The levers of power

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.

Coming down the tracks

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.”

Here comes the pain train

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.

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.

Barn door open

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.