Saturday. The Weekend.
Paleontology, politics and dairy all came together in 1802 when the good folks from Cheshire, MA sent a ‘mammoth’ block of cheese to Thomas Jefferson. Not to be outdone, upstate New Yorkers sent an even bigger block to Andrew Jackson, sparking a literal feeding frenzy in the White House. Ah, the good old days.
Coleman Herman reports that non-union employees at the MBTA received a $1000 bonus for working through the pandemic. Huh? Some people in the private sector were lucky enough to have been compensated for continuing to come into work, but not many. How did anyone in management at the T think that was a good idea at an agency struggling to control costs. Just the optics alone should have taken this off the table.
Alan Levinovitz responds to John McWhorter’s article about wokeness being like a religion. And in France, they’re just confused about the whole thing.
Mayor-elect Wu is still taking the T to work. She told WBUR that she will continue to do so as mayor. I guess that’s a good thing. The city can save a few bucks on a driver and when the T goes free, she will save as well.
And if you’re in the market for a new bike and you want to stand out from the crowd you should consider this gold Giant Defy. It’s only $288,125. Cash for flash.
Wednesday, October 6th. There’s still baseball happening.
Two endorsements: Markey for Wu and Trump for Diehl. The former may have some effect but the latter is just a curiosity in these parts.
The MBTA safety team has doubled in size, according to General Manager Steve Poftak, and the agency is spending three times what it had in previous years on capital projects. And yet safety issues are still regularly occurring and projects are lagging. So what’s the solution?
Following the lead of the Boston Public Library, the New York Public Library is eliminating all late fees. Bad news for Bookman.
The trillion-dollar coin is still a possibility. Fascinating. It would be minted in West Point and flown by helicopter to New York, where it would be deposited in the Federal Reserve Bank… assuming the guy carrying it doesn’t have any holes in his pockets.
And I didn’t know Muhammed Ali was an artist outside of the ring. He was.
Thursday. Its a birthday for Saul Bellow, Howlin’ Wolf and Bill Burr.
Neither Ralph Mellish, nor any other person in the US this year, has been killed by a lightning strike. It’s like a no-hitter. (Oops.)
In the past, the Boston City Council was ornery and blustery, but mostly all talk. This group is, well… different. Kim Janey and next elected mayor will have their hands full. And on the search for a new police commissioner, Bill Forry has some thoughts on Councilwoman, and mayoral candidate, Wu’s obstructionism.
We have a new ocean. Pretty cool.
Who’s driving the train? The MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board has been dissolved and the Governor and legislature have dueling proposals for a new oversight board.
And there’s a bear afoot on the South Shore. Last sighting was on the eastern side of Wompatuck. Better hide those pic-a-nic baskets.
Tuesday. Van Gogh was born on this day in 1853.
Is Volkswagen changing its name to Voltswagen? As in Volt? That would be weird.
The Orange Line derailment from last month looks like it was caused by an old switch rather than a new train. With stimulus money expected to hit the books soon, the MBTA is preparing to improve maintenance and restore service levels. But long lead times for staffing and training are frustrating some of these efforts, managers told the Control Board. And what happens when the stimulus money runs out? It’s an open question. “The T that exists today cannot continue to exist in fiscal 2024 and fiscal 2025,” one Control Board member remarked. Indeed.
Andy Warhol may have been borrowing from Marshall Mcluhan when he said “art is anything you can get away with.” But he didn’t get away with anything this time.
More Walsh loyalists are leaving City Hall. Not unexpected, but the city will be fine. Operations will go on just as efficiently under Dion Irish and financial management of the city will be in good hands with Justin Skerrit.
And a team for the billionaire funded Space X ride has been selected. All regular people. Fast Company interviews one of the crew, Sian Procter, a community college professor who says, “Strap me in—I’m ready to go.”
A happy, spring-like Tuesday.
We used to burn draft cards and bras, and blow up disco records. Now we burn masks.
Less riders. Less funding. The post-pandemic future will be difficult for the MBTA. Capital projects may be suspended and maintenance deferred, potentially leading to more unreliable service, leading to less riders and even less funding. A death spiral. But what if the riders miraculously reappear? Well, that might be a problem too.
It was the Day of the Triffids in northern Vermont. And in England, a rare carbonaceous chondrite meteor landed in a driveway in the town of Winchcombe not far from Stonehenge. Many a Creature Feature started out just like this.
One in ten jobs worldwide is dependent on tourism. That’s averaged out. In some places it’s much higher. These NYT charts show just how hard the pandemic has hit the people dependent on tourism.
And there’s been a report of aggressive, out of control, threatening behaviour in the White House. But this time it wasn’t a high-level official. It was just the dog.
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.
Good morning. It’s Tuesday. Happy birthday to Edna O’Brien, who is 90 today.
The MBTA was told by lawmakers to do more with less. So that’s what they did. Sort of.
That massive hack of federal agencies, apparently by Russian operatives, was, well, massive. Solar Winds – Orion software is used for network monitoring and it is very widely deployed. It appears that the hackers gained a foothold through a modified software update to Orion. The networks impacted included those of some of the most sensitive intelligence agencies. Once in the network the intruders had free range, including the ability to elevate privileges to gain access to protected information, although it seems that they focused mostly on high-value targets. I’m assuming that classified systems have additional layers of security but that’s not a given and it’s possible that classified information was also accessed. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which has seen its leader recently fired in a political dispute over the election, is in charge of assessment and mitigation. In addition to government agencies, many Fortune 500 companies also use Orion, including the New York Times, which is still assessing damage.
Some economists are very worried about the state of the post-pandemic economy.
I don’t think the new Apple’s Fitness+ app will replace Zwift for me but I may give it a try for other workouts. It becomes available Monday. Todd Haselton, at CNBC, had early access and he likes it. Raymond Wong also tried it out and got hooked.
And Dolly Parton is an angel. In movies and in life.
Sunday. Enjoy the sunshine.
Apple has begun to move its Mac computers away from industry standard ‘Intel Inside’ chips to its own custom processors. These new systems show impressive increases in speed and efficiency over Intel systems. It’s a big deal. You would expect PC makers to follow suit by designing similar chips but engineer Erik Engheim explains why that might be impossible and, if true, this move by Apple could shake up the personal computer industry.
But some use cases are problematic for current Macs. And God help you if you forget your iCloud password.
It’s not just the MBTA having financial troubles. The New York Times looks at the wavering state of mass transit nationwide in the wake of the pandemic.
Geoff Edgers talked to Elvis Costello about the Quisling Clinic and making another album with Nick Lowe.
And I noticed a few interesting physics articles recently. The first is by Anil Ananthaswamy, revisiting Bell’s Inequality –with a twist. The second is an optimistic take on the whole ‘end of physics’ thing, by Robbert Dijkgraaf. And in the WSG, Frank Wilczek writes about the reliable unreliability of the universe.
Welcome to the weekend. Saturday, December 5, 2020 edition.
No more small horses, peacocks, platypuses, turkeys or bearded dragons on airplanes. And that’s fine by me.
The MBTA advisory board says, ‘not so fast‘ on the agency’s plan to cut service. The board thinks the T should reshuffle its priorities to maintain service levels by delaying expensive projects and cutting fat in other areas. I couldn’t agree more.
This study is being billed as a breakthrough in potentially reversing age-related cognitive decline.
Kara Swisher weighs in on Warner Brothers‘ plan to release films in theaters and streaming at the same time. This looks like the future.
And the state budget was finally passed. Not bad. Only five months late.
This is Tuesday. Today’s word is bailiwick
“Who Was Pappy Van Winkle and Why Does His Whiskey Cost So Much?” Enquiring minds want to know.
Things are looking grim for public transportation in Massachusetts. MBTA revenues are falling off a cliff and cuts in service could be extensive. Not what we need right now.
McDonalds is planning plant based burgers. I bet they’ll taste pretty good, too.
Our favorite local robot dog manufacturer may be moving to South Korea. Hyundai is interested in buying Boston Dynamics.
And there’s another Apple event today. This one will cover new laptops that use the same chips that power iPhones, among other things.