ground rules. To be nominated, a discussion needs to go on for at least six messages, engaging at least four different posters. But those are only the minimum requirements. There are also some judgment calls, which can be tough to make:
  • Is the discussion important enough to take up so much of readers' time and Listserv space?
  • Is each new post in the thread contributing to the understanding of the issue? (No repeats, no tendentious or dubious points)
  • Are the posters respectful of their fellow posters' views -- even if they're arguing for the other side?
  • And has the subject already been done to death in past Listserv threads?
This year, these considerations ruled out many long discussion threads that have made the cut in previous years. Particularly one subject stood out (was in its own lane?) as badly argued all around and therefore excluded from nomination. I think you know which one.....The Connecticut Avenue Bicycle Lane. Never in the 24 year history of the Listserv has one topic ever called for so much moderator intervention.
Time and again I had to shut the discussion down. That appeared to be the only way to stop the discussion from going off the rails -- and save my sanity. I found myself sending dozens of off-list notes, saying things like this: Stop assuming that the previous poster doesn't give a damn about _____ [fill in the blank with] the health of the planet; cyclists getting hit by cars, the health and safety of the elderly or disabled. Stop accusing your fellow list member of _____ [fill in the blank]: making stuff up, being pathological liars; being aligned with a national political figure you despise (which, even if true, has nothing to do with the subject) -- and lots of other stuff I don't have space to catalog here. So many un-neighborly or downright insulting messages to be screened out -- I know I missed a few. It was exhausting! So of course, to those posters, I say, "NO LISTY for you!" (No soup for you, either.)  Oh, wait, I I think I do have a prize for you (and you know who you are): It's not a Listy, it's a PISSED-Y.
Having indulged myself with the type of blanket scolding that I generally prefer to keep off-list (but remember, this is a special occasion!), let's move on to the nominees for BEST LONG DISCUSSION THREAD.
And the nominees are:
1. Thoughts on putting a chair in a parking spot after you have shoveled out your car. The snowy new year started off with a passionate -- and heated! -- discussion of the pros and cons of allowing the one who does the work of shoveling out a car parked at the curb to claim the same spot on their return, by leaving a lawn chair in the shoveled-out space. Carolyn posed the question to the group on Jan 5 in Message  #182848  , and list members were quick to opine, making a variety of arguments -- legal, moral, practical, communitarian (e.g., it's OK if all the neighbors pitch in to clear spaces and then save them for those who need them most); customary/traditional practices, geographical (e.g., that's how it's done in Chicago), and idealistic (as in, "I wonder what would happen if you put a sign on the chair that said, "You're welcome! Glad to help."), As Jo noted in message #182899   ), the discussion was clearly headed toward a nomination for a Listy for Best Long Discussion Thread -- and eleven and a half months later, her prediction came true.
2. We need a good coffee shop. This really, really looooong discussion thread - 40+ messages under a variety of different subject lines - was kicked off by Stephen's post on October 19(Message  #193487  ) citing a tweet from someone who asked (presumably, tongue in cheek): "ANC 3C candidates-- What's your plan to fill the coffee gap in Cleveland Park? This is your chance to vie for the extremely important Cleveland Park Needs a Coffee Shop endorsement." And with that, we were off to the races. Messages poured in from all over, from posters pointing out existing shops that sell good coffee, to the many coffee shops that have come and gone, e.g., Quartermaine's, Starbucks, Foster Brothers, Whatsabagel....which led to a rather spirited consideration of what exactly IS a coffee shop anyway? Is it the same as a diner? Do the terms vary in meaning from region to region? The discussion took on a deeper, philosophical turn as posters considered the relationship between a desired thing and the term used to describe it. Also in the mix -- a bit of wishful thinking, as if wanting a coffee shop badly enough could make it so. (You can read 25 messages in the thread under the subject line, "We need a good coffee shop" starting at message  #194973  , posted by Eleanor.
3. Any reason to stick with POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service)? This 16-message thread got started with the original question, asked in Message #193370 ) by Phil, who prefaced it by saying, "I have a question which will undoubtedly provoke a chuckle among the younger members of this group. "Back in the day", we were told that having a landline connection to the POTS ("plain old telephone system) was a good backup to cellular service because POTS was driven by an independent electrical circuit and it served as a backup in case the cell towers couldn't handle the cellular load during an emergency. Although my household has fully moved into the digital age, we have nevertheless maintained a POTS landline for such contingencies. Now we hear that "The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that large telephone services were free to cease their POTS lines effective August 2, 2022. As a result, many giant providers have terminated their traditional POTS lines services." If this is true, is there any remaining reason to continue paying for a POTS landline? After you finish chuckling, your counsel would be appreciated."  Of the 15 replies received, not one came from a young person mocking the question. Here's one example of a "drop the landline" reply: "I switched my home landline number to a cell phone years ago. Verizon landline was too expensive and when It was not functioning properly the repair was contracted out and was terrible. Now I get emergency notification through my cell phone. I cut my phone cost by more than half!" And here's one from the opposite side of the line: "I intend to keep my landline. My cellphone is unreliable and needs recharging very frequently. Plugs are not always available when out and about. The sound of voices on cell phones is often muffled and unclear. I save my important calls for the land line. When the cell phone is on, I get masses of spam calls." All voices of reason -- practicality too!
4. Dog Walking Etiquette 101.  There were 9 messages in this thread, started by Elizabeth, a dog walker, on Feb 8, with Message   #184263  . She laid out 5 simple rules that she hoped all dog walkers would observe. No one wrote in to disagree but a few wrote in to tell of encounters with unleashed or poorly controlled dogs, being walked by those who would do well to observe those rules of etiquette. (Presumably these scofflaws are not Listserv members!) A few others proposed some additional courtesies that considerate dog walkers should adopt. No dogs were harmed in the posting of this thread.
5. What are the classic cookbooks worth saving and still using? A simple request from Karin (Message  #196049   on Dec  18) ISO a copy of a classic cookbook, such as "The Betty Crocker Cookbook" or The Joy of Cooking" to give as a Christmas present for her millennial niece morphed into a long, leisurely, nostalgic conversation about the greatest cookbooks ever written, and what they meant to our mothers, our grandmothers, ourselves over the years. People wrote lyrically of their love of Fannie Farmer, Julia Child, James Beard, Pierre Franey, and many others. This conversation has turned into a classic itself. It's stirred up so many golden memories, I can't remember another time a listsev thread has resulted in so many off-list notes to the moderator, along the lines of "I love it! Thank you so much for this wonderful discussion." And I, of course, thank the participants for creating and sustaining it. 
The final segment of the Nominations will cover categories 6, 7, and 8.

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