Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

What if this time is different?

Posted from Culver City, California at 5:09 pm, February 26th, 2016

For at least the past forty years, while everyone else was fretting about Michelle Bachmann or Al Sharpton potentially becoming President, political science has calmly and rationally analyzed the electoral landscape and done an excellent job of predicting how the nomination contest would play out using a theory that is described as “the party decides”. This theory basically states that political parties guide voters to one of their preferred candidates through winnowing and signals from influential party actors. Thus, while a primary season might start out as a giant and chaotic clown show, candidates who lack support drop out after early contests, and the most influential elements within the party then unite behind one or two of the remaining candidates, showering them with media attention, money and endorsements. Voters, whose views are largely shaped by the media and the opinions of people/groups that they trust, end up backing the favored candidates. In the end, candidates who are unacceptable are dispatched, and the party always gets someone that its establishment supports.

This year on the Democratic side Hillary Clinton has the backing of the establishment, and while Bernie Sanders has passionate supporters and incredible homages from Larry David it doesn’t seem at all likely that he’ll be more than a speedbump in Clinton’s path to the nomination. The Republican side, however, is far more uncertain.

In my yearly predictions I said that Donald Trump wouldn’t win more than four primaries, and that Marco Rubio, who holds a huge lead in endorsements, would go on to win the party’s nomination. With Trump already boasting three wins, and the polls pointing towards a big day for him on Super Tuesday, it looks like my long tradition of incorrect predictions is likely to continue, and I (along with many political scientists) have gone from being absolutely certain that Trump would simply be a sideshow to wondering if he might in fact have a chance.

If Trump did actually win the nomination it would mark the first time in four decades that someone the party actively opposed was the nominee. While I would still bet on Marco Rubio based on past history and the likelihood that the party will do everything possible to get a candidate it wants, it’s interesting to assess what fundamental changes might have led to a possible failure in the “party decides” theory of the nomination process:

  • Skewed voter expectations: While there is a large faction in the Republican party that is very interested in passing laws and achieving results, there now exists a significant faction that seems focused on ideology over results. An effective lawmaker needs to be able to get people to work together to pass bills that can become law, but an ideological candidate needs only to promise to fight and never compromise. As an example of the latter, repeatedly voting to repeal Obamacare while the law’s namesake holds a veto pen is an act of protest, and not an act of governance. After seeing party leaders promoting candidates for office who lacked traditional qualifications (see: Palin, Sarah), it’s a confusing message to now try to convince the electorate that a candidate who is all sound and fury like Trump is unsuited for the job of President.
  • Lack of authenticity: In recent times the term “conservative” has become ever more rigidly defined, forcing candidates to disclaim positions they recently held. Thus Marco Rubio sponsors an immigration bill and four years later swears he didn’t actually want it to pass, and any candidate who might have ever suggested anything even resembling a limit on guns now airs commercials in which he fires assault weapons and suggests that even Jesus would push for more open carry laws. Despite the fact that these candidates are clearly full of crap everyone pretends that voters are convinced by the smoke and mirrors. After years of voters feeling like they’ve been played for fools by candidates who are just saying whatever they think the electorate wants to hear, Trump is espousing views so shocking, and so obviously different from anything any other politician would say, that voters believe he’s the only one not lying to them (note that the fact Trump professed very different views just a few years ago seems for some reason not to matter).
  • Truthiness: It’s a maxim to say that all politicians lie, but in the past politicians confronted with the truth have backtracked on their falsehoods. Today politicians confronted with the truth will simply double down on the lie, thus making it impossible to argue using facts. When you say that a climate scientist cannot be trusted on matters of climate change, or that economists who present analysis at odds with your preferred narrative are merely partisan shills, you create an electorate that won’t respect expert opinions. Clearly Mexico won’t pay for a border wall, it is impractical (not to mention inhumane) to simply round-up and deport eleven million people, and everyone isn’t going to get a free pony simply because a guy who built a few casinos sits in the White House, but after years of preaching that experts need not be trusted there is no easy way to plausibly discredit these claims.

While these same problems exist on the Democratic side – Hillary Clinton is shameless in her pandering to whatever audience she is addressing, and liberals will only believe scientists who remember not to point out that there is no evidence that GMOs are unsafe – political scientists seem to be in agreement that the problem is vastly more pronounced on the Republican side. Trump’s success serves as evidence of just how abnormal things have become, where a candidate who should have been dispatched easily by the Republican establishment is instead headed towards a delegate lead that might be hard for the party’s preferred candidate to overcome. Should he actually gain the nomination I feel certain that Trump would get absolutely shellacked in the general election, but I was equally certain that he wouldn’t come close to being nominated in the first place, so it’s a frightening possibility to wonder whether past history can still be considered a reliable guide in this election environment.

Twisted #?@!* Sister

Posted from San Antonio, Texas at 8:06 pm, February 23rd, 2016

Audrey has a lot of interesting acquaintances, many of whom work in the music industry in some capacity. One in particular will occasionally invite us to attend a random social event, and when he does it’s invariably a good idea to say “yes”, because it’s going to be a worthwhile evening. Last Monday he asked us to join him for a screening of the rock documentary “We are Twisted F***ing Sister“, and while under normal circumstances my response to anything related to Twisted Sister would probably vary between indifference and active hostility, when Brian asks the correct answer is always an emphatic “YES”.

The theater showing the film was a tiny, one-screen place in Hollywood that gave me flashbacks to college days and the CWRU Film Society – the dingy interior was much like Strosacker auditorium, the disheveled, mostly-male crowd would have fit in perfectly with the engineering geeks I spent four years with, and even the promos before the documentary had the same vibe as what was shown in college – one in particular featured a lengthy and creepy cult initiation scene followed by the words “Join Us” flashing across the screen with information about becoming a member of the theater’s film society.

The documentary is a must-watch for anyone under the misconception that becoming a rock star is easy. During the 1970s and early 1980s Twisted Sister literally played thousands of sold-out shows in clubs in New York, and did so six nights a week, every week, for ten years before they finally got a record deal. Unlike the stereotypical metal band, neither the group’s lead singer or guitarist/founder drank or did drugs, and the documentary made clear that from the beginning they were completely self-aware that music alone wouldn’t create success, and that their job was to do everything conceivable to give people a reason to show up and buy a ticket. Whether it was their over-the-top showmanship, a surprisingly intelligent advertising strategy, the ability to pragmatically deal with adversity, or whatever else might go into becoming a successful band, Twisted Sister thought about it, attacked it, and figured out how to succeed. By the time the documentary showed the group having been together for ten years, performing their hearts out night after night, they might as well have been Rocky saying he just wanted to go the distance against Apollo Creed, with every person in the theater solidly on their side.

Following the show, Dee Snider (the band’s lead singer) did a short Q&A, and turned out to be whip-smart. At one point someone mentioned having been at a Twisted Sister show in Long Beach thirty-five years ago, and Snider not only remembered the show but was still angry at some lady who had been in the audience and dumped an ashtray over the balcony railing. When asked what motivated him during ten years in which Twisted Sister was able to easily fill venues holding 2-3,000 people in New York, yet still wasn’t given the time of day by record companies, he amusingly responded that he was driven by “hatred”, and not in a dark, vengeful way, but simply that he was so angry at everyone who told him he couldn’t make it that it just made him work harder to prevent them from ever being right.

You hear a lot of stories about rock and roll bands being full of themselves or not realizing their good fortune, and while there are plenty of faults to find with Twisted Sister, no one can begrudge them their success – they knew what they were, they worked relentlessly, and very much earned their eventual moment in the spotlight. Putting another spin on it, if a band known for being obnoxious and performing while dressed like women can get this relatively conservative kid from Ohio on their side, clearly there’s a backstory that’s worth celebrating.

Moving Pictures

Posted from Bonaire at 5:22 pm, January 30th, 2016

I’m not so much with the words when it comes to describing the beautiful underwater environment here, so I’ve done my best to condense down an unwieldy amount of video into something that is hopefully borderline watchable. We saw a lot of cool things under the sea this past week. Part of what made things even more amazing on this trip is that on five of our seven dives we were on our own and got to find things without the aid of a divemaster, and without having to share them with a big dive group, so each moment with a fish or turtle was just for us and lasted as long as we wanted to hang out and the animals were willing to have us there. Bonaire will be high on the list of places to return to for future trips.

At the end of the week I had more than forty-five minutes of GoPro video. This is the condensed version, but it’s still five minutes long. Five minutes of underwater awesomeness long.

Chumming the Water

Posted from Bonaire at 8:55 pm, January 28th, 2016

Yesterday was a rest day from diving, and our only adventures were finding a food truck that serves awesome tuna and then driving around the northern part of the island. That wasn’t quite enough material for a standalone journal entry, but now everyone is caught up, so we can move on to today and the boat trip of many barfings.

The west side of Bonaire is calm, and you can wade in from the beach and dive on the reef. The east side is definitely not calm – there is a lagoon where some of the best windsurfers in the world practice daily, and waves crash into the rocks and throw spray fifteen feet into the air, so wading in from the beach is not going to end well for anyone. The upside of diving on the “wild side” of Bonaire is that the sea critters are bigger; you can see sharks, rays, and other things that aren’t found in abundance elsewhere. So we booked a boat trip, and then watched in fear as crazy winds blew constantly for the 48 hours prior to our dive. We showed up at 7:30 this morning expecting the trip to be cancelled, only to find two Dutch guys loading tanks onto a zodiak. When we asked them about water conditions, they ominously replied “it’s going to be rough, but don’t worry.”

After a briefing the boat slowly and carefully maneuvered through breakers that were 8-10 feet tall, getting us to the edge of the reef in a wet-but-alive state. The first dive was good but short – there were some newly-certified divers that blew through their air, forcing us to come up after 40 minutes instead of the hour scheduled. Animals sighted underwater included rays and sea turtles. Where things got interesting, however, was after surfacing while waiting for pickup. While the two Dutch guys scrambled to get people and gear back on the boat, a few of the divers started getting queasy in the huge swells and began chumming the waters. Sea sickness sucks, but it’s even worse when you’re floating in waves that are reminiscent of the end of The Perfect Storm and simultaneously you’re trying not to get smashed by gear and a twenty foot long boat. Luckily neither Audrey nor I got sick, but the mountainous waves and erupting passengers made for a memorable re-entry.

After hanging out in the calm shallows between dives we did a second dive (minus two seasick passengers who stayed behind), and this time the two novice divers were sent up early so that the rest of us could enjoy a longer dive. Sea turtles were everywhere – the dive site was named “Turtle City” – and that’s always fun since they’re such graceful and wise-looking animals. A giant spotted lobster was also roaming the reef, which was my first time seeing one out in the open. Prior to the dive the dive master had requested that each of us give him a hand sign when half of our air was gone, so forty minutes into the dive I let him know I was down to half a tank, and to my horror he then made the signal to end the dive and head towards the surface. I assumed I had screwed up signals and done “out of air” instead of “half a tank” since we were again ending the dive so early, and I ascended in a bubble net of shame. Luckily, when we got to the surface it turned out another diver had run out of air, so I was pardoned of the crime of gross hand signal negligence.

Tomorrow is our last day of diving since it’s unsafe to dive for 24 hours prior to flying. Given that Bonaire is just a two-hop flight from LA (LA-Houston-Bonaire), and that I have a gazillion frequent flyer miles, it’s probably a safe bet we’ll be back here again at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Donkeys on the Road

Posted from Bonaire at 10:22 pm, January 26th, 2016

Being able to walk into the ocean from the shore with a scuba tank, and then being able to see underwater life that exceeds any aquarium, and being able to do so whenever you feel like it, is a ridiculously excellent way to dive. The morning dive was off of the hotel beach, and the afternoon dive was at the loading pier for the Cargill Salt Works. Everything from eels to stone fish to sea turtles to barracuda to groupers made appearances, along with the ten gazillion other fish that are out here.

I also pulled the big camera out of the bag and grabbed a few shots of the local iguanas that come begging at the hotel during mealtimes, then made Audrey drive me around looking for flamingos as the sun was going down. I stood near a lagoon waiting for one of the birds to pull his head out from underwater while she made friends with some of the island’s donkeys. Then we came home and ate seafood and chocolate, ’cause that’s how we roll.

Virgin Gorda Sunset

Sunset last Saturday on Virgin Gorda. This was the view from our room, because I apparently earned a massive number of karma points in a past life.


Iguana begging on the hotel deck. There are three that hang around our place, along with an assorted variety of other lizards and hermit crabs.


Flamingo. A shockingly difficult bird to photograph, even when they’re standing with their head underwater just twenty feet away.


Posted from Bonaire at 8:14 pm, January 25th, 2016

We’ll see how the rest of the week goes, but the first day in Bonaire was a damn good one, even if the airline left our luggage in Curacao.

The reason people fly nearly to Venezuela in order to spend time on a speck of an island is that you can walk into the ocean, swim out a hundred feet from the shore, and be diving in some of the most pristine reef in the world. Today Audrey and I put that proposition to the test, and it’s true – we strapped on tanks, waded out a bit, and then dropped down to a reef that was more interesting than almost anywhere I’ve ever dived before. Well played, Bonaire.

In addition to the underwater adventures, above ground we discovered that our super-fancy lodging is a great spot for finding hermit crabs and iguanas. Two of the latter showed up to breakfast, both of them big but one of them jumbo-sized and apparently unafraid of people – he would lounge under someone’s table, probably looking for scraps, until the resort owner would chase him off with a stick. Parrots were hanging out in the trees in front of the resort, flamingos were doing their thing in the salt flats on the south side of the island, and after stopping for a drink at a place with a sign out front asking people to shut the doors so that the donkeys wouldn’t walk in and eat the plants, we passed about five of the big guys trudging down the road after the sun went down.

The big camera hasn’t left the bag very often on this trip, but like Hugh Hefner I’m under no illusion that this journal’s audience is here for the articles, so hopefully there should be a few photos attached to the upcoming journal entries. This island is a pretty awesome place.

Across the Universe

Posted from Beef Island, British Virgin Islands at 12:39 pm, January 24th, 2016

Given the lack of interesting journal material lately, Audrey suggested that the cheese-eating beggar cat at lunch yesterday merited a mention. Of more interest may be the fact that I decided to explore a couple of the random dirt roads running off of the island’s (single) main road. Given the awesome power and traction of the rental Suzuki this was a slightly dicey affair, but our first foray led us to a field filled with giant red hermit crabs, dozens of butterflies, and a baby goat that screamed like a human. After leaving the screaming goat, the adjoining beach had a few footprints on it but was otherwise far less trafficked than the named beaches.

After exploring another random side road we finally found a beach with waters calm enough for snorkeling – in a bit of irony, after a few days of searching the island for places that were calm enough to allow snorkeling, this was literally the closest possible beach to our rental. It was the healthiest coral I’ve seen so far, the fishes were numerous enough to make it interesting, and visibility was a solid 10-15 feet so I didn’t have to worry about snagging my man parts on unseen rocks.

Today is a transit day – the ferry schedule forced us to arrive at the airport more than three hours early, and we’ve got three hops in tiny planes from BVI to St. Maarten to Curacao to Bonaire. After that we’ve got a week of shore diving in the world’s premier shore diving location. The big camera may not see much action on this trip, but I’m hoping the GoPro gets plenty of use making a few more fish videos.


Posted from Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands at 9:50 am, January 23rd, 2016

I suspect the “water was too rough for snorkeling, hung out with friends” posts might be getting a bit stale, so just know that yesterday was more of the same. The only new addition was Kalyan’s dance moves at dinner, something none of us was fully prepared for, and none of us will easily forget. Hopefully it won’t be another fifteen years until this group gets together again.

A Little Bit o’ Everything Nice

Posted from Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands at 9:34 am, January 22nd, 2016

The water was too rough for snorkeling again yesterday, so Kalyan and I headed down to the Rockefeller’s posh resort to check out the beach there. After being told by security that we could access the public beach but “not use any of the amenities or interact with the guests” we hung out for a bit at Little Dix Bay. It’s probably for the best that Audrey has cut me off from making any more wisecracks about the naming of that particular body of water.

In the afternoon I took the ferry to pick the girl up from the airport, and after our return we met up with everyone for dinner. Banick had been on a boat trip during the day and invited a couple that was also on the trip to dinner, one of whom is a photographer who is pretty well-known for his underwater dog photos; it turns out that he lives about a mile from us in Venice, so we might have a new buddy to explore restaurants with when we get home. As is typical with this group of friends, there was a lot of laughing throughout the night, but it ended with people literally crying as Banick recounted a night from his college year abroad in England when he was attacked by some hooligans outside of a bar – with everything from Ajay standing on a bench making kung-fu noises to Banick trying to “Hulkomania my shirt off” the story was definitely a throwback to all of our crazy nights sitting up yapping during college.

Day of Three Cakes

Posted from Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands at 10:53 pm, January 20th, 2016

Dan and I attempted snorkeling this morning, but that attempt was thwarted by poor visibility – while swimming out to the reef a swell came by, and at its trough a massive coral head emerged from the depths. The fact that the water was so murky that that I couldn’t to see the coral from about two feet away was reason enough to head back to shore, since the alternative would have been getting ripped to shreds on the reef, something I’m not fond of.

Instead of snorkeling I joined the crew for a resupply mission into town, then hung out and reminisced for hours before enjoying a steak and cake birthday dinner for the many newly-minted 40-year-olds on this trip. Audrey arrives tomorrow, but sadly her arrival coincides with the trip’s end for a few of my friends here – it’s been fun seeing people again and it will be a shame to have to start the goodbyes so soon.

The Baths

Posted from Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands at 11:13 pm, January 19th, 2016

The Baths are a series of small coves created by hundreds of massive boulders on the southwest side of the island, and they are epic. The short “Caves” trail allows you to scramble over, under and around the rocks, wading through water, hanging on ropes, and scrambling on all fours – there are easier paths through the area, but there are enough branches in the trail to create an awesome choose-your-own-adventure route. Making things even better, the snorkeling in the area was also pretty good. Ryan left a happy boy.

Aside from boulder adventures, the day’s other activities were a trip to the old Copper mine, some soul-restoring moments sitting above the ocean, and a dinner at the top of the island at the “Hog Heaven” barbecue restaurant. Also, lest I forget an amusing moment, as we were standing on the beach Rachel (without her glasses) was looking at the crowds trying to identify anyone in our group. Suddenly recognizing someone emerging from the water, she exclaimed “thanks goodness for Jonathan and his great white whiteness”; no truer description of a visitor to the Caribbean from the snowy north has ever been uttered.


Posted from Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands at 11:50 pm, January 18th, 2016

Stage two of the 2016 Caribbean scuba extravaganza started today, although not without more transportation travails. The ferry was scheduled to depart at 11:45 (arriving at 12:15), but at 12:05 we were still parked at the dock in St. Thomas. A clearly agitated passenger finally leaped out of her seat and ran outside to give her two cents to the captain: “you out there boozin’ and I has an appointment in Tortola – c’mon already”; we were underway two minutes later.

I had to catch a second ferry at 1:30, which didn’t seem like it would be a tight connection, but after arriving twenty minutes late I somehow managed to go from the middle of the customs line to the end as a local youth basketball team proceeded to cut in front of everyone. After finally getting through customs I asked where I could buy a ticket for the ferry to Virgin Gorda, to which the response was “that ferry leaves from Road Town”. Twenty-five minutes by taxi later I was at another ferry terminal, luckily on time, and soon embarked on a trip to Virgin Gorda to meet up with some old friends.

Their plan for the evening was to visit Leverick Bay for the Michael Beans Happy-Arrrr. If ever anyone wants a two hour musical pirate show I can confidently say you will never find a more enthusiastic host, although I discovered my limit for “-arrr” jokes was far less than the allotted 120 minutes. Everyone else seemed to be feeling the same, so we bid the pirate good night and spent the remaining hours catching up on everything that’s happened over the past two decades, all the while with one of the crew randomly breaking into the Whip and Nae Nae – aside from the fact that he’s now a federal patent judge, he hasn’t changed.

Under the Sea

Posted from Red Hook, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands at 11:36 pm, January 17th, 2016

After not diving since October 2014 I jumped out of the boat today only to come swimming back to shamefully admit that I’d forgotten to put on a weight belt. Adding insult to injury, the guy on the boat reported that the BCD had pockets for weight and that I was wearing 14 pounds. They still let me dive, but I’m pretty certain they did so with the assumption that I was brain damaged.

The dive sites were shallow so running out of air wasn’t a concern, thus both dives ended when the divemaster got cold. Scuba diving is always a nice way to relax, and the soft corals pulsing in the current just made it moreso. After diving I also wanted to do some snorkeling at the nearby Coki Beach, but when I got off the boat the beach was a total zoo – apparently a cruise ship had just landed and dumped the equivalent of a mid-sized American city onto the narrow sand. I fled, but returned a few hours later to a spot where they sell “fish biscuits”, so upon entering the water you are swarmed by schools of begging reef fish. Sadly I didn’t realize that the GoPro battery was dead, so while I got a short video of some rays, the hungry reef fish and two cuttlefish sightings will have to go undocumented.

I’m still trying to figure out underwater video, so I’m gonna wait a bit longer before submitting my awesome parrot fish footage to GoPro in hopes of getting a sponsorship.

My seat had a bed

Posted from Red Hook, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands at 8:54 pm, January 16th, 2016

The much-needed vacation and scuba extravaganza of 2016 is officially underway. I was surprised when I printed my itinerary to discover that many moons ago when I arranged the trip I’d cashed in award miles for a business-class ticket, and even more surprised when I got on the flight from LAX to JFK that it was one of those super-fancy planes where the seat folds down flat. We live in a glorious time when you can be in a bed 37,000 feet in the sky, and even moreso when you can enjoy that bed after eating shrimp sliders and vanilla ice cream.

Aside from the seat-bed, most of today’s travel details aren’t worth writing about, although after arriving I did have a flashback to the Turkish side trip of doom. Twenty minutes into the shuttle ride in St. Thomas I realized that the driver was driving across the entire island and dropping everyone off at the ferry terminal, and that I might have gotten onto the wrong van. After the rest of the passengers had grabbed their luggage and departed I sheepishly repeated the name of my hotel, and asked if he thought I was stupid. Luckily no mistakes had been made, he only thought I was a little bit stupid, and five minutes later I was drinking rum punch in the lobby of the Point Pleasant Resort.

The day’s only other adventures consisted of a trip to the local scuba shop to book a dive for tomorrow, followed by a long nap meant to overcome the effects of getting only four hours of sleep last night. The resort’s lone restaurant is right on the water, so I imbibed another rum drink while watching fish swimming past underwater lights. I purposely picked the table farthest from the solo saxophone player who was playing smooth jazz hits in a corner of the restaurant, not realizing that he made frequent field trips to jam out in front of each table; being a lone diner at a fancy resort is uncomfortable enough, but now I have memories of a saxophone player standing two feet away while playing in a manner that can best be described as “suggestive yet awkward”; one can only hope future therapy will not be required to deal with any painful flashbacks.

The Seat Bed

The seat bed. We live in the future.

2016 Predictions

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:40 pm, January 11th, 2016

For the eighth consecutive year, here’s my annual attempt to start the journal off with predictions for the coming year that are guaranteed to be laughably incorrect twelve months later:

  1. Since it’s an election year, here are the election-related predictions:
    1. Hillary Clinton will win the Presidency with a similar margin to Obama’s 332-206 victory in 2012. While Republicans have a structural advantage in House elections, Democrats seem to have a structural advantage in Presidential elections, so barring something like an economic slowdown or a terrorist attack Clinton would seem to be in the driver’s seat.
    2. Marco Rubio will be the Republican nominee. Donald Trump, currently far and away the frontrunner, will win South Carolina and at most three other states. Favorites during the primaries change frequently as voters try to figure out who has the best chance to win the Presidency, but the candidate with the most endorsements tends to also get the most votes.
    3. There are 34 Senate seats up for grabs, 24 of which are held by Republicans. Given those odds, and since Democrats do better during Presidential elections (when turnout is higher), they will pick up between four and seven seats, giving them between 50 and 53 total members.
    4. Marijuana will be legalized in California in 2016, as well as in at least five other states. There are two reasons why I think this will happen: first, 58% of the country now believes marijuana should be legalized. Second, support for legalization is highest among younger voters, who tend to turn out in greater numbers in presidential election years, so those pushing for legalization will make every effort to get the issue on the ballot for November.
  2. Since first rolling off the assembly line in 2012 Tesla has not changed the appearance of the Model-S, so this year they will announce some cosmetic changes – nothing too dramatic, but enough that cars produced after the change will be visually distinct in some way from previous models.
  3. Leonardo DiCaprio will win best actor at the Oscars. Hollywood likes to reward well-liked actors who have been nominated multiple times without winning, so this seems like his year. For the record, I try to avoid predictions that might seem obvious, and I didn’t realize that between starting this journal entry and finishing it that the Golden Globe awards would take place and establish Oscar favorites, so it wasn’t quite the even-money bet that it now appears to be when I first wrote it down.
  4. The Black Lives Matter organization will have mostly disappeared from headlines by the end of the year, hopefully to be replaced by a more effective carrier for a very important message. While many, many people want to see this group’s goals put into action, they cannot be an effective agent for change if they drive away potential supporters with adversarial tactics that include hijacking political events, blocking freeways, and shutting down community outreach meetings.
  5. This is a prediction that I actually expect will be wrong, but I don’t like to make obvious predictions so I’ll say that the 2016 US Olympic Men’s basketball team will lose one of their games. The US should be completely dominant in basketball, but they’ve had a couple of close calls in the last two Olympics after a disappointing showing in 2004, and I think that the team-first nature of international basketball could lead to another letdown for a group that has no experience playing together.
  6. Obama’s job approval numbers, currently at about 47%, will rise to between 53-57% as his term ends and opposition focus moves from him to Hillary. Unless Michelle Obama goes into politics, all of the talk of Obama the Kenyan-Muslim-socialist-who-is-setting-up-FEMA-internment-camps-for-gun-owners will finally end, and people will instead remember a pretty decent guy who raised two great daughters, presided over a decrease in unemployment from 10% down to 5%, and oversaw a notable improvement in the nation’s reputation overseas.
  7. Microsoft’s plans to force upgrades to Windows 10 will backfire spectacularly, leading to frustrated users, lost work hours, and resulting in a PR debacle and calls for the CEO to step down. Despite giving the OS away for free, only 8% of users have upgraded since its release in July (compare that to 27% of Mac users who upgraded just one month after the release of their latest OS).
  8. Batman v. Superman won’t finish in the top ten domestic box office for 2016. The last Superman movie was subpar, Batman without Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale doesn’t generate much fan anticipation, and the release schedule is already crowded with another Star Wars movie and numerous comic book films. Superman is all sorts of awesome, and it’s a travesty that no one has made a great Superman movie since 1978, so I hope that this prediction is spectacularly wrong.
  9. Russia will engage in significant provocation this year in an effort to rekindle a Cold War atmosphere. Putin is opportunistic, as demonstrated by the war in Georgia, and I think he wants to do what he can to make the US administration more hawkish as it allows him to create alliances with countries that the US might otherwise engage diplomatically – when the US has better diplomatic relations with countries like China and Iran it means that Russia is more isolated than it otherwise would be.
  10. Twitter, which traded at a 52-week high of $53.69, will finish 2016 at least 25% lower than its current $20 price. The company’s revenues are supposedly rising, but unless I’m missing something (which is probable!) they have no unique technologies, no obvious way to increase profits without annoying Twitter-ites with more ads, and thus no obvious upside in the immediate future. With that said, for someone who works in technology I’m notoriously bad at technology predictions, so don’t rush out to short their stock based on anything I’ve written.
  11. Nest hasn’t come out with a new product in a while, so I expect this year will see a new offering. Since “a new product from Nest” is kind of obvious, I’ll dig myself into a hole by saying that it will specifically be a security product, combining their Dropcam technology with the motion sensor technology in their smoke detectors, and potentially including something to monitor the opened/closed state of doors and windows (which would also be valuable for future energy efficiency products).
  12. The Browns will have another absolutely, indisputably, undeniably horrendous year in 2016, winning only between three and five games. They just fired their head coach for the third time in five years, which not only means that players like Joe Thomas and Alex Mack are likely to flee to other teams, but will also make it nearly impossible to attract any talent during free agency. I’ll happily go on record as saying that getting rid of Pettine was an extraordinarily dumb move, and that even Vince Lombardi would not have won more than three or four games with the 2015 Browns roster.

There they are. I feel good about this batch of predictions, just as I did when I got them mostly-wrong last year, so expect that most of the above will be unbelievably incorrect in twelve months. As always, the comments link is there for both predictions that anyone wants to add, or any mocking that might be needed due to my insistence on continuing to treat the Browns as a subject worth writing about.