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

All the Things for 2021

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:08 pm, January 20th, 2021

This year will mark thirteen years of making laughably incorrect predictions about the coming year. I have intentionally skipped any predictions related to the on-field performance of the Cleveland Browns to avoid having the universe unleash its jinxing powers against them.

  1. The COVID vaccine rollout will go smoothly once the new administration settles in, and the economy will rebound quickly once vaccination rates hit critical mass, causing the current unemployment rate of 6.7% to drop below 4.0% by the end of the year. I’m basing this prediction on the 1918 Influenza, which ended and saw everyone party during the Roaring Twenties.
  2. At least one of the following Senators will leave the Republican party this year and begin caucusing with Democrats: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, or Pat Toomey. None of these four need to be too worried about re-election, all have expressed grave concerns with the direction of their party, and with Democrats in control of the Senate they would wield huge legislative influence as swing votes if they decided to switch.
  3. SpaceX will not conduct an orbital test of their new Starship rocket, but will be on track to do so in 2022. SpaceX previously announced that they would start commercial launches of their new vehicle in 2021, and they have already launched prototypes eight miles into the atmosphere, but there’s a huge difference between eight miles and an orbital flight. While it would be awesome to see them pull off commercial flights in 2021, test flights in 2022 with commercial flights a year or two later would still be an incredible achievement.
  4. Rivian will begin delivery of their all-electric R1T truck before the end of the summer, and will steal some of Tesla’s thunder by winning the car/truck/SUV of the year award from Motor Trend. I know some people love Tesla’s Cybertruck, but I think Tesla made a huge mistake by packing amazing tech into an exterior that a majority of current truck owners won’t want to drive. Given its controversial exterior, the Cybertruck provides an opening for Rivian to capture the market for everyone who wants a truck with a technologically-advanced electric powertrain without having to drive something that looks like it came from a Mad Max movie.
  5. The Browns will trade back at least twice during the 2021 NFL draft, and will end the draft with at least one extra 2022 draft pick in the third round or better. I know the draft is in Cleveland and the Browns expect to be competitive next year, but I think the math guys in their front office are aware that if you want a team to be consistently good you need to exploit inefficiencies in the system, and a major inefficiency is that teams undervalue future draft picks. If you disagree, ask the Texans and Dolphins how they feel about this upcoming draft.
  6. Americans will win at least three gold medals in the mid-distance and distance events at the Tokyo Olympics. The world should be able to figure out a way to hold the Olympics by the end of the summer, and while the men’s 800m is the only event in this category in which an American might be considered the favorite, athletes like Emma Coburn and Galen Rupp have the potential to surprise everyone, particularly after being able to use 2020 to get healthy and spend the time base training.
  7. The Avatar sequel will bring people back to movie theaters and will be on its way towards a top-three all-time box office showing by the time these prediction are revisited next year. The original Avatar hasn’t aged well, and conventional wisdom seems to be questioning whether there’s an appetite for a sequel, much less the four that are planned, but there are doubts about every movie James Cameron makes, and he always delivers; I remember snide rumors about how Titanic was over budget and that the director had lost his mind, Fox Studios initially passed on the original Avatar, etc. Time after time people doubt him, but in the end James Cameron knows how to put something new and compelling on a screen.
  8. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will receive permanent protection, either through a national monument designation or via an act of Congress. In its waning days the Trump administration auctioned off drilling rights in ANWR, and big oil companies chose not to bid. Banks don’t want to finance such a controversial project, the world is moving away from fossil fuels, and any drilling attempts will face innumerable lawsuits before they can proceed, so oil companies seem to have given up the push to turn a pristine wildlife refuge into an oilfield, meaning the primary argument against permanent protection is now gone.
  9. Congress will pass bills shoring up Obamacare, addressing voting rights, and dealing with immigration, but nothing will get through the Senate related to gun control, marijuana legalization, or giving statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington DC. While the Left is understandably overjoyed at the election outcome, they will need to lower their expectations as the reality of a 50-50 Senate becomes apparent.
  10. Google will announce some sort of streaming service to compete with Netflix, leveraging its massive library of YouTube content and its expertise in AI for targeting content. While there are currently YouTube apps that you can run on a TV, they are clunky and hard to use, and Google will find a way to better monetize its existing assets while offering additional content via original programming, curated YouTube content, or possibly an acquisition of an existing studio.
  11. 2021 will see high-speed, wireless home internet begin to displace wired home internet. Between ultra wideband 5G and satellite services like Starlink, just as most people no longer use landlines for phone service, 2021 will be the year that begins the transition to home internet that doesn’t require a cable, DSL or fiber connection.
  12. Following Brexit, Scotland will vote for independence and will rejoin the EU. The process of actually putting a referendum in front of voters may take some time, and Scotland leaving the UK may prove just as messy as Brexit was, so it’s probably premature to suggest a vote will happen in 2021, but if I’m going to make incorrect predictions anyhow, why not make bold incorrect predictions?
  13. Facebook and Twitter will take significant actions to address misinformation, threats, and bots on their networks. Both companies are more than capable of better moderation if they choose to do so (Facebook in particular has tons of AI expertise that is currently used to drive clicks, but that could be easily redirected to content moderation), and social media is in the crosshairs of legislators from both parties, so they will be extremely motivated to do whatever they can to change the narrative that heavy regulation is urgently needed.
  14. Tesla will begin production of the Tesla Semi, but will delay production of the Cybertruck to 2022. The Tesla Semi was originally supposed to be available in 2019, then 2020, but 2021 will finally see it deployed. The Cybertruck is supposed to start shipping in 2021, but the factory where it will be built is still under construction and they are planning on using untested new manufacturing processes, so it’s hard to envision it being ready in the next twelve months.
  15. With the NBA season ending a month later than normal, most NBA players will opt out of playing in the Olympics, and as a result the USA will not win the gold medal; I’ll go further and predict that they don’t win the silver medal, either. I hope I’m wrong on this prediction, but after a shortened offseason and very little time between the end of the playoffs and the Olympics, players will be exhausted and will choose to wait three years for their chance to win a gold medal in the 2024 Games.

There they are; with any luck at least three or four will actually come to pass, or if the universe smiles upon me maybe six will come to pass, matching the 40% success rate of 2020. The comments link is available as always for anyone who wants to add their own predictions, and we can laugh at them together in twelve months.

2020 Predictions Recap

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:16 pm, January 11th, 2021

The annual exercise of attempting to predict events for the coming year continued in 2020, and twelve months later it’s time to revisit how awful those prediction turned out. In an ironic twist, however, after the most unpredictable year that anyone has seen in decades, I managed to make way more correct predictions than normal; I still didn’t break fifty percent, but I’m notoriously bad at this game. Here’s the recap:

  1. Here are the election predictions for 2020:
    1. Either Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg will be the Democratic nominee… I suspect that South Carolina will probably be a turning point.

      CORRECT. This one may seem obvious in retrospect, but at the time it was made Biden hadn’t yet won a single primary, and I TOTALLY NAILED IT. Biden was the nominee, and South Carolina was what changed his fortunes.

    2. Democrats will end up gaining 3-4 seats in the Senate.

      CORRECT. After the November election when the Democrats underperformed in Maine and North Carolina this prediction was a clear loser, but with their shocking wins on January 5 in Georgia this prediction rose from the ashes like a phoenix; who would have expected Georgia to be more blue than Maine?

    3. Democrats will maintain control of the House but lose a few seats overall.

      HALF CORRECT. They lost more than a few seats – current counts have them on track to lose thirteen – so I’m only giving half credit.

    4. Trump will lose in the general election.

      CORRECT. Trump lost, but the election was much closer than expected based on the polls. I know a huge chunk of the country loves him, but it scares me that someone so willing to promote lies and viciously attack anyone who disagrees with him remains the face of the Republican party.

  2. Virgin Galactic will launch its first paying space tourists, and Richard Branson will finally take a ride on his new space plane.

    WRONG. When the company was founded they hoped to have their maiden flight by 2009. Space is hard, but even knowing the difficulty of taking something like a space plane from “it works” to “it’s safe for tourists”, I’m still surprised they are taking so long to achieve their goals.

  3. Coming off of a seventh-place finish in the 2019 World Championships, the US men’s basketball team will go undefeated in the Olympics, winning each game by no less than ten points.

    TOTALLY WRONG. The reason I got this wrong? THEY POSTPONED THE FREAKING OLYMPICS BECAUSE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC.

  4. Tesla will announce major updates to its Model S and Model X vehicles.

    NOT EVEN CLOSE TO CORRECT. The Model S debuted in 2012, and while it has seen minor updates since its launch, Tesla hasn’t introduced any technology to its flagship vehicle that has made people want to rush out and buy it; instead sales have been steadily cannibalized by the less expensive models. I assume that 2021 has to be the year Tesla rolls out crazy new technology for its top-end models, but attempting to predict what Elon Musk will do next is a fool’s errand.

  5. Lebron James will win his fifth NBA MVP award and his fourth NBA championship.

    HALF CORRECT. I think he deserved MVP, but I’ll take half credit for getting the NBA championship prediction right.

  6. Boeing’s 737 MAX plane, grounded since March 2019, will not fly again in the US until the July-September timeframe.

    WRONG. Flights didn’t resume until December 2020. This engineering snafu cost several hundred lives and lost Boeing between $20-60 billion. Engineering is hard, but from most accounts this disaster was a preventable one that hopefully won’t ever occur again.

  7. The deployment of faster 5G wireless will be slow and problematic through 2020… Verizon will not have made usable 5G available at my house by the end of the year.

    HALF CORRECT. This prediction is a tough one to judge – Verizon has rolled out what it calls “Nationwide 5G” across much of the country, but if you read the fine print it’s mostly a marketing gimmick that means you get 4G speeds while a 5G icon is displayed on your phone. The much faster “ultra wideband” 5G is still only available in a tiny handful of locations, and not in my neighborhood. I’m claiming half credit.

  8. Wonder Woman 1984 will be the top-grossing comic book movie of the year… I’ll predict something in the $275-325 million range.

    SO WRONG. Remember back in the olden days of 2019 when people went to movie theaters?

  9. At least two of the following three things will happen: Drew Brees will return for one more year with the Saints but retire when the season ends, Tom Brady will return for one more year with the Patriots but retire when the season ends, or Andrew Luck will announce that he is ending his retirement and returning to the Colts.

    UNBELIEVABLY WRONG. I knew this one was a longshot when I wrote it, but wow, spectacularly wrong. Has anyone seen Andrew Luck in the past two years? He’s just… gone. And Brady to Tampa Bay… I assume no one saw that coming a year ago.

  10. Mobile phones with folding screens will be the next big idea in tech that turns out to not have a market.

    HALF CORRECT. This prediction is kind of hard to judge since the mobile phone companies are still pushing folding phones, but based on estimated sales figures of just 500,000 Galaxy Fold phones being sold worldwide, it sure doesn’t seem like consumers are rushing out to buy them. I’m going to take a half credit here for a prediction that looks right today, but could still prove wrong a few years from now.

  11. SpaceX will launch astronauts to the space station by the end of summer, but Boeing will not launch astronauts in 2020.

    CORRECT. The Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission carried astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to the space station on May 30. Meanwhile Boeing has pushed their second, uncrewed test flight to no sooner than March 2021. Also, spaceships are awesome.

  12. Apple will either purchase an existing studio, partner with another streaming service, or in some other way significantly beef up the content library for its Apple TV service.

    WRONG. Completely and totally got this one wrong, but after the box office carnage of 2020, with studios in debt and theaters empty, I could suggest a great (and economical) way for Apple to vastly increase the amount of shows they offer in 2021.

The final tally for 2019: 6 out of 15 (40%). Shockingly, that ties with 2012 as the third-best showing ever, behind only 2010 (44%) and 2011 (50%). Granted, there were four half-points awarded this year, but after several years of getting most predictions completely wrong, I’ll take it.

Check back in a week or two as I return to making guesses about the coming year that we can all laugh about later.

What’s Coming in 2020. Guaranteed.

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:46 pm, February 10th, 2020

Now in its twelfth inglorious year, here’s my annual list of predictions for the new year. For anyone who has followed along in the past, my track record is… not great… so you may want to get a second opinion before heading to Vegas or calling your stock broker based on anything written here.

  1. Here are the obligatory political predictions for the upcoming election season. Important caveat: I’m terrible at predictions, and I also think there is enough uncertainty in the economy, world events, and the candidates themselves to swing the election wildly in either direction:
    • Either Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg will be the Democratic nominee. I think the early success of Bernie Sanders is going to make Democrats desperate to find a more centrist candidate who has a better chance of beating Trump, which gives an advantage to Biden and Buttigieg. I suspect that South Carolina will probably be a turning point – if Buttigieg wins there that will send a signal and he should clean up on Super Tuesday, but if Biden can win big in South Carolina then that will position him well to earn the most delegates in the following week’s primaries.
    • Democrats will end up gaining 3-4 seats in the Senate. It’s a bad map for Republicans – they are defending 23 seats vs just 12 for Democrats, so they are on defense in some blue-ish states. I suspect Democrats will flip Arizona, Colorado and Maine, but lose Alabama, which would result in a 50-50 split Senate.
    • Democrats will maintain control of the House but lose a few seats overall. The Democrats had a 235-199 advantage after the last election, so it would take a pretty big win for the Republicans to take back power. However, Democrats who won in Trump districts are going to have a harder time earning re-election now that attention has been focused for months on impeachment after they based their election campaigns on everyday issues like health care.
    • Trump will lose in the general election. I don’t like putting that into writing because I don’t feel like it’s going to happen, particularly if someone like Bernie is the Democratic nominee, but I’m hoping the country is better than the reality show it has been for the past four years. Feelings aside, I have trouble believing that the good economic numbers that have been Trump’s main argument with swing voters will continue to hold up through the end of the year, or that a global crisis like the coronavirus won’t expose the lack of competence in the current administration, much like Katrina revealed problems in the second Bush administration.
  2. Virgin Galactic will launch its first paying space tourists, and Richard Branson will finally take a ride on his new space plane. Space is awesome, and having a reliable way of putting rich tourists beyond the atmosphere is an excellent first step towards a world where I someday get to see the Earth from orbit.
  3. Coming off of a seventh-place finish in the 2019 World Championships, the US men’s basketball team will go undefeated in the Olympics, winning each game by no less than ten points. The world is catching up to America in basketball, but I think Steph Curry, rested after a year in which Golden State misses the playoffs, and a motivated James Harden will be awfully tough to stop.
  4. Tesla will announce major updates to its Model S and Model X vehicles; these changes will go far beyond minor cosmetic updates or slight range boosts. All-but-verified rumors say that Tesla will be announcing improved battery technology later this year. Combined with new manufacturing processes that Tesla has developed for its other models, the company will have the opportunity to re-imagine its flagship vehicles, differentiating them from the lower-end Model 3 and Model Y, and re-invigorating sales.
  5. Lebron James will win his fifth NBA MVP award and his fourth NBA championship. Being from Cleveland I’m biased, but he took a mediocre Cavs team to the championship numerous times, and is now doing wonders with the Lakers. People love having heroes, so I think the story of the 35 year old guy leading a storied franchise to the league’s best record is going to earn him another MVP trophy, to be followed shortly thereafter with another NBA championship.
  6. Despite some positive news from the FAA, Boeing’s 737 MAX plane, grounded since March 2019, will not fly again in the US until the July-September timeframe. As an engineer, seeing some of the reports that have come out during the investigation into the plane’s failings have been demoralizing – removing redundancy in critical sensor systems to cut costs, management decisions that forced engineers to come up with complex solutions when simpler options should have been possible, etc, etc. Hopefully Boeing emerges from this snafu with a renewed focus on innovation and quality, but having seen behind the curtains I’m not optimistic that will be the case.
  7. The deployment of faster 5G wireless will be slow and problematic through 2020, with deployments mostly limited to high-density areas in some cities; specifically, I’ll predict that Verizon will not have made usable 5G available at my house by the end of the year. 5G requires more towers than previous technologies, and based on my experience in Los Angeles, wireless carriers are having trouble deploying enough towers to create meaningful coverage areas.
  8. Wonder Woman 1984 will be the top-grossing comic book movie of the year, but will lag far behind the $412 million earned by its predecessor; I’ll predict something in the $275-325 million range. The original movie was fun but not particularly good, and Warner Brothers has a terrible record of making comic book movies.
  9. At least two of the following three things will happen: Drew Brees will return for one more year with the Saints but retire when the season ends, Tom Brady will return for one more year with the Patriots but retire when the season ends, or Andrew Luck will announce that he is ending his retirement and returning to the Colts. I think it is almost certain that both Brady and Brees come back for another year, but I also think both of them want to go out as stars and will retire while they are still among the league’s best quarterbacks. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck retired for health reasons, and the circumstances around his retirement (the Colts let him keep $16 million in salary that they could have recouped) make me wonder if he hasn’t expressed some desire to play again when he’s healthy.
  10. Mobile phones with folding screens will be the next big idea in tech that turns out to not have a market. Just like 3D televisions several years ago, folding cell phones (which “unfold” to give you a bigger screen) sound like a good idea, but they will be bigger, less capable, and more prone to breaking than normal phones, all while being significantly more expensive. While some people will purchase them, I strongly suspect that most people won’t want a device that is neither a good phone nor a good tablet, particularly when they could spend the same amount of money on two separate devices that individually do their jobs much, much better.
  11. SpaceX will launch astronauts to the space station by the end of summer, but Boeing will not launch astronauts in 2020. SpaceX successfully completed their in-flight abort test (click and go to the 20:05 mark for a cool video of the crew module escaping, followed by the main rocket going BOOM), and despite the slow pace of rocketry they should be on-track to launch humans soon. Boeing, meanwhile, had a troubled first test and needs to do additional work to prove that their capsule can fly safely.
  12. Apple will either purchase an existing studio, partner with another streaming service, or in some other way significantly beef up the content library for its Apple TV service, since rumors state there seems to be limited interest in their current offerings. Currently Apple is reported to be spending $6 billion on developing original content, but it is lagging far behind the number of subscribers for other services. Disney purchased Marvel for $4 billion and also paid $4 billion for Lucasfilm – surely Apple would be willing to spend a similar amount to augment its own content offerings.

A bit late this year, but there they are. Given my recent track record of getting only 20-30% of them right, expect most of these to be embarrassingly wrong when the carnage is tallied next January. As always, the comments link is available for anyone who wants to join the madness and add their own thoughts on the coming year.

Predictions Gone Wrong

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:27 pm, January 9th, 2020

For over a decade I’ve made an annual effort at self-flagellation by posting predictions for the coming year, and looking over the predictions for 2019 I made a particularly large mess of it this year. Here’s the embarrassing results of this year’s effort.

  1. Tiger Woods will return to the world golf #1 ranking at some point in 2019.

    While he improved his ranking from #1199 all the way up to #5, he was inconsistent and never really threatened to go to #1. This prediction is the first of many that I got wrong this year.

  2. Democrats will not seriously pursue impeachment of Donald Trump in 2019.

    In my defense, I added the following caveat to this prediction: “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.” I think Democrats would have been better off pushing for a censure or investigation instead of jumping straight to impeachment, but I’m guessing Nancy Pelosi figured that anything less than impeachment would divide Democrats during the primary season, and so knowing that no amount of evidence would convince the Senate to convict Trump she simply rushed to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible.

  3. After Disney’s $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox Studios, 2019 will see another massive media merger.

    I’m surprised that everyone is pursuing their own streaming strategy and that there hasn’t been more consolidation, but it seems like Warner Brothers, CBS and Universal are going to hold out as long as they can before bowing to inevitability. I’m now zero-for-three in the prediction game for the year.

  4. After making almost $60 billion in profits in 2018, Apple will see its lowest yearly profits since it made $40 billion in 2014.

    I’ve been debating quitting the iPhone for a while now, but the fact that I still have one should have been a warning flag against making this prediction. Apple reported lower profits this year than in 2018, but still brought in $55 billion, well above what I predicted.

  5. Facebook 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.

    There’s a lot to unpack in this prediction, but the quick version is that I thought there would be a clear threat to Facebook’s dominance in the social media space, and that hasn’t materialized. Governments are starting to legislate against Facebook’s more odious practices, and many users are now aware of the fact that Facebook is doing a lot of really sketchy things, but there’s no reason to believe that anything will change soon.

  6. By the end of the year the leading Democratic 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.

    This prediction also contains a lot of small predictions, but essentially I misjudged how the race would unfold. Today’s polling averages from fivethirtyeight.com show Joe Biden at 26.6%, Bernie Sanders at 18.1%, and Elizabeth Warren at 15.4%, with the next tier all polling in single digits. Democrats all seem to be lamenting their choices, but they aren’t really looking at anyone who hasn’t been in the national spotlight for the past few decades; the three poll leaders are a 78 year-old gaffe-prone former-VP, a 79 year-old socialist from Vermont, and a 71 year-old liberal Senator from Massachusetts.

  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.

    Both SpaceX and Boeing had setbacks in their crewed launch programs this year, and now both will be lucky if they can get astronauts to the space station in 2020. As an act of charity I’m going to give myself half credit for predicting that Boeing would fail, particularly since the aerospace giant continues to be even further behind than SpaceX.

  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.

    There is no indication whatsoever that Google has any interest in its own 5G network. I should probably deduct a point for being not just wrong, but utterly and completely wrong, but let’s just move on.

  9. Avengers: Endgame will outperform Star Wars: Episode IX at the box office.

    I FINALLY GOT ONE RIGHT! Avengers:Endgame ranks #1 in the all-time worldwide box office with $2.8 billion and #2 in the all-time domestic box office with $858 million. Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker is currently at $945 million worldwide and $461 million domestic, meaning it won’t come close to the latest Marvel movie’s numbers.

  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.

    I’m actually a little bit shocked that Richard Branson hasn’t taken a flight in his new spaceship yet – they’ve done a bunch of test flights and even sent up a test passenger in February, but so far the daredevil CEO hasn’t flown. I’m giving myself a half-point as charity for predicting that they wouldn’t fly any paying customers in 2019.

  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… he’ll be the NFL’s third-highest paid running back.

    I GOT ANOTHER ONE! Bell sat out a year, arguing he wasn’t being offered enough by the Steelers, and ended up signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract. He barely moved ahead of David Johnson in terms of average salary, but ended up still being the third highest paid running back once Ezekiel Elliott signed an extension in Dallas.

  12. Tesla will introduce a major refresh of its Model S and Model X vehicles, including a new battery pack technology.

    Reports indicate that a cosmetic refresh is imminent and that new battery technology will also be introduced in 2020, but Tesla spent 2019 focused on ramping up and optimizing Model-3 production and pushed changes to its existing lineup to the backburner.

  13. Boeing will officially announce its new 797 plane this year.

    Obviously the grounding of Boeing’s 737-MAX caused all other efforts in the company to grind to a halt, and it is now likely that the company is completely re-thinking its product roadmap.

  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.

    Surprisingly, Trump’s update to NAFTA passed the House by a vote of 385-41, but like hundreds of other bills that have made it through the House, it is stalled in the Senate. Mitch McConnell has been laser-focused on putting conservative judges on the bench and as a result hasn’t spent as much time on legislation, so like most of the other predictions for this year, I’m going to call this one incorrect.

  15. PG&E will be split up and in many cases turn into municipal utilities.

    So far PG&E seems to be weathering its troubles by increasing rates and doing a surprisingly adept job of navigating bankruptcy court. The utility is still in a precarious position, but it looks like they could emerge from their current troubles intact.

The final tally for 2019: 3 out of 15 (20%), making this the third-most dismal showing behind only 2014 (12%) and 2013 (11%). And bear in mind, that score is with two charity half-points I awarded myself for mostly-incorrect predictions. Oy. I’ll make an effort to ensure that the upcoming predictions for 2020 are better.

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.

Ten years of getting it wrong

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:52 pm, February 14th, 2018

Starting in 2009 I began making predictions about the coming year. Now in its tenth year, the annual predictions for 2018 are ready to go:

  1. First, some obligatory election predictions:
    1. Republicans will barely lose the House, with Democrats holding a post-election advantage of between 1-10 seats; currently the House is split 241-194 Republican/Democrat. All signs point to a big year for Democrats, but current districts are drawn such that Republicans have a built-in advantage that will limit gains by Democrats.
    2. Republicans will end the year with either 49 or 50 Senate seats. While it looks like a good year for Democrats, they are defending 26 seats while Republicans only have to defend eight, and only seven of the 34 races are currently expected to be competitive. Democrats have decent odds to pick up seats in Nevada and Arizona, but they must also play defense in tough states like Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia, North Dakota and Montana, and I would expect that at least one of those could end up flipping to Republicans.
    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.
  2. After twelve years in development and many setbacks, Virgin Galactic will finally get their new ship into space. It’s hard to believe that it’s been fourteen years since Spaceship One became the first manned private vehicle to reach space.
  3. Avengers: Infinity War will become the highest-grossing Marvel movie. The first Avengers movie currently holds that title with a $623 million box office haul, so I’ll peg the new movie’s box office take at $650-700 million.
  4. The Browns will draft a quarterback at #1 and trade back from the #4 pick. I’m confident in the prediction that a quarterback will be the pick at #1, but less so about the trade back – the new general manager may not think like his Moneyball predecessors who recognized that high picks tend to be over-valued. That said, there are a lot of good quarterbacks in this draft, thus there will be a lot of teams scrambling to get their guy before he’s gone, so I think the Browns will pick their man at #1 and will then be unable to ignore the bidding war from QB-needy teams wanting the fourth pick.
  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.
  6. Jeff Bezos, who purchased the Washington Post for $250 million in 2013, will expand his presence in the news world. Bezos has turned the Post profitable, and more importantly has turned the software platform that the newspaper runs on into a service used by many other major news organizations around the world. My impression is that he is trying to show traditional journalism companies how to be financially viable in the digital world, and as such I expect that he will create some sort of Amazon news portal, will purchase additional news organizations, or will otherwise launch some major effort to further that goal.
  7. The new Han Solo Star Wars movie will significantly underperform the other Star Wars films, a result of audience fatigue and a film that has had a troubled production. The film is going to be released just six months after The Last Jedi, and just one year after the original directors were fired, so I’m going to guess its box office will be between $375-425 million, far less than the $530 million earned by Rogue One.
  8. Boeing will not complete its first 777X airplane in 2018 as scheduled. After the new 737-MAX airplane was actually delivered sooner than Boeing anticipated it is tempting to believe that the 777X will also be delivered on time or early, but the changes in the 777 are more ambitious, including a folding wingtip, and it seems very likely that Boeing will find it harder to put together than anticipated.
  9. Despite reportedly spending $1 billion on producing television shows in 2018, Apple will still end 2018 without any popular programs. Unlike Netflix or Amazon, which make their content available on all devices, Apple’s strategy seems tied to using content as a way to sell the overpriced $180 Apple streaming TV device, so unless Apple manages to strike gold and create the next Game of Thrones, it seems highly unlikely that enough people are going to see Apple’s shows to make them successful.
  10. While I don’t think the California High Speed Rail project will be significantly changed so long as Jerry Brown is in office, given the fact that the first and easiest section of the route is already 30-50% over budget, lawmakers and candidates for governor will rebrand the project, and instead of describing it as a route between LA and San Francisco, it will start to be described as a route that connects the job-rich coastal cities with the affordable housing of the Central Valley. This strategy will allow them to de-emphasize cost overruns and delays in building the statewide system, giving them the ability to declare that “success” means opening an operational segment from Fresno to San Jose. In fairness that strategy actually does make some sense given the higher unemployment in the valley and crazy housing prices on the coast, but I am still hugely dismayed at how badly California is screwing up such an important project.
  11. The Simpsons will finally come to an end after 30 seasons, announcing that the 2018-2019 season will be its last. Thirty seems like a nice round number to go out on, even if the cast and creators might be willing to go on for another decade or two. If this prediction does come true, it will be the first time since I was in the eighth grade that I’ll live in a world without new Simpsons episodes.
  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. A “currency” that is difficult to actually use in making purchases, and that requires massive amounts of energy to sustain, is not something that lends itself well to longevity.
  13. Finally, despite constant rumors to the contrary, Lebron James will not leave the Cavs. This prediction is based on two pieces of evidence: one, when he returned to the Cavs he said he was going to finish his career in Cleveland, and as long as the Cavs give him the opportunity to win more championships I think he’ll stick to that, and two, I desperately want it to be correct.

And there they are. As I do every year, looking over the list now I wonder how any of them could possibly end up being incorrect, and I look forward to revisiting this list a year from now and wondering how I could possibly have believed that any of them would end up coming to pass. If anyone wants to add predictions of their own, or if you would like to (rightfully) mock the predictions I’ve made, the comments section is available as always.

2017 Predictions – the Aftermath

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:55 pm, February 5th, 2018

In what has become an annual tradition, at the beginning of 2017 I made fifteen predictions about the coming year. In what has also become an annual tradition, I was horribly wrong about most of them. Scorecards from past years prove without a doubt that I do not have the powers of Nostradamus, and the following tally of 2017’s glorious ineptitude merely reinforces that fact. I remain undaunted, however, and will be back with predictions for 2018 in an upcoming journal entry.

Without further ado, here’s the recap of 2017:

  1. While Tesla says it will begin volume production of the Model-3 in the second half of 2017, they will miss that goal slightly, delivering only between 4-8,000 vehicles by the end of the year.

    WRONG Tesla actually did far worse than even I expected, delivering just 1,550 Model-3 vehicles in 2017. As late as August 2017 Tesla was estimating deliveries of around 25,000 vehicles, so this was a pretty huge miss for them, although demand for the vehicle seems to be robust so there is an enormous amount of potential revenue awaiting them if they can get volumes up.

  2. The Browns will trade at least one of their two first round draft picks.

    CORRECT The Browns traded their #12 pick to the Texans for the #25 pick and what became the #4 pick in this year’s draft. For any other team that would be an amazing haul, but since it’s the Browns, the player the Texans took at #12 – Deshaun Watson – looks to have all the makings of the league’s next great QB. Luckily the 2018 NFL Draft is less than three months away.

  3. By the end of the year there will be rumblings in tech publications and among shareholders calling for Tim Cook’s ouster as Apple CEO.

    WRONG I was WAY off in my predictions about the stock market – I assumed it was due for a correction, but instead stocks rose over 30%, and in that environment very few CEOs are going to be losing their jobs, much less the head of the world’s most valuable company. For the record, I think Apple has lost its way and needs a leader who can provide a sensible vision, and while Tim Cook may be great at supply chains and logistics, it doesn’t inspire confidence that every year he proclaims his newest iPhone to be “magical” because it is 0.001 mm thinner and has a camera with an extra few pixels.

  4. Donald Trump’s favorability ratings will fall from the current 45% to between 27-32% by the end of the year, and there will be talk of impeachment from both sides of the aisle.

    WRONG While his 38% approval rating at the end of the year is a record low for a President in his first year, I was very wrong about how the Republican Party, whose members in many cases skipped or only reluctantly attended their own nominating convention in the summer of 2016, and Fox News, a network that once feuded with candidate Trump to the point that he didn’t attend one of their sponsored debates, would fall in line behind a President Trump.

  5. The stock market will end the year down about ten percent, finishing between 16,500 and 17,500.

    WRONG The market closed 2017 at 24,719, up 25.1%. This was a big miss on my part, but the correction I expected in 2017 may be now happening a few months later – as I write this entry the stock market has dropped 1,800 points in two days.

  6. Hidden Figures (which I haven’t seen) will win the Best Picture Oscar.

    WRONG But in my defense, even the Oscar ceremony didn’t get the Best Picture Oscar right.

  7. SpaceX will not launch a human spaceflight mission, nor will it launch its new Falcon Heavy rocket, but it will re-fly one of its previously-flown rockets, and will complete at least twenty total missions without another accident.

    CORRECT I’m going to count this prediction as a win, despite the fact that they had 18 launches instead of 20. Their previous best year was 2016 when the had eight successful missions, so they more than doubled their previous record, they became the first company to re-fly a rocket, and I correctly predicted the delay in both the Falcon Heavy and manned missions. That puts me at a miserable two out of seven correct predictions, and it’s not going to get much better…

  8. At least one of the following companies will be purchased by the year’s end: Twitter, Spotify, or Lyft.

    WRONG I didn’t foresee Uber repeatedly shooting itself in the foot and leaving Lyft looking stellar by comparison, or Apple Music failing to do anything to meaningfully distinguish itself from Spotify, and I continue to be mystified by Twitter’s business model. In any case, this prediction was another one that was spectacularly wrong.

  9. The next Star Wars movie will significantly under-perform the domestic box office take of $936 million earned by The Force Awakens; I’ll predict its box office ends up in the $500-600 million range.

    WRONG As of February 4, The Force Awakens has a domestic box office total of $614 million; it’s tempting to count this prediction as correct since I’m so close, but close is relative – for all but a handful of very rich people, $14 million isn’t really a number that should just be shrugged off, so this one needs to go down as wrong despite a really, really strong argument for partial credit.

  10. Obamacare will not be repealed or replaced in any meaningful way.

    CORRECT I was surprised that Republicans got to the point where only John McCain’s thumb saved Obamacare from significant changes, but in the end their years of promises to “repeal and replace” hit the hard reality that “replace” is an easy thing to say and a very difficult thing to do.

  11. By the end of the year ESPN & the Discovery network will offer streaming services, while one or both of Netflix and Amazon will find a way to offer local channels.

    WRONG I’m amazed at how badly content providers are doing in adjusting to the new reality that people are moving away from traditional cable and towards streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. While ESPN has (finally) announced a streaming service, details are scant and it won’t launch until later this year (at the soonest), while most other networks seem to have their heads in the sand. Meanwhile, although YouTube and DirecTV stream local channels, I was wrong about the interest by other services in providing a full-fledged replacement for cable TV.

  12. The coming actions that Trump and the Republican Congress will take against LGBT rights, abortion rights, the environment, and other issues will create a huge amount of anger on the Left that will manifest itself in similar ways to what was seen with the Tea Party.

    CORRECT While it doesn’t yet appear that Democrats are going to quite the extremes that the Tea Party did (no major Democrats seem to be in danger of losing their seats in primaries), there was sufficient anger to create a two day government shutdown, a huge backlash against any sign of Senators supporting Trump nominees, and a massive amount of anger directed towards Washington. While this prediction may seem obvious in retrospect, I get a lot of “obvious” predictions wrong, and am thus still going to count this one as correct.

  13. The Russian election hacking story will just be the beginning of ongoing cyberattacks that will continue in 2017 in an effort to undermine American credibility both domestically and internationally.

    WRONG While Russia appears to be gearing up to try and influence the 2018 elections, the fact that investigations into Russian hacking have become politicized has made it very difficult to determine if the attacks are continuing or not; in any case, they have not been the major story that I expected they would be. I’m biased based on my field of work, but in my mind cyberattacks and attempts by a foreign power to divide Americans by manipulating social media are threats that should be taken much, much more seriously, and it should be a topmost priority of the NSA and similar organizations to identify and shut down foreign bots and fake accounts as quickly as possible.

  14. Google will announce an operating system to compete with Windows & OSX

    WRONG While Google apparently has an operating system in testing, they barely acknowledge it exists and most definitely didn’t announce it as a Windows competitor in 2017. In all honesty, I didn’t really think this prediction was going to come true when I wrote it, but I’d been working on the “predictions” journal entry for a few days and just couldn’t come up with anything better.

  15. The next season of Game of Thrones is going to kill off Cersei Lannister and Littlefinger.

    (Spoiler alert) HALF CREDIT Game of Thrones is a really interesting show, with excellent characters and compelling storylines, but now that the show has pushed beyond the books it’s clear that the twisted mind of George R. R. Martin was not guiding the demise of one of his best characters – Lord Baelish deserved a more devious ending than what he got.

Final score: 4.5 out of 15 (30%), making this only my sixth worst showing (out of nine years). WOO HOO! Predictions for 2018 will be online in the coming days.

The Prediction Game, 2017 Edition

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:41 pm, January 24th, 2017

Shockingly, 2017 is now the ninth year in a row that I’ve made a futile attempt at predicting the future. With any luck, at least one of the following will actually come to pass:

  1. While Tesla says it will begin volume production of the Model-3 in the second half of 2017, they will miss that goal slightly, delivering only between 4-8,000 vehicles by the end of the year. Even with that miss, the Model-3 is still going to be a game-changer. The industry underestimates how many advantages Tesla has built for itself – Tesla is several years ahead of anyone else when it comes to electric drivetrain technology, they have a massive, operational battery factory, a worldwide fast-charging network, and their advanced manufacturing experience now exceeds that of other auto manufacturers. If Model-3 is successful, suddenly Tesla will have all of those advantages AND a massive revenue stream that will be limited only by how fast they can grow.
  2. The Browns will trade at least one of their two first round draft picks. Analytics says that high draft picks are overvalued and that there is no sure thing in the draft, so if the Browns can turn one pick into many then they will run the numbers and take the deal.
  3. By the end of the year there will be rumblings in tech publications and among shareholders calling for Tim Cook’s ouster as Apple CEO. I don’t think anyone expected Apple to continue its streak of creating the next big thing once Steve Jobs died, but even the most ardent Apple fanboys are disappointed with the latest laptops, the company hasn’t updated their non-laptop Mac lineup in over three years, the iWatch continues to be a disappointment, and the main innovation that Apple has touted for the last three generations of iPhones and iPads has been “it’s slightly thinner than the last one”.
  4. Donald Trump’s favorability ratings will fall from the current 45% to between 27-32% by the end of the year, and there will be talk of impeachment from both sides of the aisle. I remain hopeful that I’m wrong about him, but the majority of his cabinet picks thus far seem like ideologues and loyalists, he has backtracked on some campaign promises before even being sworn-in, and anyone hoping he would change his behavior can read his Twitter feed to see that isn’t the case. Republicans don’t have any particular loyalty to him, Democrats already hate him, there are numerous potential scandals brewing, and it would be surprising if he delivers on any of his grandiose campaign promises, so I suspect he may be around for less than the four year term he was elected to.
  5. The stock market will end the year down about ten percent, finishing between 16,500 and 17,500. I’m obviously pessimistic about Trump and the ability of Republicans to steward the economy, but even without that pessimism, after several years of growth the market is overdue for a correction.
  6. Hidden Figures (which I haven’t seen) will win the Best Picture Oscar. Coming out of the Golden Globes La La Land has all of the buzz, but I think the combination of being a well-received movie, as well as Hollywood’s desire to send a message of support to minorities and women, will make Hidden Figures an unstoppable force by the time the awards air.
  7. SpaceX will not launch a human spaceflight mission, nor will it launch its new Falcon Heavy rocket, but it will re-fly one of its previously-flown rockets, and will complete at least twenty total missions without another accident. The Falcon Heavy was originally supposed to fly in 2013, and their manned program seems to be at least two years behind schedule, while its two recent launch explosions have also built a backlog of satellite launches that SpaceX needs to address. However, even with those issues they still offer the most promise, innovation, and excitement of any company in America; the missed deadlines can be partially excused by an ambitious timeline that is created without any margin for error in a business where occasional failures are an unavoidable reality.
  8. At least one of the following companies will be purchased by the year’s end: Twitter, Spotify, or Lyft. None of those three companies have clear paths to greater market share, but a Twitter acquisition offers instant social media prominence, a Spotify purchase makes the purchaser an instant media powerhouse, and Lyft is getting clobbered by Uber but would make any company that buys it the second-strongest player in the future ride-sharing economy.
  9. The next Star Wars movie will significantly under-perform the domestic box office take of $936 million earned by The Force Awakens; I’ll predict its box office ends up in the $500-600 million range. The Force Awakens was just an OK movie that benefited from being the sequel everyone had been waiting for since Return of the Jedi. Rogue One was a movie with a far better script, a more interesting story, and more of a Star Wars “feel”, but its box office is currently just over half of its predecessor at $512 million. The excitement level for new Star Wars films has clearly dropped, and will likely only diminish further as nostalgia for the original films wanes.
  10. Obamacare will not be repealed or replaced in any meaningful way. With the reality that repeal will have a lot of negative consequences, that some Republican lawmakers are expressing concerns about constituents losing insurance, and that replacement with “something better” is easy to use as rhetoric but near-impossible to implement as legislation, Republicans will instead end up stalling by passing some minor tweaks, such as eliminating some of the mandates for businesses. Since a failure to repeal the law would obviously be a high-profile defeat, I suspect they may double-down on something like defunding planned parenthood as a way to save face among the base.
  11. 2017 will be a turning point in the switch from cable companies to internet streaming services. HBO Now and CBS All Access already deliver services traditionally offered by cable companies without requiring a cable subscription, and by the end of the year I believe a large number of similar offerings will become available, including ESPN & the Discovery network. Additionally, one or both of Netflix and Amazon will find a way to offer local channels, thus providing an all-in-one service to completely replace traditional cable providers.
  12. I’m not quite sure how to quantify this prediction into something that can be judged true or false in a year’s time, but just as the Tea Party was often driven by anger that frequently turned towards Republicans who were deemed to be insufficiently conservative, I think that the coming actions that Trump and the Republican Congress will take against LGBT rights, abortion rights, the environment, and other issues will create a huge amount of anger on the Left that will manifest itself in similar ways to what was seen with the Tea Party. Given that reality, I worry that Democrats who show any inclination to compromise or adhere to traditional norms of governing will be targeted by their constituents, and while it won’t be fully manifested at the end of the year, tactics like government shutdowns and blanket filibusters will eventually no longer be tools unique to the Republicans as the far Left demands action at any cost.
  13. The Russian election hacking story will just be the beginning of ongoing cyberattacks that will continue in 2017 in an effort to undermine American credibility both domestically and internationally. Russia and other countries benefit from a diminished United States, and as long as these sorts of attacks are effective there doesn’t seem to be any reason they would stop. Like the election releases, released data will include embarrassing communications or incriminating documents, but will not include anything that compromises national security and would thus justify a military response.
  14. Google will announce an operating system to compete with Windows & OSX. There have been rumors about a Google OS for a while, but now that Google is selling its own phones and other products it makes sense for them to further expand their software ecosystem.
  15. The next season of Game of Thrones is going to kill off Cersei Lannister and Littlefinger. The show is totally unpredictable, so the odds of me correctly guessing anything about it are probably nil, but given the theme of Fire & Ice, Daenerys will almost certainly end up in charge of the South, and the Starks are likely to end up in charge of the North, so it’s tough to see the show not eliminating the obstacles to that happening before embarking on its final season in 2018.

There they are, everything from stock market analysis to predictions about the orange President to diminished expectations for the new Star Wars film. Given my track record, expect none of these things to actually come to pass, but as always it’s an interesting exercise, and the comments link is there for anyone who wants to join in the fun and make their own wrong predictions for the coming year.

Everything I Didn’t Know About 2016

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:28 am, January 14th, 2017

As is tradition, before recounting how bad I was at predicting what 2016 would bring, here is the scorecard from the annual predictions during past years:

  • 2009: 31% correct (5 of 16)
  • 2010: 44% correct (7.5 of 17)
  • 2011: 50% correct (7 of 14)
  • 2012: 40% correct (6 of 15)
  • 2013: 11% correct (1.5 of 14)
  • 2014: 12% correct (1.5 out of 13)
  • 2015: 33% correct (5 out of 15)

Here are the results of the 2016 predictions:

  1. Election predictions:
    1. Hillary Clinton will win the Presidency with a similar margin to Obama’s 332-206 victory in 2012.

      I was wrong.

    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.

      It hurts to be so very, very wrong.

    3. There are 34 Senate seats up for grabs, 24 of which are held by Republicans. Democrats will pick up between four and seven seats.

      Democrats picked up two seats. Had slightly fewer Trump voters shown up, or had just a few more Hillary voters gone to the polls, my predictions would have been spot-on, but as it is I’m now zero-for-three.

    4. Marijuana will be legalized in California in 2016, as well as in at least five other states.

      California legalized recreational marijuana, as did Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts. Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas legalized medical marijuana, but since the prediction was for six states to legalize recreational pot the correct prediction count remains at zero.

  2. Tesla will make minor but noticeable style changes to the Model-S.

    Model-S got a new front-end in April, and I finally got on the board with a correct prediction!

  3. Leonardo DiCaprio will win best actor at the Oscars.

    Not only do Leo and I share the fact that we are both winners, but we are also both incapable of growing facial hair that doesn’t appear to be infested with mange. The scorecard moves to two-for-six.

  4. The Black Lives Matter organization will have mostly disappeared from headlines by the end of the year.

    BLM is still around, although they are getting far fewer headlines. My hope had been that they would be replaced with a more effective organization, but instead BLM seems like it might instead be reforming itself to be more effective. An incorrect prediction on my part, but a hopeful development if they can transform into a group that is known less for blocking freeways and chasing Bernie Sanders offstage, and instead one that can meaningfully bring people together to address important racial issues.

  5. This is a prediction that I actually expect will be wrong, but I’ll say that the 2016 US Olympic Men’s basketball team will lose one of their games.

    Does it count that I got the “I actually expect will be wrong” part correct? It doesn’t make sense that a team with vastly better talent than its competition isn’t making Olympic basketball look like the Globetrotters vs. the Washington Generals, but while this year’s squad had a few close calls, to their credit they did what they needed to do and went undefeated on their way to a gold medal.

  6. Obama’s job approval numbers, currently at about 47%, will rise to between 53-57% as his term ends.

    His job approval numbers have been at the high end of my prediction, even hitting 58% in one poll, but I’m still going to count this prediction as correct. At least forty percent of the country obviously disagrees, but I think he’s been by far the best president of my lifetime.

  7. Microsoft’s plans to force upgrades to Windows 10 will backfire spectacularly.

    I have no idea what happened on this one – either Microsoft backed off of their plans, or I misunderstood, or something went screwy, because they just didn’t force upgrade people. If I awarded negative points then this prediction would score a minus-one for being so utterly, completely wrong.

  8. Batman v. Superman won’t finish in the top ten domestic box office for 2016.

    This script was so flawed that the key conflict between the main characters was resolved because <spoiler alert> Superman and Batman both had mothers named Martha. Seriously. Yet somehow the film still ended up #8 at the domestic box office. Apparently being the first big superhero movie of the summer was genius positioning, because it did way better than some much better films that came out later in the year.

  9. Russia will engage in significant provocation this year in an effort to rekindle a Cold War atmosphere.

    Hacking servers and attempting to influence the Presidential election isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I made the prediction, but it most definitely counts.

  10. Twitter will finish 2016 at least 25% lower than its current $20 price.

    $16.44 on January 3. The 52 week low was $13.73, and it did drop more than fifteen percent in a year in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by about fifteen percent, but feel free to Tweet about how I got this one wrong.

  11. Nest hasn’t come out with a new product in a while, so I expect this year will see a new security product.

    Nest is quickly rising up my list of most disappointing tech companies. They could have owned the smart home market, yet more than five years after they released a pioneering thermostat their most innovative product is… the same thermostat they released in 2011.

  12. The Browns will have another absolutely, indisputably, undeniably horrendous year in 2016, winning only between three and five games.

    I got the “horrendous” part right, but somehow ended up being too optimistic when I predicted they would win three games. Ouch. At least the awful season means that on draft day they should either be able to pick a beast lineman and then spend 2017 watching him demolish quarterbacks, or else they can trade the top pick for a king’s ransom in another Moneyball masterpiece.

Final score: 4 out of 15 (27%). I was convinced that the 2016 predictions were too obvious, and yet somehow I still misfired on eleven of them. As of this writing I’ve already started on the predictions for 2017, and as wrong as I was about Trump in 2016, it looks like 2017 will see me doubling-down on underestimating the orange one.

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.

Looking Back at the Look Ahead

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:31 pm, December 31st, 2015

As is tradition, before recounting how bad I am at predicting future events, here is the scorecard from past years:

  • 2009: 31% correct (5 of 16)
  • 2010: 44% correct (7.5 of 17)
  • 2011: 50% correct (7 of 14)
  • 2012: 40% correct (6 of 15)
  • 2013: 11% correct (1.5 of 14)
  • 2014: 12% correct (1.5 out of 13)

Following two horrendous years, the odds favored a rebound… here are the results of the 2015 predictions:

  1. Hillary Clinton will announce she is running for President, and every Democrat of note including Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren will stay out of her way. Sarah Palin will go through the motions but will eventually announce that she isn’t running.

    As predicted, Hillary has pitched a shutout thus far and looks to have pretty much wrapped up the nomination before any votes are cast. Palin, however, made no pretense of running, so this one was only half correct.

  2. After the initial release of the Apple Watch in April, version 2.0 will follow quickly in time for the Christmas shopping season.

    Nope. I still don’t understand the point of having a watch that talks to your phone to… what? Save the two seconds it takes to get your phone out of your pocket? Until they add some useful health features I don’t think it’s going to be a meaningful product in their lineup. It would be neat to visit the alternate universe where Steve Jobs is still alive to see if he would have even bothered to release this thing in its current state.

  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will open with the largest weekend box office in history.

    This movie has broken box office records by large margins and is going to be monstrously huge. In twelve days it has already made $600 million and will easily become the biggest movie of all time. That fact means that I’ve got 1.5 out of 3 predictions correct, and will thus at least equal the abysmal performances of 2013 and 2014 – hooray!

  4. SpaceX will launch their Falcon Heavy rocket, have a successful test of their launch abort system (necessary before they can fly humans to space), and they will not only successfully land first stages, but they will have announced plans to re-use one of them on a future test flight.

    An explosion in June set the company back, but they still landed a rocket last week because SO AWESOME SPACESHIPS!!!!.

  5. The Supreme Court will refrain from disallowing subsidies to individuals living in states that do not run their own health care marketplaces in King v. Burwell, and will affirm the federal right to marry for gay couples in a consolidated case.

    Correct in both cases. I don’t usually agree with him ideologically, but so far I think John Roberts has been a surprisingly good Chief Justice.

  6. Facebook is going to announce a significant new service that takes advantage of the massive user profile data sets that they have for their users.

    Nope. Their big announcement this year was a “Haha” button, and somehow the stock is still up almost 50%.

  7. I think the Cavs (currently 26-20 and #5 in the East) will make the NBA Finals, but won’t win.

    They got to the Finals and played six awesome games. Being a fan of Cleveland sports is a tragic comedy played out over decades, so this weird injection of success and excitement was pretty awesome.

  8. The new Republican Congress won’t do anything extreme like shut down the government over the budget or play chicken with the debt limit, but they also won’t pass any significant legislation such as changes to Obamacare, immigration reform, or tax reform.

    I’m on a surprising roll – 4.5 out of 8. Congress opted for no shutdowns and no debt limit showdowns, and also passed no major legislation. That said, while they did briefly descend into chaos searching for a Speaker, they also shockingly fixed a difficult Medicare issue that has lingered since 1997, passed the first long-term highway bill since 2009, and overhauled the No Child Left Behind law. Overall, the performance was far worse than this country is capable of, but still better than expected when the year began.

  9. The St. Louis Rams will announce plans to return to Los Angeles.

    No announcement has yet been made, but it appears likely. If the Rams do move, the new stadium will be really, really impressive.

  10. Tesla will announce a battery pack upgrade for the Model-S.

    They came out with a pack for the Model-S that was a tiny bit larger, and announced a more significant 40% larger pack for the Roadster. Half credit on this one, since I expected a more substantial upgrade.

  11. The value of the Euro will rebound to at least $1.20 by the end of the year as exports pick up.

    The value has continued to fall and is now $1.09, and with the United Kingdom threatening to vote on leaving the EU the outlook for a unified European economy continues to worsen. My financial predictions this year were… not good.

  12. The Browns will make at least three trades in the draft, netting at least one extra pick for next year.

    They traded back in the second round, traded up in the third round, traded back in the fourth round, but amassed no extra picks for 2016. No prediction credit awarded.

  13. Apple is going to announce a television.

    This is like the fifth time I’ve been wrong on this prediction. Steve Jobs would have gotten a TV out by now.

  14. Gas prices, currently at a national average of $2.04, will climb back over $3.00 by year’s end as supply is reduced and usage increases. I’ll peg the prediction range at $3.10 – $3.30.

    It’s $3.03 in Los Angeles, but $2.002 nationally. The Saudis are apparently serious about keeping prices low to eliminate competition.

  15. The Washington Post is going to make some bold moves in 2015 that will show how traditional print media can thrive in the digital world.

    Zuckerberg and Bezos both let me down this year, but if I had to choose between innovation in social media and print media, or innovation in ROCKETS THAT FLY TO SPACE AND THEN LAND BECAUSE OF AWESOME, I’ll choose spaceships every time.

There it is: 5 out of 15 (33%), making this the fourth best year out of the seven years that this game has been played. For once I actually would have beaten a blind monkey throwing darts, but the upcoming predictions for 2016 are almost certain to fare worse, so the monkey may have his revenge soon enough.

2015 Predictions

Posted from Marina del Rey, California at 10:05 pm, January 28th, 2015

Based on my past track record the following predictions are statistically highly unlikely to come true – if you are looking for more accurate predictions, buy a magic eight ball or make use of a small herd of puppies. That said, I actually spent more time than normal trying to come up with well thought-out predictions for 2015, but history suggests that re-reading this list in twelve months will be an embarrassing endeavor:

  1. Hillary Clinton will announce she is running for President, and every Democrat of note including Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren will stay out of her way. Bernie Sanders is already in, but he is going to be the Ron Paul of 2016 for the Democrats, with lots of yard signs and spirited rallies, but no significant victories. On the Republican side, Sarah Palin will go through the motions but will eventually announce that she isn’t running.
  2. After the initial release of the Apple Watch in April, version 2.0 will follow quickly in time for the Christmas shopping season. I think calling this device a “watch” was a mistake, and my guess is that version 2.0 will be a significantly better device for monitoring health and fitness, and will appeal more broadly.
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will open with the largest weekend box office in history. The Avengers holds the current record at $207 million.
  4. SpaceX will launch their Falcon Heavy rocket, have a successful test of their launch abort system (necessary before they can fly humans to space), and they will not only successfully land first stages, but they will have announced plans to re-use one of them on a future test flight. I love living in a time when space technology is again advancing rapidly.
  5. The Supreme Court will refrain from disallowing subsidies to individuals living in states that do not run their own health care marketplaces in King v. Burwell, and will affirm the federal right to marry for gay couples in a consolidated case. John Roberts seems to be walking a fine line between ensuring that the court isn’t viewed as political while at the same time giving justices some flexibility to vote their political conscience, so I would be a bit shocked if he seriously rocked the boat in either of these cases.
  6. Facebook is going to announce a significant new service that takes advantage of the massive user profile data sets that they have for their users. Mark Zuckerberg is no dummy, and with people facing Facebook fatigue and the available pool of new users shrinking, he must have something brewing. My guess is that while today you “friend” people that you already know, this new service might be more of a “suggestion” service, sort of like a match.com meets LinkedIn melded with Meetup, with Facebook serving as the accommodating host. It makes sense – Facebook has the user data to make such a system work, and it would give people a new reason to log on each day.
  7. I hate to jinx them, but I’m gonna go on record as saying I think the Cavs (currently 26-20 and #5 in the East) will make the NBA Finals, but won’t win. The East just isn’t that good, and I think the Cavs can run through every other team if they can stay focused in the playoffs.
  8. The new Republican Congress won’t do anything extreme like shut down the government over the budget or play chicken with the debt limit, but they also won’t pass any significant legislation such as changes to Obamacare, immigration reform, or tax reform. After the last election the Republicans have a weird mix of House members from deep red districts who want to show that they won’t compromise in any way and Senators from purple states who want to show that they are more moderate than their compatriots in the House, while the Democratic Senators will filibuster anything they see as too extreme, and I think the result of this mix will be a lot of inaction.
  9. The St. Louis Rams will announce plans to return to Los Angeles. There are any number of rumors out there about Jacksonville moving to LA, the Chargers coming to LA, AEG building a stadium, etc, but I think the Rams owner’s recent announcement that he will build a stadium near the Forum is the one that will actually result in a team coming back to America’s second largest TV market.
  10. Tesla will announce a battery pack upgrade for the Model-S. Battery technology has improved 20-30% since the first Model-S deliveries in June 2012, and with other manufacturers announcing electric vehicles with ranges that are starting to approach Tesla, I bet Elon will be anxious to prove that his company still offers technology that is generations ahead of the competition.
  11. As Europe’s financial situation has worsened, the value of the Euro against the dollar has gone from $1.35 down to $1.12. I suspect it will continue to drop for a few more months, but will rebound to at least $1.20 by the end of the year as exports pick up – the current drop of $0.23 makes a Mercedes nearly 20% cheaper, and I bet a lot of people wouldn’t mind twenty percent off a German luxury car.
  12. The Browns have ten draft picks in the upcoming draft, including two in the first round. Statistics have shown that it is better to trade down and amass picks, and I think Ray Farmer buys into that philosophy, so I’ll predict at least three trades in the Browns draft, netting at least one extra pick for next year. As to who they draft, I just hope they go for safe picks instead of grabbing talented QBs with bad attitudes and poor work ethics.
  13. Apple is going to announce a television. I’ve been wrong on this prediction repeatedly, but it’s something Apple has admitted to working on, and with 4K starting to take off, streaming media replacing DVDs, and a need for some sort of home automation hub, the time has never been better.
  14. Gas prices, currently at a national average of $2.04, will climb back over $3.00 by year’s end as supply is reduced and usage increases. I’ll peg the prediction range at $3.10 – $3.30.
  15. The Washington Post is going to make some bold moves in 2015 that will show how traditional print media can thrive in the digital world. Jeff Bezos is a smart guy, and pairing Amazon, a company that completely changed how we buy books, with the flagship newspaper of the nation’s capital, is bound to generate some interesting results.

There they are. You can let the mockery begin now, or you can wait until January 2016 to mock in hindsight. For the truly bold, the comments link is there for you to make your own predictions and show me how it should be done.

2014 Prediction Scorecard

Posted from Culver City, California at 1:17 pm, January 10th, 2015

First, to put the embarrassment that are my 2014 predictions into their proper context, here is the record of futility from past years:

  • 2009: 31% correct (5 of 16)
  • 2010: 44% correct (7.5 of 17)
  • 2011: 50% correct (7 of 14)
  • 2012: 40% correct (6 of 15)
  • 2013: 11% correct (1.5 of 14)

I can at least say that this year’s picks were only my second-worst showing of all time…

  1. Election predictions:
    1. Democrats will hold the Senate, barely, with their 55 member majority reduced to between 50-52 members.

      Not even close. Democrats lost nine seats. It was a horrible map for the blue team with many races in conservative states, and they will almost certainly regain several seats in 2016, but I was way off.

    2. The House will stay under Republican control – currently Republicans hold 234 seats, and after the election they will hold 224-234 seats.

      Again, not even close. Republicans gained thirteen seats for a total of 247. My understanding of the electorate clearly demonstrates why I will never be a politician.

  2. The values of Facebook (currently $56) and Twitter (currently $63) will both decline by at least twenty percent.

    Facebook closed the year at $78.02 and Twitter closed at $35.86. The number of people who seem to think “Farmville” is the key to gigantic revenues continues to confuse me. Zero-for-three with the predictions so far.

  3. Tiger Woods will win at least two major championships.

    Ouch. In 2014 he won… nothing. Nada. Only one top-25 finish all year. Granted, his back was messed up, but I still don’t see how the guy who was the Michael Jordan of golf suddenly looked more like the Michael Jordan of baseball. He’ll come back, but in the meantime I’m still not on the scoreboard.

  4. No significant new laws will be passed in the areas of gun control or immigration reform prior to the mid-term elections.

    HE’S ON THE BOARD. I continue to believe that it’s simply impossible – logistically and from an economic standpoint – to kick eleven million people out of the country and then deal with the repercussions that come from losing a significant portion of the country’s low-income workers. Thus it seems like Republicans should just pass something to get this issue out of the way, deal with the fallout, and stop it from continuing to hurt them with the nation’s fastest growing minority. Despite my clearly omniscient advice, the House never put the Senate’s immigration bill up for a vote during the entire 113th Congress, so immigration will again be a major reason for Latinos to vote Democrat in 2016.

  5. Google is going to make some sort of HUGE move into the entertainment space.

    I was probably two years too early on that one. It’s coming – Google and Apple are the only ones who could pull it off, and both of them will do something eventually.

  6. Lebron James will re-sign with the Heat, as will Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

    BEST WRONG PREDICTION EVER. Granted, the Cavs still aren’t winning very much, but at least now they win occasionally, the games are entertaining enough to be televised, and Aaron and I again have reason to break out the Anderson Varejao wigs.

  7. Apple’s share of the tablet market will drop another ten percent to less than twenty percent of the total tablet market by the end of 2014.

    The most recent data available had Apple dropping to 22.8% in the third quarter of 2014, but that percentage was expected to jump slightly in the fourth quarter due to the new iPads being released, thus missing my 20% target. I continue to be bad at understanding technology.

  8. Tesla will not deliver the Model X as scheduled in 2014, but will plan on delivering their next vehicle no later than Summer 2015. They will also not have rolled out their battery swapping technology due to a lack of demand. Finally, they will not have moved forward on their plans for a battery factory.

    The Model X is now scheduled for release in early 2016 – Tesla makes unbelievable automobiles, but is horrible at estimating release dates. They opened their first battery swap station in December, and I was very, very wrong about them putting off building a battery factory – they have staked their future on the Gigafactory, which is now being built outside of Reno. I am usually better at the Tesla predictions, and the scorecard falls to an impossibly low one-for-nine.

  9. The next evolution of TV – 4K resolution – will be well underway by year’s end. By year’s end cable companies will have streaming 4K offerings, a few shows will announce plans to film in 4K, and the movie studios will be on the verge of announcing a 4K format to succeed blu ray.

    4K televisions were all over Best Buy this past Christmas, but content is still next-to-impossible to find, with only Netflix making much content available in 4K. More out of self-pity than anything else I’m giving myself half credit here, bumping the tally up to a pitiful 1.5 correct.

  10. The Browns will draft a quarterback with their first pick, and whoever they get is not going to be successful.

    They traded the #4 overall pick, then picked Justin Gilbert, a cornerback, with the #8 pick, and also took Johnny Manziel with the #22 pick. I’ve never been a fan of Johnny Football, and am even less of one after seeing what he did this past season, but despite their picks not panning out, at the time it seemed like a far better draft than I was expecting. Hopefully the extra first-round pick this year turns into someone who is best known for his prowess on the field, and not for photos of him drinking in a pool while riding on an inflatable swan.

  11. Following Colorado and Washington, California and at least two others states will vote to de-criminalize marijuana use.

    Didn’t happen, although Jack-in-the-Box didn’t seem to care and launched an entire “Munchie Meal” campaign aimed at potheads.

  12. Apple and Google will both unveil products and strategies that will focus those companies heavily on home automation.

    This one will happen, but it didn’t happen in 2014 to the extent that I expected. We should have motion detectors tied to smart lights that are tied to smart water heaters that work with smart thermostats that sync up with smart sprinklers, all updated from the internet and controlled from cell phones. I mean, it’s 2015 – Marty McFly is supposed to be getting chased by Griff on a hoverboard by now!

There it is: 1.5 out of 13 (12%). Had I made one more pick I might have tied 2013’s record of futility. Getting the Lebron pick wrong at least softens the blow – even if the Cavs aren’t winning, basketball is more fun when the NBA’s best player is on your favorite team. Now onwards to 2015, when the picks have to go better, don’t they?

2014 Predictions

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:33 pm, January 23rd, 2014

Following a disasterous set of 2013 predictions, predictions for 2014 are now ready to be proven incorrect. For those wanting to read about things that never came to pass, past year’s predictions can be found at the following links: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Here’s what the crystal ball shows for the coming year:

  1. Since 2014 is mid-term election, here’s the obligatory election prediction:
    • Democrats will hold the Senate, barely, with their 55 member majority reduced to between 50-52 members (current projections are that it will be 50-50 after the elections). I think the Obamacare web site issues will mostly be forgotten in November, but I also think Republicans are likely to nominate better candidates than they did in the last two cycles.
    • The House will stay under Republican control – currently Republicans hold 234 seats, and after the election they will hold 224-234 seats (current projection is 228). The way House districts are drawn make it tough for things to change much so soon after the redistricting that took place for 2012.
  2. The values of Facebook (currently $56) and Twitter (currently $63) will both decline by at least twenty percent due to growth and revenue concerns. Revenue models based on the dual belief that everyone on the planet will sign up and that they will then spend money on Farmville are not something that smart investors should be banking on.
  3. Tiger Woods will win at least two major championships. He remains the most talented golfer alive and is way overdue.
  4. No significant new laws will be passed in the areas of gun control or immigration reform prior to the mid-term elections. For the record, I think it is inevitable that immigration reform will happen eventually, and thus in addition to the fact that it is a good idea on the merits, Republicans would be wise to pass something soon to prevent this from continuing to be an issue that damages them in national elections, but their less moderate members will continue to block any action.
  5. Google is going to make some sort of HUGE move into the entertainment space. It’s clear that with Google TV, Youtube and Google Fiber that they want to be in the living room and delivering content, and I suspect that they will try hard to make any such move well ahead of Apple to gain whatever advantage comes from being first.
  6. Lebron James will re-sign with the Heat, as will Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. There is noise around the idea that once he becomes a free agent Lebron will return to Cleveland or go elsewhere, but he wants to win as many titles as Michael Jordan and will thus stay exactly where he is. Also, Cleveland is cursed.
  7. Apple’s share of the tablet market will continue to fall precipitously. It dropped from 40% in 2012 to 30% in 2013, and will drop another ten percent to less than twenty percent of the total tablet market by the end of 2014. Since its announcement in 2010, and after four generations, the iPad hasn’t offered much new beyond better screen resolutions, and as a result most cost-conscious consumers will choose other options.
  8. Tesla will not deliver the Model X as scheduled in 2014, but will plan on delivering their next vehicle no later than Summer 2015. They will also not have rolled out their battery swapping technology due to a lack of demand – I think they announced that capability just to shut up critics, but I don’t think it’s something that people who are actually driving the car want. Finally, they will not have moved forward on their plans for a battery factory as their focus continues to be on the hugely successful Model S and their next generation vehicle, which if they can meet their goals will (I believe) be the most important vehicle since the Ford Model-T.
  9. The next evolution of TV – 4K resolution, which offers four times the resolution of current HD TVs – will be well underway by year’s end. While a handful of TVs are currently available offering 4K resolution, content is hard to come by, but by year’s end cable companies will have streaming 4K offerings, a few shows will announce plans to film in 4K, and the movie studios will be on the verge of announcing a 4K format to succeed blu ray.
  10. The Browns will draft a quarterback with their first pick, and whoever they get is not going to be nearly as successful as recently drafted QBs like Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck. The team should just grab the best available player in a draft with a ton of talented guys, and ideally they would use a few of their many picks to build an impenetrable offensive line – even a moderately talented QB with a reasonable amount of time to throw will be a success – but they will screw it up and reach for a guy that won’t be starting in three years. Sadly, I’ll still root for them until the end of time.
  11. Following Colorado and Washington, California and at least two others states will vote to de-criminalize marijuana use.
  12. Apple and Google will both unveil products and strategies that will focus those companies heavily on home automation. Google just bought Nest, a company that was a pioneer in putting thermostats and smoke detectors online, while Apple has already made small efforts to connect music sources, printers, etc, but this will just be the tip of the iceberg. We live in an era where companies are starting to find value for customers by putting even things like solar panels and lightbulbs online, and that will continue with everything from hot water heaters to alarm systems getting the “smart” treatment, resulting in more efficient energy usage whilst we wake up to lights that mimic the sunrise.

And there they are. Some of them may not seem impressive in retrospect (everyone would put money on Lebron staying put), but that’s what I’ve come up with after staring at this screen for far too long and trying to predict the future. The comments link is available to anyone who either wants to mock me or add some predictions of their own. See you in twelve months for the (likely embarrassing) retrospective.