Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Portland Loo Comes to Harvard Square

There goes the neighborhood... Harvard Square has been famously without public restrooms for decades. Now we're getting a Portland Loo.

The new loo is located in MacArthur Square, the traffic island between Harvard Yard, the Old Burial Ground, Flagstaff Park, and Cambridge Common on Massachusetts Avenue at the north end of Harvard Square. It's taken 22 months to bring the project to fruition from when it was first reported in February 2014.

The facility will be especially convenient to the folks who like to camp in Flagstaff Park or Cambridge Common during the warmer months, which is to say it may not prove to be terribly convenient for the rest of us. I didn't see as many of them this past summer, maybe they were run off Flagstaff Park by the mosquitoes:

Where to go next? According to the city's 2013 "When outdoors in Cambridge, where have you experienced the greatest need for public toilets?" survey, the next place we might expect a Portland Loo to go up would be along along the equally mosquito-infested left bank of the Charles River. You read it here first.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Davis Square Will Keep Its Meat Market, But Will It Keep McKinnon's?

McKinnon's in Davis Square, Somerville was closed Christmas Day, so Jim's notice in the window that "there is NO TRUTH to the rumor that McKinnon's is closing" wasn't entirely true. Where are us Scrooges expected to buy turkeys if the market is closed on Christmas Day?

I hadn't heard the rumors, but reportedly there was a bankruptcy filing at the end of November. That could just be a reorganization that let's them remain in business, we'll see. Between public works and new buildings, there has been a lot of disruptive construction across both Cambridge and Somerville that can't be good for small local businesses.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Handicapping the 2016 Race for U.S. President

Forget the polls and the expert analysis. Just who does the smart money think will win the U.S Presidency in 2016? A look at the odds:

Candidate Odds Chance
Hillary Clinton 11 to 15 45.7%
Marco Rubio 4 to 1 15.8%
Donald Trump 7 to 1 9.9%
Bernie Sanders 9 to 1 7.9%
Jeb Bush 13 to 1 5.7%
Ben Carson 20 to 1 3.8%
Ted Cruz 25 to 1 3.0%
Chris Christie 40 to 1 1.9%
John Kasich 50 to 1 1.6%
Carly Fiorina 60 to 1 1.3%
Mike Huckabee 75 to 1 1.0%
Rand Paul 150 to 1 0.5%
Martin O'Malley 175 to 1 0.5%
Bobby Jindal 200 to 1 0.4%
Rick Santorum 225 to 1 0.4%
Lindsey Graham 250 to 1 0.3%
George Pataki 300 to 1 0.3%

Note: I adjusted the percentage chance of winning to add up to 100% - the bookie takes a cut. That puts the overall race at 54% for Democrats and 46% for Republicans, which is pretty close to a 50/50 coin toss.

The way this likely goes is that Ben Carson wins Iowa and Donald Trump wins New Hampshire, then the Republican Party establishment gets down to the gritty and uncertain business of putting through their most viable candidate, who at this point in the race looks to be Marco Rubio.

The worst bet on board? Bernie Sanders - if Hillary Clinton falters, the Democrats will find someone else. The best bet? Ben Carson - he may not ultimately win but I think you'll be able to cover at better odds after Iowa.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hard to Get Excited About 2016 Election

On the Democratic side, we know it's going to be Hillary Clinton. 208 Weekends at Bernie Sander's would be too much for even Democrats to bear. (Hint: he's already dead.) Who again is Martin O'Malley? (Hint: he's polling at .5%.)

Donald Trump has made the debates interesting to watch on the Republican side. It's the great new reality TV show. However, I did miss the last episode on CNBC last night. Instead I watched the Kansas City Royals pummel the New York Mets 7-1 in game 2 of the World Series. As an old Kansas City fan from the 1970s and 1980s, that was heartening. George W. Bush has gotten a job managing the Royals under the assumed named Ned Yost. Good for him!

By national polling averages, the Republican candidates currently divide into 4 distinct groups:

(A) Donald Trump and Ben Carson at over 20%.
(B) Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Carly Fiorina at less than 10% but greater than 5%.
(C) Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, and Chris Christie at less than 5% but greater than 1%.
(D) Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki at 1% or less.

Group D, being on the undercard for the debates, is already effectively out and frankly so is Group C. The question is, when is it time to move Group C onto the debate undercard?

By all accounts Jeb Bush seems to have done the worst among the candidates in the latest debate. We'll see if that pushes his polling down to Group C. I suspect it won't, because the moderators did even worse. The rules for the next Republican debate on November 10 are to include all candidates averaging at least 2.5%. That puts Kasich and Christie on the cusp of elimination. Bush probably won't fall that far by then.

The conventional wisdom is that Group A won't make it to the end, that Trump and Carson will fade when it comes time to vote in the actual caucuses and primaries. But I don't see any reason why Carson won't win Iowa and Trump won't win New Hampshire.

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Well Regulated Militia in Connecticut & New York - Impingement But Not Infringement

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has issued a decision largely upholding the regulations passed in Connecticut and New York after the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut.

It's been ruled constitutional for those states to ban:

(1) Large‐capacity magazines (holding more than ten rounds).

(2) Semiautomatic assault weapons (whatever that means).

However, the portion of the New York law which made it illegal to load more than seven rounds into a ten round magazine was judged to be unconstitutionally stupid. I paraphrase, the actual words the court used were "does not survive intermediate scrutiny in the absence of requisite record evidence and a substantial relationship between the statutory provision and important state safety interests."

The New York legislature originally considered imposing a seven round magazine limit, however when it was pointed out that magazines weren't generally made for semiautomatic rifles in that capacity, they "graciously" allowed ten round magazines so long as they weren't loaded with more than seven bullets, except in a firing range or official shooting competition where I guess you could still legally load the full ten. The court found the obvious problem:
"New York has failed to present evidence that the mere existence of this load limit will convince any would‐be malefactors to load magazines capable of holding ten rounds with only the permissible seven."
It's good to read that, as one of the one of problems with calls for common-sense gun controls is that many of the proposals lack common sense, and usually courts won't get into that kind of second-guessing.

And what is a semiautomatic assault weapon? In Connecticut's case the list of features that turn an otherwise legal gun model into an assault weapon include a telescoping stock, a thumbhole stock, a forward pistol grip, a flash suppressor, a grenade launcher, and a threaded barrel capable of accepting a flash suppressor or silencer. In other words, you can have a semiautomatic rifle in Connecticut with a ten round magazine so long as it doesn't have any of those other features. I can't think of a single mass shooter in the U.S. who has used a grenade launcher.

The assault weapon feature list in New York also included a bayonet mount. I'd much rather have a Sandy Hook type shooter try to bayonet me with his assault weapon than spray me with bullets. He'd have to get in close, and I might be able to lodge that bayonet into a wall or car or tree effectively rendering his weapon unusable. But I digress.

The court-accepted rationale is that assault weapons, however defined, are unusually dangerous:
At least since the enactment of the federal assault‐weapons ban, semiautomatic assault weapons have been understood to pose unusual risks. When used, these weapons tend to result in more numerous wounds, more serious wounds, and more victims. These weapons are disproportionately used in crime, and particularly in criminal mass shootings like the attack in Newtown. They are also disproportionately used to kill law enforcement officers: one study shows that between 1998 and 2001, assault weapons were used to gun down at least twenty percent of officers killed in the line of duty.
The gun rights advocates tried to argue that the assault weapon term was either unconstitutionally vague or unconstitutionally banned a whole class of weapons. The court essentially said they couldn't have it both ways, if it was a class it couldn't be vague. Here's the rub:
In both states, citizens may continue to arm themselves with non-semiautomatic weapons or with any semiautomatic gun that does not contain any of the enumerated military‐style features. Similarly, while citizens may not acquire high‐capacity magazines, they can purchase any number of magazines with a capacity of ten or fewer rounds. In sum, numerous "alternatives remain for law‐abiding citizens to acquire a firearm for self‐defense." We agree with the D.C. Circuit that "the prohibition of semi‐automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines does not effectively disarm individuals or substantially affect their ability to defend themselves." The burden imposed by the challenged legislation is real, but it is not "severe."
The court concluded that the statutes "impinge upon Second Amendment rights" but ultimately did not find that they "infringe." So will this go to the U.S. Supreme Court? My cynical guess is that it probably will not, because the gun rights side probably lacks the confidence it would win and fears setting a nationwide precedent. Nonetheless, the precedent is set and it's up to each state to decide whether it wants to set these limits.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Everyone Loves a Parade

The lowboys are bigger than when I was in high school:

A band jamboree parade straight out of The Music Man (but actually a year older):

If activist street bands are your thing:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Iowa Cow Fights, Mooing, Auctions, and Landings

I am back from the family farm in Iowa. I'll let the video speak for itself:

And the bonus footage (I know, just because they have relented to let us use our electronic devices during takeoff and landing doesn't mean one should, but what else is there to do?):

The Midwest had a went summer and as a result everything is very green. This same approach during the drought of 2012 was very brown.

The long loop around Boston and over the harbor islands does tell a story you don't get from the ground.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Who Ratted Me Out to the Global Network?

I got the email below today. I was advised to keep it secret. I guess I won't be getting my $7 million download.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

And Now the Leaves Begin to Fall ...

.. in the driveway this morning. We got a hailstorm Tuesday, that explains the few maple leaves.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Get Off My Lawn, Cambridge-Style

I sympathize, but expecting the neighborhood dogs to read may be wishful thinking.

This sign on Hawthorne Street is just down the block from Longfellow Park, a very literary neighborhood, so maybe they can. There was a time in Massachusetts when a dog caught doing its business in public had to wear a scarlet #1 or #2.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Great Hilliard Street Squirrel Massacre of 2015

Get a pro? I'd want the pro who got the 11 squirrels, though their lives rate higher in the poster's mind than "rats/racoons". I'll leave it to the reader to assess the implied value of life of "dogs/cats/kids".

And how do we know it was poison? Personally, I suspect some young Jem got himself a BB gun after watching To Kill a Mockingbird just down the street in Harvard Square last weekend.

This squirrel harvest does make you wonder what's on the menu at Darwin's, the sandwich shop at the end of the street:
"The Hilliard... Smoked Turkey Breast, Dill Harvarti, Dijon Mustard, Lettuce and Tomato $8.30."
The counter staff at Darwin's have been rude to me for 20 years, so I spit rhetorically in their food. Dijon mustard, it's Grey Squirrel Poupon.

Monday, July 13, 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird in Harvard Square

The movie To Kill a Mockingbird was shown Saturday Night in the Palmer Street alley between the Coop buildings. If you missed it, it will also be shown on Monday night under the sponsorship of the Harvard Square Bookstore at the Brattle Theater, after which the Coop and the Harvard Square Bookstore will fight at midnight for the right to sell you the newly published but musty Harper Lee novel, Go Set a Watchman.

Scout on the tire swing, which will later be rolled down the street with her inside it.

Scout and Atticus, still on his pedestal for a couple more days. In the new book, which features an adult Scout in the 1950s, Atticus is said to be portrayed as a racist segregationist. So Scout grows to not admire her father so much as she did as a kid.

The liberal with a rifle scene. Unlike the "shoot the rabid dog" scene in Old Yeller, you don't want to cry.

Doomed defendant with his lawyer. Atticus should never have put Tom Robinson on the witness stand. Yeah, right, the deputy was shooting to wound and missed his aim.

The Halloween Ham. I've always suspected Scout has a knife in there.

Boo Radley gets the credit for knifing Bob Ewell. But did he?

I read To Kill a Mockingbird at the Carnegie Library in my hometown when I was a kid. The book focuses on Scout, the movie focuses on Gregory Peck as Atticus. I think the new book, which Harper Lee actually wrote first, will put the focus back on Scout.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

You Celebrate 1776 While We Celebrate 1775

And remember 1770 too.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Gallery of Obsolescence

Self-portrait of this blogger as reflected in an old pay phone.

Hole punch system for train tickets. I wish I had video of the conductor. Instead I've got a picture of my finger.

These days, the train trestle at the BU Bridge carries more graffiti than trains.

What passes for agriculture in these parts.

New publish-on-demand book press at Harvard Bookstore already feels obsolete.

Trust me, the new art installation in the Radcliffe Yard is no more interesting if you do touch the stalks and sensors. Perhaps it needs a reboot.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cambridge Street Scenes May 2015

I'm not sure this note will work but admire the effort. It's got a ready answer for the hearing officer trying to say, "A broken meter just proves you didn't pay."

This effort seems a little lazy. You want the meter maid traffic enforcement officer to be able to read your whole note before lifting the wiper to insert the ticket. You don't want to admit you didn't pay.

Brazilian barbecue skewers in the window at the Midwest Grill. I'm a little afraid of this place. Every few minutes the servers come around to bring you more meat.

Boston geese can't read. Cambridge geese would keep off the grass.

Make way for goslings.

"Unattended children will be given espresso" is a promise you may not want to keep.

Speaking of expressive unattended children ...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fifty Shades of Snow

The record winter of 2015 is gone but not entirely forgotten:

Last snow pile in Cambridge on April 19, in the parking lot at Fresh Pond Mall.

At home, here was the Great Wall of Snow on February 16, after what turned out to be the last major snowstorm.

The last remnant of the Great Wall of Snow on April 8.

A study in contrasts:

Lilly white Radcliffe Yard.

Well trod and crisscrossed Harvard Yard.

Life finds a way:

March 6.

March 12.

April 2.

For the buried bicycles ...

... the winter did not always end well:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Calm Between the Snowstorms

A few days after the big blizzard, things had gotten back to normal in Harvard Square.

And in the neighborhood, we were even seeing the garbage at the end of the snow tunnel.

But we are getting more snow this weekend and continuing into Monday.

It took the couple who own this car snowbank 45 minutes to dig it out Sunday afternoon.On Sunday night it's well on its way to getting plowed back in.

My Jeep is ready to go just as soon as I brush the snow off the windows, which I'm not doing because the inspection sticker expired February 1.

This is what counts as a plowed street after two weeks of snowstorms. My Jeep needs that berm of snow to protect it from the idiots with poor traction trying to come up that ever-so-slight hill.

Here's another walkabout, between the snowstorms.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Great Unhistoric Blizzard of 2015

The Wikipedia page for the storm was up 12 hours before the snow started and the forecasters were touting it as a historic 30-incher. The New Yorkers, who only got 10 or 11 inches, are now calling it the Snor'easter. Here in Massachusetts, the snow came in light and fluffy which was much better than the prediction of heavy wet snow that would bring down trees and power lines, but we did get the inches forecast.

A hundred some years ago, some Harvard Professor dredged up an inscription for the New York City Post Office: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Who knows how many U.S. postmen suffered unnecessarily for that creed. But here in New England, at least, we've gotten wise to the fact that people don't want to dig a path for the postman in the middle of a blizzard.

Scene from the window Tuesday morning.

Scene from the back porch. You can see how fine and dry the snow was to filter through the slits in the porch floor.

The main roads were clear with only snow plows for traffic due to a state-ordered and probably unnecessary travel ban. There was nowhere to go.

An afternoon walk found some kids sledding and the neighborhood market and pizza place closed.

Snow fell through the day and the wind blew it around, so digging out didn't begin until mid-afternoon.

Scene on the neighborhood street early this evening.

Mini Cooper or snow drift?

The aerodynamic design of the newest models is also conducive to drifting.

All the cool people point their wipers skyward before a big snowstorm. That's supposed to protect the wipers from the weight of snow sliding down the windshield, if they don't get blown off in the wind.