Plymouth plantation

Thursday. Just in time. Goodby April.

Boston has a new fire commissioner, Jack Dempsey, former chief of operations. He took over from Joe Finn, a great guy who retired last month.

The Globe reports that Plymouth County received $90 million dollars from the federal government for coronavirus relief, the only county in the state to receive that kind of money. All $90 mill is under the control of three part-time county commissioners. And they’re not giving it back.

Stuck at home with lousy wi-fi? Here are some tips for getting better speeds.

Big Tech leadership: Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t seem to want society to reopen anytime soon. That’s probably because everyone is stuck at home obsessively scrolling through Facebook posts complaining about being stuck at home. Then there’s Elon Musk who continues to reinforce the idea that the self-obsessed, over-the-top characters on Silicon Valley were not an exaggeration.

And in the days after the Marathon Bombing, one of the biggest needs for those working long hours was for cellphone chargers. Same thing today, I assume, for nurses, doctors and first responders. So this is a good effort by the carriers and iHeart.

Keep on keepin’ on

It’s Wednesday and what’s that big yellow ball in the sky?

From one to one million in one hundred days. Just amazing.

At least two more weeks of staying at home, according to governor Baker, who extended his order to at least May 18th. Universal Hub highlights the impact that the virus has had on Massachusetts compared to California, which has five times the population but less cases.

The Cambridge City Council was Zoombombed.

The federal government is printing money but cities and states may have to go begging. In the places without sufficient rainy day reserves it’s likely that jobs will be lost.

Starbucks is reopening for take out this month. At least that’s the plan. No more waiting in 40-car drive through lines, hopefully.

And if you’re looking for comforting children’s bedtime stories in these trying times, stay away from the Russian masters. Here’s the plot of one Tolstoy’s children’s stories, The Bird, as summarized by John Kuhner, “A boy catches a bird in a cage. His mother says he shouldn’t do that. He leaves the door of the cage open. The bird flies out, straight into a glass window, knocking itself out. It suffers for a few days, then dies. The end.” At least there’s a moral. Chekhov’s children stories also have an edge but, not surprisingly, the moral is ambiguous. I can’t imagine what a kid would make of a story like Kashtanka. But for an adult, these are all great reads. Even at bedtime.

‘Neath the streets of Boston

Good morning. It’s Tuesday. In 1973 on this date, Dark Side of the Moon went to number 1 and stayed there for 14 years.

Musings from Dorchester that don’t have much to do with coronavirus.

On another non-coronavirus topic, the Globe reports that the MBTA is finalizing a contract for an updated system-wide fare collection system. The cost is almost a billion dollars, which sounds a little high to me. Actually it’s $600 million for the system and another $300 million for ongoing system maintenance for the next few years. Still a lot of money. There was mention in the story about the ability to do surge pricing but nothing about using contactless payment methods like other big city systems do. I hope that’s in the contract.

To make contact tracing work there are a few things that need to be done right. Patrick Howell O’Neill elaborates. Stefan Volk underscores.

Poorly managed blue states? It turns out that Kentucky, Mitch McConnell’s home state, gets way more net funding from the federal government than those blue states do -and a lot more than it contributes.

And, I used to hate it, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve warmed up to opera. If you’d like an introduction, here are some good selections recommended by a few well known people. And I’ll even add my own, the Strophes prologue from Berlioz’ Romeo and Juliet.

A false sense of security

It’s a stormy Monday. The word of the day is Zephyr.

Local banks are gearing up to distribute the second round of small business paycheck protection loans, which start today.

Hokkaido Island in Japan provides a lesson in opening businesses up too soon. Dr. Birx suggests we’ll need another six months of social distancing in the US to be safe but some states are already loosening the rules and others are set to follow.

Writing in the New York Times, Matt Flegenheimer just comes out and says it. (The piece is labeled as a Political Memo, which seems to be somewhere between opinion and straight reporting.) He’s not wrong. These are very strange times.

Should Boston annex surrounding towns and incorporate them as boroughs? The city is small geographically but still needs to maintain the infrastructure to support the commuters who live (and pay taxes) in the nearby suburbs. It’s just a though experiment.

And even though there are no live sports to watch, your cable provider is still charging those sport network fees. Now that doesn’t seem right.

Known unknowns

A cloudy Sunday. 34 years ago there was a flash in the sky near Chernobyl.

The New York Times travels to the epicenter of the outbreak in Massachusetts.

Antibody testing will be crucial to an economic recovery but we’re only just beginning the process of developing reliable tests. And even then there’s no guarantee that the presence of antibodies is a sign of permanent immunity. There are too many unknowns like these out there preventing us from making realistic predictions about a phased reopening or a second waves of infections. Not knowing is the hardest part. It will take time.

Is it one space after a period, or two? It’s always been one space. There’s no question. But if there was a question, there isn’t now, at least if you use Microsoft Word.

Barry Burbank will be signing off for good after tonight’s 11 o’clock weather report. Scroll down in the story to see what he looked like on his first day at WBZ in 1978. I think we all had that haircut back then. (And if the barber shops don’t open soon I’ll have it again, albeit with a lot more grey. )

And poor Wallace. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.

Steady state

Sat. 4.25.20. Crick and Watson introduced us to DNA on this day in 1953.

Tom Brady walked into the wrong house in Florida. Usually people get shot for that.

Some states are beginning to reopen, notably Arkansas, Georgia and South Carolina. It’s an experiment with historical precedent. I guess we’ll see if things have changed since the first go around or if this virus is just different in nature than the 1918 flu. In any case, I’ll be happy to see how it all unfolds watching from a state with competent leadership.

More on Kim Jong Un’s health problems: China dispatches a medical team to assist. Still no public appearances by the leader.

Doctors are seeing more young people infected with Covid-19 suffering or dying from stroke.

Andrea Campbell wrote an opinion piece highlighting the disproportionate impact that the virus has had in her neighborhood.

And it looks like Bolsonaro likes the numbers where they are.

Dumb and dumber

Of course it’s Friday. Why wouldn’t it be Friday.

Did you watch the president’s briefing yesterday? In the immortal words of George W. Bush, that was some weird shit.

Are people getting stupider or is it just me? Read some of the quotes from the protesters outside Charlie Baker’s house. And the photos from the protest tell their own story. Lots of Trump signs. No masks. People gathered in clusters. Yup. That’s just great.

In a dispatch from Wicklow, Larry Donnelly gives kudos to the political leadership in Ireland who, he says, are particularly suited to dealing with a crisis like this. The Prime Minister, in fact, is a medical doctor who takes time out each week to teleconference with patients. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have someone who knows a little about medicine in charge.

In an article up on STAT, Matthew Herper wonders why we’re stumbling with randomized control trials for potential Covid-19 treatments.

And if you’re missing book readings, the Brookline Booksmith is providing virtual events with authors at least through May.

Nobody’s going nowhere

It’s Thursday, April 23rd. Boston Latin School was founded on this date 385 years ago. These days it’s scholae virtualis.

While celebrities are singing Imagine, stunt men and women are engaging in a virtual brawl. Bam! Pow! Zzonk! * It’s an entertaining few minutes of video.

With travel pretty much shut down, airlines are getting killed. Most flights are cancelled and aircraft are sitting idle. Where? Mostly in the desert. One guy did a fly-by over Victorville where an entire runway is packed full of planes, each worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Wall Street Journal examines Trump administration HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s role in the testing snafu and spread of the virus.

The New York Times reports that in early March, “Hidden outbreaks were […] spreading almost completely undetected in Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle, long before testing showed that each city had a major problem, according to a model of the spread of the disease by researchers at Northeastern University.” Of course they went undetected. Very few people were being tested. You can’t detect (or manage) what you don’t measure.

Among the prisoners asking for compassionate release is ex-FBI agent John Connolly, serving time in Florida for his role in helping Whitey Bulger.

And the British Parliament has moved to Zoom. So far, unlike the in Massachusetts legislature, work seems to be getting done virtually. Harumph.

The sounds of silence

Wednesday. Mid-week stretch. And it’s Earth Day.

A lot of people are growing pandemic beards. Probably not a good idea, say medical experts.

This summer’s concert season is a bust. Lots of tour cancellations. I’m watching for word about our local music festival, Levitate. Nothing solid yet on a cancellation but I can’t imagine it will go forward as scheduled in early July. At best it may have to be postponed.

Governor Baker describes where we are in Massachusetts with the coronavirus by using football terms. We’re ahead… but the game isn’t over yet. It’s only the third or fourth quarter. And around here we know it isn’t over until it’s over, right?

Speaking of that, there’s this. The Gronk show is picked up for another season.

Photojournalists are out there covering the news. There’s no working from home for them.

And if you want to get people to stop smoking, send in the smoking kids.

The least worst solution

A bright Tuesday morning. Happy birthday to Queen Elizabeth and Iggy Pop.

Is Kim Jong Un on death’s door? Strange reports from North Korea.

The MA legislature, slow in the best of times, is struggling with restrictions due to the coronavirus. The budget is due in July and other business is falling behind but the leadership has not introduced a remote voting system or other workarounds to speed up the sausage making.

Yesterday was the predicted peak for Massachusetts. The numbers are usually available on the state site at about 4 in the afternoon but yesterday they were delayed for quite a while. And understandably so, since DPH reveled a new dashboard with lots of granular information. My only quibble is that it would have been nice to have it in an interactive web format rather than PDF but I understand that getting the information out quickly is a higher priority than making it fancy.

The Globe ran 16 pages of death notices on Sunday, more than double the pages from last year at this time. Sadly, we’re not the only ones seeing these jumps.

And I get the no preservatives thing, but I’m not sure this makes me want to go out and order a Whopper for lunch.