Floating variables

A cool quiet Sunday morning. Only 2 days of summer left.

Yesterday we linked to a story about Madaket Millie, a Nantucket woman who broke the mold. Today it’s Stagecoach Mary, a “hard-drinking, quick-shooting mail carrier.”

Andrea Campbell, the strongest of potential challengers to Marty Walsh, will announce her intentions on running for Mayor sometime this week. It’s a hard decision with a presidential election close by and Walsh’s name floated to leave his post to move to a cabinet position with Biden if he wins. My two cents? I think she would make a great mayor.

Thirty five years ago, Frank Zappa teamed up with John Denver and Dee Snider to defend musical expression.

The US death toll from coronavirus is nearing 200,000. Meanwhile, pandemic fatigue has settled in. But as Helen Branswell reminds us, we may be tired of the virus, but it’s not tired of us.

And using Apple Music on the iPhone can be a frustrating experience. Inscrutable. But a handfull of new features in iOS 14, detailed by Apple Insider, makes it slightly less horrible. Keep em coming.

An empty chair

Ah, Saturday. Avast, ye scurvy bilge rats.

Well, it’s official. Just having a smartphone in your pocket makes you stupid.

Sad news overnight about Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s passing. The politics around who will replace her on the court is about to become insane, 2020-style.

Speaking about 2020-style politics, there’s this in New Hampshire.

Nantucket in the 1970s was an interesting place. The Chicken Box and Prestons. Mitchell’s Books, The Hub. Beach parties just like the one in Jaws. Star Wars at the Dreamland Theater and those curly fries at The Brotherhood. You might see Fred Rogers or one of the Stillers in the checkout line at the Finast. But one fixture on the island was a little scary: Madaket Millie. We were warned not to get too close. Stan Grossfeld managed to make friends with her, though. Here’s an old article he wrote about Millie that recently resurfaced.

And the challenge of fighting large, distributed fires on the West Coast is exposing gaps in firefighting technology. It might be time for an upgrade from paper maps and pencils.

Generally displeased

Happy Friday. Rosh Hashanah begins tonight.

School custodians will be working their butts off this fall. Once the students return, high-touch areas in schools will need to be cleaned multiple times over the course of the day. And for school nurses, life is about to become much more complicated.

After the 2016 election, many people were concerned. Would Trump become more presidential? Was there anything to this Russian business? What was fake and what was real? There were no clear answers at that time but it did occur to me then that there was a good ‘canary in the coal mine’ to watch for: the Generals. Mostly Republican but usually non-partisan, they have to navigate through a changing political landscape over long careers, so they value discretion. They also tend to be principled and patriotic with a strong sense of what it takes to be a good leader. So, watch the Generals, I thought. It might be instructive. And here we are.

The New York Times is reporting that Iranian hackers have found a way to defeat app-based encryption on Android phones, giving them the ability to view information in Telegram and WeChat. Apparently malware, disguised as an Android app, was used to gain the access.

iOS 14 became available for download this week. If your iPhone is set for automatic updates you probably already have it installed. Here are the big new features and here are some smaller, more hidden improvements. And if privacy is important to you, this update sets new marks in protecting your data. Even in Iran.

And speaking of WeChat, it, and TikTok are banned in the US starting Sunday. There will be tears.

Bait and switch

Today is Thursday, September 17, Constitution Day.

In Minneapolis, where local politicians were calling for eliminating police earlier in the year, those same politicians are now asking, “Where are the police?”

Northern Ireland was always the sticking point for a functional Brexit and at this late date it still is. With a January deadline for the UK to leave the EU, Boris Johnson is reneging on the previous agreement for border controls along the Irish Sea. Businesses are not happy with the lack of a clear plan. The alternative to the previous agreement is, potentially, a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, something few want. What a mess.

The president has a secret health plan. (That’s all you need to know. It’s secret.)

Daniel Sheehan profiles Ashmont Cycles amidst a biking boom and a neighborhood relocation.

And Olga Massov wants to rehabilitate the reputation of tiramisu. She has her work cut out for her. A good tiramisu can be wonderful but most are really very bad.

Chained to a tree

A hazy Wednesday. Happy birthday to Peter Falk and Lauren Bacall.

Scott Kearnan is prepared to bundle up and eat outside all winter to keep the local restaurant scene afloat. The Boston Licensing Board is onboard as well, at least through December.

Melnea Cass is a cut-through for cars, and for that it works well. Maybe too well. People drive way too fast through the neighborhood going from the Southeast Expressway to the medical area, Northeastern, and points west. For pedestrians and cyclists in the neighborhood, it’s no bargain. Besides the speedy traffic, the walking/biking paths are rutted and cracked because of tree roots and snow removal is difficult for the same reason. A complete redesign is needed. Alternatively, the city could just leave things the way they are. That would be bad for the neighborhood but good for commuters. I can’t imagine how the narrative on this got flipped. Now city councillors are calling for a hearing on environmental racism and lawyers in the AG’s office are lecturing the city on the benefit of trees. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

It’s iPhone software update day. iOS 14 should be ready for download at about 1 this afternoon on the east coast.

Health care spending is down and profits are up. But that hasn’t stopped health insurance providers from pushing for higher premiums in the next year. Get ready for an 8% increase. Ouch.

And with more new options for going into space opening up, NASA needs a method to choose which astronauts get to go. Did I hear someone say ‘reality show!’?

The measurement problem

On this Tuesday morning, the word of the day is Sisyphean.

Hey, big news: Michelle Wu is running for mayor. Who woulda thought?

Rachael Rollins, Byron Rushing and Juana Matias argue for better data from courts and prosecutors. You can’t fix what you can’t measure, they say. This was a problem 20 years ago. A lot of people have worked at remedying the situation over the years but were stymied by funding constraints and bureaucratic inertia. So, good for them for highlighting, and hopefully tackling, the issue.

Mike Caputo obviously needs help. Unfortunately, he’s the guy in charge of providing it.

There was an MIT angle, so I guess it was OK for the Globe to run the ‘signs of life on Venus‘ story as a Metro item. But Venus is definitely outside the increasingly expanding Boston metro area, which, as of late, includes Rhode Island.

A sharp 911 tele-communicator, and an Apple Watch teamed up to save the life of an Arizona officer.

And speaking of Apple watches, there’s an event to announce new models today. I’ll be tuned in.

An unforeseen benefit

Today is Monday. Windows ME is almost old enough to vote.

Last week was a bad week in Baltimore.

Seasonal illnesses seem to be down this year. There’s an assumption that it’s because people are avoiding going to the doctor or to the ER because of coronavirus fears. People may be sick but they’re just not seeking treatment. But maybe masks and distancing are actually reducing the transmission of non-covid diseases too. That would be a nice side effect.

The New York Times resorted to side scrolling in a story about waiting in line. Very annoying.

In the wake of Tom Brady‘s losing debut as a Buccaneer, Jerry Brewer writes about how teams should best use aging superstar quarterbacks. “To maximize what they have left, the solution is to create a philosophy and system that allows them to be a part of the offense, not the entire show. Instead of depending on transcendent play from the quarterbacks, it’s most prudent to put them in positions in which they can reflect the talent you’ve put around them, distribute the ball with good efficiency and save their remaining gas for the game’s most important moments.” Makes sense to me but doesn’t account for egos.

And, no Peeps this year. That’s how bad things are.

Chicken or the egg

It’s Sunday. The Pats kick off the season today with the Dolphins, at 1.

Dave Epstein advises us not to pull the air conditioner out, just yet. September, he says, is now more like a fourth month of summer than the first month of fall.

Small and large business groups in New York City are worried that the city is backsliding into what it was in the 1990’s and they want the mayor to do something about it. “Until the people come back, the streets aren’t safe. If the streets aren’t safe, the people don’t come back,” one executive said.

Craig Walker went on assignment for a photo essay on the conditions at Mass and Cass. It’s not a pretty picture.

Chrometophobia is a fear of cash. Dirty, filthy, germ covered cash. SoftBank is betting big on coronavirus-based chrometophobia in a cash happy Japan.

And an 81 year old congressman became an expert at Zoom. Minus mute/unmute.

Magneto and Titanium Man

Today is Saturday. The word of the day is foment.

Football is back. Jim McBride breaks dow what to expect for tomorrow’s Pats game. It’ll be interesting in more ways than one.

Strontium, Zirconium and Phosphorus are the nicknames Microsoft gave to the hacking groups operating out of Russia, China and Iran, respectively. These are the groups actively targeting the presidential election. “It is critical that everyone involved in democratic processes around the world, both directly or indirectly, be aware of these threats and take steps to protect themselves in both their personal and professional capacities,” wrote Tom Burt, the company’s Vice President of Customer Security & Trust, on the Microsoft blog.

Hey, here’s a crazy idea: a team of non-partisan experts from across government, epidemiology and health care, all focused on tackling the problems at the heart of a national emergency. Sort of like a Covid Manhattan Project.

In the 1990’s, the big names in cheap, mass produced PCs were Gateway and Dell. Gateway was the big kahuna and Dell the upstart. As competition heated up, Dell ate their lunch and eventually Gateway disappeared. But they’re back. Or, at least, the name is. Acer is now offering a Gateway branded laptop. Unclear if it comes in a cow box.

And eating in the great outdoors should continue into the fall as Charlie Baker has stated that he intends to sign an executive order extending the timeline for permitting outdoor dining. Now it’s up to the weather. Which, in an La Niña year, means, get out the snowblower.

Extracurricular activities

Friday, 9/11. Nineteen years ago.

Flights from Boston to Ireland have been significantly curtailed by the coronavirus, so much so that Air Lingus is considering moving its Shannon flight operations elsewhere, possibly to the UK. That would be a huge blow to the area.

Local colleges are starting to bubble up with new cases. BC had their numbers more than double this week. And the state is ramping up hiring for contract tracers. Fall is here.

So how does this work? Your taxes are deferred this year but you have to pay them back in full next year. Unless you elect me. Then you’re off the hook. There’s a word for this… wait, wait, it’s on the tip of my tongue…

This house, on the market in Fall River, is a bargain. It’s beautifully restored and fully furnished with period pieces. The catch? It might be haunted by Lizzie Borden. Actually, I’d call that a selling point.

And Maseratis are a dime a dozen on the roads these days. Just another luxury car for people with way too much money. But now, for the first time in sixteen years, the company is releasing a super car that will take it back to its roots. If something is unattainable it should at least be cool and go very fast.