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

Super Bloom 2019

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:43 pm, April 30th, 2019

Three weeks ago I needed to drive to Las Vegas to meet my brother, who was starting a road trip across the country and wanted to spend a day together in Sin City. I figured that this trip was the perfect excuse to take a day off of work, allowing me to see this year’s Super Bloom while avoiding the “poppy apocalypse” created by weekend crowds. I expected the flowers at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve to be nice, but to say they exceeded expectations would be a gross understatement.

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve
Landscape by Dr. Seuss, Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve
“The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your entire life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.”
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve
The orange flowers and the yellow flowers were best friends.
Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve
It was nearly impossible to take a photo that didn’t include at least a dozen poppies.

Guessing About 2019

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:44 pm, January 21st, 2019

Since 2009 I’ve started each year by making predictions for the new year, and since 2009 I’ve mostly gotten those predictions wrong. Despite being horrible at it, this annual effort at forecasting the future is an amusing exercise, so continuing the inglorious tradition, here’s a bunch of guesses about what’s (probably not) going to happen in 2019:

  1. Tiger Woods will return to the world golf #1 ranking at some point in 2019. Assuming he can stay healthy this year, his season-ending victory at the Tour Championship in 2018 should be an omen of good things to come. The golf world seems very ready to have its superstar winning tournaments again.
  2. Democrats will not seriously pursue impeachment of Donald Trump in 2019. I may be either giving Democrats too much credit, underestimating what Robert Mueller’s investigation will uncover, or be too optimistic about Trump not doing anything so crazy that impeachment becomes inevitable, but I think the Democratic leadership wants to avoid this fight unless forced into it. Absent facts emerging that demand impeachment, Pelosi & Schumer seem to understand that they need to be seen as using their power responsibly, and also that pursuing impeachment without bipartisan agreement on wrongdoing would set a dangerous precedent in which future Congresses would no longer view impeachment as a last resort but instead as a way to eliminate an opposition President.
  3. After Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox Studios, 2019 will see another massive media merger. It may be something like Sony merging with Netflix, Warner Brothers buying the Fox Network, Google gaining a broadcast or studio presence, or something else entirely, but it will be comparable in magnitude to the Disney-Fox deal. With its acquisitions of Pixar in 2006, Marvel in 2009, Lucasfilm in 2012, and now Fox Studios (which included a large stake in Hulu), Disney is dominating the entertainment market, and the other major players will be looking for ways to compete.
  4. After making almost $60 billion in profits in 2018, Apple will see its lowest yearly profits since it made $40 billion in 2014. Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad, but since his death Apple hasn’t created any new products that have had a major impact in the market, and with competitors now offering comparable devices at cheaper prices, 2019 will be the year that Apple’s failure to innovate without Steve Jobs finally starts to catch up to it.
  5. Despite massive privacy violations Facebook won’t make any significant changes this year and will begin to see its active user base erode. By the end of the year the number of people “quitting Facebook” will be a noticeable minority, and other companies will be either planning or promoting legitimate Facebook alternatives in an effort to snatch up the Facebook deserters.
  6. With dozens of Democratic candidates testing the waters of a Presidential run, by the end of the year the leading candidates will be Elizabeth Warren, a new face that the party’s Progressive wing coalesces around (probably someone like Kamala Harris), and someone with executive experience (a governor, military leader, or former executive branch leader) who no one is paying any attention to right now. If Bernie Sanders runs he’ll lose most of his 2016 supporters to whoever the new Progressive darling ends up being.
  7. SpaceX will successfully launch a crewed flight to the space station this year, but Boeing will further delay their first crewed mission until 2020.
  8. With the rollout of 5G cellular service already beginning, Google will make a move towards acquiring an existing wireless company or deploying its own 5G network. From 2010 until 2016 Google was actually building out a fiber network to provide internet access directly to homes and business, and with that effort having stalled it seems possible that they have instead decided that 5G wireless networking is a cheaper and better way to pursue the company’s goals of providing internet directly to consumers.
  9. Avengers: Endgame will outperform Star Wars: Episode IX at the box office. This may not be a particularly risky prediction given that Star Wars: The Last Jedi took in $620 million vs $678 million for Avengers: Infinity War, so I’ll up the ante by saying that the next Avengers movie will earn at least $100 million more than the next Star Wars film.
  10. After Virgin Galactic finally reached space in December, their flight test program will continue through 2019, but they won’t fly any paying customers. They will, however, do a test flight with Richard Branson on board during 2019 – the Virgin CEO set ballooning world records in the 1980s and 1990s, so hopping on a test flight to space is right up his alley.
  11. Despite predictions of bidding wars, during NFL free agency Le’veon Bell won’t be offered anything that comes close to the reported $70 million that he turned down from the Steelers. While he’s arguing that he should be paid $17 million per year, at best he’ll be the NFL’s third-highest paid running back behind Todd Gurley ($14.375 million per year) and David Johnson ($13 million per year). Owners won’t want to reward a player who sat out a season, while general managers won’t want to devote a large chunk of their salary cap to a guy who seems to have an inflated ego and who was immediately replaced by someone who put up better numbers.
  12. Tesla will introduce a major refresh of its Model S and Model X vehicles, including a new battery pack technology. The specs they have been promoting for their upcoming semi truck indicate that they’ve got some exciting new battery technologies ready, but at a minimum they will want to get all of their vehicles using the 2170 battery cells that they produce at their Gigafactory rather than the 18650 cells they currently purchase from battery manufacturers.
  13. Boeing will officially announce its new 797 plane this year, touting a signature oval-shaped, composite fuselage meant to maximize passenger space while limiting aerodynamic drag. There have been conflicting reports about the construction materials and shape of the new plane’s fuselage, but I think an oval, carbon-fiber fuselage will be favored as a baby step towards the much more efficient blended wing body designs that will (hopefully) become the norm in future aircraft.
  14. While US politics will continue to be a dispiriting example of how not to run a country, at least one major piece of legislation will pass this year since both Trump and the Democrats will be eager to show that they are capable of getting things done. Priorities for Democrats seem to be some sort of voting rights act, fixes for Obamacare, and changes to the immigration system. Trump would be happy with either a wall or something that he can call a trade deal. Both sides would probably settle for an infrastructure package. Thus, I suspect that if investigations and scandals don’t swallow the entire agenda that a bargain will be cut to give each side a “win” that they can tout to their supporters ahead of the 2020 elections.
  15. PG&E, now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy due to liability from the recent deadly wildfires, will be split up and in many cases turn into municipal utilities. The process will be a painful one – it makes sense for a big city to purchase electrical poles and power plants, but would be too costly for a rural area to purchase and maintain – so the story of PG&E’s demise will slowly escalate into a major crisis for the state of California during the coming year.

That does it for 2019. The comments link is available for anyone who wants to add their own predictions, otherwise check back in one year to see if I could beat 2018’s rate of 25% correct predictions. Note that the Browns have been intentionally excluded from this year’s predictions in order to avoid jinxing what everyone is cautiously hoping will be a promising season.

Things That Didn’t Happen in 2018

Posted from Culver City, California at 5:47 pm, January 6th, 2019

It’s been a while since there was a journal update, but the recap of my predictions for 2018 warrants a return from my hiatus. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get many right. Here’s the recap:

  1. Here are the election predictions for 2018:

    1. Republicans will barely lose the House, with Democrats holding a post-election advantage of between 1-10 seats.

      Pending the outcome of the disputed race in North Carolina, Democrats will have gained either 41 or 42 seats and currently hold a 235-199 advantage, far more than the 1-10 seat advantage I predicted. I thought Democrats would do well, but they ended up with one of the best performances by any party since Watergate.

    2. Republicans will end the year with either 49 or 50 Senate seats.

      While Democrats got a similar percentage of votes for Senate races as they did for House races (53 million total votes vs 35 million for Republicans), those votes were overwhelmingly in large states like California and New York, and Republicans actually gained two seats overall, giving them a 53-47 edge. Missouri and Florida are two states that I thought would stay blue, and I expected Democrats to make at least one surprise pickup, but Republicans did well in states that voted for Trump.

    3. Efforts to eliminate gerrymandering will get a boost, with ballot measures passing in at least five states. Additionally, the Supreme Court ruling in Gill vs. Whitford will accept the argument that overly-partisan districts are unconstitutional, leading to lawsuits in several states against the current maps.

      I’m giving myself half credit for this one. Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Colorado and Utah all passed measures to limit or eliminate gerrymandering, and hopefully more states will follow in coming years as it is ridiculous how districts are currently drawn in many places. Meanwhile the Supreme Court essentially punted on their gerrymandering case, voting 9-0 to send the case back to the lower courts because the defendants had not demonstrated “concrete and particularized injuries”. The case was brought against the state of Wisconsin, where Republicans ended up with 63 out of the 99 State Assembly seats despite Democrats winning 53% of the vote.

  2. After twelve years in development and many setbacks, Virgin Galactic will finally get their new ship into space.

    Scaled Composites launched a similar design out of the Mojave airport in 2004, capturing the $10 million X-Prize as the first private vehicle to reach space, and on the morning of December 13 they returned with the first spaceship built to carry average citizens into space. We live in exciting times.

  3. Avengers: Infinity War will become the highest-grossing Marvel movie.

    While the new Avengers movie earned $687 million at the domestic box office to surpass the $623 million earnings of the original Avengers movie, Black Panther beat it to the punch, taking in $700 million after its February launch to claim the mantle as Marvel’s highest-grossing film.

  4. The Browns will draft a quarterback at #1 and trade back from the #4 pick.

    John Dorsey chose not to trade his picks, but by all indications he apparently nailed the 2018 draft, taking likely Rookie of the Year Baker Mayfield at #1, and Pro Bowler Denzel Ward at #4. I’m a big fan of the math behind trading back from high picks, but I’m a bigger fan of the Browns sucking less and thus I’m happy to have gotten this prediction wrong.

  5. Tesla will not hit its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week by the end of Q2, and will finish the year with total Model 3 deliveries between 170,000-190,000.

    Tesla pulled out all of the stops and barely hit the 5,000 Model 3 per week goal in Q2, but they have been averaging just under 5,000 vehicles per week since then and came out lower than I expected for the year with 145,846 Model 3 deliveries.

  6. Jeff Bezos will expand his presence in the news world.

    Since buying the Washington Post in 2013 Bezos has helped grow the paper’s profits, staff and subscribers. Additionally the software created to manage the content and web site for the Post is being used by an increasing number of newspapers around the world, helping them refocus on journalism and letting someone else handle the technical side of running a newspaper in the internet age. Despite these successes, Bezos has surprisingly not made any further ventures into the news world, so this prediction, like most of the others, is incorrect.

  7. The new Han Solo Star Wars movie will significantly underperform recent Star Wars films, earning between $375-425 million

    I got the “underperform” part right, but vastly underestimated how little interest audiences would have for this film. The final box office for “Solo” was just $214 million, far less than the $532 million box office of its predecessor Rogue One.

  8. Boeing will not complete its first 777X airplane in 2018 as scheduled.

    While the 787 faced years of delays that cost Boeing billions of dollars, the 777X completed final assembly on time and by all reports should be flying on schedule in early 2019, ready for first delivery in 2020.

  9. Despite reportedly spending $1 billion on producing television shows in 2018, Apple will still end 2018 without any popular programs.

    While Apple reportedly has almost thirty shows in development, they have so far only released two: Planet of the Apps, which Mashable charitably called a “successful disaster“, and Carpool Karaoke, which got renewed for a second season despite “lacking critical and audience acclaim“. I miss Steve Jobs.

  10. The California High Speed Rail will start to be rebranded as a route that connects the job-rich coastal cities with the affordable housing of the Central Valley.

    I actually got this one right! After years of touting connectivity between San Francisco and Los Angeles as its primary benefit, the first point in the 2018 High Speed Rail Business Plan is “Connecting the Central Valley to the Bay Area and the Los Angeles economic megaregions through highspeed rail will give businesses around the state new opportunities to choose locations based on labor force availability and to tighten linkages with businesses and field offices.” I’ve noted previously how disappointed I am in the management of this project, but still firmly believe that having a high speed rail line connecting California’s major cities will ultimately be a huge win for the state.

  11. The Simpsons will finally come to an end after 30 seasons, announcing that the 2018-2019 season will be its last.

    As of 6-January there is no confirmation whether The Simpsons will be back for Season 31 or not, so I’m making this prediction my first-ever “neither right nor wrong” prognostication. I think it’s odd that if TV’s longest-running scripted series was going to end that there wouldn’t be an announcement made as soon as possible in order to drive up final season ratings, but thus far all has been quiet on the subject of the animated family from Springfield.

  12. The Bitcoin bubble will finally burst. The cryptocurrency is down nearly fifty percent from its high of $20,000, but the bubble will finally burst for good sometime this year, and prices will be well under $1,000 by the time 2018 comes to a close.

    The price continued to drop throughout the year, but closed just under $4000, and not “well under $1000” as I predicted it would. I’m still dumbfounded that it is worth as much as it is – do even ten percent of the people investing in Bitcoin even know what a Bitcoin actually is?

  13. Lebron James will not leave the Cavs.

    He went away again, but it was nice to see Cavs fans giving him a standing ovation in his first game back in Cleveland after joining the Lakers. As a former Clevelander I’m hardly in a position to criticize anyone for leaving, and Lebron did the impossible by taking the Cavs to four straight NBA Finals and winning Cleveland’s first professional sports championship since 1964, so kudos to him, and best of luck with the new team.

Final score: 3.5 out of 14 (25%), my third-worst showing in ten years behind only 2014 (12%) and 2013 (11%). Predictions for 2019 should follow soon.