The economy, stupid

Friday. Sunny and moderately not cold.

Big changes at the Metropolitan Police. Sounds like the timing was right for the commissioner to depart.

The economy is doing pretty well. That statement might sound wrong depending on your politics. Dan Primark writes, “Republicans think the economy is getting worse while Democrats think it’s getting better. Because the economy itself isn’t really what matters; who’s in charge of the economy is what matters.”

Irish Ambassador to the US Dan Mulhall’s book on James Joyce’s Ulysses is now available.

Bruce Mohl reports that the MBTA intends to raise the price of Charley cards $3 as part of the coming upgrade of its fare collection system. The increase would help pay for costs associated with the new billion dollar system. Meanwhile, fare revenue is up. Also, free fares are being expanded so some of that revenue will be down. Managing the T’s balance sheet sounds like a nightmare job.

And can we all agree now that blocking roadways is not a legitimate form of protest? Good.

You can go home again

A wonderful Wednesday.

Sidewalk dining sheds in New York are either a good thing that will be made permanent or a bad thing to be removed forthwith. I agree.

A former Irish minister for foreign affairs is pushing to lift restrictions on US citizens who want to retire to Ireland. The plan promoted by Charlie Flanagan would be open to Americans who can show a connection to Ireland, either through ancestry or cultural involvement, or even frequent travel, with an offer of citizenship after 5 years. Interesting.

In bumping up bag check fees, airlines have incentivized the use of carry-on bags. And more often than not these days those carry-on bags are big and bulky, which slows down boarding, costing airlines money. Delta has a pilot program in Boston to see if free bag checking will speed up the boarding process. I hope they didn’t spend a lot on consultants to come up with this.

The Washington Post reports that bananas are getting expensive at the Greater Boston Food Bank. Also, Superbowl guacamole is going to cost more this year as grocery store produce departments succumb to inflation.

And in Seattle, there’s a large intersection between people who drive Mazdas and those who listen to NPR. Strange.

Swag bag

Happy Wednesday. On this day in 1911, Harry Atwood flew from Boston to DC, landing on the South Lawn to meet a waiting President Taft.

Mickey Donovan received a warm welcome from Boston Fire this week.

Jon Santiago came out of the gates strong in the mayor’s race last winter with a bunch of statewide endorsements. But his prospects and polling have faded since then and now he’s dropped out. In other election news, frontrunners Kim Janey and Michelle Wu are selling t-shirts. Annissa Essaibi-George said she’s giving hers away for free.

REvil was one of the most active ransomware gangs in operation. And, poof, now they’re gone. It’s a mystery wrapped in an riddle wrapped in an enigma.

It’s marching season in Northern Ireland. Unionists are flexing and Sinn Fein is pushing back. Same as it ever was.

And NASA is reporting that a wobbly moon might put us under water. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

An impolitic discourse

It’s Wednesday. Cinco de Mayo. Squeeze that lime.

Ireland is opening up for tourism next month. And, conveniently, Air Lingus is running a flash sale on upcoming flights.

The BPPA are often their own worst enemy and are always a reliable villain in any discussion of policing in Boston. And while I have a lot of respect for Andrea Campbell and think she would make a good mayor, the fact remains that she threw the first punch in this Twitter fight.

In elections later this week, Boris Johnson may win the battle over ethical accusations but lose the war on keeping the UK a united kingdom.

Scripps Healthcare was reportedly hacked over the weekend. Medical providers and patients lost access to systems used to schedule visits or view test results. Not a lot of details were forthcoming but the recent trends by ransomware groups to steal data in addition to seeking money raised new concerns about patient information being exposed.

And the country of France lost a little ground in a recent land war with a farmer from Belgium. Call in the cartographers.

Troubling developments

It’s a sunny Saturday. The word of the day is fatuous.

Condé Nast Traveler picked Sconset beach on Nantucket as one of their 25 best island beaches. I always preferred Cisco or Surfside for swimming, or Dionis for beach parties (like the one in Jaws). No one I knew went to Sconset. It was for rich people (like the guy who wrote Jaws).

Violence is spreading in Northern Ireland. Very disheartening. Brexit and coronavirus restrictions are playing a role in the escalation. CNN’s Kara Fox breaks it down. David Trimble weighs in.

Florida Texas man tries to blow up the Internet.

Physicists working with Microsoft have published an interesting paper on the ultimate operating system: the universe. The thesis, in a nutshell, is that we are living in self-learning computational environment. I don’t know. Does it seem like there’s a lot of self-learning going on around us these days?

And Covid lockdowns have brought more than Zoom meetings. UFO sightings and close encounters went up too.

A legacy of peace

It’s Saturday. The word of the day is equinox. Spring has sprung.

Can happiness be taught? Over 3 million people say it can. Sign up for the course – or be miserable.

When John Hume died in August travel restrictions were in place across Europe and memorials were kept small and local. But on this year’s St. Patrick’s Day, many of his admirers and family here in the US appeared in a video to remember the Nobel Prize winner. It’s worth a watch, as is this documentary on his life’s work.

One year ago I took a walk around Boston with my camera. The streets were empty. It was strange. A lot has changed in 12 months and we’re not quite back to normal. It’s coming, soon, but we’re not there yet. Over the past year Google has been tracking how we have been searching for information about the virus. First we were curious about masks and how to avoid being infected. Then toilet paper, symptoms, tests, stimulus checks and school openings were the hot topics. Now we’re searching for how to get vaccines and wondering about side effects. I think that’s progress. (I hope that’s progress.)

Acer has reportedly been hit with one of the biggest ransomware hacks yet. $50 million is the demand. The company is being tight-lipped but has acknowledged and reported “recent abnormal situations” to authorities The hackers have given them until March 28th to pay up or have their data released publicly.

And here are the winners of this year’s Leica Woman’s Foto Project awards. Impressive talent and that Leica magic make for some extraordinary photos.

Compassionate loophole

It’s Monday, March 15th. Beware.

What would spring break be without a little teargas?

It appears that the Legislature left a opening for convicted first-degree murderers to be released from prison for medical reasons. Twenty-one murderers have been released as a result, the Globe reports. The compassionate release bill pushed through by lawmakers was inspired by the situation one of their colleagues found himself in at the time. Sal DiMasi, the ex-speaker, was serving federal time for fraud and extortion and was asking for compassionate release for hospice treatment after what his doctors said was a fatal cancer diagnosis. He got out. That was over four years ago. Today DiMasi is working as a lobbyist. And the bill his plight inspired is playing out in the headlines.

A giant walrus has come ashore on the southwest coast of Ireland. Experts think it may have fallen asleep on an iceberg and floated down from the arctic. I assume officials will waive quarantine requirements. No comment were reported from the eggman.

About 12% of the population of Massachusetts has been fully vaccinated. More than 23% have had their first shot. To put that number in perspective, under 9% of people in the state have tested positive for the virus. That takes us to about 20% of people with immunity. Throw in another ten percent who may have asymptomatic infections to produce antibodies and subtract the overlap of people with antibodies getting vaccinated and that might take us up to about 30 percent or so with immunity. So we still have a ways to go. Assuming an R0 of 5.7 for Covid, that means that we need to get to about 80% before we shut this thing down. But we’re moving fast on vaccinations and that’s a good thing.

And a man in Charlton said he was following the instructions from his GPS navigation system when he drove his car into a lake. Was he using Google Maps or Apple Maps? Inquiring minds want to know.

Belt and suspenders

Another Monday. It’s a birthday for both G. Gordon Liddy and Abbie Hoffman.

Ireland has become an importer of potatoes, getting the majority of its supply from the UK. New Brexit restrictions may threaten that supply. But in today’s Ireland, potatoes are less about subsistence and more about tasty fries.

Moderna will apply for emergency use of its vaccine today, just behind Pfizer, who applied about a week ago. People in the highest risk categories could have their first shots before Christmas.

The Baltimore County school system went completely to remote learning. Now they’re completely shut down because of a ransomware attack.

The oldest houses in Washington DC were built in the 1700’s. But they weren’t built in Washington. Both originally came from Massachusetts (one from Waltham and the other from Ipswich.)

And 71 year old Manson cult member Leslie Van Houten’s parole request was denied by California Governor Gavin Newson, who reversed a board decision that would have freed her. So, no Dancing with the Stars for her, I guess.

Do as I say

Happy Friday. It’s Mole Day.

Fungie the dolphin, who entertained visitors to Dingle Bay for many years, is missing.

Freedom of Information requests are a huge pain for people who work in government. They’re labor intensive and expensive, taking staff time from other tasks when there’s more to do and less time to do it. But that’s the deal, right? That’s the price of transparency in government. At least it is in some parts of the government.

And speaking of special treatment; no overseas traveling for you. But for people like Brad Pitt and Kylie Jenner it’s easy to skip to the head of the quarantine line.

A Dutch hacker thought he had guessed @realdonaldtrump’s Twitter password: maga2020!. Maybe he did but there’s some skepticism about how much access he got to the account.

And this is how we treated a cold back in 1955. We’ve come a long way since then. (We have iPhones and AirPods now, instead of books and bedside radios.)

Not out of the woods

Thursday is upon us. It’s National Shawarma Day.

There’s new music from Stevie Wonder.

The South Shore is seeing an increase in cases. Marshfield, Hanover and Plymouth are in the high-risk category now, with Duxbury and Scituate not far behind. The death rate in Massachusetts, even with its concentration of quality hospitals, is higher than in surrounding states, which is a bit of a mystery. Nationally, it looks like the US is heading for a third peak. And Germany, Ireland and the UK are also bracing for more cases.

Ryanair is closing its bases in Shannon and Cork, at least for the winter, with more cuts expected to come.

I listened to the entire hour-long questioning of the guy who turned the supposed Hunter Biden laptop over to Guliani and the New York Post. (The journalistic badgering and cajoling made me uncomfortable and reminded me of Janet Malcolm’s writing. I guess that’s just the sausage getting made.) Maybe it’s my suspicious nature, but it’s clear to me that this whole fake laptop story was a plant, probably involving overseas actors. October surprise indeed.

And if some industries are thinking of leaving New York, Big Tech is bucking the trend by expanding its presence in the city. And they’re no dummies.