Leaping to conclusions

Saturday. Still February. Leap Day William is rising from the Mariana Trench.

Feburary 29th has been lucky for the Celtics. Fingers crossed for tonight.

Robin Wright describes how politics played a role in allowing the coronavirus to spread in Iran. The Ayatollah downplayed the virus and accused his enemies of exaggerating the threat ahead of an election. Hmmm. The Pope is sick. Hopefully it’s only a cold. One of the cruise ship passengers who caught the coronavirus wrote an article about how it feels to have it. Not so bad, it turns out. Here’s a short video that visually illustrates how the virus spreads between people. And the new cases on the west coast show that person to person transmission is already happening in the US. It’s probably going on in other places around the country as well. I’m guessing we’ll start seeing them pop up increasingly in the next few days and that next week’s market opening will be rough. But as the spread grows and the world doesn’t end things will normalize. But first, let’s get the testing problems fixed.

RIP, Freeman Dyson.

Sports betting is coming to Massachusetts. It was only a matter of time after the casinos opened. But it does seem that the legislature has taken a slow and thoughtful approach in writing the law.

And if you’re in the market for a new ‘around-town’ Harley, you’re in luck. It’s entry level at $13k. (I’d rather spend that on Leica gear.)

A million dollar ticket

It’s Friday, February 28. Pope Benedict put his papers in on this day in 2013, passing the hat to Francis. And in 1983 we all watched the final episode of M.A.S.H..

Bacon on the go. It’s genius.

Councillor Julia Mejia wants to charge for parking tickets based on income. (Hello Jeff Bezos.) An interesting idea but it doesn’t seem very popular. It also might be time to update the ParkBoston app. A Reddit user took a screenshot of all the permissions the Android version requests. Seems a bit extreme but it could be just old code. The IOS version is better, but not by much.

The St. Patrick’s Day breakfast is moving back to the convention center this year. It should be an interesting season for speeches. We’ll see if anyone hires Bloomberg’s comedy writer.

This is a long but interesting article about coronavirus, including how it spreads, what it does and how this one compares to other outbreaks. Lots of good information packed in here.

At one point, a month or so ago, it appeared that Betelgeuse was on the verge of going supernova since scientists saw that it was dimming, a precursor to a stellar explosion. Because it’s what they do, other scientists double-checked the first scientists observations and found that the dimming was more likely due to atmospheric effects. So no dramatic supernova. But a win for science.

And here’s some body camera footage of an officer in California kicking in a door and dragging a man out of a burning house. Nice work.


Thursday morning. Happy birthday to Jony Ive, John Steinbeck, Alan Guth, and the Labor Party.

Don’t stop with just booze or chocolate. The Pope wants you give up trolling for lent.

The Arizona Republic is no longer endorsing candidates. Why? Basically it boils down to the fact that no one really cares about newspaper endorsements anymore. (As opposed to the Globe which had a teaser campaign for their presidential endorsement. Really? Mark your calendar?)

Google is investing $10 billion in a number of states, including Massachusetts, to expand data centers and office space.

Clearview, the facial recognition company profiled by the Times several weeks ago as a threat to privacy has been hacked. Buzzfeed reports that its client list of law enforcement customers was stolen in a data breach.

And here’s a bit of practical advice for avoiding the coronavirus, or any virus for that matter: keep your distance from people with symptoms. 6 feet or greater is good. And if you’re wondering if you need a mask, watch this video from the WHO.

The battle royal

It’s Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It’s also World Pistachio Day.

Apparently there are many products that provide misleading information on added sugar. I’m shocked. Shocked!

An unruly, raucous squabble, a fiery, messy, loud fiasco, a crazy train, a shouting match, a dumpster fire, a gang up. That’s just a sampling of descriptors for last night’s debate. To that list I would add chaotic and poorly-moderated. But it wasn’t all the moderators’ fault. The candidates also behaved childishly, breaking the rules of the debate and then whining when others also did so. And who’s writing those jokes for Bloomberg?

Boston area home prices are holding steady if not trending up. More buyers than sellers.

Trying to figure out who the real bad guy is in a whodunit? Just look at what type of phone they’re using.

And the courts in Indiana ruled that if police attach a GPS tracker to a car and the owner finds and discards it, that the owner cannot be charged with theft of the device. Pretty obvious, really.

A black swan event

Well, it’s Tuesday. Here we go.

Hiawatha Bray makes a good point about the new hands-free driving law. It doesn’t apply to those big touch displays that are part of your car, it only applies to your phone.

On the coronavirus front, according to the Times, yesterday’s market reaction came when investors “(finally)” began to realize the potential impact of a worldwide outbreak. At least Amazon is thinking ahead. And apparently the US has not yet even begun testing for the virus (?!?). That should start by next week. If tests indicate that it’s already spreading widely in the US there could be a psychological reaction that may cause another market hit. An outbreak might also have a political impact. It could be a Black Swan event for the administration and the election. It’s already being politicized. So what should we be doing now to prepare? Ian Mckay and Katherine E Arden write about how an outbreak can affect you and what you should be planning for. The two basic themes they identify are (1) reducing the risk of becoming infected and (2) reducing the chance you will run out of essential medications, foods and goods. Worth reading. Also, Mckay‘s Twitter feed is a great source for updates, as well as Angela Rasmussen, Muge Cevik and Maia Majumder.

Christopher Schodt provides a primer on 5G.

Eliminating fares on the MBTA is still under discussion here in Massachusetts but free transit is already a reality in Seattle. But only if you’re going to a hockey game.

And Rio has a municipal pee squad on patrol for public urinators. I think Amsterdam already solved that problem.

The sky is falling

Monday morning. A spring-like day. Happy birthday to Steve Jobs, George Thorogood and Abe Vigoda.

Need a chuckle? Here are 50 comics to cheer you up.

There seems to have been a lull in coronavirus news. There’s a sense that too much coverage could either panic the public or numb them into indifference. But some experts are worried that the horse is out of the barn and it’s time to get the public prepared for what might be coming so we can get serious about developing prevention habits. Remember the ebola handshake?

UPDATE: if there was a lull it’s over now.

The ICE director for the Boston region tells Commonwealth Magazine that, despite reports to the contrary, there will be no tactical operations teams assigned here.

Grimes new album received a mostly positive review from Spencer Kornhaber at The Atlantic. My take is also mostly positive.

And the official Westworld trailer dropped. Then fans unearthed a few unofficial ones. As you might guess, if you know the show, the tone of the clips is futuristic and foreboding. Except for this one, which, strangely, has more of a happy/romantic vibe.

X, Y, and don’t forget Z

Lazy Sunday. On this day in 1987 astronomers noticed a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

It’s tax season. Also scam season.

The Washington Post uses a bad example to highlight the very real problem of locating mobile phones for 911. In the case they cite, the man who died waiting for responders to arrive was using a Chinese cellphone with no name or address associated with it, essentially a burner, and he was calling from a multi-unit apartment building in a high-density area. That’s a difficult challenge for any technology. That said, we can certainly do better with locating callers using GPS, especially by incorporating altitude or z-axis information. In fact the FCC is requiring it. But it will take time.

In an op-ed in the Dorchester Reporter, Andrea Campbell makes an important point: Prosperity is good but runaway prosperity can threaten the civic fabric.

Kids these days! Back in my time making a circle on an Etch a Sketch was an impossible chore. Not any more! What’s this world coming to?

And in case you’ve always wondered, students at the University of Leicester ran the equations to calculate just how long it would take for tribbles to overtake the Starship Enterprise. It’s not long. (Via Ars).

The new new thing

It’s Saturday and there’s only one more week left until March. RIP, Amerigo Vespucci, Andy Warhol and Dennis Johnson.

WAAF is no more. The station that brought you Whip ’em out Wednesday is now Christian radio.

The Hynes Convention Center is getting a little long in the tooth. It’s in a great location in the Back Bay but it isn’t big enough to support most modern large conventions. Should the property be sold to a developer and the money used to expand the convention center in the Seaport? That seems to make sense to everyone but Back Bay business owners and they make some good points on keeping the Hynes where it is. Stay tuned.

The widow for containing a coronavirus epidemic is narrowing says the head of the World Health Organization. What are the implications? According to some experts it would put us in “uncharted territory.” Concern is growing at the highest levels, although maybe not for the right reasons.

A new technology net-zero building is slated for Roxbury. The five story cross-laminated timber structure will have 19 residential units and be one of the most energy efficient buildings in the US. Other than noting that Roxbury is “in the south end of Boston,” the article in The Architect’s Newspaper doesn’t provide a location for the project. But the illustrations put it at Hampden and Eustis.

And Better Call Saul is back on Sunday. All is well with the world.

Shifting priorties

Friday, February 21st. Today is National Grain-Free Day, which recognizes the difficulty of restricted diets. It’s also National Sticky Bun Day.

The police chief in Croydon, NH, turned in his gun, badge, uniform and cruiser, and walked home in a snowstorm. In his underwear. Not something you see everyday.

Since marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts, police, for the most part, have turned their attentions elsewhere. But now the licensed cannabis industry wants more enforcement directed at unlicensed sellers. For police it’s a little confusing, as Ed Davis notes. But it will work itself out over time. It’s just a shift from criminal to regulatory. Even the NFL is considering decriminalizing pot.

The Internet of Things is vulnerable to hacking. Doorbells, smart speakers, Roombas, thermostats. But the problem isn’t always technology. Sometimes it’s the fact that we don’t own the things we thought we did.

And how about a stout brewed with lactose, cocoa nibs, vanilla and cannoli shells. That’s the new Harpoon Mike’s Pastry Cannoli Stout. Just waiting now for the Dunkin’ Donuts Harpoon Mike’s Pastry Cannoli Stout iced coffee.