Wednesday, May 22, 2019

This Week in Musk World

Busy week in Musk World.

SpaceX has rescheduled the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 Starlink satellites for Thursday at 10:30 PM EST. This is the third launch attempt with the payload with the other two times being pushed back due to weather concerns. I'm on record being skeptical of the Starlink program not just because of adoption concerns but also because of logistical ones (like launch delays).

The plan is to have 12,000 LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites providing broadband service. Starlink has FCC approval to launch 4,409 satellites but that approval is contingent on SpaceX launching at least half of those satellites in the next six years. Then the company will have just 3-years to launch the other half. But even if they are successful in meeting those combined 9-year timetables - that still leaves them short about 7,500 satellites from the 12,000 final goal. And a lot can happen with terrestrial broadband in 9+ years.

The launch of the Starlink satellites may be the sexy thing today but I think when history looks back at this week in Musk World it will be the acquisition of Maxwell Technologies that will be considered the big deal. Here's an interesting video outlining 5 reasons why Tesla bought Maxwell. Could lead to a big jump forward for the company.

In other news:

Tesla's dashboard cams save a Model 3 owner from an apparent insurance scam. Meanwhile the Sentry Mode records vandals who unaware they were being recorded who did about $2,000 in damage to another Model 3. Also as a Rick & Morty fan I love the idea of a "Keep Summer Safe" mode.

Tesla is lapping its competitors in battery capacity and in charging time. And this is before the acquisition of Maxwell Technologies!

This Consumer Reports article says, "Tesla Driver in Fatal March Crash Was Using Autopilot, NTSB Says: Car hits side of tractor-trailer at 68 MPH with no sign of stopping." The report also says that autopilot was engaged just 10 seconds prior to the crash and that the accident was caused by the truck changing lanes into the lane occupied by the Tesla. Why is Consumer Reports slanting their coverage in such a negative light? The truck caused the accident. Has Consumer Reports been reduced to click-bait tactics? Sadly the misinformation or negative reporting in the MSM seems to be across the board (I think much of this is due to the fact that Tesla doesn't buy ads like the rest of the major car manufacturers).  But when you hear all that doom and gloom keep this in mind.

Tesla has also dropped the base price of the Model S by $3,000 and the Model X SUV by $2,000 while raising the base price of the Model 3 by $400 to $35,400.

Despite my skepticism I wish SpaceX all the luck in the world with their Thursday launch.

Joe Biden and China

With so many Democrats running for President it is inevitable that some of the candidates at the bottom of the polling will be taking shots at those at the top. And currently the one at the very top is Joe Biden.

You will see references to handsy, creepy Uncle Joe. Many will also be holding their breath waiting for the Biden gaffe machine to kick into high gear. But one issue that might be a better road to taking Biden down is his stance on China.

Senator Mark Warner (D-Va) the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee has no problem saying China is a threat. Joe Biden? Not so much.

China is posturing that they are prepared for a long trade war. But if Joe Biden is forced to change his tune on China because of pressure coming from the Left (Bernie Sanders also sees China as a threat) then that may change the equation. China may be thinking that they may be able to out-wait President Trump but if it looks like Trump will win re-election while the Democrats also agree that China is a threat then it would be in China's best interest to do a trade agreement sooner than later.

The anti-tariff folks say that it is the US consumer that is paying the tariffs not China. And they are right. What they don't include in their argument is the fact that instead of paying higher prices the consumers will soon look for alternatives. We are not talking about life essential products. We are talking about products that could easily be manufactured in Vietnam or some other nation with low labor rates. And once that manufacturing moves from China to another country - it's not coming back.

That's permanent damage to the Chinese economy. Instead of risking that China could instead acknowledge they need to have a fair trade policy with the US including promises to stop stealing IP (Intellectual Property). I think that's the most likely outcome.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Linky Links

Stuff I found interesting or amusing and thought I'd share.

- 50 things no man over 40 should own. Good list but do have some minor disagreements like #8, #10 (my wardrobe is at the point where every day is casual Friday and I like it that way), #14 (I have a pair of leather LL Bean sandals that I wear constantly during the summer) and maybe #16 (thinking of getting an American flag one to wear at the beach to make others uncomfortable as a joke). Via Cultural Offering

- Of the 70,083 abortions in Florida in 2018 less than .05% were for incest, rape or the life of the mother being in danger.

- Amelia Earhart on motivation, education and human nature in letters to her mother.

- Heh Heh

- NASA's full Artemis plan revealed: 37 launches and a lunar outpost. The big question is going to be "How are we going to pay for this?" Legitimate question - keep in mind that the Democrats wanted to kill the space shuttle program in 1968 because of the costs. The election of Richard Nixon is what saved it.

- Heh Heh - these are pretty good.

All in the Family (Redux)

So there's going to be a live show of both Norman Lear's All in the Family and also of The Jeffersons.  Count me as being not interested.

There is a version of an All in the Family re-make that I would be interested in seeing. In my version Mike and Gloria stayed together (on the original show they got divorced). Mike Stivic (played by Rob Reiner) became a professor at a local Queens college but he's having issues.

First off Mike and Gloria (played by Sally Struthers) have both now put on so much weight that they need to get around on scooters. Second, Mike's 70's hippy-ethics are no longer in tune with today's woke students and he finds himself getting into trouble at the college for voicing his opinions. Mike can't believe he's getting in hot water simply stating what he believes to be the truth (echoes of Archie). And he's really worried about being fired before his pension kicks in.

Finally, their daughter has grown up to be a Tea Party Republican who supports Trump.

The comedy would basically write itself. That's a remake I'd take the time to watch.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Linky Links

Stuff I found interesting or amusing and thought I'd share.

- Is this heaven? No it's Stockholm.

- Five reasons capitalist Chile is better than socialist Venezuela. There's a lot more than five reasons but the data here is pretty eye-opening.

- Heh Heh (related from VDH)

- I've gotten so confused about Brexit. Shouldn't England be out of the EU by now?

- Interesting - the Air Force wants a flying taxi to retrieve soldiers trapped behind enemy lines or in bad situation. That's the first step - the second step is to use flying taxi's to ferry robot super soldiers to and from battle.

- These actually fit pretty well

Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

Technically nobody ended up sitting on the iron throne. Dany touched it but never sat on it. So I wonder how the casinos treat that prop bet. Was there an option that nobody would end up sitting on the iron throne?... This guy is awesome!... Maybe Bernie Sanders is so against millionaire baseball players because A) he doesn't know how the economy works or B) they didn't play baseball in the Soviet Union. Can you imagine how racist he would have come off as if he complained about millionaire NBA players?... Heh Heh... If Mel Gibson announced he was running for President as a Democrat would his antisemitic views now be considered "mainstream" or "progressive"?... Can you imagine the number of wedding proposals this woman received. And the types of tattoos the guys proposing were sporting?... Pretty sure that the Boston sports teams have been conspiring for the past 20-years to murder my liver... 

Socialism

"The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." - Winston Churchill 1945.

I think nothing illustrates Churchill's quote better than the photo of the Korean peninsula taken from space. Very easy to see which nation is the capitalist one vs the one "enjoying" the fruits of socialism.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

I Am the Highway - Audioslave



Chris Cornell died two years ago yesterday. He is greatly missed.

Books

This article - Books: why the Internet hasn't killed them off left me wondering if people needed it to be explained that books are awesome. That's why the Internet hasn't killed them off.

The article does make the point that the Internet has actually increased the awareness of books and their availability. It doesn't mention Amazon by name but Amazon and the Internet has made access to lots of new and used books easily available to anyone with an Internet connection.

Before the Internet Amazon didn't exist and I did not have a book wish list - now I do. And what's on that list are primarily books I've heard recommended on podcasts or read about in articles or interviews or blog posts. All from the Internet.

I buy at least one book from that Amazon list every 2 weeks. Combined with the books I pick up from used book stores or libraries (who are always selling excess books) - I have stacks of unread books which I try to chip away at best I can.

I also try to unclutter my life by getting rid of one possession a day. That could be a piece of clothing, an old work notebook, an old file that's no longer relevant, something. But that something rarely includes a book. That's the one thing I allow my self to accumulate without guilt.

Because books are awesome.

Currently (Re) Reading

Currently re-reading Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens.

The third time I've read this book (so I guess it's fair to say I've enjoyed it). I wanted to re-familiarize myself with the work before the Amazon Prime mini-series comes out at the end of May.

The 6-episode TV production was helmed by Neil Gaiman himself and I'm really looking forward to it.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Preakness

Strange as it may sound we will probably know the winner of today's Preakness horse race before we "officially" know who won the Kentucky Derby. That's because the owner of Maximum Security has filed a lawsuit to overturn their horse's DQ in the Derby after finishing first.

I feel for those who backed Maximum Security but I'm firmly against turning to the courts to decide what should and always has been decided on the field of play. I feel for fans of the New Orleans Saints but getting the courts to order a replay of the NFC Championship game because of an obviously missed pass interference call by the referees is ridiculous.

In the case of the Kentucky Derby - would backers of Country House be forced to refund their winnings? If they are not forced to return that money - then who pays the backers of Maximum Security? And what about people who have already thrown away their tickets on Maximum Security? How is that resolved? A whole can of worms which should never be opened.

Neither Maximum Security nor Country House are racing today (which I think is BS). A matter such as this could easily be settled on the track or better yet go completely "old school" and let the owners of Maximum Security and Country House resolve the issue with dueling pistols at 20-paces.

As an aside I was told last night a story of a local Mass guy who bet $40 on Country House to win and who ran that ticket 80 times! His take was over $240,000. I'm guessing that guy definitely doesn't want the outcome changed by the courts.

As far as who I'm betting on today - I've learned over the years that if I post my picks they rarely win. I've become a convert to the Al Swearagen dictum that the best way to make God laugh is to announce your plans (or in this case your Preakness picks).

Linky Links

Stuff I found interesting or amusing and thought I'd share.

- Recognizing the lies we tell ourselves to help make better decisions.

- Well that explains that

-  Interesting - What to do with Fannie, Freddie. (Via Stephen Landry)

- Why eating processed food might will make you fat. Eat real food!

- Join the resistance!

- Tiger Woods being sued for wrongful death of a bartender who worked at his Florida restaurant. After reading the facts of the case I'm on Team Tiger on this one. I wonder if all the publicity from winning the Masters and this lawsuit contributed to his poor showing at Bethpage Black?

- Welcome to Boston

Friday, May 17, 2019

Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

So the Boston Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup finals and last night right after the game I checked for ticket prices for Game 1. Tickets start at $549 per with the best seats going for $2,300 each. Guess I'll be watching the finals from a bar (as usual)... I am convinced that Irish Car Bombs were invented by a bartender who hated gullible young people. What a terrible drink choice... Many fingers of blame are being pointed for the disappointing season turned in by the Boston Celtics but lost in many of the discussions is the awful "C us Rise" motto they tried foisting on the fans. Let's hope that motto is tossed into the dustbin of history... "Lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds." - Shakespeare... Speaking of lillies that fester - statistically Kyrie Irving had the best season of his career yet the Celtics only finished 4th in the Eastern Conference. Pretty sure Boston could finish 4th (or better) without him. Now firmly in the hope Kyrie packs his bags and leaves camp... You can go to jail for renting a car from Hertz. I crossed them off the list of companies I'll do business with long ago... There are 3-month old babies in New England who have never known the joy of a championship parade. Won't someone please think of the children? Go Bruins!...

Bruins Going to Stanley Cup Finals!



And they have home ice!

Me so happy!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Lilium's Flying Taxi

Lilium, a German company, has an interesting design for a 5-person "flying taxi".

Unlike most of the other flying car designs which look like rotor-based drones on steroids (from the article):
The "Lilium Jet" uses 36 electric powered ducted fans. Inside each, a small rotor ingests air from the front and pushes it out of the rear at higher speeds. They're not technically jet engines (so the aircraft isn't a "jet").
The flying taxi's will start with a live pilot (just in case) but the plan is to be completely remotely operated. The vertical take-off and landing vehicles can fly 186 miles in an hour - roughly the distance from Providence, RI to New York City (normally a 3-5 hour drive depending on traffic).

The vehicle's "shape allows for gliding in the event of a complete power failure, and it will carry a ballistic parachute just in case."

We are on the cusp of a brave new world when it comes to travel - remote controlled air taxis and autonomous Tesla's. 

Inspiration


Confession

This morning's confession is prompted by this post Heights: fear of falling or urge to leap plus a recent conversation with friends.

Let's start with the recent conversation.

Last Saturday I was playing cards with some friends at a bar. I had just returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon and talk turned to the recent people who had died from falling/jumping into the canyon.

I said that I wasn't surprised because some people get the sudden urge to jump just from being so close to the edge. I admitted that I know because I'm one of those people. There were four of us and two of my friends looked at me like I was crazy. "Why would you think like that?" they wanted to know. Before I could answer my friend Brian admitted, "Yeah I'm the same way."

Neither one of us is suicidal but if you put us too close to the edge we think of jumping. Neither one of us suffer from anxiety as that post I linked to would have you believe. Brian has a great life and I'm about as relaxed a person as you'd be likely to meet. Yet both of us feel the urge to leap. Always have.

I remember reading that Winston Churchill admitted that he didn't trust himself on the top decks of navy destroyers and other ships because he'd often get the urge to jump into the sea. I also get that same feeling sometimes when I'm on the top deck of a ferry or cruise ship. (And yes I did just compare myself to Winston Churchill.)

There's probably a reason people like Brian, Winston and myself get these urges to leap but the answer isn't close to what is suggested in the post I linked to.