Grading on a curve

Friday. Good morning. It’s Leonard Nimoy Day.

Under Massachusetts law, any home that was the site of a homicide, suicide or other violent act can be resold without the owner having to disclose that fact to a potential buyer. That same law also, strangely, allows sellers to maintain their silence on any resident ghosts on the premises.

Boston’s restaurant grading system was supposed to mimic New York’s system, where grades are placed in the window to give customers confidence that the conditions inside are sanitary. In New York you see a lot of A’s, a few B’s and also some ‘Grade Pending’ cards. The latter can be posted if, after an inspection, a restaurant gets a B or a C grade and is cleaning up pending another inspection. Locally, Colman Herman looked at how Boston’s system is working, particularly in Dorchester. What he found was not encouraging.

A number of well-known Dorchester restaurants failed their most recent health code inspections, including the Lower Mills Tavern, Lucy’s American Tavern, Starbucks, Bowery, and Wahlburgers. All of them failed prior inspections as well.

Not good. Even the cafeteria at UMass Boston has had multiple failed inspection. But somehow all of the restaurants in Dorchester, even the ones with repeated violations, have posted A ratings in their windows. Something seems to be broken here.

It’s one ship vs. the entire global economy. Who you gonna call?

Coronavirus case numbers are ticking up in the state. I’d hate to see another wave but it looks like that’s what’s coming.

And a newspaper in Kansas City printed a blank front page as a warning of what could happen if readers and advertisers don’t support their local papers. It won’t work. The Globe has been offering an essentially empty Metro section a few days a week for quite a while now and I don’t think anyone’s even noticed.

Opportunity knocks

Today is Thursday. It’s a birthday for Aretha Franklin, Elton John and Howard Cosell.

Jack Nicholson hasn’t made a movie in 11 years. That’s too bad. A whole generation of very good actors are pushing into their eighties, as Ty Burr points out in his remembrance of George Segal.

Charlie Baker‘s approval rating slump is cited in an article at Politico by Stephanie Murray. She blames it on the absence of Trump, which I don’t buy. This is local politics mostly related to vaccine distribution. In any case, the governor’s dropping poll numbers are encouraging challengers, particularly Maura Healey. We’ll see. There are almost two years before the election and I’ll bet Baker’s numbers go back up before then.

This just in: Researchers have found that the media tend to emphasize bad news over good news. Apparently bad news keeps people engaged – they just keep coming back for more. (I think most of us have seen enough storm coverage to have figured this out for ourselves.)

It’s still too early to know if the large events scheduled for this summer on the South Shore will go on as planned. The Marshfield Fair is held towards the end of August and it’s probably safe. But the Levitate Music Festival is scheduled for early July. That one is going to be close.

And Florida woman is the new Florida man. The super-glued boxing glove was a nice touch.

Walk right in, sit right down

Well, it’s Friday. Today is the anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing.

Who will be the new US Ambassador to Ireland? Some Boston names are in the mix.

Mark Sullivan covers the Senate hearing last week on the Russia-based Solar Winds hack. The bottom line: This was a new type of attack vector that we did not see coming. It was also a huge intelligence sharing and coordination failure.

If you’re a nervous flier booking a trip, you might, as this NYT article suggests, want to research what type of plane you’ll be flying on or even the model and manufacturer of the engines. Not me. In some cases ignorance is bliss. This is one of those cases.

John Adams and Alia Beard Rau explain how to build and sustain an audience for an online newspaper, in this case the Arizona Republic. First, you have to kill the zombies.

And it looks like an arms race is brewing. The new fully-automatic Hyper Mach-100 is a step up from the pump-action Hyper Siege-50, holding a hundred rounds of ammo with a super-fast reload capability. Not your father’s Nerf guns.

Sausage making in a windowless room

Good morning on this beautiful Thursday.

Annabel Battistella, otherwise known as Fanne Foxe, died this week at 84. Her 1974 performance at the Pilgrim Theater in the combat zone, with Wilbur Mills in attendance, rocked the national political scene.

What happens in committee stays in committee. Arguments about transparency on Beacon Hill are getting personal. On the matter of releasing public testimony transcripts, CommonWealth Magazine reports that one rep said that it would be an undue burden on staff and that they didn’t have the technical capacity to do it. Coming from a member of the body that passed legislation requiring all the other government agencies in the state to jump through those same hoops, that seems just a tiny bit hypocritical.

Reply All seems to be spiraling. It was a great podcast as a quirky upstart, then it got ambitious, taking on more complex, important stories, attracting larger and larger audiences and raising expectations beyond what they could deliver organically. An unfortunate, but familiar, story arc. And one that would have made for a great episode of the old Reply All.

Alexis Madrigal poses an interesting question: How will we know when the pandemic is over? It’s not too early to start thinking about this. Personally, I’m looking forward to going places and eating things.

And the MIT Technology Review points out 10 technology breakthroughs you might have missed. This really is a good time for science and technology, despite all the political noise.


Friday. Snow is faintly falling.

In an impressive piece of hard hitting journalism, ferrets out the best places to cry in the Boston area. There’s even a map. They put a marker on the entire town of Hanover with no explanation. Weird. But then again, so is this entire premise.

There are more problems with the Massachusetts vaccine website. It crashed under load on the day vaccines were opened up to everyone over 65. The state used PrepMod software to set up the site. Hiawatha Bray reports that the company blamed the breakdown on “a sudden and unprecedented surge in traffic to the site.” Meanwhile, a woman who set up a similar website from her kitchen, for free, said her site didn’t crash because she designed it to work off an Internet cloud-based system that has ample capacity for traffic spikes. “Our site is doing just fine, which is great and to be expected, We had, like, thousands of requests per minute.”

Bad news: the Brotherhood of Thieves, on Nantucket, is closing. They lost their lease, so even if they do manage a comeback, it won’t be in the same location.

Perseverance rover made it to Mars. There were some tense moments. Then applause.

And Kalashnikov, maker of the of the AK-47, is releasing a new gun. It has wi-fi and bluetooth and can pair with your phone. Just what we needed.