Thursday, August 24, 2023

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Bitchin' Dave's Newsletter - August 22


August 22, 2023

Insights, news, ramblings, and other serious nonsense from Dave 
Dave’s Musings
I have been away for a few weeks, but I did keep up with the news - particularly as it relates to the weather. Hurricanes in California? Fire in Maui? Tornadoes, wildfires, extreme heat> They all showed up as very real threats.

I heard someone say this will be the coolest summer for the rest of our lives, and that hit home. We need to appreciate that climate change is happening around us, is a real and present danger.

And not to belabor the point, but its time for all of us to do more. As they say "think globally, act locally" - surely there are little things we can do to help.

During the Obama administration, he proposed sending humans to an asteroid to study it. The notion wasn't taken to seriously, and references to the movie "Armageddon."

But now, it would seem that the Near Earth Asteroid project is getting renewed attention, and there is a possible plan to launch astronauts to an asteroid to conduct scientific research in order to better understand them and perhaps prevent a cataclysmic event in the future.

NEA project

Here's a link to a cool article about Zenith's (remember them?) revolutionary space command remote control, which was a mechanical marvel.

No batteries, no infra red, no wires! This device relied on a series of ultrasonic sounds that were created when the buttons were pressed.

A receiver on the TV could receive the signal and act on it.

Quite the cool - and simple - technology!

The Verge - Zenith Space Command

While we've gotten used to (?) seeing Disney World close due to hurricanes over the years, it was weird this week when DisneyLand closed due to a storm.

In fact, it was unusual to see DisneyLand close at all. It has only been closed three times in its history: after the death of JFK in November 1963, after an earthquake in January 1994, and after 9/11 back in 2001.

By the way, hurricanes are a bit unusual in southern California. The last one was recorded over 80 years ago!

Here's an intriguing article about deeper study of enslaved individuals. They collected DNA from a group that was buried near an old iron works.

The Smithsonian researchers learned where they came from, how they were related, and managed to track down their descendants.

It starts a process of understanding our own history and owning up to the realities of our own past.

Reuters Article

One Little Spark … 

… for your imagination

There was an interesting case presented in Montana: a group of youths sued the state for not providing a clean environment, as required by the state constitution. 

The state didn't put up much of a defense, and said that no matter the outcome they had no plans to change anything.

But the youths won, with the court noting that the states environmental policy violated their right to a clean environment.  The state (naturally) said they will appeal.

Here's the key takeaway: after Parkland there was a notion that "the kids will win," and here we are.  The kids are seizing the day and winning.

Other than that, we can see how a small group can challenge the status quo and do something bigger and bolder. 

Dave’s latest video

I don't have a new video this week, but one popular video from the archive is all about the Ft. Wilderness Railroad.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Bitchin' Dave's Newsletter - Aug 15


August 15, 2023

Insights, news, ramblings, and other serious nonsense from Dave 
Dave’s Musings
One of my lifetime bucket list items is to experience the aurora borealis; to see it overhead is a bit of a dream. 

I have been traveling for a few weeks through Vancouver, into whistler, and over to Vancouver island to visit Victoria. Any or all of which “could” provide viewing opportunities. 

But unfortunately, there was only one day where the northern lights were visible - and only through a camera lens, not with the naked eye. So my quest remains unfulfilled for now. 

But I did have some amazing star filled skies and the persied meteor shower was completely visible one night. So it wasn’t a total loss. 

There’s a Facebook enthusiast group I was following; someone posted a cool video from the night it was almost visible: 


The helicopter that’s on Mars - Ingenuity - continues to have successful flights around the Martian landscape. 

And last week, it captured a picture of the Perservance Rover, which is kind of a cool thing. 

Theres some exciting research going on in the fields related to technological advancements. 

A group of researchers in Spain has combined a variety of polymer and a graphene to create a something that is clear and electrically charged - but which can be folded and used as a screen. 

It’s a cool leap forward and underscores how much research is being done to find the next “dig thing” (even if it’s little) article

I saw an article recently that calls out the contemporary resort at Walt Disney world as the ugliest hotel in Florida.  Where’s the love, man?

“Disney World is usually spot on when it comes to designing things, but what in the world were they thinking when they created the iconic (and ugly) Contemporary Resort? It looks like a futuristic Aztec pyramid, which is not something you would normally associate with Mickey Mouse. 

Although it's not much to look at, the Contemporary Resort is one of Disney's most beloved places to stay. It's been around since day one of Disney World, opening on October 1st, 1971. In addition to being one of the ugliest buildings, it's also one of the loudest, since a monorail runs right through the middle of it.”

Unsightly buildings in all states

Here’s a fun blog from a couple who made a trip to central California in the Tesla. 

What makes this compelling is that there are no superchargers / fast chargers nearby. And not many level 2 (240v outlet types) to be found. 

So they did a lot of “trickle charging” connected to typical wall outlets. 

Its a fun read 

Acterra blog

One Little Spark … 

… for your imagination

Take a moment to consider what happened in Ohio last week. Like many states, Ohio grants citizens the rights to propose a constitutional amendment, if they can get enough signatures on a petition. Then, the amendment goes on a ballot and needs a simple majority to be an amendment to the states constitution. 

The state GOP wanted to pass legislation to ban abortion. But the citizens got the required signatures to keep abortion legal, as a constitutional amendment. The GOP saw that as a threat and proposed a change to the law and change the rules on constitutional amendments to require a 60% threshold (rather than simple majority), and a few other punitive things. 

They held a special election (which may have violated the law as it’s written, that’s still being determined) and cost the taxpayers money. Holding it on a random day in August, they thought maybe voter turnout would be low…

And the voters were motivated and turned out in force to vote down the changes. Voters who normally didn’t vote in such things. Voters who live in rural areas who may or may not vote for the abortion issue turned out. 

It reminds us all that the power of democracy is still strong. And we can do a lot with that power. 

Dave’s latest video

This week I'm talking about hiking up in whistler.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Bitchin' Dave's Newsletter - Aug 8


August 8, 2023

Insights, news, ramblings, and other serious nonsense from Dave 
Dave’s Musings
I am a bit of a soccer fan. Some may find it “boring” and can’t accept that games can end in a tie. But me, I enjoy the subtle strategy and the nuances of the game. These are true athletes, having to play twice a week, running somewhere close to 10 miles in a game while showing agility and a skill with the ball. 

Recently Lionel Messi - who may very well be the greatest all time to play football - joined InterMiami. He’s older, and I admit I wasn’t sure how he’d fare …but he had been nothing short of outstanding. And is absolutely worth watching if you get the chance. He is on another level. 

And he’s raised the specter of the MLS from an okay league to something enjoyable to watch. 

An overdue tip of the cap in memory of Evelyn Granville, one of the original computers at NASA, who passed away recently. Although she wasn’t specifically mentioned in Hidden Figures, she was another brilliant mathematician who helped America get into space. 

You can read her obituary here: Evelyn Granville obituary

Recently, 60 Minutes had a segment about a cold fusion breakthrough. The actual event happened back in December, when lasers created an ignition that lasted a fraction of a second. Reading about it is a bit droll, this segment encapsulates it well.

YouTube 60 minutes segment

There are some quirky and odd things that happen at Disney parks. Like the Soarin’ game and being able to continue it after you leave Epcot. I blogged about that here:

Soarin challenge

But there’s also the first pickle of the day at Disneyland which is also fun and amusing. You can read about an adventure to try and get it here: 

First Pickle Award

There is this odd story about top researchers being asked to join virtual conferences during Covid-19 to share what they knew .... and now they are receiving large bills for having gotten involved. And they have court orders requiring the payment.

In short, a group of people made up an organization, then proceeded to take advantage of these scientists for their own gain, and the videos they made wound up behind paywalls, meaning they were all pointless in a way.

Scientists hit with massive bills

One Little Spark … 

… for your imagination

The state of Florida has a huge insurance issue.  The Washington Post did a piece recently hilighting the general issue and focusing in one particular company, UPC, and their insolvency, the states’ utter incompetence in handling the situation, and how the company used parent companies to absolve themselves of liability yet still remain enormously profitable.

All the while, real people got screwed and have damaged homes and lives. And the rest of us who live in the state have to make up for the company’s insolvency by paying an additional fee to help the people who got screwed. 

As a reminder to those of you who aren’t paying attention, this all happened under the watchful eye of current governor (and can’t-be-bothered with citizens problems because he simply doesn’t care) desantis. The cautionary tale is that when you elect someone who is only in it for themself, you get someone who is only it for themself. 

And the secondary takeaway is that there need to be some guard rails to regulate these companies - because companies can’t be trusted to act in the best interest of anything or anyone other than the people with the largest financial stakes in the company. 

Dave’s latest video

I take a look at the Omnimover, the ride vehicle used in the haunted mansion, and build it in legos.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Bitchin' Dave's Newsletter - Aug 1


August 1, 2023

Insights, news, ramblings, and other serious nonsense from Dave 
Dave’s Musings
I’ve been keeping up with the news about “return to office,” and what I find most intriguing is that from a company’s perspective they feel they can “better manage” their employees, mentor them, and produce some nebulous “better results” with people who they can see. Even though the unexpected nature of sending people home during the pandemic caused high productivity and record profits for most companies!  

But there’s rent to pay, certain corporate tax breaks for having offices, and the commitment to the community that are important (the sandwich shop on the corner and the dry cleaner around the block rely on people coming for the office, for example).

For employees, the flexibility to work a more balanced schedule, with the ability to stop and start, take reasonable breaks to do things, and to generally help the work-life balance is a win. Plus, of course the lack of commute and commuting costs is huge. 

We’re clearly going through a renaissance of sorts. Much as we did when people moved to suburbs and started first commuting to offices. If you look back in history, this caused similar sorts of issues that had to be solved. 

How this ends is anybody’s guess. But I think it’s safe to say that it will be different than it was - and different than it is today. 

Falcon Heavy had a launch this week. I find this exciting and interesting based on it being 3 rockets strapped together - and they return them all to earth and land them. 

The funny part (to me) is that I had plans to go up and watch this launch, but the weather was iffy, so I chose not to… and it got scrubbed two days in a row. And I was out of town when they finally did launch. 

But I still enjoyed watching online. You can watch a replay at the link below:

Falcon Heavy Launch  

A group in Switzerland took a novel approach to looking at climate change, and what we can do about it.

What they did was to crunch the numbers and used that data to suggest possible opportunities

“It creates a data map made up of what-if decision pathways based on understanding existing uncertainties to help stakeholders and policymakers make decisions on climate action.”

In the end, they suggest focusing on “other” things, like cooking, heating, industrial processes, and so forth in order to more affordably reduce the impacts of climate change. They also point out that a "portfolio approach" to energy supplies and usage would be helpful.

Its a good argument that relies on solid data, and which we could start implementing right away.

Fastest route to climate turnaround

The state of Oklahoma, where "tourism is a top industry" (their quote!) announced plans for the American Heartland Themepark.

The reports are short on details about how this will be funded or who is involved. But they say they have some former Disney Imagineers working on the resort, and that it will open in 2025.

The intent is to make it American-themed, heartwarming, and "family friendly" and they specifically talk about the RV park they'll open for guests.

And naturally, they compare it to - and say it will compete with -Disney World. As a Disney aficionado, I can assure you that while it may be popular in the heartland, it will be nothing like Disney, Imagineers not withstanding.

I found this fun little probabilistic analysis of how many tickets one needs to buy in order to have 50-50 odds of winning some prize. It’s based on a specific game in the Canadian lottery system, but the principle applies to any.  In this example, you need to buy 174 tickets to assure that you will win “something” - which is likely a low level prize. 

It’s a fun, geeky sort of read. Enjoy!

50-50 chance of winning

One Little Spark … 

… for your imagination

The state of Florida (shamefully and reprehensibly) has implemented a new curriculum to teach black history.  It quite literally white washes history and uses phrases like slaves "learned skills they could use later in life," stays away from mentioning them being enslaved, and ignores simple truths.

They go on to talk about the Ocoee massacre (it happened right here in Florida: people of color were killed, their community destroyed, because a black man had the audacity to vote) using the rhetoric that “people on both sides committed violence” - downplaying it as much as possible.

It’s incredibly disheartening to realize that a group of white people created a curriculum for students in Florida, without using the wealth of information that exists on the topic, and without consulting scholars on the topic.  They want to create a point of view that "doesn't make white people feel bad."  Talk about snowflake behavior.  It’s not that hard to confront reality, and then learn from it.

More here:

Dave’s latest video

I've had some success with hydroponics, and I am sharing how it went!

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