Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Bitchin Dave's Newsletter - Nov 28

 Dave’s Musings

The state of Florida's homeowners insurance "problem" came into focus again this week. As a short summary, one small company (Peoples Trust, quite the name) has many homes that they insured in the path of Hurricane Ian. They have told homeowners it can take 10 months or more just to get an adjustor out their home. And the company policy says that repairs can only be done by one specific company (that is, no checks are issued for repairs, just the company makes repairs), after the adjustor visits.

Reaching their wits end, it being more than 10 months living with damage, some people went ahead and had repairs done. And what did the insurer do? They sued the homeowners for violating the terms of their policy. The homeowners are appealing to the state for help. But guess what? The COO of the company used to be Florida's insurance commissioner. I can't imagine that he's not "connected" - and that it's unlikely the state will do anything.

I am dumbfounded by this process. And these poor people just want to live in their undamaged houses, you know, like they did last year. Is that asking for too much?

As we continue to reach further into the stars, and start thinking about sending humans into deeper space, we have to think about how we communicate with the crafts and people who leave the Earth.

And that's where the "Deep Space Optical Communications" comes in. As a part of the Psyche space probe that will examine a deep space asteroid, NASA has included a laser-based communications system that is around 10x faster than traditional radio relays - and allows for larger data streams, such as high resolution video.

This is quite a step forward, and should lead to even more innovation. You can read more here:


The USA Today had a good summary of the latest Climate Assessment (a Federal Report on Climate Change). For context, this was something that Congress started in the 1980s: every 4 years, a climate report is produced.

The latest one is unapologetic. CO2 emissions are high. The world is getting hotter. We can't ignore the risks. Humans are the primary cause for the change. "The risks matter and so do our choices." We need to take action.

Read about it at USA Today, link to the actual report is in the article

Oxford Economics did a study of the economic impact of Walt Disney World in Florida. Disney self-published the results They are:

  • In fiscal year 2022, Disney had a total economic impact of $40.3 billion in Florida. 
  • 263,000 total jobs, or 1 out of every 32 jobs in Florida, is attributable to Disney (including 1 in 8 that we directly support here in Central Florida). 
  • We at Disney World work with 2,500 small businesses based in Florida. These entrepreneurs and small business owners play an important role in bringing magic to life for our guests.
  • $6.6 billion in tax revenue, including $3.1 billion in annual state and local tax revenue was generated by Disney, visitors, employees and third-party businesses.

To my eyes, this appears to be in response to the ongoing nonsense with the governor of Florida. But even so, its interesting to see it put into numbers.

And of course, Disney goes on to talk about Give Kids the World and the Second Harvest food bank, to which they contribute as not directly benefiting the economy.

Oxford Economics Ltd. provides economics services. The Company offers economic forecasts, quantitative analysis, global forecasting, and modeling services. Oxford Economics serves customers throughout the world.

Ron Magill is known for being a conservationist and has shown skills as a wildlife photographer. But, in South Florida he is known as the face of Zoo Miami. He is officially the communications director, but he is so much more. He was a part of moving the zoo to its current home. He was there after Hurricane Andrew, helping to get the animals secured. He talks relentlessly about conservation and the perils to our environment.

And now he's speaking out against a proposed water park on the land next to the zoo for specific environmental reasons. He's someone worth listening to, and I encourage you to read more about him and this story.

We can learn a lot about how we can help the environment from him, and in turn help ourselves. We can learn to be more outspoken, like him, too.

These "wealthy fat cats" often are chasing money and will deride science, or present their own contrary version from what amount to paid shills. We should always be alert and aware of such shenanigans.




Latest video

Today I present a look at unbuilt World Showcase pavilions at Epcot. https://youtu.be/LCOPeh0p2IM?si=mshKhiH4_uJt5WvO

One Little Spark … 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Black Friday or Black Sunday?

When I heard the dolphins and jets were going to square off in the first Black Friday matchup, I was reminded of this gem from the late 70s. 

It's about a terrorist attack at the Super Bowl - in Miami!

Out of curiosity, I did a little poking around about facts related to this movie. Obviously most of it was filmed at the Orange bowl. But the crazy thing was that the Goodyear company allowed their blimp to be used, with certain specific conditions.

And surprisingly, the NFL actually gave permission to film at the Super Bowl, so the game that's going on was the actual Cowboys - Steelers matchup. 

But then, a few weeks later, the film crew returned to the stadium to get more action and close up shots. And to have a few blimp props they could use around the stands. 

They brought in a cast of extras from local organizations, and had them sit in the stands and run in horror as needed. 

And several members of the Dolphins football team came out and dressed in Steelers and Cowboys uniforms to provide shots as the game was interrupted. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Bitchin Dave's Newsletter - Nov 21

 Dave’s Musings

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

The origins for Thanksgiving are much more complicated than the simple idea we're taught about the pilgrims and local tribes sharing in a communal meal. What I find interesting is that we're taught a version that is not that of imperialist conquerors, or "savages," but rather of peaceful coexistence. Of all people giving thanks for making it through the harvest season together. Of living in harmony in some way.

We should remember that fact, and give thanks for what we have, and give thought to how we can better our relationships with others.

Space can be very weird sometimes, and can confound many scientists of all disciplines.

Recently, there was a flash of light billions of miles away. Often, this is the result of a cosmic event such as a supernova. While it was interesting and worth noting, it was (relatively) unremarkable.

Until it flashed again. And again. Repeatedly. And it has the brightness of 100 billion of our suns, which makes it all the more interesting.

For now physicists are perplexed, and have no idea what they are seeing / why its happening. They have named it the "Tasmanian Devil" and will continue to watch it and attempt to provide an explanation.


Last week, there was a remarkable sight to see here in Florida (though sadly not by me): A split sunset. I admit that my first reaction to this was that it was some sort of jiggery-pokery or a photo shop image.

But believe it or not, this is a real phenomena with a scientific explanation. At just the right time of day (during a small window just before the sun disappears over the horizon) if there is a large storm cloud below the horizon, it may obstruct some of the light.

The effect is a bit of an optical illusion, and can only happen for a few minutes. But it is very, very cool!

Disney World has had a long history of "3rd party tour guides" offering services to people coming to visit the theme parks. While Disney would naturally prefer that you use one of their official tours and hire a CastMember, they generally have let these individuals slide and maybe bend the rules a bit.

But, pre-pandemic, you started to see these individuals taking advantage of the rules - abusing the disability services, and hacking the fast pass system to name a few.

And now here we are a few years later, and they continue to do these things, and more. And worse, they post their hacks and bad behavior online so anyone could theoretically take advantage of the system.

Disney felt it was time to act, and decided to "crack down" on 3rd party tour guides in order to protect their brand and make it enjoyable for all guests. Most of the individuals who were regular abusers of the system have now received lifetime bans from Walt Disney World. In the first few days after they got the bans, they were denied entrance at the gate after receiving money for their services. Which no doubt was awkward.

But Disney re-iterated that the theme park is private property, and they can revoke admission to anyone who is not following the rules.

While these folks complained, they are left without recourse. To which I say that's too bad. The rules are the rules and I know that you have differentiate yourself. But come on. Remember its their product you are promoting and basing a business on.

Here's a story about an experiment that an ecologist suggested in Costa Rica. He asked an orange juice company to discard its pulp and peels into an area that was heavily deforested.

They dumped 12,000 metric tons of oranges onto the land. And now its 20 years later....and the results showed how much the compost helped to replenish the soil and created a large amount of biodiversity.

The hypothesis, then, is that produce scraps may help forests to regrow on a larger scale. And that regrowth may be one of the keys to helping climate change.


Latest video

I'm talking about SpaceX's Starship launch attempt #2. https://youtu.be/cd79gXjl_Ww?si=zqxfxYGnDV6fyQ5I

One Little Spark … 

One of my favorite "feel good" stories happened 8 years ago when a woman texted who she thought was her grandson to invite him for Thanksgiving, only to find out that he had changed his number and she was texting a 17-year-old student.

After they figured that out, the young man asked if the offer stood for him.

"Of course you can. That's what grandmas do ... feed everyone."

So he joined them for thanksgiving and became a part of the family in a way, and will join them again this year, for the 8th year.

The thing that really gets me about this story is the warmth between them - even though it was a totally random start, they didn't know each other, and the fact that she is white, while he is black. It did not matter, and they became friends.

We need so much more of this in life.


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Bitchin Dave's Newsletter - Nov 14

 Dave’s Musings

Last week's election was a reminder that voting matters. Extreme right-wing agendas and candidates lost most races. Ohio voters codified abortion rights into their constitution.

Meanwhile some of the candidates who lost lamented their losses by essentially attacking democracy. This is truly what's at stake. A free and fair election is paramount for our republic. We must fight to keep in it, in order to continue to maintain our rights.

Its okay to have differing opinions. It's not okay to undercut our principles. And our democracy.

There is a scheduled Falcon Heavy launch on December 7. This one is to carry a US Spaceforce space plane into orbit.

I look forward to trying to see this launch!

But on a slightly more amusing note, its funny that their designation for the plane is X-37B, since the ride vehicles at The Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger spin are the XP-37.

I sure hope their motto is "To Infinity and Beyond" and that they are preparing to face off against Zurg.


Scientists at the CDC (which apparently has mostly returned to being a non-politicized entity) have started a voluntary program to test international travelers for various pathogens.

That, coupled with sampling wastewater from airplanes and airport bathrooms, might help understand the spread of seasonal things like the flu, and may provide a better understanding of how to track (and perhaps even prevent the spread of) a future pandemic.

This is the kind of critical thinking that was lacking when the pandemic was just starting to affect our lives. Glad to see we are trying some new things, even if they are fairly low tech.


Disney's 3rd quarter earnings showed that the company has some pretty serious issues. Yes, their profits were high. And yes, there was some growth.

But they still are paying off debt they accrued during the pandemic. They are struggling mightily with streaming and other entertainment costs. Theme park attendance isn't where they want it to be (its probably not accurate to say its "down" because it has peaks post-pandemic, but its inconsistent). And linear tv and sports are eating up costs while not providing consistent return.

And of course there's still the question of succession planning. Bob Iger's recent contract extension is through the end of 2026, so the company has to find someone and groom them over the course of the 3 years. After the last fiasco, some wonder if Iger can manage it this time.

Indonesia is a leading global supplier of palm oil. But palm oil production comes at a price to the environment.

Indonesia is making an effort to balance that more carefully and plans to return nearly 500,000 acres to forest density, while streamlining the palm oil land usage and production.

Like many things run by governmental agencies, the plan has its flaws and detractors. But it is relatively promising and perhaps may help with global warming - and it certainly should help with the way palm oil is cultivated for consumption.


Latest video

I took a trip to Disney World and tried hard not to use Superchargers. Did I make it? I did not. I take you through my experience, and can see why everyone struggles with EV adoption ... especially if you can't charge!


One Little Spark … 

While I was in Orlando, I took a short road trip into Ocoee. It's a rural area that was once known for its sugar cane and orange groves.

On election day in 1920, the largest voter-related massacre in US history took place here. The details are in the attached link, but in short, a group of black voters had the audacity to vote. A mob of white men sought to stop them using violence and intimidation.

Today, there is little to remember it by, except for a plaque in a park. And Florida is avoiding teaching the topic (because politicians are stupid). So we have to do our part to ensure this doesn't get lost to history. I took a few moments to remember the history as I stood there - and now I share that with you.

With continued assaults on voters rights, particularly for minorities, and maps that under-represent people that live in an area (typically in favor of wealthy, white people), we need to be on guard, respecting the rights of everyone. And we need to always exercise our right to vote!


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Bitchin' Dave Newsletter - Nov 7

 Dave’s Musings

Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina has issued Executive Order No. 292, which reestablishes the Secretary of Environmental Quality’s Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board as the Governor’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council. This order aims to address environmental justice concerns and opportunities throughout state government and the Governor’s cabinet, with a focus on communities disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change. The Council will provide guidance and recommendations to advance environmental justice, while state agencies are directed to develop environmental justice goals and measurable outcomes.

It really isn't enough, but I accept that it is something. As I say, sometimes it takes baby steps to get us along the path.  Hopefully, other states will follow. 

The International Space Station (ISS) was designed between the late 1980s into the early 1990s. I remember seeing some of the prototypes while working at the space center in the early 90s and standing in them. It was amazing to think about what the future might look like.

The space station was initially launched in 1998, and has been modified and had add-on modules placed on it in the years since.

And now they're starting to plan for its end of useful life and deorbiting it, and so on.

But in the meantime, you can see it with the naked eye as it makes its orbit around the Earth. Visit the site for details of how to see it in your area - and download the app for more interactivity.


One of the challenges to measuring sea temperatures and sea level rise is the limited amount of historical data, and how that data was collected.

Beginning at some point in the 1800s, naval vessels would essentially drop a thermometer in the ocean to measure sea level temperatures, and record that in a log book. That gives some baseline, but probably can't be considered "accurate" by today's standards.

Its gotten better in the last few decades, and now at least we have some better values to use. But we really need to build better information.

Enter a group that is deploying sensor buoys at locations near shorelines on multiple coasts. We might get something meaningful from that and be able to use it to understand climate change impacts. Its ambitious but pretty cool.


Disney regularly files patents for new and creative ideas. About a month ago, I missed that they filed a patent for a new ride system.

While many of them are extensions of technology and patents they already are using, this one is a little different, and as the poster in the link says "wild" ... essentially it allows for a ride vehicle to be moved from one track to another automatically - or with input from the rider. Color my intrigued!

Theme Park Insider

I found an interesting article about the ice cream brand Ample Hills. In short, this man loved making ice cream, started a brand, got investors, made a load of money, and grew...possibly too quickly.

He went bankrupt and sold the name to another company. A while later, he started another ice cream company - but learned from his mistakes.

And when the company he sold the first brand to went bankrupt, he bought back the Ample Hills name. And he's having success again.


Latest video

Here's a video where I detail the rich history of Disney's expansion into Florida https://youtu.be/UirSV0__3bo

One Little Spark … 

While the US continually looks to insert itself into everyone's business - all the while stating they are about small government - other countries are allowing for expansion of rights by its citizens.

Just last week, Emmanuel Macron announced that France will amend its constitution to enshrine a woman's right to choose. While abortion has been legal since 1975, this will go further in ensuring that does not change. He is expecting this to become the norm in 2024.

“A universal message of solidarity to all women who today see this right violated: France will engrave in its Constitution the freedom of women to have recourse to abortion.”

Said the minister on Gender Equality (and how progressive is that?):

“This is a victory for all women and a strong symbol sent to other countries of the world where our rights are losing ground.”