Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Bitchin' Dave's Newsletter - Jan 30

 Dave’s Musings

I couldn't help but notice the headlines on two consecutive Sundays in the local newspaper. The first was the state of Florida turned down around $11 billion dollars in federal aid, related to climate change and energy usage. The legislature and governor cited "REASONS!" as their rationale, but we all know it was political theater and nothing more. 49 other states gladly accepted money from the feds for these same things.

The second week was a headline that Florida is around $5 billion short in the budget. And as a result, they're going to have to start making cuts around the state. What's the first thing that was mentioned as seeing budget cuts? Give yourself an A+ if you guessed the public education system.

I mean, if people aren't educated enough to see that 11 is bigger than 5, and the amount would cover the budget shortfall and then some, then maybe our education system is failing anyway.

Our understanding of the universe is based on what we've been able to observe to this point, along with some "educated guesses" based on those observations.

Sometimes that leads to competing theories, or questions about what we're seeing. And recently, the James Webb space telescope solved one such mystery.

The thinking was that gasses would block our ability to see the hydrogen atoms from the formation of galaxies. But, using the Hubble telescope, we could see light coming in from some of these galaxies and it made no sense.

It turns out that many smaller galaxies are merging (or more correctly HAVE merged) and the light is coming from those collisions - the JWST was able to distinguish the faint light and make this clear.

“One of the most puzzling issues that previous observations presented was the detection of light from hydrogen atoms in the very early Universe, which should have been entirely blocked by the pristine neutral gas that was formed after the Big-Bang. Many hypotheses have previously been suggested to explain the great escape of this ‘inexplicable’ emission.”

“Where Hubble was seeing only a large galaxy, Webb sees a cluster of smaller interacting galaxies, and this revelation has had a huge impact on our understanding of the unexpected hydrogen emission from some of the first galaxies.”


There are some very cool scientific breakthroughs that are more "fun" than "necessity" but which move the needle in scientific discovery and can lead to other breakthroughs that may be purpose-driven.

One example is something called a "holo tile" which allows someone to walk in any direction on a treadmill floor, and have it interact with the surroundings. Its an amazing advancement, and leads us to think about the "Holodeck" that was presented in Star Trek.

But the deeper story is about the man who created it, Disney Imagineer Lanny Smoot. He also created the retractable lightsaber and the floating head in the Haunted Mansion, among others. He has more than 100 patents and was recently inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame.

His name should be as instantly recognizable as any athlete or self-involved person you see on tv.



There was a story over the holidays about a family that planned a vacation to Disney World. The grandparents of the family went into a local retailer and purchased $10,000 of Disney gift cards.

Only to find out that they had purchased Disney+ gift cards, and not Disney generic gift cards. Oops! Why companies do this is beyond me - you're part of the same company, why not use universal gift cards, duh!

The family panicked for a time - until a Disney Cast Member came to their rescue and transferred the money to Disney cards.

And as an end to the story, they booked their vacation, and then burned up the now-empty Disney+ gift cards in a bonfire on social media.

We're in the midst of another "living" example of how climate changes impacts our everyday life.

The Panama Canal is going through a significant drought, which has been linked to a change in the climate. And as such, the number of ships that are able to get through on any given day is down to about half of its daily average.

That means ships are lining up, waiting to get through. And as a result, there are delays in delivering goods - and the cost of the goods will wind up increasing. Its a new version of a supply chain problem, if you will.

I'm sure that there will be some that will attempt to shift blame, to make this political or perhaps twist it for their own gain.

But as thinking and rational people, we can see that there is more happening to our climate that does impact our daily lives.


Latest video

Dealing with the cold using a rechargeable battery had consequences. I talk about that, and conduct a small test where I freeze a AA battery to see how the energy works in it. https://youtu.be/ye3HW8MeTnY?si=6f8DCYun2YrL1iKU

One Little Spark … 

70 or so years ago, Ray Bradbury wrote about the banning of books, in a fictional novel called Fahrenheit 451.

And here we are today, with books being banned in the most absurd way possible, not unlike how he penned it happening in fiction.

We've seen historical accounts, and books related to social issues removed for spurious reasons. But with that comes the very real prospect of "collateral damage" in the banning of religious books, books by conservative talk show host / authors, Sherlock Holmes stories, Agatha Christie novels, authors talking about the locality they live in, and even (gasp!) the dictionary being removed from shelves.

It's a crazy world we live in. For now at least, the fact that its banned at school or in a library doesn't make as big of an impact, because much of the world's best (and worst!) works are available through book sellers in physical copies, or online (sometimes even for free). So you can still read these banned books and free your own mind.

More info on book bans here: https://pen.org/issue/book-bans/

And of course, you can read Fahrenheit 451


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Bitchin' Dave's Newsletter - Jan 23

 Dave’s Musings

The NFL is experimenting with new ideas to extend their reach, and of course make more money. 

They’ve reached critical mass on ticket prices, coming in at an average price per ticket at just under $400, not including parking or concessions (which are also exorbitant). 

It can be fun, but it’s out of reach for the average fan. The owners know this and try and make it more experiential, and to make it worthwhile. (Even though on occasion, there is death by a fan at the hands of other fans. Come and enjoy a game; there's a 99% chance you'll make it home!)

International expansion is a real thing, and the league played a fair number of games in England, and Europe. And had a team stay over for a few weeks to see how a "home team" might fare in games against traveling opponents.

The money for broadcasting is through the roof, and the league experimented with putting a playoff game on a paid streaming service (After previously having regular season games be available that way). They announced it as a success, and I'm sure we'll be seeing more of that in the future.

You may also note that officiating was "suspect" throughout the year, which brought more eyeballs and more discussion about what was happening - and though its a fine line, it may have tweaked viewership a bit.

Owners change uniform styles periodically to goose merchandise sales and keep it fresh. And owners also fire coaches fairly regularly, to show that they are trying to be competitive. The average coaching tenure is just over 4 years, and in any given year 25% of the teams are looking for a new head coach. You have to keep your fan base engaged to stay relevant. 

Last week, there was news about the Peregrine moon lander (the first planned moon mission for the US in 50 years) suffering an anomaly with its propulsion system.

Scientists at Astrobotic and NASA conferred and agreed that there was a faulty valve in a hydraulic system that caused a fuel leak. Sadly, they decided they couldn't land on the moon, and instead used the craft's momentum to crash land back on Earth - falling well short of the missions goals. But they did get some amount of data, and as they say "failure is always an option" because it provides opportunities to learn.

While they were unsuccessful, the next day, Japan became the 5th nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon (the US, Russia, China, and India are the others). Even though there were issues with powering up the solar array, this is an exciting development for continued exploration.

The anti-science positions that many people take are breathtaking at times. Here's a story about Wisconsin, Texas, and Florida (of course!) banning (or proposing a ban) on studying pathogen origins. They also note that the US Congress also has a bill that would do the same, nationwide (though its less likely it will make it to a law).

At the heart of it is this notion that Cocvid19 was started from a lab leak, where Chinese scientists created the virus. They don't want that to happen here!

But these bans would also halt any studies into other things, like, say, the common cold or the seasonal flu. Oh the "law of unintended consequences!"


Disney's proxy fight is heating up! Nelson Peltz is using his shares, Ike Perlmutter's shares, and his Triad's company shares, to try and force himself and former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo onto the board of directors, by replacing two current members.

As I've noted before, Peltz feels the Disney company is not focused enough on profitability, and has issues with Bob Iger in his second stint as CEO (and naturally is concerned about succession planning).

He wants to see a change in the company's direction, and once again sees an opportunity to take on the challenge.

Disney may have enough shares (ie, votes) to prevent this from happening, but it remains to be seen how this will play out.

Personally, I thought Jay Rasulo leaving the company was a shame - he really did understand how it all worked, and might have been in line to be CEO at some point.

I own a VERY small stake in the company (like 20 shares worth), but when the company asks how I'd like to use my vote, I certainly will consider Peltz's proposal.

Here's a story about how Germany has taken measures to reduce its emissions, and this has them at their lowest level since the 1950s.

While there is much work still to be done, they are well on the path to helping reduce climate impacts, and investing in renewables - also putting them on a path to energy independence.

Its a good news story in a rising sea of bad climate impacts.


Latest video

This week, I'm talking about switches on the Walt Disney World monorail system. https://youtu.be/9YO9LnUN2hQ?si=NA0WyLumKDdTIYbJ

One Little Spark … 

The attached story is about a man who spent 44 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. While the settlement he reached is "nice," it does not make up for what happened to him.

In summary, a "prominent white woman" was raped, and there was an outright effort to convict a black man - any black man - for the crime. The person that was convicted did not match the description the victim provided, the fingerprints didn't match, the outcome of the rape kit was in question. And there were many other issues.

And yet, he spent half of his life in jail for a crime that he had no part in. A crime which in many cases allows a white man to walk free, in spite of overwhelming evidence that does match. (ahem)

Food for thought about society.

USA Today story about wrongful conviction

They're epically bad.

The Dolphins now become the team with the longest playoff drought in the NFL.  Their last playoff win came in 2000. Since then, nada.  They haven't been to an AFC Championship game since 1992. And last went to a Superbowl in 1984.

Some pundit noted that Mahomes has made 16 playoff starts (#17 is this weekend), and has been to all 7 AFC Championships while with the Chiefs.

Which reminds me to note that the Dolphins - in year 4 - are still trying to decide if Tua is any good.  Take a look at the best QBs in the league, Mahomes included.  Their success came early and often.

Anyway to the Dolphins all time playoff records:

Their heyday:

1970  0 - 1

1971  2 - 1

1972  3 - 0

1973  3 - 0

1974  0 - 1

The lean times:

1978  0 - 1

1979. 0 - 1

1981  0 - 1

1982  3 - 1 (okay maybe not so lean)

The Marino era:

1983  0 - 1

1984  2 - 1 

1985  1 - 1

1990  1 - 1

1992  1 - 1 

1994  1 - 1

1995  0 - 1

1997  0 - 1

1998  1 - 1

1999  1 - 1 (that drubbing in Jacksonville in Marino's last game)

Post Marino:

2000  1 - 1

2001  0 - 1

2008  0 - 1

2016  0 - 1

2022  0 - 1

2023  0 - 1

That makes the Dolphins 20 - 23 all time.  Yikes.

They won two championships, so that means they've made the playoffs 25 times, and bounced in them 23 times.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Bitchin Dave’s newsletter - Jan 16

 Dave’s Musings

I know its cliche after a few weeks, but Happy New Year!

We keep hearing about how companies can self regulate and how things will just magically work out if we take away the burdensome rules and let the free market do its thing. But I remind you that in his 1981 Inaugural address Ronald Reagan said "In this times of crisis, the free market is not the solution to every problem, often it is the problem." We should always remember that as we think about how to "fix" a problem, especially here in Florida. I can't even begin to list the dumb ideas I'm hearing to supposedly help Floridians.

There was some serious space launch shuffling at year end, at Kennedy Space Center.

The critical factor was a Falcon Heavy launch which got delayed due to a technical issue; it carried the space plane, and was identified as highest priority.

So everything else had to wait. But we finally did see the Falcon Heavy go up just before the new year - and then the Vulcan Peregrine moon lander went up just after the new year.

We have no idea what happened with the space plane, as the mission is classified.

The lunar lander developed a problem with its hydraulics, and for a time it seemed the engineers might find a work around. But so far, no luck, and they think they will have to abandon the actual landing, and instead study the moon from orbit. Stay tuned.

Somber news to report: 2023 was the hottest year ever recorded. This was reported by many agencies here in the US, in the EU, and beyond.

People who continue to deny that the climate is changing need look no farther than some of the destructive, monster storms which plagued travel over the holidays (and continue to do so).

We, as individuals, need to do whatever we can and let our voices be heard. This clearly is not sustainable, and we can't just simply let things continue in the status quo.


Copernicus is the Earth observation component of the European Union’s Space programme, looking at our planet and its environment to benefit all European citizens. It offers information services that draw from satellite Earth Observation and in-situ (non-space) data.

Disney World made a big deal about “doing away with theme park reservations” as of January 1st (if you are not in the know, post-pandemic, anyone who visited a theme park needed to buy a ticket AND have a valid reservation for the specific theme park they wanted to visit). 

While people gushed over it, to a large degree it’s kind of semantics. Disney now uses historical information, predictive modeling, and some other types of reservations to determine theme park attendance, and then can adjust staffing accordingly, or limit admission.

These other reservations include making dining reservations or “lightning lane” reservations (ie a guest books specific attractions in advance) months before they arrive. These would be specific to a theme park, thus helping them figure out where you will be.

Also, when someone purchases a day or multi-day ticket, it is based on the park(s) they will be visiting. 

The wildcard element in all of this, though, are pass holders.  These guests have somewhat erratic behavior and "can visit as many times as they want."  So for now, they have been told they will continue to need a reservation for most days - unless it’s a forecasted not-busy day, in which case they can just show up; but they still have to check the reservation system. 

I have no doubt that Disney will solve the pass holder conundrum soon. But for now it’s just a little more complicated. 

In summary, I absolutely love how Disney uses data to understand much about guest behavior and how things work. And also understands how to use the right words to make it seem like they are changing something. 

So yeah they’re getting rid of the reservations. Sort of. And replacing them with good data. 

Right before New Years, there was an utterly ridiculous thing that happened which started trending on social media as #MiamiMall.

Here's the story: there was a large police presence near an outdoor shopping area known as Bayside (not Miami Mall). People realized this was unusual and rushed to a conclusion that what was going on was.....

...Aliens! As in ET.

And then took it to an even higher level of absurdity by claiming it was a government conspiracy, and maybe actually happened a half dozen years ago. And to add to the fun, there was a grainy video that shows the police confronting a 7 foot tall alien.

The video itself can be easily explained due to the low light and distance. The police presence was in response to an altercation and reports of gunfire at Bayside (the city of Miami has a heightened response when potential terrorist activities are reported). It did NOT happen "years ago with the video just coming to light." People in the area were reporting information in real-time, illustrating how far from the truth that was.

I have heard the FBI did arrive on the scene, as it was a potential terrorist activity - but they didn't take control or whatever nonsense was spewed.

It’s kind of amazing that an absurd story took off on social media like wildfire, with people wanting to believe something. And they ran with it for many days. (And it appeared in the news as recently as this past weekend!)

But its also a cautionary tale of how destructive social media can be. And how we can get sucked into some weird conspiracy theory. This particular incident is more funny than anything. But we should always be on guard against these types of stories.

Be careful what you read - and if it doesn't pass the "sniff test" maybe it requires a little more research and thought before choosing to continue to propagate the tall tale.

Latest video

Here's the latest on Tesla software and a fun sound I added to my car. https://youtu.be/Po8GdYL66iI?si=0WHXx-XMLkgL1838

One Little Spark … 

I was watching a random episode of the TV show cops the other day. Said cops pulled up next to a black guy. They tell him that they want to "have a conversation" with him. From the viewer's perspective, there was no reason to stop him. The kid was scared and ran, and that led to an obligatory police chase. They caught him and handcuffed him. They narrate for us about him fleeing and therefore must have done something, and he had a lot of money on him. It's a bad neighborhood - it's a place for drugs.

The police don't find any drugs on him, so they head out to literally beat the bushes to find some. Of course, they do find a bag of weed.

The policeman appears a little excited and says something to the effect of "This ought to be enough to put him in jail for a long time based on his prior convictions." (keep in mind that WE don't know anything about these convictions or how the officer knows this).

They talk to the kid and they say things like "You know if you hadn't run this never would've happened. We would've just talked to you for a minute. You made it worse for yourself because you were fleeing the police."

He argues the drugs aren't his, but they clap back and say he ran, and its an abandoned apartment complex. They must be yours! As they continued, the rhetoric sounded more and more like any story where a black individual is harassed by the all white police force. They were speaking to him in a confrontational way, trying to get a reaction, or to railroad him in some way.

Its certainly possible there was more to the story that got edited out. And context may matter. But it was easy to see that this wasn't quite right.

The reality is this poor guy had to stand there and take it from police. They gave him a false choice, of either "not running" and being accosted, or running and hoping for the best.

Based on how he carried himself, one might assume he won't be able to afford a lawyer. He might very well plead guilty and wind up spending time in jail, continuing this sad cycle.

The tones. The language. The subtle intimidation. The whole thing about Black Lives Matter was just encapsulated in those few minutes of TV.

But remember that we are capable of being better than this. And we should strive to be.