Daily Archives: January 27, 2011

Why Can’t Boston Have Nice Things?

Published January 27, 2011

From my co-worker, WBUR’s David Kenney, who experienced this himself on a trip to Norway:

The run takes about 10 minutes total. At the bottom there is a T station where you jump on a train that takes you back to the top — to go again.

The toboggan run is only 25 minutes by T from downtown Oslo.

Someone else captured the experience on video (note, there is a cuss word at the end):

[youtube url=”eYbERJyZ9E8″]

Maybe they could close Beacon Street on snow days for sledding?

Rather Than Pray For Snow Days, He Predicts Them

Published January 27, 2011

Used to be kids would sit around the radio, listening, praying for snow days. Then the Internet came along and took all the charm out of it.

"Day" written in snow

Snow day (Colin Purrington/Flickr)

And then 16-year-old David Sukhin came along and took all the waiting out of it. He invented a way to predict snow days with wicked accuracy.

One day in sixth grade, Sukhin said, he dreamed up an algorithm that would predict the likelihood of his school district cancelling classes.

He built Snow Day Calculator, a website that lets users plug in data about their location and school district. The rest is magic.

Now Sukhin (SOO-kin) is in 11th grade, in Watchung, N.J., and he uses his own website every time a storm is coming.

“I’m always nervous, every time I read the prediction and I look at the weather myself. I’m always nervous if it’s going to be right,” he told me on the phone today.

But Sukhin said it has never been wrong for him. Ever.

Sukhin is smart, so he won’t reveal his secret formula, but he offered some insight in an e-mail:

The calculator digests hour by hour information from weather.gov and extracts what time the storm will start, the time it will end, the probability of precipitation, and the average strength (inches per hour) of the storm.

Using that information it calculates the amount of inches expected to give a raw prediction. Then, accounting for things like snow removal, salting and when schools usually begin, it adds or subtracts from the chance. The amount it subtracts is based on the value from a mathematical curve for each factor. I tried to make curves that correctly simulate how the roads are and how schools react based on these factors. After averaging all the information together, out comes the prediction.

The user is also asked enter subjective data, such as a school district’s leniency and a numerical rating for the storm’s “hype.” But those numbers are really meant to nudge a borderline result, he said.

Sukhin said he spends a lot of his free time during winter reading user feedback and tweaking the interface. But the formula hasn’t changed since sixth grade.

Oh, and I was able to reach Sukhin at home because it’s a snow day for him, too. Central New Jersey got a foot of snow last night. And yes, his calculator was right.

Related Links:

Press Release Of The Day: Even Lenny Can’t Save Him

Published January 27, 2011

In the midst of last night’s snowstorm, state troopers arrested Tyler Bryan, a 25-year-old cab driver from East Somerville, on charges of drunken driving.

Police said they responded to a report of a car struck at 5:20 a.m. on Soldiers Field Road, near Leo Birmingham Parkway. They arrived to find a taxicab stuck in a snow bank, engine running, with Bryan looking very drunk. A trooper could smell alcohol.

Bryan was belligerent, police said, and insisted that comedians and Bay State natives Lenny Clarke and Denis Leary would come to his aide.

Now, drunken driving is not funny. (A drunk driver once sideswiped me and totalled my car. Drunken driving killed a high-school classmate.) But the details from the state police press release… well, you can’t make this stuff up.

Once inside the State Police cruiser BRYAN began to curse and make belligerent and nonsensical statements. He swore at the trooper, and said, initially, that he had been walking, not driving, and then claimed falsely that he had been in the passenger seat of the cab, not the driver’s seat.

BRYAN cursed during the entire ride to the Brighton State Police Barracks, and once inside became more belligerent. Told again that he was under arrest, he said he was not and was going home. He then said several times that he had been driving a snowmobile or that he had crashed into a snowmobile.

BRYAN refused to cooperate with the booking process. He insisted that he was not under arrest, and then said repeatedly that Lenny Clark [sic] and Denis Leary were going to get him out of trouble and take care of him. BRYAN also slurred the word “LLLLEEEEENNNNNYYYYY” – taking about 15 seconds to drag the name out each time — over and over.

Troopers had to hold BRYAN up at points during the booking process, as he insisted, all the while, that he was not under arrest. At one point, BRYAN put his fingers in his ears and stated, in a sing-song voice, that he could not hear the trooper who was booking him.

Bryan was also charged with refusing to identify himself to authorities. He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Brighton.

Patrick’s ‘Painful’ Budget: Who’s Getting Cut?

Published January 27, 2011

Gov. Deval Patrick has unveiled a new budget that would cut local aid, state police, public defenders and counseling for job seekers. The 2012 budget calls for $570 million in cuts — the deepest cuts in 20 years, the administration said.

Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday (AP)

Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday (AP)

The biggest victim is a program that provides emergency shelters for homeless families. As WBUR’s Fred Thys reports, some advocates for the homeless are OK with that. Patrick also proposes to increase the budget for long-term housing.

Everyone gets hit, the Globe reports. Even a bottle of Gatorade would cost an extra nickel.

The Herald notes Patrick’s budget would hike up car insurance and prescription drug co-pays. The plan would close two state prisons.

Patrick says he can save $1 billion on Medicaid (health care for poor people) by renegotiating state contracts with providers. Advocate Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation doesn’t think that’s doable, though.

Patrick is proposing to boost funding for K-12 education and programs that combat youth violence. He is also touting business-friendly tax cuts and capital investments.

Now it’s up to the Legislature to draft its own budget and quarrel with the governor over details. The 2012 fiscal year begins July 1.

Update: Reporter S.P. Sullivan at MassLive.com has a comprehensive budget roundup.