Over the past few months I have been studying my circuit diagrams and electronics terminology for a little course of study I have foolishly undertaken here at home because I haven’t got enough to do writing newspaper columns and hauling trash and trying to hook rides on helicopters and icebreakers and stuff. While it is plenty fun to make earrings out of resistors, and to change all our passwords to something like “Zener_diode,” it certainly does — as my kids used to insist — count as school. Yes, there will be a test.

I understand a bit about electricity but started out knowing essentially nothing about electronics. I don’t even play video games. Hitting the books I find, to my great relief, that many of the technical terms I am supposed to learn are already familiar.

Hysteresis, for example, sounds like what happens when you get Suzanne really wound up and going and the next thing you know she’s singing the Andrews Sisters. Alternatively, hysteresis describes a form of going postal, common to postal clerks unable to escape the daily ranting heard from the other side of the counter, small-town postmasters confronted with incomprehensible requirements from the Upper Echelons, and local boxholders whose mail has been accidentally sent to Monhegan. No firearms are involved but you can probably hear it all from Criehaven.

Sampling rate: How fast you can get one of each of everything available on the refreshment tables after somebody’s funeral. It is not necessary to have known the person who died; an island funeral is largely about crabmeat sandwiches and deviled eggs.

Multipath: What forms around the big lakes which appear in the middle of the road during mud season. No lawn is safe. See also “tank circuit.”

Reactance: a phenomenon similar to resistance but which accomplishes no actual work or anything. What people do before and after Annual Town Meeting when they don’t show up to vote. All belly-aching, no action. Not to be confused with over-reactance, which is pretty much a part of every islander-to-islander interaction during the month of March. Often mathematically insignificant.

Carrier frequency: how often the ferry comes or, in our case, the airplane. The exceedingly low carrier frequency common in the old days led to a thing about powdered milk, but life is somewhat easier now. This morning, as I write, Roger the pilot has already been here three times and it’s only 9:15 a.m.; that’s a pretty high carrier frequency.







Subcarrier: the person the pilot gives the packages to who then delivers them to recipient.

Dwell time: the basis upon which a native may judge his neighbor’s worth as a human being.

Asynchronous logic: what you call it when the same summer visitor says, “You are so lucky, this island is so magical, it is so wonderful to be here! If I lived here I’d never, ever leave!” and then asserts, “I couldn’t do it!” in the same conversation. That happens all the time.

Backscatter: what people do when they realize it’s time to vacuum the church basement.

Ripple: The stuff our friend Nellie suggested mixing with tonic water in order to economize because Bartles and Jaymes Wine Coolers were getting too expensive. Or maybe that was Old Duke. This is not to be confused with “jitter,” another electronics term, or “dither,” likewise, which sounds like what people do when they are waiting for the air service to call and say whether or not it’s flyable on the other side, or whether there will be a grocery flight. You have to stay near the telephone.

Apparent power: this has something to do with being on the school board, most likely.

Ramp wave: why people should wear rubber boots while getting aboard the boat.

Ground loss: coastal erosion, like when the yard behind your seaside cottage gets smaller every winter, but the property taxes stay the same.

Pi section: a slice. Hopefully, a large slice.

Pi network: the Ladies Aid Society.

Common-collector: what everybody on an island eventually becomes, whether it’s about heart-shaped rocks off the beach, or sea glass, or water pump parts, or books by Elisabeth Ogilvie, or sand dollars, or large dogs. It can’t be helped.

Band plan: the ongoing effort to get the Mallett Brothers or Ten Mile Tide to play out here.

Bridge: we don’t have one.

Spectral density (also spectral leakage, which sounds ever so much worse): You don’t need an electrician, you need Ghost Busters.

Stopband: Because occasionally, after a while, somebody needs to tell the musicians to go home and sleep it off. Some of us have to go to work in the morning.

Reverse bias: rooting for the other team. Also, the empathy one experiences when people on another island get a large increase in their ferry rates.