Playing with fire

An early summer Sunday. Today’s word is desiccate.

What’s the worse address in the US these days? I, for one, wouldn’t want to be living in the sister building to the one that collapsed on Miami Beach.

In a Times opinion piece that reads more like an investigative report, Zeynep Tufekci tries to connect the dots around virology research, SARS, bats, China and Covid-19. Lots to unpack there.

Want to grill the perfect steak? Follow the science.

I was sorry to hear that Janet Malcolm died last week. She was one of my favorite writers and a fellow appreciator of Chekhov.

And it’s official. Social media is destroying civilization. Like if you agree.

Transportation doublethink

Saturday, the first day of May. It’s Calamity Jane‘s birthday.

There’s a chicken shortage. And the price of wings is going through the roof.

Should city bus fares be free? In a healthy, financially self-sustaining system that might make sense. But the MBTA is not that and introducing free bus service brings lots of hidden costs. One transportation analyst interviewed by the Globe, Phineas Baxandall, says that those costs are not really costs. “You can define that as a cost, or you can define that as an enormous policy achievement,” Baxandall said. “In the face of possibilities of actually increasing transit ridership, it shouldn’t be seen as just a cost.” That sounds a lot like me trying to justify a new camera purchase to my wife.

Some voices are more soothing than others. (Gilbert Gottfried comes to mind as an exception that proves the rule.) The BBC explores the role our voices play in social settings.

Fireworks season is coming. The City Council is going to handle it this year.

And a group of folks in Japan decided to carry 6 ordinary stones around for 1300 years (scroll down for English). They started the project in 2014. Only one thousand, two hundred and ninety three years to go.

The real world

Today is Thursday. April 15th.

Substack local. I’m very interested is seeing how this turns out.

Kim Janey is in charge now and the annual budget that she’s presenting to her former colleagues in the City Council reflects the realities of being mayor and running a city. That sets up a conflict with some members of the council who take a more rhetorical or aspirational approach to how they see government working. It doesn’t help that some are campaigning in place for her job. I give Janey credit for standing up to unrealistic expectations.

A Dixie cup is something you drink water out of. A Hoodsie cup is ice cream. Why is this even a question?

Defund the police or defang the gangs?” Commonwealth Magazine has a brief discussion of the complicated issue of police reform in today’s highly charged political environment. But the bottom line is that defunding the police is like throwing away the baby with the bathwater. Here’s a key takeaway: “Asked whether regular police patrols in their community would make them feel more safe or less safe, 65 percent of black respondents said more safe, while only 22 percent said less safe. There was a bigger gap among white respondents, with 81 percent saying regular patrols would make them feel more safe and only 10 percent saying less safe. But the broad message seemed to be that Americans want better policing aimed at real public safety dangers in their community.”

And the FBI is reaching into privately owned Exchange servers around the country to remove malicious code. They have court approval to do so but it’s still kind of a big deal.

Work away from work

Today is Wednesday, National Grammar Day.

Dr. Seuss has decided on its own that it will remove a few archaic books from its catalog. Hilarity ensues.

When the pandemic is over will workplaces go back to what they were before, or has remote work settled in for good? I’m skeptical of any long term change but state leaders in Massachusetts are doubling down on telework. Picture a future Herald expose about a Department of Revenue employee working from Hawaii in February while the rest of us are digging out from a blizzard. Cue the public outrage and backlash. Just saying.

When I was in my twenties, I spent a couple of winters on Nantucket. I was too busy working to do anything of these things.

A Japanese billionaire is funding a SpaceX mission to the moon and he’s looking for company. It’s a three-day trip to the moon and then, after one orbit, three days back. The cost is on him. You can apply here if you’re interested.

And Dunkin’s is shooting for the millennial market with a new offering, avocado toast. You can have a nice hot Dunkin’ espresso with it. Then, maybe some Spaghetti-o’s for dinner.

Human on the loop

Saturday. Freezing outside. Today’s word is retrocede.

Terrence Doyle alerts us that a new Bahn Mi shop is opening in Boston in the little spot on Washington Street where the New Saigon sandwich shop used to be.

Artificial Intelligence is the next frontier in war. The big ethical question is whether we should allow non-human technology to make lethal decisions on the battlefield. Experts say it’s not a question of if, but when. Humans are just not fast enough to handle the wars of the future. “If we slow the AI to human speed …we’re going to lose.”

A couple of years ago a woman bought her eight-year-old son a present of 10 shares of GameStop. It cost her $60 bucks. He just cashed them in for over $3 grand.

A tale of two kinds of politician: One waves her hands and says we must do this and we must do that. The others develop strategies to actually do some of those things.

And Sony has released a new high-end camera, the Alpha 1. Remember that time when Homer Simpson designed a car

Data desert

Tuesday. It’s a birthday for Douglas McArthur, Angela Davis and Wayne Gretzky.

Twitter has put a pillow over Mike Lindell’s head.

With some exceptions, larger police departments in Massachusetts do a pretty good job with data collection. The courts, corrections and prosecutors – not so much. Shira Schoenberg explores the morass of incompatible and non-existent systems in the criminal justice system.

Acting, schmacting. The Mayor is the Mayor. The Boston city charter gives plenty of wiggle room for any decisions that Kim Janey might need to make.

Conventional wisdom was that more money wouldn’t buy more happiness, at least if you had an income of about $75k or so. A new study says that’s BS. Even more money brings even more happiness. In fact, with enough money your happiness level could be out of this world.

And Pizza Hut is branching out. After receiving requests from their customers they are now offering Detroit-style pizza. That checks out. Only people who like not-pizza pizza would request such a thing.

Jumping the turnstile

Today is Monday, Opposite Day.

It’s not exactly The Villages but I guess it’s the same basic idea. Who doesn’t love a parade on Opposite Day.

One of the big reasons that Uber and Lyft took off is because they were low friction. No cash, no special cards to carry. No long-term commitment. You use it when you need it and you know what it costs. Compare that to the MBTA, where you have to get a Charlie Card, put some arbitrary amount of money on it, even for a single ride, and then worry about the balance for the next ride. So it’s welcome news that the MBTA is at least in the very early stages of switching over to a contactless payment system. Just like in London and Chicago, two efficient systems I’m familiar with. And New York, where the payment system upgrade is also well underway. Mass transit should be cheap and easy to use – and pay for. This is a step in the right direction.

Superbowl teams have been warned to stay away from Tampa. One team might have a problem with that.

Some say that Elon Musk’s Starlink system is going to be a game changer. Others (especially in the Telecom sector) say it’s just hype. I don’t care either way. As long as it’s sustainable it will be another choice for getting connected, especially in remote settings.

And if you mix this hot sauce with mayo, you can make yourself a “thermonuclear bologna sandwich.” It looks like the guy that killed Bin Laden is trying to kill the rest of us.

Everything you know is wrong

Sunday. It’s the 30th anniversary of the start of the Belgian UFO wave.

First it was here, and now it’s gone. The mystery of the monolith continues.

Here are a few articles for Sunday morning on our vulnerability to misinformation. In the first, Scientific American explores the “New World Disorder.” The Guardian looks at how to spot logical holes in a conspiracy theory. And David Brooks channels Jonathan Rauch on Republican distrust of traditional sources of information.

It’s everything you wanted to know about the McRib sandwich, including how work at Natick Labs contributed to its success and how its availability rises and falls with the price of pork.

Matt Patricia is out. Fired, along with Lions general manager Bob Quinn, who hired him.

And you may want to stay away from World’s End in Hingham in early December (unless you’re outfitted in bright orange.)

Reading between the lines

Happy Tuesday. Happy National Espresso Day.

Here are some quick tips to help avoid being scammed while holiday shopping online.

Kevin Cullen opines about whether Marty Walsh will run for reelection. Of course he’ll run. But his options are still open.

Trump has teamed up with Randy Quaid in a Twitter love fest. Perfectly sane.

In the North End, a rising tide raises all bocce courts. Bruce Gellerman reports on how global warming impacted the redesign of Langone Park.

And it’s not too late to begin to build that awesome tasty pie. I’ll have mine with an espresso, thank you.

Shooting the messenger

It’s Friday the 13th. 2020. A double whammy.

Marc Hurwitz reports that a new bahn mi spot is opening in Quincy, on Hancock Street, near Elm.

So, about all those election shenanigans; The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the National Association of Secretaries of State and the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council, among others, released a joint statement: “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.” The response from the White House? You’re fired!

The state raised the bar on how cases are measured for designating high risk communities. Now virus numbers are rising to meet the new thresholds.

Someday we won’t have to tag animals in the wild for tracking studies. We’ll use webcams, machine learning and facial recognition. It’s started with dogs and now bears are getting into the act.

And if you’re thinking that maybe it’s safe to go on a Caribbean cruise, well, keep thinking.