Saturday, October 22, 2016

Formula 1 qualifying, Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas

It was an amazing day at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Qualifying for tomorrow's U.S. Grand Prix was on, and the fans came out in force in spectacular weather, a cloudless sky, warm sunshine.

I had the chance to walk pit lane in a pre-qualifying event as the teams worked on their cars before heading out on track to establish the starting grid for Sunday's race.

Yes, the Mercedes team is still dominant much to Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo's dismay. Ricciardo was leading until the real drama broke out between the Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Hamilton is trying to claw his way back into the season points lead against teammate Rosberg as the F1 season enters its final weeks. The two of them staged a 1, 2 finish today, with Hamilton besting Rosberg by only 0.2 seconds. (So good was today's driving in fact, the top four finishers -- Hamilton, Rosberg both of Mercedes, Ricciardo, Verstappen both of Red Bull -- were only separated by 0.7 seconds.)

But that wasn't it for me. The pleasure was just in being there, drinking it all in. I share my photos from today's qualifying at COTA for your enjoyment too ...

Pirelli knows, tires may look like rainbows but they are the whole story

Sebastian and Kimi

A nose without a tail



Pit row


The Haas Team makes its home debut

It's hard to imagine these cars are going about 200 m.p.h. 

Stay cool out there!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Grab Bag: F1; Red Line; Donald Trump

It's a Friday, so it's Grab Bag Day.

I'm in a rainy NYC, getting ready to head down to Austin, Texas for the Formula 1 race on Sunday. I'm looking forward to watching the Ferrari team in particular. Check back here for more updates to come.

Switching gears for a moment, I realized that Runcible Greevey is barking up the wrong tree. He shouldn't be focused on rewriting Joyce's Ulysses, this time located on Boston's Red Line. That's not the right story. The right story is reading Ulysses while riding on the Red Line. More to come.

Finally, since we all are talking about nothing but Donald Trump, here's another dig at him ...

Donald Trump, the candidate who's making two promises to the American people:

  1. If he wins, we become a dictatorship 
  2. If he loses, we become a banana republic 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Good and bad, I define these terms ...

... Quite clear, no doubt, somehow

Congratulations to Bob Dylan for all the eyes he has opened and 
all the hearts and minds he has changed here and around the world 

... Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Belmont Drives Electric supports electric vehicles in the community last Saturday

Belmont Drives Electric, a community program designed to promote the use of electric vehicles in the town, brought people and electric cars together at Belmont High School last Saturday. People enjoyed rides in Teslas and they got the chance to drive Chevy Volts, Nissan Leafs, and various cars from Ford.

Done in conjunction with the municipal lighting company, Belmont Light, the idea is to introduce drivers to the total experience of electric vehicles, the smooth ride, the easy acceleration, the fuel economy. As people become more familiar with the cars, so the thinking goes, choosing an electron-powered car over a gas-powered one at their next purchase will be an easier decision. One participant said that the carbon footprint of an electric is about half that of a gas-powered one over the lifetime of the car (construction impacts included) and, he continued, getting someone to drive an electric is less challenging than to get them to cut their annual total road miles in half.

From the utility's perspective, Belmont Light sees more electrics coming online over the next few years. To manage the electricity demands that will place on the municipal system, they joined with Belmont Drives Electric to tell people, charge at night, when demand is low and rates can be cheaper. As a residential community, Belmont sees their peak demand for electricity right at the end of the work day when people return home and turn on lights and computers and television sets. If people plug in their cars then too, that could overload the system, particularly in the warmer summer months when air conditioners also are running.

I had the chance to talk with Ian Todreas and Marty Bitner, co-chairs of Belmont Drives Electric ( and organizers of the event. Here's our conversation. [Apologies for some of the audio. There was wind that day, and the mic picked it up.]

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Grab Bag: Donald Trump is going truly, terribly mad

As spectacular as Michelle Obama's speech in New Hampshire was on Thursday, equally as unsettling was Donald Trump's rant in Florida on the same day. As Trump takes on more and more a Hitlerian tone, the paranoid megalomaniac looking for broad-based conspiracies by unnamed conspirators to explain his own failings, it occurs to me that American liberals and conservatives fixate on different years when they draw lessons about Hitler from 1933 to 1945. 

Conservatives obsess with 1938, and they hold out Neville Chamberlain as its most reviled villain. That year to them marks the low point of Western democratic weakness. In the face of a fascist's endless appetite for land in Europe, Chamberlain buckled under pressure, acceded to Hitler's demands over the Sudetenland and consequently, invited a European war. American conservatives hold up Winston Churchill as the antithesis of this - quintessential British bulldog, stout, resolute, clear-eyed, unafraid. It was Churchill who said in a 1940 radio address, "each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last." 

In a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria observes that over the past 18 months, very much like their caricature of the hated Chamberlain, Republican leaders have done nothing but appease Trump as he slowly annexed their party, 
The Republican establishment could have stopped Trump but instead surrendered to him months, perhaps years, ago. When they want to criticize opponents for being weak-kneed, Republicans often recall Neville Chamberlain and his policy of appeasing Adolph Hitler. And yet that is exactly the approach that the party's senior leaders took with Trump -- appeasing him in the hope that doing so would satisfy his appetites.

Can you spell "crocodile?"

To liberals, the crucial year isn't 1938. It's 1933. That was the year when the people, broadly defined, had the chance to stop Hitler at the ballot box. (It is important to remember that Hitler actually lost the 1932 German presidential election. It was his appointment as chancellor in the following January by newly-elected German president von Hindenburg that began his ascent to power.) Liberals are clear, the time to stop a madman is now, when the people still have a say. 

Americans will endure the next 24 days watching one of the candidates grow increasingly unhinged, a shadow boxer apparently less interested in leading his country than in landing punches against his enemies both real and imagined. 

We must hope that unlike Germany in 1933, our democratic institutions and our leaders and the social mores that underpin them are sufficiently strong to endure charges of "lies, plans and fraud," charges that will undoubtedly emerge not only from Trump's mouth, but also from his increasing agitated, threatening and potentially violent supporters. 

In that sense, maybe conservatives are right. If we get to our own 1938, it will already be too late.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Dr. Bernard "Joe" Lavins, Jr., bicyclist. Died October 5, 2016

Fellow bicyclists came out to Porter Square in numbers last night to remember Dr. Bernard "Joe" Lavins Jr., 60, an avid bike commuter who was killed last Wednesday as he transited through that busy Cambridge intersection on his morning ride into work.

An estimated 100 participants sang songs, read poems and listened attentively to Reverend Laura Everett from the Massachusetts Council of Churches as she led the dedication of the Ghost Bike, the urban memorial marking the death or injury of a cyclist.

Friends and co-workers from Ironwood Pharmaceuticals where Joe worked joined riders who had never met the man as they stood silently on a brisk night reflecting on a life lived. Members of Cambridge police and elected officials were on hand as well. Colleagues remembered Joe as someone who didn't want to waste time in his car every morning, so two years ago he decided to ride in to work from his home in Lexington.

On October 5th, as Joe was pedaling through Porter Square, he was hit by an 18-wheel tractor trailer truck. Reports say he was rolled under the wheels and suffered extensive damage to his body. A police officer last night remarked that in 30 years on the job, he had never seen a bike accident this bad.  Unspoken but not unthought, many a rider considered their own fate. "There but for the grace of God go I," one said.

Joe Lavins leaves behind a wife and daughter.

If you would like to learn more about efforts to make our streets safe, read about Vision Zero at Transportation Alternatives, a New York based organization, is planning a conference on Vision Zero next year. Check back here for more information about that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Three good things Donald Trump has done for the Republican Party

Here are three good things Donald Trump has done for the Republican Party, and this is a non-ironic list:

  1. He has broken the decades-long stranglehold Christian theocrats have had over the party.
  2. He has halted, at least temporarily, the mindless genuflecting of its policy professionals to the Tax Cut Gods.
  3. He has exposed the monochrome whiteness of the party which in turn has exposed its racism.

The fact his candidacy also has distorted the party beyond recognition and turned it into a fringe, minority opposition group of racists, fascists, xenophobes, Know Nothings, misogynists and other anti-American malcontents will have wait for another blog post.