Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Bitchin' Dave's Newsletter - Mar 26

 Dave’s Musings

The majority of the "Don't Say Gay" legislation in Florida has been implemented, even though it continues to work its way through the court system due to various legal challenges.

But there was one piece for which the teacher's union sued the state, and they reached a settlement a few weeks ago. This was about the conduct of teachers outside of the framework of actual classroom teaching. In short, the state has agreed to let teachers continue to express themselves, to talk about identity and relationships, and to use terms and names that students prefer - as long as they are "not taught."

Make no mistake: it is a victory against the nonsense that the state put out there under the guise of "protecting children" when in reality it was to "keep children in the dark," "restricting free speech," and to "make it hard for them to figure out who they are and who they can talk to."

Its a bit of good news, and a starting point.

I ran out of space in the last newsletter, but a little over a week ago, we saw attempt #3 at launching Starship.

The net outcome is more progress toward a truly reusable very large craft. On the positive side:

  • They were able to ignite all the engines on the first stage
  • They were successful at "hot staging" the second stage
  • They reached orbital insertion
  • This is the largest man-made object to be launched into space
  • They opened the outer doors, which means they could launch a satellite in the future
  • They were able to pump fuel from one tank to another (a requirement for deep space travel)
  • They made a re-entry maneuver, and could generally control descent.
On the downside:
  • The first stage did not have its rockets re-ignite, and was lost
  • The second stage was also lost as it re-entered the atmosphere - but not before we got some amazing video, including seeing the plasma that built up around the craft.
Failure is always an option, and the learnings will lead to more success in the future, I'm sure.

A couple of researchers in the Netherlands are proposing what they call a "heat battery" which uses sodium and water to create water vapor, which cools, and has a byproduct of salt, which stores the heat.

The overall effect is that you could cool a building's roof with the vapor - while simultaneously using the trapped heat to eliminate the need for a water heater.

Its tremendously environmentally forward-thinking. Even though the concept has been considered before, it could never be used at scale. And the next step is to put the theory into practice in a neighborhood in Europe.


Ahead of the proxy vote, there is some (conveniently) leaked information about 4 people the Walt Disney company has tagged as possible successors to Bob Iger in the CEO role.

The names should officially be considered rumors. And I wouldn't doubt the number of possible candidates is closer to 8 at this point, possibly with some coming from the outside (but who have ties to Disney).

The 4 people we learned about are Dana Walden, who currently heads up the linear TV division, Jimmy Pitaro, who runs ESPN, Alan Bergman, who runs the film business, and Josh D'Amaro who runs theme parks.

Its an interesting list, and its deliberate in its intent to show that there is NO intent to break the company up at this time.

Proving once again that Florida politicians are so in touch with their constituents, and apparently because they just look for things to support the interests of the big players in Florida (ie, insurance and utilities), legislators passed a law that would prohibit off-shore wind farms because, essentially, they would be ugly.

Of course, it doesn't much matter, because the placement of them would be further off the coast, where Florida's domain ceases to exist.

And if, in fact, the utilities themselves wanted wind farms, they'd get the legislature to update the law.

This is another case of grandstanding. For no real reason.


Latest video

Gas or Electric in cars. Which is cheaper? https://youtu.be/b2qbLblo6rU

One Little Spark … 

I’m troubled by the discussion about TikTok being bad, and wanting to ban it. And saying that data privacy is a concern, that the Chinese government can use it to collect data and influence, etc, etc, etc. is problematic.

Look, I’m not saying TikTok is anything great or that there isn’t something to discuss. But singling it out among the various social media platforms seems motivated by something more (politics I would assume)

Children’s privacy and mental health is a concern on all the platforms. 

But there are dozens of small players where the denizens sometimes hangout. Who’s watching those?

And to the other two big players:

Meta’s Instagram is allowed to promote videos it chooses, and we have no idea what the algorithm is, or how data is being used (or shared).

Xitter has a vague privacy policy, and its owner said he would disseminate information about the platform to whoever he thinks requires it. And of course he wants to use it to develop his own AI solutions.

Overall, I have no issues with trying to mediate these platforms - all of them - in a reasonable way.

Freedom of speech is fine, except when the government has issues with that and restricts it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Bitchin' Dave's Newsletter - Mar 19

 Dave’s Musings

I've been reading a lot about the state of working in the US, and specifically, how companies are "forcing" employees to come back to work full time. All the while, not considering that costs have gone up for commuting and associated work-related items - and there are no pay increases offered. Yet, company profits continue to rise. And companies also don't listen to what their employees want beyond a modest increase: they simply assume that a ping pong table will draw people in.

A recent survey shows that employee engagement is at an all time low in this country, hovering below 33% of workers saying they feel engaged. Employers want to be a "family" type environment. Workers increasingly want actual family first, with work being a component of life.

Meanwhile, in Europe and the UK, employee engagement is quite high (and increasing). The reasons are varied, but include the labor laws, the fact that companies listen to employees, that they value employee satisfaction over corporate greed, that they don't try to force employees to do whatever nonsense, that healthcare is not tied to a job, and so on.

By the way, the UK toyed with an idea for a 4 day work week - that is a total of 32 hours of work for the same pay - and it was fairly successful and productivity went UP during the testing phase. And most companies in the pilot are adopting it going forward.

Here at home, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced legislation for the same in the US. It was met with derision by his GOP colleagues, so its naturally going nowhere. But it does get some press.

Still, maybe US companies could learn a thing or two about how to get employees engaged again.

Last week, SpaceX completed a rare feat. They launched a series of satellites from Vandenburg, California, and then a few hours later, they launched satellites from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It's remarkable how efficient private companies can be; NASA used to take months between various launches.

You can watch both launches here: https://youtu.be/TF0Ct0TOnGY

A little outside-the-box thinking goes a long way. Neutrino detection on a large scale has proven to be somewhat elusive. But, having the ability to detect them may help expand our understanding of our universe.

A group of scientists has suggested that a forest may provide a large enough antenna, and all they have to do is to nail a wire onto each tree to connect them and build a full antenna.

Will it work? Who knows? But its a simple idea that is "just crazy enough" to work.


The Walt Disney company announced a large-scale expansion of Disneyland. This is remarkable because Disneyland is pretty well locked into the small-ish piece of real estate they hold in Anaheim.

But they have plans to purchase some of the surrounding properties, to ask for some variances to the building codes, and to have the city and county to allow roads to be moved and enhanced.

Disney would create a mega complex, that is more immersive, and perhaps a little more like Disney World in some ways. And they would create affordable housing and other things to help the community.

Good idea? Bad idea? I really can't say. But locals are skeptical due to the current physical constraints. 

In any event, they passed the first hurdle, by getting the city commission approval in a 5-1 vote.

The lone dissenter made an amusing comment as the meeting dragged on - that he had forgotten to cancel his park reservation. So even though he voted against it, I guess he's a fan.

I really like infographics. There are really cool ways to display information that display information concisely.

That principle can extend to other things, like maps for example. You can get a lot of information simply by changing your point of view.

Here's a fun look at 35 maps of the world that allow you to change your point of view:


Latest video

I created a video that pays tribute to the history of Walt Disney World's monorail system. https://youtu.be/LFtv_yIPxEc?si=tF6sSMF2KCrAEmYO

One Little Spark … 

Climate change continues to be a real threat. As we've seen in the past, the most vulnerable are those we consider poor. But the wealthy, as residents on this planet, can be impacted as well. In some cases, because they made a decision to purchase property in an area that is directly impacted by changes.

Here are two recent examples of what that means in the real world:

California landslide threatens home

Florida home shows beach erosion

Problem one is that they shouldn't be building in sensitive areas; insurance or the communities around them will surely have to pay to remediate this.

And problem two is that in many cases related to erosion, the community has to make a decision to save a house, or to restore the beach; both can't be done for practical or financial reasons.

And because we get mired in politics, and the wealthy exude their influence, we all lose.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Bitchin' Dave's Newsletter - Mar 12

 Dave’s Musings

Another year, another time change. For some reason, we're still hung up changing the time twice a year. And though we voted in Florida to stay on Daylight Savings Time .... 6 years ago! ... we're still doing the same business. Because it takes a literal act of congress to officially make this permanent. And they're much too busy with the mishegas of the day to have a straight up/down vote that might take 5 minutes.

By the way, its more complicated, because the suggested legislation leaves it open to the states to decide what to do, but proposes Savings Time should be the year-round answer. And of course, there's a group lobbying for it to be Standard Time. Which leads some legislators to urge "more study" before committing to something.

It never made any sense to have the time change, and its history is very suspect. But here we are.

On the bright side, there are very few clocks to physically change, and other than having a moment here and there where you feel out of synch a little (which lasts for a few days), it really doesn't make much of a difference, really.

Back in late February, a satellite that has been in space since 1995 fell back to Earth. It was not at all unexpected, as the satellite had served it purpose, and the owning European agency had done any preparations they could to reduce the risks.

And they had even predicted the trajectory and location, though their time estimates were off by about 2 hours. It supposedly "burned up on re-entry" but there are questions about that, and no one can verify what happened, since it fell into the pacific ocean.

Still, the risk is very real with all the junk we have floating above our planet. At some point, a satellite may re-enter Earth's atmosphere and stay largely intact, and could pose a threat somewhere.

There needs to be more of an effort to plan for end of life for these space objects, more effort in understanding and predicting when/where they will return, and naturally finding a means to clean up more of it before it becomes a problem.


Climate change has a direct impact on everyday life. In the attached story, TV host and food blogger Andrew Zimmern talks about why there was a $24 bill at Five Guys that went viral.

Essentially, there are water shortages, there are fires and floods, there are other climate factors that have affected the cattle population.

And that is in addition to crops being similarly impacted, increasing prices on tomatoes and other produce.

Its a good read; he lays it out well and shares some insights. When reading it, think about the in the context of climate change. It really does affect us all.

[Please note that the site this article appears on is a conservative news outlet. While I found it interesting, there are linked articles, other content on the page, and comments that belie the nature of this particular piece]


This is an interesting article that talks about Disney being "woke" but notes that Disney has essentially always been that way, and has changed perceptions by using their ability to tell stories, specifically regarding the environment.

I would argue that its even more profound. Walt Disney himself had an outstanding ability to unite people and bring about some changes (both in reality and in our way of thinking).

You can call it whatever name you want, but Disney has always been a kind of bellwether. The company can change perceptions, typically for the better.


This story is sad in so many ways, but still highly amusing.

In short, a vegan storefront purchased donuts from a local baker. They were supposed to be gluten free and vegan. They tested them, and they were neither. And some of them had a frosting with a trademarked "D" from Dunkin.

Apparently, this bakery was passing off Dunkin donuts as their own, and mislabeling them to boot.

This is the world we live in...


Latest video

Here is my take on Moon Landings: https://youtu.be/a9GdCy-4DWY?si=7mSvsHVn-HWfHnur

One Little Spark … 

The United States effectively eradicated measles as a disease in the late 20th century. And yet, thanks to foolish people, and even more foolish (and misguided) people in positions of power who guide in-DUH-viduals, we have seen measles outbreaks occur throughout the US in recent years.

A few weeks ago, we had an outbreak at an elementary school here in South Florida. But here's the oddity of it all: the state, and the local school board, require that all students have a signed health form which includes a requirement that they have had the MMR vaccine. And yet, apparently they (and many other students) didn't fill in the required forms to attend the school. The school responded by essentially saying and doing nothing - though they did offered free MMR vaccines to students and their families.

The problem here actually lies with the state, and in particular the surgeon general who appears to have graduated from medical school, but who is decidedly anti-vaxx and sees this not as a public health problem, but rather an indication that people are "listening" and not vaccinating. Somehow this is twisted to being good, and the state tacitly accepts waivers from those pesky health requirements - just don't turn them in!

This is a problem that will (sadly) only grow over time. People listen to their crazy uncle, and eschew actual science. And some of those people get into positions of power and cause harm to us all.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Bitchin' Dave's Newsletter - Mar 5

 Dave’s Musings

I find it odd that while the rest of the world makes every effort to go cashless and increase the adoption and usage of credit card, the United States continues to make using credit cards harder.

Retail establishments are offering a lower price for cash (or debit cards, which have shockingly little security on them). Legislation has been introduced at the federal level to limit how much credit issuers can charge and to move to a single network (depending on who runs it, the rate charged can be different).

And as a result, credit card companies, facing lower fees (and profits) are starting to tighten the perks and benefits of having a card, or plan to charge you more in order to take advantage of these benefits. In other words, the value proposition to you as a consumer gets worse as a result of these changes.

Throw in there bolder moves - like a possible merger between Capital one and Discover - and you have a less competitive market place that will drive consumers to want to use cash to make a transaction, or to simply write a check for larger transactions - which isn't exactly cashless.

I recently stumbled onto a site that accesses NORADs tracking database and allows you to see all of the objects in space.

Head over to https://www.n2yo.com/satellite/?s=25544 (I have it set to show the ISS), and play around. Its kind of fun.

A couple of scientists posited that a "Quantum Drive" could be used to provide a sort of thrust to maneuver objects in space. The science behind it is a little "sketchy" and it relies on mathematics rather than mechanics to operate.

According to these scientists, this would upend physics, because it defies some of the basics laws that we use to define the universe.

Nevertheless, these scientists created what they thought would be a prototype and launched it late in 2023.

...It was called "Dud in space" because it didn't power on, and then contact was lost.

So for the moment, the idea of a quantum drive remains entirely theoretical.


On the proxy war: Nelson Peltz put a 130 page(!) whitepaper, documenting specifically what he thinks needs to change at Disney, and how he can help.

Out of curiosity, I flipped through it, and while he makes a few good points, it sure reads like someone with an axe to grind.

He refers to it as a manifesto, and I think I'd agree. While I appreciate that some change is needed, I think the biggest problem is at the top, specific to the CEO.

Hopefully, he gets the message and plans an actual succession plan. And steps aside in the very near future.


American football has a system for measuring a 10-yard distance to obtain a first down that is a chain between two poles. Teams have four plays to do so. When the ball passes the poll that's 10 yards down the field, its a new set of 4 plays.

Here we are in the 21st century, and when its close to the marker, they bring the chains and poles on the field and measure to see if they got the yardage - sometimes absurdly, like putting a card between pole and where they arbitrarily spotted the ball.

The NFL has been playing around with an optical system to replace it. And during this past season, they tested it out - with a good deal of success. And they "may" want to use it in the future.

But its apparently too costly to upgrade all the stadiums and make it work for later this year, so they're hopeful it can be in a few years. A billion dollar organization can't find a way to implement technology they have already tested? That's funny.

There's also some discussion about the people who hold these poles. They might be out of work! Except, they are people hired by the stadium to make a small sum to just watch the game from the sidelines, and hold up a pole. So yeah, about that....

Still, I was glad to hear they were considering a new bit of technology to keep up with the times.

Latest video

In light of the science news noted above, I present to you two short videos of my dad talking about another means of providing thrust that is much more practical: gyrsocopic propulsion



One Little Spark … 

I can never understand why (among a few issues) we can't have a rational and intelligent conversation about abortion. Sure, its a thorny issue. But pull away the politics, and pull away the religious aspects, and maybe we can discuss the base questions. Of course, we can't seem to do that, and then we conflate "family planning" and contraception into the issue and we're making it sort of an all or nothing proposition.

Then there's legislation, like what appeared in Alabama. They have essentially redefined an embryo as a child. One of the justices reviewing the case absurdly invoked god in his ruling.

And the legislation's fallout led to the inevitable "law of unintended consequences."

First, there was a petition filed with the court that posits that if embryos are children, and children are eligible in the state for healthcare, then mothers need to be provided with prenatal healthcare by the state, without any exceptions or restrictions.

And more importantly, in IVF sometimes the embryos are "wasted" for various reasons, are not viable, or do not produce children. Under the law, if anyone is involved in the loss of embryos, they will have committed a felony. So the answer for hospitals was to simply stop any and all in-vitro fertilization.

This enraged certain people who only wanted to stop abortion, but still intended to help women who are unable to conceive. But alas, the law they wrote has consequences.

So would anyone like to have an honest discussion now?