Posts tagged with "The Boston Globe"

Test your board game skills at the virtual Mind Sports Olympiad

July 23, 2020

Are you a master at Scrabble? A wizard at chess? A sought-out partner at bridge? Or a genius at Settlers of Catan? Then this just might be the perfect time to sign up for the annual Mind Sports Olympiad (MSO), a tabletop gaming and skills tournament going virtual amid the pandemic, reports The Boston Globe.

The event 15th annual event runs through the month of August, and registration is free to global audiences this year.

“Now is an amazing time to go global,” said event organizer Etan Ilfeld. “People everywhere are sharpening their skills and can put them to the test here.”

Gamers can sign up for classic events, like Bridge, Countdown, Draughts, and Checkers, or multi-player games including Ticket to Ride, Dominion, Quatro, 7 Wonders, and Kingdomino. The tournament also hosts exam-style activities — a speed reading and creative-thinking test, an intelligence challenge, a mental calculations quiz, and Sudoku.

Started in 1997, the MSO usually accommodates around 1,800 gamers every year for a week in London. Ilfeld hopes the upcoming remote alternative will attract at least double, or even triple, the number of participants, he told The Boston Globe.

“We designed it so it’s time-zone-friendly for the States,” he said. “It’ll be quite an event for sure, so we wanted it to be accessible to as many people as possible.”

A handful of games, like Rummikub , could not be translated online but have been replaced by new additions. TBA prizes will be awarded to winners.

The event starts Aug. 1 and each tournament competition is pre-scheduled and described on www.msoworld.com. Registration is required.

Among the sponsors and partners of the competition are Mensa, the World BackGammon Federation, the World Puzzle Federation, Europe Masters, and London On Board.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Bloomberg: California and Massachusetts are the most innovative U.S. states

June 25, 2020

For the second consecutive year, California and Massachusetts have taken the first and second spots, respectively, in Bloomberg’s annual State Innovation Index.

According to a report by The Boston Globe, the ranking is based on six equally weighted metrics: research and development intensity, productivity, clusters of companies in technology, STEM jobs, residents with degrees in science and engineering, and patent activity.

California and Massachusetts’ success dates back more than 150 years ago with the creation of land-grant universities under the Morrill Act, according to New York University Stern School of Business economist Paul Romer.

The Morrill Land Grand Act of 1862 helped boost higher education in America by granting states public land. That land could be sold and the proceeds earned could be used to establish colleges. Massachusetts Institute of Technology was among the earliest recipients of the act, which served as the basis for many other institutions, including the University of California and Washington State University.

These schools “and their counterparts in every state created a new type of university—distinguished by a practical focus on problem solving that the world had never seen,” Romer, co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, said in a telephone interview with The Boston Globe.. “The success of California and Massachusetts is a sign of the high level of investment that those states have made in their university and research systems.”

California ranked number-one in the Bloomberg index for patent activity and second for both technology-company density and concentration of science- and engineering-degree holders. Its state university system and pre-eminence in research—along with private Stanford University—have been influential in building Silicon Valley headquarters for established tech companies and budding startups.

Last year, entrepreneurs there received more than $67 billion in venture-capital funding, according to data from PitchBook. That’s more than three times New York, the second-highest state for deal flow.

According to a joint report from PwC and CB Insights, the top five highest-valued private U.S. tech companies are all California-based: JUUL Labs, Stripe, Airbnb, SpaceX and Palantir Technologies.

In addition, among U.S. companies that went public last year, the five reaping the highest year-to-date returns also are in California: Zoom Video Communications, IT-service provider Fastly and life-science specialty businesses Vir Biotechnology, Livongo Health and IDEAYA Biosciences.

Second place Massachusetts took the crown for tech-company density. General Electric, Raytheon, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Biogen are headquartered in the Northeastern state. Prior to the pandemic, Boston-based Toast—a restaurant-management platform— was a venture-capital favorite. The startup raised $400 million at a $4.9 billion valuation in February.

Rounding out the top five are number three, Washington State; number four, Connecticut; and Oregon, which jumped two spots to number five.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Six free and low-cost virtual summer camps for kids that offer coding, drama, activism, more

June 12, 2020

While many traditional U.S. summer camps still are trying to figure out how to social-distance and mask everyone on-site for virus-free fun, others have pivoted to virtual programming. These free and low-cost (with financial aid) camps have created online sessions to provide a world of interactive fun, learning, and adventure for children while they shelter in place, The Boston Globe reports.

Among the programs being offered are the following:

  • All about the drama: Kidstock! is bringing its theater programs online beginning June 22. Programming is available for kids ages 4-14, and spans creative coursework, such as Improvi-Zoom-Ation and Monolog-In Class, and morning-long Sleep at Home camp. Kids can participate in ready-to-be-written parody musical productions, aptly titled “How to Succeed Online without Really Trying” (about a too-good-to-be-true website that guarantees success) and “A Chorus Online” (fame-seeking influencers). Weekly rehearsals and performances are conducted via Zoom, edited into a streamlined production, and officially premiered on YouTube at the end of each session. Programs start at $100 and financial aid is available. kidstocktheater.com
  • Youth on the rise: YEA’s (Youth Empowered Action) leadership training camp for students ages 10-17 goes virtual starting July 13. The one- to four-week program focuses on a series of progress-driven sessions, including Amplifying Your Message and Careers for Changemakers. The next generation of advocates, allies, and activists can participate in practical skill-building workshops and recreational activities, including yoga, breakout sessions, and open mic night, via Zoom. Call-in options will be available for anyone without Internet access.. Sessions start at $300, and financial aid—up to the full fee—is available . org.
  • Little divas: New York’s Metropolitan Opera is offering an eight-week Global Summer Camp free of charge. Hosted via Zoom and Google Classroom, the Monday-Friday program encourages campers (divided into age groups, 8-12 and 12-18) to explore the layered art of opera with hands-on learning activities, planned around common household materials; and interactive, live chats with professional stage artists. The program will focus on one opera per week—all activities are available a la carte—starting with “Hansel and Gretel” on June 15 and ending with Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” on August 3. Learn more at metopera.org/education/
  • Game, set, read: Tenacity will continue to offer its Boston and Worcester (Massachusetts)-based reading and tennis programs free of charge starting July 6. The 20-year-old organization plans to provide virtual sessions for 2020—but depending on state guidelines, they hope to offer on-court tennis skill activities in partnership with Boston Parks and Recreation, as well. Tennis stars-in-training ages 6-16 will split their time between virtual classes, Zoom parties, and fitness drills; while the Tenacity team and AmericCorps Fellows touch base weekly to uplift campers and check in on access to food, Internet, and computers. Learn more at org
  • Code quest: Destinations Career Academy will offer two-week, tuition-free online coding programs for rising students in grades 8-11 this summer. Campers can pick between Video Game Design and Programming (June 15-25) or Virtual Reality (July 6-16). They’ll learn block-coding and HTML basics, while developing original digital creations—including a multiplayer sports game and an interactive VR world. Rising students grades 9-11 also can sign up for a month-long, credit-available Career Explorations course to learn more about opportunities and concepts for jobs across tech, health care, and business and marketing. Learn more at destinationsacademy.com
  • Access to fun: Children with life-threatening and serious illnesses can find recreational refuge via a virtual camp experience from SeriousFun. Spanning the globe, several locations from Paul Newman’s always free-of-charge, all-ages camp provide online programming through the summer—including California’s The Painted Turtle, New York’s Double H Ranch, and Roundup River Ranchin Colorado. Expect traditional camp fun in the comfort of your own home—no hands lunch, make your own ice cream, and circle sing-alongs. Virtual support programming for parents and caregivers is also available. Get more information at org

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Back to the soil in Boston: An almost-instant vegetable garden for novice growers

May 6, 2020

You won’t need any gardening experience to grow some organic vegetables from home this spring. Boston Victory Gardens has made the enterprise as foolproof as possible with its launch of at-home container gardens.

Founded by landscape designers Ellen Abdow, owner of Perennial Gardens, and Jenn Nawada, owner of Nawada Landscape Design and lead landscaper on PBS’s “This Old House,” Boston Victory Gardens delivers pre-planted, portable vegetable gardens to Greater Boston customers’ doors.

Abdow and Nawada teamed up to create a new business when sheltering-at-home customers showed interest in growing their own produce, The Boston Globe reports. They love gardens, but they don’t have any experience gardening, Abdow said of her clients. “And one thing that we know is being with plants and growing really does help you feel good,” she added.

Each box arrives full of vegetable plants and seeds packed into the soil so that new plants sprout after the first round goes out of season. The company offers a range of themed boxes from Taco Tuesday, containing hot peppers, tomatoes, and other ingredients you’d find in a taco; to Mixologist, comprising herbs handy for cocktails; and the Green Monstah, devoted to classic salad vegetables.

Starting at $225, the boxes aren’t cheap, but they’re designed to be easy to cultivate. Nawada, an expert in soil and plant science, explains that each is filled with engineered soil and is horticulturally failure resistant, meaning even the most inexperienced gardeners can collect the fruits of their labor.

The 3-foot by 1-foot large boxes come with some plants ready to be harvested and are made to last through multiple growing seasons. Smaller sizes also are available, according to the Globe. As long as gardeners water and trim the sprouts, some vegetables like carrots and herbs can last until the winter frost.

he company provides plant care instructions and recipes with each order. “I think this is a great testing zone to start small and then maybe expand next year into another garden,” Nawada said.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Emptier roads, fuller pockets: Auto insurance customers get payback from Allstate, AFI

April 8, 2020

Never before have so many vehicles in the United States been “off-road.” In recognition of customers who are not only self-isolating, but also sheltering their cars in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, auto insurers Allstate and American Family Insurance are returning some money to drivers nationwide, The Boston Globe reports.

On April 6, Allstate announced on its site, “As we all work together to slow the spread of COVID-19, more of us are at home and driving less, which means having fewer accidents. Given this decline in driving, we are announcing the Allstate Shelter-in-Place Payback of more than $600 million in April and May for our auto insurance customers.

Allstate CEO Tom Wilson said in his company’s statement. “This is fair because less driving means fewer accidents.”

American Family Insurance said it plans to return about $200 million to its auto insurance customers through a one-time payment of $50 per covered vehicle, the Globe says.

States across the country have issued stay-at-home mandates to help slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus. That’s led to a decline of about 35%t to 50% in driving in most states, Wilson said.

“We started with one week of data and we sat down and said, ‘OK, what do we do about this?’ It’s one week of data. We don’t normally price on one week of data,” Wilson said on a media conference call Monday. “In about a week and half, we pulled this off. There was not one debate in our company about whether we should do this or not.”

Allstate said its first-quarter underwriting income will be cut by about $210 million before taxes because of the payback to holders of 18 million policies, with the remainder of the payback to be recognized in the second quarter. The company is also offering free identity protection for the rest of the year and payment relief for struggling customers, the Globe reported..

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Skiers and suppliers donate goggles to healthcare workers in desperate need of PPE

April 3, 2020

As healthcare professionals continue to face severe supply shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid a global pandemic, one of the many makeshift solutions to the problem has been implemented by the winter sports community, The Boston Globe reports.

Skiers and snowboarders, like other sports enthusiasts, had their season cut short by the measures intended to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 outbreak. But thanks to a newly created New England-based organization, they can help pitch in to remedy the shortage of protective medical equipment.

Goggles For Docs is helping companies and individuals donate ski and snowboard goggles to hospitals for use as personal protective equipment (PPE). It was started by Jon Schaefer, co-owner and general manager of Catamount and Berkshire East ski areas.

Schaefer, who led the charge to close ski areas due to the threat of the coronavirus, noted that his heightened awareness was because of direct connections with the healthcare world.

“My wife is a physician’s assistant at Berkshire Medical Center, and there was an early outbreak in Pittsfield,” Schaefer said. “I know a lot of the doctors there. I have a friend who intubated patient zero in Vermont, so I guess I had a direct line to the stress.”

But. he said, the inspiration for the donations came on Saturday, March 28: “A friend of a friend, who is a physician in New York emailed me asking for ski goggles for the health care workers there. That email went out to six of us. Within 20 minutes, I was getting that same email forwarded to me from other friends. All I could think of is, jeez, this doctor is going to get 10,000 pairs of Smith goggles sent to his house and that’s not a very efficient use of resources.”

Schaefer started a Google sheet and a contact list. Pretty soon, the list of hospitals signing up went from one to six.  On Sunday morning, he woke up to what seemed like 500 emails.

One of the messages that came to Schaefer, who is, himself, a former Middlebury College Division 1 ski racer, contained a message from Trevor Crist, the CEO of Inntopia — a Stowe-based ski resort software company, offering whatever help was needed in getting things more organized.

“I knew the company, but had never spoken [to] or heard from these guys before,” says Schaefer.  “On a return trip from a local grocery, I started fleshing out a website on a phone call with them.” The Goggles for Docs site went online at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

“ All the while the word was spreading at the hospital level. “Even as we were on the phone building this, three more hospitals signed up,” Schaefer said.

As of Monday evening, March 30, nearly 2,000 used and new goggles were being sent to hospitals in seven states—and requests to organize have come in from hospitals as far away as New Zealand and Spain. On Monday night, ten more hospitals signed up, with a stated need of nearly 1,000 more goggles.

“I’m not sure how it works on their end, but doctors have told me two things: First, that they need goggles as COVID-19 can be transmitted with, say a direct cough to the eyeball, and second, that they can take care of disinfecting and distributing them,” Schaefer said.

While Schaefer’s wife is not currently wearing goggles as her hospital has adequate supplies of eyewear, Schaefer says that Berkshire Medical Center has put in an order for 300 and their need was met by the public with a large contribution, 217, coming from Uvex.

He told The Boston Globe, “What’s crazy about this whole thing is one day we’re all going to meet,” Schaefer said of the hundreds of volunteers. “There’s this whole team that’s developed, and only a handful of us that know each other face to face.

“Everybody wants to help. The one thing I think we did was connect people with a lot of passion to help and a motivated ski community with people that are really asking for help. If anything, maybe in that there’s just a little bit of hope. People are fired up.”

“I didn’t wake up this week thinking I was going to be the COVID Goggle Guy — we have a lot to take care of at our businesses now too,” says Schaefer. “It was just one thing that we as a ski industry could do to help.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Walmart to check worker temps, and provide masks and gloves

April 2, 2020

Walmart has some new “people greeters”—but they are for employees, not customers. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant will begin checking workers’ temperatures this month, and providing them with gloves and masks—stepping up its safety protocols as it hires roughly 5,000 employees a day to meet heightened demand during the coronavirus crisis, The Boston Globe reports.

The company is shipping infrared thermometers to all its stores so that employees can have their temperatures checked when they report for work, the company announced in a blog post. The thermometers should arrive in three weeks.

The masks will arrive within two weeks. Walmart notes, “They will be high-quality masks, but not N95 respirators—which should be reserved for at-risk healthcare workers.

“We encourage anyone who would like to wear a mask or gloves at work to ask their supervisor for them,” the retailer says, “while keeping in mind that it is still possible to spread germs while wearing them.”

“Any associate with a temperature of 100.0 degrees will be paid for reporting to work and asked to return home and seek medical treatment if necessary,” the blog post said, adding, “The associate will not be able to return to work until they are fever-free for at least three days.”

Walmart said its employees are eligible for as much as two weeks paid leave, if they are required to quarantine; and that absences would not be held against them.

Most retailers have been pummeled by the coronavirus shutdown. Indeed, the United States had a record 3.3 million jobless claims last week—but not Walmart. The nation’s largest private employer has ramped up hiring and is on track to have 150,000 jobs filled by the end of May, executives announced in a call with reporters on Tuesday.

The company has shortened its hiring process from an average of two weeks to “as little as 24 hours,” HR Dive reported.

The company promises, as it continues to build up its workforce, “We will continue to consult with health officials and experts inside and outside Walmart as this situation evolves. We greatly appreciate the work our associates are doing for customers, members, and their communities, and we will continue to prioritize their health and well-being.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Boston Globe does an about-face to endorse Elizabeth Warren

February 27, 2020

After labeling Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren as the wrong candidate for 2020 in a scornful editorial in December 2018, The Boston Globe has executed a complete flip-flop.

“… One candidate stands out as a leader with the qualifications, the track record, and the tenacity to defend the principles of democracy, bring fairness to an economy that is excluding too many Americans, and advance a progressive agenda,” The Globe said on February 26 in an endorsement of Warren, adding, “She would fight the corruption and corporate influence that distort our politics, lift up working families, and combat gun violence and climate change.”

The newspaper’s editorial board said the 70-year-old politician and former academic, who has served the state as senator since 2013, “has proved us wrong and has shaped the course of the race for the better. The electorate, at least in recent polls and in the early states, is signaling its preference for the profound change that underpins Warren’s agenda.”

Indeed, the Globe believes, Warren would be the best rival for President Donald Trump on the debate stage. Fearless and brilliant on her feet, Warren has the greatest potential among the candidates to lay bare Trump’s weaknesses on a debate stage.”

The complete text of the endorsement is available here.

By contrast,  in December 2018, the Globe’s editorial board poured scorn on a potential bid by its home state senator, saying:  “Warren missed her moment in 2016, and there’s reason to be skeptical of her prospective candidacy in 2020.”

The paper went on at that time to characterize Warren as “a divisive figure” and not the “unifying voice” it said the country needed following “the polarizing politics of Donald Trump.”

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

Founder of JetBlue is set to launch Breeze Airways in 2020

February 17, 2020

Twenty years have just flown by since David Neeleman founded Jet Blue; and now he has another air carrier—this one targeted at customers of midsize, underserved airports—ready to take off, The Boston Globe reports.

Called Breeze Airways, the carrier will begin operations at the end of 2020, flying to airports in the eastern United States; with plans to go national, and then international.

Breeze Airways is the fifth airline start-up for David Neeleman—with Morris Air, WestJet, JetBlue Airways, and Azul Brazilian Airlines already in his portfolio—and last week, after more than a year of anticipation, he finally made it official.

“Breeze will fly nonstop service between places currently without meaningful or affordable service,” he said in a release. “Twenty years ago, we brought humanity back to the airline industry with JetBlue. Today, we’re excited to introduce plans for ‘the World’s Nicest Airline.’”

Neeleman didn’t offer specifics of how Breeze will be the world’s nicest airline (fingers crossed it will live up to the slogan), nor did he announce airports that would be served, the Globe said.

The airline will be headquartered in Salt Lake City, but in its application for an air carrier’s certificate, the company told U.S. regulators that destinations will be “secondary leisure markets” that are affordable to budget travelers. The application also said that Breeze will begin with routes east of the Mississippi, “primarily north-south.”

“Over the last decade, the major US airlines have consolidated and concentrated their efforts at fortress hubs,” the announcement for Breeze reads. “Resulting in diminished air travel options for entire segments of the country, with many routes now only served by connecting flights.”

Breeze has ordered 60 brand-new Airbus A220-300 aircraft, with deliveries beginning in April 2021, and has leased 30 Embraer 195 aircraft from Azul, which will deliver starting May 2020. The A220 will be used for nonstop flights between midsize markets; while the E195s, which are plentiful and inexpensive, can connect smaller markets.

Research contact: @FlyBreezeAir

Staples reinvented: Office supplies, a podcasting studio, co-working space, and career coaching

February 3, 2020

The floor-to-ceiling aisles of Post-it Notes, pushpins, pencils, and printer paper? History. The endless rows of three-ring binders and back-to-school bargains? Gone.

Instead, there are light-filled co-working spaces with snack-stocked kitchens, digitally tricked-out meeting rooms, and podcasting studios, reports The Boston Globe of the new concept for the 30-year-old retain chain—now being tested in Massachusetts.

Meet the new Staples: It’s not just an office supply superstore anymore, it is, the company puts it, a “destination dedicated to continued curiosity, growth, and development.”

Staples built a leading national brand as the traditional stationery store on steroids when it first started out in 1986, the Globe says. But since then, the workplace—and how we shop for i —have undergone transformational changes. Cloud-based computing, telecommuting, and the ease of one-click ordering have diminished demand for big-box stores stocked with reams of paper, the new outlet notes.

 Now, in a dramatic effort to stay relevant, Staples is recasting itself as a place where you can co-work, record a podcast, stock up for your next Uber shift—or even get fingerprinted for a job.

“It’s not about product anymore. That’s something you can buy anywhere online,” Michael Motz, chief executive of the Staples U.S. Retail group told the Globe as he loped across one of the newly renovated Staples Connect stores in Needham, Massachusetts. “It’s about, how can we provide solutions for you? It’s the connection to your everyday life.”

But whether the full-scale makeover will be enough to steer the company into better financial health remains to be seen.

“It’s about us being more relevant and part of the community,” Motz said.

Staples used to devote just 10% of each store’s footprint to offering services like printing and shipping, said Brian Coupland, the company’s VP of Retail Merchandising. About half of the redesigned Needham store’s layout is dedicated to services now—with desks renting for $299 a month, and private offices for $599 a month (in downtown Boston co-working desks rent for $499 a month and offices go for $999 monthly).

Members and store customers can get free access to fancy AV-enabled meeting rooms that will also host seminars and workshops. And members can use podcast studios gratis (available to nonmembers for $60 an hour). Concierge services like legal, funding, or HR advice are available for small-business customers. And anyone can apply for a TSA PreCheck, a special state license, or a background check.

According to the Globe, even the store aisles “feel less cluttered and more playful than they once did; in the pen section, doodle pads invite customers to try a drawing challenge and a crafting section includes displays of paper cut into floral designs.”

 Coupland said outside consultants helped them to upend their traditional approach to office supplies, resulting in products like its new patented “squircle” highlighter markers (they have square edges so they won’t roll off desks). And kiosks offer gig-economy accoutrements: An Uber station offers charging cords, candies, and bottle water; Airbnb hosts can find Nest thermometers, smart locks, and Wifi hubs.

The store said it has more than 400 members across its various locations, but when a reporter toured the newly-designed downtown space earlier this week, the co-working site was empty.

However, Charles Smith—who has been co-working at the Staples’ Brighton location since 2016—told the Globe that he now rents a dedicated office in the space. The cannabis consultant also regularly works at the Needham store, and says he loves its flexibility: He can get downtown easily for meetings, parking is free, and he can get home to his three kids in Wellesley in minutes.

“Having a commute that’s half of what the average person commutes is a big advantage,” he said. He’s said he’s found mentors on site, and he regularly uses his discounts for printing and marketing tools, so he’s excited the company is expanding its offerings.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe