Year: 2018

To No One’s Surprise, Boston’s Streets Are A Nightmare

Cal Berkeley graduate student Geoff Boeing conducted a fascinating analysis of the street layout of major cities in the US and Internationally.  Meaning, how is a city’s street layout oriented relative to a traditional compass – how true is the layout to a North/South/East/West layout?  Across most major US cities, the orientation follows that of a compass.  However, to no one’s great surprise, Boston fails spectacularly in this analysis (as does Charlotte, NC for some reason).

Although [Boston] features a grid in some neighborhoods like the Back Bay and South Boston, these grids tend to not be aligned with one another, resulting in a mish-mash of competing orientations. Furthermore, these grids are not ubiquitous and Boston’s other streets wind in many directions. If you’re going north and then take a right turn, you might know that you are immediately heading east, but it’s hard to know where you’re eventually really heading in the long run.
This makes it harder for unfamiliar visitors to navigate Boston than many other US cities. It does not adhere to a straightforward north-south-east-west pattern (or any other consistent, predictable pattern) that our brains adjust to in most places, not because Boston apocryphally paved over its cow paths, but because of its age, terrain, and annexation of various independent towns.

Geoff Boeing
Image Credit: Geoff Boeing

When you look at how the International cities trend from the lens of this analysis – old, European and Asian cities that have been around forever and basically just evolved and expanded with no set ‘urban plan’ from their ancient origins – it makes sense that some of the older US cities follow the same ‘organized chaos’. 

So next time you’re driving around Boston, you can take some solace in knowing that driving around there is not for the faint of heart. 

World Cup Wallpapers

In honor of the World Cup, I went and created a set of computer/device wallpapers for each of the participating teams that mimic their kit design (home and away).  There were a handful of designs that I used a little “creative license” only because the designs were too complex and I was running out of time to meet the kickoff of the tournament.  As it was, I didn’t finish the Germany kits until over the weekend.  So check them out and be sure to download and decorate your device with your team of choice.

The Revival of Britain’s Iconic Red Phonebooth

Time and technology has marched on and both have not been kind to many things that were once iconic in Britain. The Monarchy and Royal Family, their once powerful Empire, and sadly, the Red Phonebooth.  Besides nostalgia, why would London need the red Phonebooths when everyone has their own personal phone in their pocket?  Maybe because they just look cool and have such an unique look (ahem…as it has been adopted as an icon of this very site).  And, apparently, the iconic red British Phonebooth is making somewhat of a comback:

Battered first by the march of technology and lately by the elements in junkyards, the iconic phone boxes are now staging something of a comeback. Repurposed in imaginative ways, many have reappeared on city streets and village greens housing tiny cafes, cellphone repair shops or even defibrillator machines.

The original cast-iron boxes with the domed roofs, called Kiosk No. 2 or K2, first appeared in 1926. They were designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect of the Battersea Power Station in London and Liverpool Cathedral. After becoming a staple on many British streets, the booths began disappearing in the 1980s, with the privatization of British Telecom and the rise of the mobile phone consigning most of them to the scrap heap.

About that time, Tony Inglis’s engineering and transport company got the job to remove phone boxes from the streets and auction them off. But he ended up buying hundreds of them himself, with the idea of renovating and selling them.

Today, Mr. Inglis’s operations has taken many of the old, rusted Red Phonebooths and have carefully restored them so that they can be repurposed into various functions such as housing defibrillators in rural hamlets, housing Mobile Phone repair shops, or using the Phonebooths in art installations (to name a few). As a big fan of the iconic Red Phonebooth, I am so happy to see that they are being cared for and brought back to life in various ways!

Photo Credit:  NY Times

 

We Lost An Airplane, Sir

After four years and countless search missions across the South Pacific, the search and recovery mission for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will officially come to an end later this month.

In an age when companies can create robots that can open doors and jump with perfect balance, where we can target individuals on their phones within a couple of yards, and where we can send rockets into space and then have them nail re-entry and stick the landing, we incomprehensibly are not able to create a reasonable tracking system to pinpoint the location of a freaking airplane? And in order to find out what happened when an accident or crash happens, we have to search the wreckage site for the infamous “black box” (which is not even black) that records the conversations and dialogue on the plane. What a collective embarrassment. This is an industry that is critical to global commerce and global life, and it still relies on technology, processes, and infrastructure from the 1950s. How is it possible that I can get on my iPhone and stream practically any movie I want in a matter of seconds yet the airlines are not able to use the same methodology to stream the cockpit audio to a central server farm that can be accessed and recovered irrespective of what happens to the plane itself?

I feel so bad for the families of those that were lost in the Malaysia Airlines crash. Or, maybe they did not crash. Maybe the pilot nailed an ocean landing like Sully did on the Hudson and they are living it up on a deserted island in the South Pacific, where they don’t have to concern themselves with anything other then when it is high tide.

Smells Like School Spirit

It is that time of year again – March Madness, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, where your brackets will be busted by the end of the weekend and the chances that you will win the office pool will go down in flames.  But don’t let that prevent you from showing some school spirit on your computer or mobile device. 

Head on over to my NCAA desktop backgrounds page for backgrounds of all 68 teams in this year’s field!

With some schools, there are other ‘designs’ within the other tabs on the page so hunt away if the ones in the “NCAA Tournament” tab don’t float your boat.

As a Syracuse fan for the majority of my life, I have to admit that I was extremely surprised that they made it – by the skin of their teeth –  into the Field of 68 .  So Let’s Go Orange! Let’s make some noise in this year’s tournament like we did in 2016!!

Fake News

The fine folks from Science News have done an extensive study of how fake news vs. real news is shared and accelerated across the internet:

An analysis of more than 4.5 million tweets and retweets posted from 2006 to 2017 indicates that inaccurate news stories spread faster and further on the social media platform than true stories. The research also suggests that people play a bigger role in sharing falsehoods than bots.

Martha Temming, Science News

The fundamental dynamics of this result is not terribly surprising.  It is human nature to react with surprise to ‘far fetched’ stories.  However, in today’s modern world and with social media being the vehicle that people use to share and distribute information, it would appear that a typical social user’s reaction of ‘surprise’ is manifested through a Twitter Re-Tweet or a Facebook Share.

Header image source: FactCheck

Like A Poker Player Drawing to an Inside Straight

From Vanity Fair’s Scott Turow

Robert Mueller, presumably, still doesn’t know what a truthful Manafort would have to say, but Trump does. If Manafort is, in fact, playing for a pardon, a route that even disgraced former N.S.A. chief Michael Flynn, whom Trump steadily defended, didn’t take it would speak volumes about how damaging Manafort’s testimony could be to Trump or to those close to him, such as his son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. If Manafort’s truthful testimony was simply going to absolve all of them of conspiring with the Russians, he could have made a deal long ago. Such testimony would have been as likely to earn an eventual pardon, once the smoke cleared. Manafort’s problem, then, seems to be that Mueller may already have evidence of collusion that threatens to endanger him, his former colleagues on the campaign, and possibly Trump himself.

Turow’s article does an amazing job of laying out how deftly “Bobby Three Sticks” is playing this and how Manfort’s already limited options are rapidly dwindling to nothing.  Even if Manfort holds out in the hopes of getting a pardon from 45, Mueller can still bring him in front of a grand jury because in that scenario, Manafort would have to talk as he would lose his Fifth Amendment right to silence since he has no risk of prosecution based on his testimony.  But if he lies in that scenario, he could still face the music.  If 45 fired Mueller, Washington would explode, not to mention the electorate, and impeachment hearings would start faster than you could say “kompromat”.

That’s What She Said

An enterprising Reddit user did an analysis of the total number of words that were spoken by all the characters across all 9 seasons of “The Office”. It is no surprise that Michael Scott led the way for the full series even though Steve Carell left the series after Season 7.

It is interesting that Andy and Pam are basically in a dead heat even though Andy did not enter the series until Season 3.  To a degree, the same goes for Erin and Kevin, being that Erin did not show up until Season 5! And then there is Creed…somehow averaging 431 words a season.

In digging into the numbers a little more, I found it interesting how things shifted after Steve Carell left the series. With Carell gone, you would predict that the show would have shifted its focus to Dwight and Jim and that is reflected in the fact that over the last two seasons, the average amount of words said for each of them per season increased by 69% and 31% respectively compared to the average for the previous 7.

What I found interesting though is that Andy actually saw the largest increase, more than doubling the amount of script words over the last two seasons (10,204) compared to his first 5 (4,522 on average from when he joined in Season 3) for an increase of 125%. And looking at other characters, on a relative basis, Darryl (230%), Oscar (150%) and Erin (106%) also saw large increases in attention/script words during the last two seasons.

With the recent ‘trend’ of reviving old shows/sitcoms (Trend being a relative term as the traditional networks and Hollywood has long since lost it’s inventive streak to the rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other ‘independent’ outlets…but that is a story for another day) becoming more prominent, there have inevitably been rumors of an “Office” revival. I really hope the adult in the room comes to their senses and just leave this classic series alone. Look at the ‘revival’ of Arrested Development on Netflix. Those seasons were a shell of its former self. There is no reason to mess with perfection.

Oldest Restaurant In The World

Boti­n Restaurant of Madrid, Spain has been in continuous operation since 1725.  It’s wine cellar dates from 1590 – the latter part of the Reconnaissance and not too long after DaVinci and Michelangelo were alive.  The say they have kept the fire burning in the oven 24.7 for those same 293 years, which seems a slightly outrageous claim but who am I to question it?  Their signature dish is a suckling pig roast and I bet it is spectacular – however, I’m not sure I could eat that dish with a pig’s head staring at me 

As Jules said:

JULES: I just don’t dig on swine, that’s all.
VINCENT Why not?
JULES Pigs are filthy animals. I don’t eat filthy animals.
VINCENT Yeah, but bacon tastes good. Pork chops taste good.
JULES Hey, a sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie. But I’ll never know ’cause I Wouldn’t eat the filthy motherfuckers. Pigs sleep and root in shit. That’s A filthy animal. I ain’t need nothin’ that ain’t got sense enough to disregard its own feces.

Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega – Pulp Fiction

Via Like Cool

Trouble In Paradise

From ESPN’s Seth Wickersham’s hit piece on the whole dynamic between Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and owner Robert Kraft:

Those who know Belichick and Brady well are amazed that they’ve co-existed this long, two ruthless and proud self-made men, both secure though still unfinished in their legacies, both loved and hated, both having received stiff penalties for cheating, both motivated by ego, humility and — as much as anything — doubt. Belichick is famously secretive, creating an entire system in which knowledge flows directly to him and only he decides how to deploy and exploit it. And Brady is famously unhelpful toward his backups — or, at least, a threat like Garoppolo. The two quarterbacks were friendly, but Brady — like Joe Montana to Steve Young and Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers — didn’t see it as his role to advise Garoppolo, even on matters as trivial as footwork, as nobody had helped him during his climb. Garoppolo played well in 2016, starting in place of the suspended Brady, and Belichick began to see Garoppolo as the final piece of his legacy, to walk away in a few years with the Patriots secure at quarterback. But after Garoppolo was knocked out of his second start because of a shoulder injury, he set up a visit at TB12. As he later told Patriots staffers, when he arrived, the door was locked. He knocked; nobody was there. He called TB12 trainers but nobody answered. He couldn’t believe it, Garoppolo told the staffers, and that night ended up visiting team trainers instead. Guerrero vehemently denies ever refusing to see any player, and Garoppolo was eventually treated at TB12 — but it was two weeks after he showed up for his original appointment, and only after a high-ranking Patriots staffer called TB12 to inquire why Garoppolo hadn’t been admitted.

Several times this past October, Brady met with Kraft to discuss playing longer. That same month, he also met with Belichick, who was skeptical of a long-term contract extension but was content to start Brady as long as he was the best quarterback. Belichick understood how much Brady had meant to the franchise, and had always insisted privately that he wouldn’t move on from Brady unless he could convince the coaching staff of it. But the reality was that no quarterback has ever played at a championship level into his 40s. The meeting ended in a “little blowup,” according to a source. Complicating matters was that Garoppolo would be a free agent at the end of this season. Complicating matters more was that Brady and Garoppolo share Yee as an agent.

And complicating matters even more was that Belichick didn’t want to trade Garoppolo. He had passed on dealing him last spring, when Garoppolo was in high demand. In early September, Belichick did trade third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. “If we trade Jimmy, we’re the Cleveland Browns, with no succession plan,” one person inside the organization said earlier in the year. The Patriots repeatedly offered Garoppolo four-year contract extensions, in the $17 million to $18 million range annually that would go higher if and when he succeeded Brady. Garoppolo and Yee rejected the offers out of hand, for reasons that remain unclear, and the Patriots knew they couldn’t make any promises to Garoppolo about the timing of a transition at quarterback without it getting back to Brady.

Two weeks before the Nov. 1 trading deadline, Belichick met with Kraft to discuss the quarterback situation. According to staffers, the meeting ran long, lasting half the day and pushing back Belichick’s other meetings. The office was buzzing. The meeting ended with a clear mandate to Belichick: trade Garoppolo because he would not be in the team’s long-term plans, and then, once again, find the best quarterback in the draft and develop him. Belichick was furious and demoralized, according to friends. But in the end, he did what he asks of his players and coaches: He did his job. One morning in late October, Belichick texted San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and asked him to call. Belichick had long admired Kyle’s father, Mike, who not only had been one of the NFL’s smartest tacticians but had also personally defended Belichick to commissioner Roger Goodell during the Spygate scandal. At the combine this past February, Kyle, weeks into the 49ers job after being the offensive coordinator for the Falcons, met with Belichick for hours to learn from his team’s humiliating Super Bowl loss. Belichick believed that Garoppolo would excel under Shanahan, and when he and Shanahan connected on the phone, Belichick offered the quarterback for a second-rounder.

I’ll make no secret that I have been a life long New England Patriots fan. I have been with them through thick and thin. They humored us and made the 1986 Super Bowl, only to get embarrassed by one of the great teams in NFL history – the 1986 Chicago Bears. They also made it to the 1996 Super Bowl and were in the game until the Desmond Howard kickoff return broke their spirit.

To me, the Patriots are playing with house money at this point.  Heading into the 2001 season, the prospect of the New England Patriots ever winning one Super Bowl, much less 5 (and counting) was a pipe dream.  The prospect of winning 5 (and counting) Super Bowls with a coach that was run out of Cleveland and a 6th round draft pick who played all of one season at Michigan?  Off the charts. 

I’m not saying I fully buy into the whole tone and narrative of Wickersham’s piece – I would really have liked a LOT more on-the-record quotes – but I do think that he is hitting on a festering dynamic within the walls of Foxborough.  Eighteen years on from that first Super Bowl victory, the Patriots are now a model franchise and they have the opportunity to set things up for future success once Belichick and Brady walk away.  Belichick was moving his chess pieces to ensure that the team will be set up with both the infrastructure and the talent – centered around the backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo –  to continue its string of success for many years to come.  But Brady seems to be putting his own priorities ahead of all else.  Where I think Wickersham exposes an interesting element is around the notion that Kraft meddling in football decisions does not sit well with Belichick.

I honestly wonder if Belichick did in fact get the directive to trade Garoppolo from Kraft, that he basically said “F it, if you want me to trade Jimmy G, and leave us exposed at the most important position on the field, fine.” and then went to the 49ers and put a “Don Corleone” offer (aka – one they could not refuse) on the table. 

The next few weeks will be very interesting in terms of how history will look on at this incredible run of the Patriots.