The walls have ears (and eyes)

It’s a slow-paced Saturday morning and the beginning of astronomical winter.

A country divided: real tree or fake tree?

Syndicated local TV news stations are flooded with stories of families’ Ring home security systems being hacked. It looks horrible and makes Ring and Amazon seem insensitive. So what’s really going on? It looks like Ring security is pretty basic. And not in a good way. But there’s also a component of ‘normal’ people not understanding how to manage basic security. At the end of the day Ring is going to need to do better on the security front, if only to protect its brand.

The Times reviews a slate of developments in science from last year.

And if you’re getting ready for that winter workout resolution, these tips for cold weather exercise may come in handy.

In the uncanny valley

Friday today. RIP Carl Sagan.

According to Mark Gurman, Apple is working on a plan to use satellites to provide connectivity to its devices.

A headline should entice you to want to read the underlying story. But rarely does it explicitly tell you to do so, as it does here with Ty Burr’s review of Cats. But you should. It’s a great read.

What’s next in the impeachment process? Also, speaking of headlines…

Algorithmic bias is a real thing. Science can certainly help to solve crimes but investigators should be wary of too quickly embracing every new advance. Then again, knee-jerk bans on technology often backfire. When San Francisco banned facial recognition technology it also banned the use of Face ID to unlock the phones it issued to city employees. (Since fixed with an amendment.)

And, another day, another data breech. Facebook this time.

One dataset

You know that you’re being tracked, right? This article, in a series on technology and privacy by the New York Times, illustrates just how easy it is to track you through your phone, using commercially available data.

One search turned up more than a dozen people visiting the Playboy Mansion, some overnight. Without much effort we spotted visitors to the estates of Johnny Depp, Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger, connecting the devices’ owners to the residences indefinitely.

The article also suggests a few ways to protect yourself.

Comfort food

Thursday the 19th. Only 6 more shopping days till Christmas.

Trump impeached. Apathy ensues. Putin weighs in.

No Popeyes’ Chicken for Codman Square, at least for a year. Not sure that I agree with the Licensing Board’s healthy food rationale — McDonald’s, KFC and lots of sugar/fat/salt Chinese restaurants are already in the neighborhood — but if no Popeyes’ is what residents want, then so be it.

A fairly dry academic paper is turned into a headline about aliens.

Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons are being reissued daily and every once in a while we’ll get a new one.

And an MBTA bus is spotted out of place.

A thought experiment

It’s Wednesday, the 352nd day of the year. It’s also Answer The Phone Like Buddy The Elf Day.

Fallon Sherrock is the first woman to win the world championship of darts. She beat Ted Evetts for the prize.

As a research experiment, the Massachusetts Housing Partnership ran the numbers and concluded that it would be possible to get a lot of people off the roads by adding denser housing around T stations. The report doesn’t address the transit system capability to handle all those extra people other than to say that the added riders will “demand — and help pay for — better and more frequent transit service”. Simple as that.

News flash: Lobster thief caught red handed.

Ted Gioia has released his best 100 albums of 2019. His are far and away the most eclectic and high quality ‘best of ‘music lists available. (It looks like someone made a shared iTunes playlist of this year’s selections.)

And the wife of the vice-president of Zimbabwe has got some explaining to do.

A solid foundation

It’s Tuesday. Almost Wednesday.

A Christmas wish come true. With a little marketing help.

The city of Boston is doing well. A building boom started by Tom Menino and continued by Marty Walsh has given Boston a very solid tax base. The obvious danger is in what happened to places like San Francisco, where all but the most affluent were priced out. Kudos to Walsh for integrating affordable housing efforts with new building initiatives.

If you thought your smart TV was collecting a lot of data about you, wait until you see what your car is doing. (You even need to be careful gassing up!)

It’s Edaville Railroad time again.

Government funding for gun-violence research was terminated in 1996. Fortunately it’s being renewed, with $25 million dollars in new funding for firearms safety studies. Unfortunately that won’t be enough.

And if your package from Amazon came on schedule today, you can thank ‘The Sniper‘.

Into thin air

Monday. Starting another week. Snow tomorrow.

Here’s a list of the biggest cryptocurrency hacks of 2019. Millions were lost, mostly because of poor security. But sometimes security that’s too good can cause millions to disappear. This is quite a story.

An update on impeachment. It’s not going to be pretty.

And it’s not just politics that has people polarized. At BU, philosophers of science are grappling with factual relativism and even physicists are at each others throats (the comments are where it really gets going).

If you’ve watched the new Mr. Rogers movie, which I recommend you do, and wondered about the trolleys, you may be interested to know there’s a local connection. Well, just barley.

And, more problems at the Steamship Authority.

Closing your rings

I hope you are enjoying your Sunday morning. Happy birthday to Max Yasgur, Edna O’Brien and Tim Conway.

The cost of streaming music has been remarkably stable. That could be changing.

I don’t get the point of this Washington Post article. There have always been people obsessed with their workouts. Data and sensors are not the problem. I think many more people have been helped by workout technology through motivation than harmed by overexercise.

To read later: Harpers article on the murder for hire industry on the dark web.

Doggie daycare for birds? Wasn’t aware. This one in New York may be closing amid a cacophony of concerned complaints from customers.

Amazon’s money is having an impact on local politics in Seattle.

And Chris Etre did a good thing. Nice job Chris.

We’ll always have Worcester

It will be in the high seventies today out here on the edge of the Everglades. A nice Saturday in December.

The city of New Orleans has been hit with a ransomware attack. The mayor declared a state of emergency. Public safety systems seem to be operating, at least nominally. Last month Louisiana state servers were hit.

Worcester, Paris of the Eighties. It’s a thing. And there’s merch.

News today that running may actually be good for middle aged knees. The benefit seems to come from strengthening the surrounding muscles.

And there’s a new Christmas album by Los Lobos and it’s going into heavy rotation in my holiday playlist.

Creative destruction

Friday. The 13th.

It appears that Boris Johnson has his Brexit mandate. But Scottish independence is in the mix again after the Scottish Nationalists’ strong showing.

Flower Market demolition begins this week. Across town, the Hurley Building is also being targeted for development. Lovers of Brutalist architecture are speaking out, hoping to protect it from the wrecking ball. As a fan of Brutalism, myself, this one is not worth saving.

Bill Weld was snubbed by MassGOP. Bill Galvin comes to the rescue.

Brian Chen reviews AirPod Pro headphones. Overall he liked the convenience, sound and software, but worried about battery replacement. And he found that they didn’t dampen engine noise on a plane as well as Bose headphones. I had that same issue and picked up some of these, which helped.

And Netflix is greasing the skids with reviewers.