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18
Jun

Fundamentals and Long-Term Predictions: Bitcoin and Commodity Metals

by adminadam in articles, home

  • INTENDED AUDIENCE: Beginning to intermediate investors, technologists, cryptocurrency enthusiasts
  • READ TIME: 30 minutes
  • NOTE: This article is not intended as financial or investment advice. Be sure to do your own research or consult your financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

STARTING ASSUMPTIONS: COMMODITIES IN GENERAL

  • Commodities are generally volatile over the span of days, weeks, and months.
  • Over longer time-frames, reduced volatility and greater price stability may be observed. No guarantees, however.
  • Most natural commodities have a cyclical component, with periodic booms and busts. This can be seen in oil, gold, wheat, and so on and on.
  • Supply and demand for any asset can influence the price just as much as sentiment can.
  • Markets may appear or act in irrational ways even over an extended period of time.
  • Distortions of data which hinder your ability to make accurate predictions may arise from imperfect information, complex regulatory environments, or other factors.
  • Known or estimated scarcity in a given commodity may generally be viewed as “bullish” in terms of price fundamentals, although not everything that is rare fetches a consistently high price on the open market, certain collectibles for instance.
  • Macro-economic trend analysis and forecasting is difficult for many reasons, some of which are listed above. I would posit, however, that improvements in forecasting and prediction methodologies should proceed in lock-step with advances and refinements in Big Data and Machine Learning. For example, see: Orbital Insight, a satellite Big Data company which today offers Machine Learning-derived “actionable insights”. This includes everything from infrared-mappings of chlorophyll activity being used to predict crop yields to live-streamed retail activity tracking utilizing shopper car-count and traffic patterns.

STARTING ASSUMPTIONS: COMMODITY METALS

  • As far as commodity and precious metals specifically, I would first assume you already have some understanding of — or can imagine — how metals such as gold, platinum, and silver can be seen performing distinct functions in the different realms of industry, technology, and finance. For example:
    • Central Bank gold bullion reserves [finance];
    • Platinum in catalytic converters [industry]; and
    • Physical vapor deposition of silver for thin-film solar panels [technology]
  • Next, I assume you can appreciate that an American Gold Eagle Coin costing $1330 and a New Zealand Darth Vader Silver Coin costing $21 don’t compete for the same market segment. This is true despite the fact that both coins are well-engineered and are made of precious metals.
    • You would recognize that gold’s superior valuation over that of silver is strongly correlated to the abundance (or paucity) of each element in Earth’s crust. Specifically, 75 parts-per-billion of silver and 4 parts-per-billion of gold are thought to exist in aggregate, roughly an 18:1 ratio.
    • Additionally, you could differentiate between an “investment-grade coin” and a numismatic coin if asked to do so.

      Darth Vader 1 Oz. Silver Numismatic Coin (New Zealand Mint)

  • Finally, I would suggest that a long-term investor who is evaluating precious metal coins and bullion to add to his/her portfolio would most likely want to select coins with qualities such as name recognition and convenience (high fungibility and ease of transport and storage). Later on in the article, I will offer a few suggestions of coins that I feel meet these criteria.

STARTING ASSUMPTIONS: BITCOIN

  • You have at least a little understanding of how bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can be employed for distinct purposes, each use-case arguably aligning with one of the following four categorizations:
    1. Store of Value
    2. Medium of Exchange
    3. Distributed Public Ledger
    4. Programmable Token Platform
  • Store of Value:
    • ‘bitcoin’ (the coin) is a deflationary commodity with, I perceive, a significant-yet-undefined amount of capital appreciation potential extending out into the future.
    • That only 21 million units will ever come into existence is axiomatic to the Bitcoin protocol and software.
    • Bitcoin’s monetary policy can best be described as “Asymptotic Money Supply Targeting” (AMST). In actuality, the total number of coins in existence will approach but never reach 21 million even on an infinite time horizon. See Nakamoto Institute commentary for more on this: “The Bitcoin Central Bank’s Perfect Monetary Policy
  • Medium of Exchange: With bitcoin you can:
    • Buy gift cards from Gyft to use at your favorite retailer
    • Buy precious metal coins and bullion from Provident Metals
    • Execute trades on 50+ financial markets using Whaleclub.co‘s online exchange
    • Send either currency-pegged or floating-rate cross-border payments using Coinapult
  • Distributed Public Ledger:
    • As per the design of the Bitcoin protocol, you can view and audit all transactions, and all blocks of bitcoin transactions, starting from the original “Genesis Block” generated on Jan. 3, 2009, and extending to the most recent blocks.
    • This transaction ledger is referred to as the “block chain”.
    • See: Wiki; Blockchain History.
  • Programmable Token Platform:
    • You could think of Bitcoin (the network) as a “distributed, peer-to-peer, cryptographic asset network with built-in APIs” in the abstract.
    • To unpack this a bit, individual bitcoins or fractions of a coin are discrete, transferable bits of data.
    • These transferable (and divisible) “units” are cryptographically secured using a keychain (private key) that you control.
    • As well as allowing you to exchange and hold these ‘value tokens’, the bitcoin network does three things to create a novel digital infrastructure platform AND asset-class. To give a concise summary is difficult, but these are the three basic things that the Bitcoin network does:
      1. It coordinates resources to form a consensus on which coins are legitimate and which transactions are valid. This ensures no one cheats by trying to “double-spend” their coins or make an infinite number of them.
      2. It checks that every user and node in the network is using the same copy of the rules that govern bitcoin interactions, like what types of transactions are allowed. The way the network is constructed serves to incentivize users to adopt a consistent set of standards. These policies and mechanisms, including how “mining” works, are defined in the Bitcoin Protocol Specification.
      3. While the consensus can shift over time to accommodate upgrades to the network, it is fairly conservative. However, its conservatism and consistency in design in effect form a solid technical foundation that facilitates construction of secondary network layers and new capabilities starting from simple propositions. For example:
        • An individual transaction input (token) can be given an arbitrary association, which is recorded and embedded in the blockchain forever.
        • This embedded information can be anything from a plain text snippet, to a link to code functions, to a simple URL.
        • “Jobs”, a.k.a ‘Smart Contracts’, can be built using such basic, logic-based building blocks.
        • Users and Developers can set up such Jobs to be run automatically under X, Y, or Z conditions.
        • In the most abstract sense, this could be equated to “running a virtual machine on Bitcoin’s Virtual Machine Network”.
        • Two other applications which are usable today are: Multi-Signature Wallets with shared, custodial control; and Blockchain Identity and ID Protection services. Respectively, see: Copay.io‘s “multi-sig wallet” and Civic’s free ID Theft Prevention service.
        • All of these so-called “Blockchain Applications” rely on A) Bitcoin’s consistent consensus rules and incentives; and B) its highly secure, publicly auditable, and most importantly unredactable ledger.

PURPOSEFUL SPECULATION: A THOUGHT EXERCISE

Having established these starting assumptions, my hope is that the reader would then be prepared to consider how the consumption and application of these tangible and ethereal resources may change over time. Might we now be able to consider use cases and comparisons that would have sounded ludicrous previously? My thesis is that over time, compounded by the pace of technological change, what is currently difficult to imagine becomes imaginable, which next becomes difficult or unwieldy, ultimately becoming economical, feasible; common-place and eventually taken for granted. For instance, few of those present at the dawn of the internet imagined or could have conceived of live-streaming high-fidelity video and audio to thousands of fans at once. My belief is that performing such brainstorming exercises — even when it results in mostly ‘bad ideas’ — helps the individual to visualize a possibility-space which they may never have otherwise done…

To start off, here is a fanciful scenario involving Biotech, Coordinated Nanobot Swarms, and P2P Cloud Computing:

  • Individual gold-infused nano-particles associated with specific atomic-bitcoin units enable adaptive and highly-targeted drug delivery to extinguish rapidly proliferating cells throughout the body of a leukemia patient.
  • This computationally intensive effort is orchestrated using heterogeneous compute resources leased from various locations around the world via an automated smart-contract bidding process executed on the OpenBazaar market clearinghouse.
  • During this process a whole-body map is also drawn, updating the previous records stored in a hashed-and-encrypted format in the blockchain, protecting patient privacy…
  • Simultaneously a perfect, auditable 4D recording of the whole procedure is generated to mitigate malpractice claim risk to the medical practitioners who are supervising the process.
  • Ultimately, the operation is a success; the patient walks away cancer-free the very same day.

Here is a starkly more mundane example using an analogy that highlights a trait that gold and bitcoin have in common:

  • Gold is to scarce physical resources as Bitcoin is to scarce digital resources;
  • Neither asset can feasibly be manufactured artificially or independently;
  • Neither asset can be generated or acquired though means other than:
    • physical resource extraction and refining in the case of gold; or
    • verifiable computational work doing SHA256 hash calculations; these are entered into a drawing every ten minutes for a chance to win the ‘coinbase’ lottery known as the bitcoin “block reward” (currently 12.5 BTC for each new block).

A somewhat plausible-sounding scenario, using bitcoin to record and track gold deposits in vaults:

  • A private bullion vault offers a blockchain-based recording and tracking service to customers who have gold delivery bars on deposit in their vault.
  • This service correlates and stores the individual delivery bar’s assay records, origin data and other identifiers in the bitcoin ledger, creating a permanent association with a specific bitcoin tracking token, which none other than the legal and rightful owner of the gold can control or use to track and audit their holdings.
  • Additional thoughts: physical asset tags, QR codes, and RFID chips could potentially be added to further improve remote auditing capabilities.
  • An extension of this: starting with this well-tracked physical gold and building off of a smart-contract platform like Rootstock, you could tokenize your bullion to use as collateral for new and risk-laden enterprises, or for the formation of (truly!) gold-backed derivative products, like malleable personal Exchange-Traded Commodity Funds, and so on.

A wild-sounding notion with unknown practicability: silver-atom spin-state CPU R&D with quantum compute resources leased using bitcoin:

  • Silver atom quantum spin states modulated remotely using quantum computing processor time, leased with bitcoin on-demand.
  • Use this to test and simulate novel arrangements of silver atoms.
  • Next, using the test data, design and build a prototype silver-substrate, meta-material CPU that will allow us to extend Moore’s Law for traditional Von Neumann architectures for an additional decade.

Any of the above speculative scenarios may or may not come to pass. Personally, I find it enjoyable to fit the various commodity ‘puzzle pieces’ together, to try and picture how the interactions between metals and cryptocurrency might affect the fundamentals over time. This is an exploration of edge-cases, really. So take the above with a grain of salt. In the end you will have to decide how much you want to embrace a more speculative, growth-minded approach to commodity investing vs. a more conservative, value-investor angle. Either way I believe diversification, periodic portfolio rebalancing, and long-term planning to be essential. In any case, make sure you know why you are investing your hard-earned money, whether it be in commodities, equities, real estate, art, or otherwise.

I will say that one of my strongest convictions, though, is that the ‘all-cash position’ is unwise and will lead to successively less purchasing power for the ‘under the mattress’ investor. At the very least, if one feels uncertain about equities, bonds, interest rates, the state of the world… I believe an allocation to gold and silver of at least 10%, whether the rest is all in cash or not, should lend stability and optionality to an individual who is fearful or ‘excessively risk-averse’.

Now that we’ve explored a variety of speculative scenarios and fundamental investing principles, let’s get back to basics.

BACK TO BASICS: MY APPROACH TO PRECIOUS METALS

Gold has stood the test of time as a store of value. This should be well-known and understood to the reader already. For thousands of years humans have relied on gold’s scarcity, fungibility, and material properties to protect and exchange wealth. To me, gold is a great hedge against inflation and rising interest rates, which might degrade the performance of otherwise high-yield, fixed-income investment vehicles like bonds. Gold has limited upside potential, I believe. Although having gone through the thought exercises above, I am sure you could envision new uses for gold and other precious metals emerging over time; perhaps interacting in a nexus with bitcoin and other crypto-assets.

One way in which the Gold-Bitcoin Dynamic can be explored presently is with the Vaultoro Exchange, where users trade gold and bitcoin directly, with no settlement to USD or any other fiat currency at any point. It is a full-reserve service and exchange, with storage of gold in private Swiss vaults, fully attributed to the customer. The exchange operates continuously, 24/7/365.

Vaultoro represents a sophisticated offering in our day in my view. However, in the future I can imagine exchanges like Vaultoro taking a greater variety of forms, with expanded feature sets. For example, I could see such exchanges offering margin-trading, partial or shared ownership of assets, more automation and scripting options, etc. To experiment with the current offerings and gold-bitcoin exchange features might allow an individual to better conceptualize subsequent iterations and evolutions of such combined metal-and-crypto platforms.

Ultimately, whether you store it in private vaults or at home in a safe, gold remains a viable option for maintaining wealth over the span of 5 to 10 to 20 years in my mind.

A few of the physical gold products which to live up to my personal standards for convenience and name recognition include:

  1. American Gold Eagles (1 ozt. gold coin; ~$1330 currently)
  2. South African Krugerrands (1 ozt. gold coin; ~$1285 currently)
  3. Canadian Gold Maple Leaf (1 ozt. gold coin; $1290 currently)
  4. The 1/4 ozt. sizes of any of the above, which at ~$350 per coin are more affordable for those just getting started in investing
  5. Any National-Mint One Kilogram Gold Bars (1 kg gold bar; ~$40,800 currently)

Silver has served most often as a reliable smaller-denomination currency coin or ‘bearer instrument’. Silver’s importance in industrial, healthcare, and technological realms is unmatched. Copper emulates some but not all of the properties of silver. As a result of this, silver will likely always be an essential commercial and industrial commodity. Many investors and silver-promoters present a theses concerning “the eventual and sudden collapse in the supply of silver”, which some speculate will result in huge price appreciation. For example, some people will tell you that the silver price, under disastrous or critical-supply scenarios, is poised to jump from ~$17/ozt. to a price northwards of $80 or $100 per ounce. I can’t speak to and don’t necessarily endorse these views. However, I do think that the possibility of a supply-collapse resulting from an uptick in industrial consumption of the metal, combined with dire economic data and rapid inflation, should be considered. I like to think of it as a risk with unlikely probability but high impact. At this point, I would generally echo the notion that an investor looking to maintain his or her wealth through precious metals should likely only take on a position combining gold and silver of 5% to 10% of the portfolio at most. Remember that precious metals can be quite volatile themselves.

Some questions to consider in forming an allocation target for silver in your portfolio, should you choose to do so, are:

  • How much liquidity do you expect you will need in an emergency or a sudden economic downturn, knowing that some of the more popular silver coins are probably easy to sell for around $15-20 a piece at any local coin shop?
  • Are you bullish on the fundamentals of the metal for industrial and technological uses; do you expect to benefit from capital appreciation by investing in silver?
  • Do you have another reason, aesthetic, diversification-related, or otherwise for wanting to own silver?

My favorite investment-grade physical silver products include:

  • American Silver Eagles (1 ozt. silver coin; ~$19 currently)
  • Canadian Silver Maple Leaf (1 ozt. silver coin; ~$19 currently)
  • Silver One Kilogram Bars from reputable vendors such as Asahi, Geiger, Apmex, Valcambi (~$570 on average)

As an aside, my favorite numismatic silver coin is: the Austrian Maria Theresa Thaler, minted continuously starting from the mid-18th century. It typically carries only the symbolic year of 1780 to commemorate the end of Maria Theresa’s reign as Empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

ASSESSMENT OF OTHER METALS: PLATINUM, PALLADIUM, COPPER

I am somewhat curious about Palladium, having recently learned via a Macro Voices podcast episode that this metal is poised to absorb some portion of the catalytic converter role that Platinum has traditionally performed.

Platinum is pleasant aesthetically; it’s very rare in the Earth’s crust, however I have no desire myself to own it as it looks no different than silver to the casual observer. Again name and visual recognition constitute my first requirement for “investment-grade metals”.

Copper is critical in infrastructure, healthcare, and technological realms. However, it’s value as measured in dollars has declined from roughly $4.00 per pound to around $2.50 per pound over the last 20 years.

I find looking at comparison charts and 20-year charts for these metals, gold and silver to be helpful. Here are three such charts from Provident Metals:

Source: https://www.providentmetals.com/spot-price/chart/gold/ (see also: comparison charts)

The 20-year performance trend breakdown and rankings for the five metals is:

  1. Gold UP 4X: $300 to $1200
  2. Palladium UP 3X+: $250 to $850
  3. Silver UP 3X: $5 to $15
  4. Platinum relatively UNCHANGED: $830 to $930
  5. Copper DOWN: $4.00 to $2.50

FUNDAMENTAL CAPABILITIES OF BITCOIN

  • Act as the arbiter of truth in situations where strangers and business partners cannot trust each other
  • Enable nearly-unlimited sum payments internationally that settle within an hour for a minimal fee, without the oversight or interference of 3rd parties like banks and remittance companies
  • Boot-strap and launch a store of value asset protocol based on mathematically-provable scarcity with ever-growing computing power used to secure said assets

My approach to evaluating Bitcoin based on its fundamental capabilities. I would ask myself these questions:

  1. The idea that blockchain records and other data can never be expunged or tampered with; how much is this worth to me?
  2. How might I be limited by either lack of banking/remittance infrastructure, poor customer service, high fees, the interference of middle-men in my financial affairs, etc.?
  3. On this note, am I comfortable being one of the first people I know to try out this new technological money system?
  4. To what extent do I believe various network effects are likely to keep Bitcoin firmly cemented in the dominant position in an ecosystem of rapidly-proliferating crypto-assets and alternative cryptocurrencies: Developer Mind Share; Store of Value Network; User Activity; Miner Hashing Power, etc.?

With the above questions as a starting point — and ideally with the speculative scenarios in mind to help calibrate your thinking nearer to the conclusion of your assessment of Bitcoin — hopefully you have a better sense now than when you started reading the article of how you can determine for yourself Bitcoin’s “Worthiness as an Investment”.

Thank you for reading and all the best to you!


Should you have any questions, feedback, or other inquiries, please feel free to email me at: 84adam [at] thrivenotes [dot] com


Further Reading: 

9
Dec

Current Bitcoin Price & Yearly Price History

by adminadam in home

Weekly Average Bitcoin Prices from Mt. Gox until its collapse in February 2014:


Weekly Average Bitcoin Prices from BitStamp since it opened in September 2011:

Average Monthly Price in October since 2010:

YEAR PRICE EXCHANGE
2010 $0.11 Mt. Gox
2011 $3.53 Avg. Mt. Gox & BitStamp
2012 $11.56 Avg. Mt. Gox & BitStamp
2013 $163 BitStamp
2014 $358 BitStamp
2015 $268 BitStamp
2016 $639 BitStamp
7
Dec

How Far I’ve Come Since 2008

by adminadam in home

In 2008, I created my first personal blog: WELKAOS, a buddhism-inspired, liberal, social-justice centered blog. I laugh at how different I was back then.

At that time I claimed I was all of the following on my about page:

  • friend, brother, son, grandson, and cousin
  • mid-20’s
  • curious
  • compassionate
  • critical
  • white
  • straight-questioning
  • able-bodied
  • male
  • well-educated
  • educator
  • vegan
  • socialist-democrat
  • spiritual and non-religious
  • human being
  • synergy – more than the sum of my parts, just like you!

I mean, c’mon. I identified as Synergy itself! I must have really been struggling to up my ID count.

I was super hippy-dippy. I was vegan. I was a Social Justice Warrior. It was the thing to do. I lived in a small, liberal, West-Coast college town. This conferred benefits: amelioration of assumed and internalized guilt, and access to a community of liberal upper-middle class SJW girls. It was also more-or-less a prerequisite to getting into my teaching program. They really tried to shove guilt and the worshiping of the state down your throat in the college of education.

My tag line was interesting, too. My complete title read:

WELKAOS: We welcome chaos with calm compassion.

Who is we? I don’t know..! On to more salient points, then.

WELKAOS is a portmanteau of “welcome” and “chaos”. I spelt it out for you either way. Apparently, I welcomed chaos with calm compassion. Calm compassion seems a bit redundant, don’t you think? Aren’t compassionate people generally calm? And aren’t calm people generally compassionate? (I mean some calm people are sociopaths — calm looking anyways — really they are emotionless, but I digress…) You’d think that I was the zen-est motha-fucka out there. But no. I had a bone to pick. With everyone.

I was vegan. And what I don’t mention — but what is usually true of vegans — is that I was an environmentalist. A fierce one. I made people from Texas defend their “throwing everything into the garbage” behavior. (Really it just annoyed people and made them not want to talk to me.) I can say this because I was a vegan for 5 years: Vegans are hard to talk to sometimes. I still have trouble talking with new vegans that I meet, and I was one!

Besides all the boring family member descriptions and the fact that I was a male, I felt cool and edgy declaring myself to be straight-questioning, a queer (as in odd) way — pun intended — of saying in the SJW parlance that I was ‘almost doubtful of my heterosexuality’. Never fear, no need to doubt: I’ve checked since then. I’m definitely straight. That is okay, right? (And yes, I like Same Love, by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.)

Sadly, the SJW community glorifies fringe identity identification, meaning the more labels, and the more obscure of lables you can place on yourself — whether self-deprecating, or true, or just convenient — the better. Typical middle-class white college straight guy not cool. Bad even. SJ mentality and theory is a creepy-crawly thing. It works to gain converts by slathering potential targets in guilt-butter repeatedly until — having been made to alternate constantly for 6 hours between boredom and confusion — the target inevitably gets hungry, opens their mouth, and tastes the guilt-assuaging (really reallocating) poison of hierarchical ‘egalitarianism’. If you don’t accept it, you are obviously a greedy white capitalist pig promoting rape-culture and the beating of slightly-sleepy, chilled-out black guys. The obvious inverse of this is that Dark-skinned Muslim Native-American Lesbian Women who identify as Men and are Polyamorous are at the top of the hierarchy. At least that’s pretty cool.

Funny that I would so calmly accept being placed into a hierarchical “egalitarian” structure in which I was the bottom-rung on the totem pole. Certainly reinforces any internalized judgments and self-hate that lies in wait inside your heart, that is for sure. What I didn’t realize at the time was that in swallowing the pill of Social Justice, I was wrapping up my latent and probably justifiably-decaying sense of guilt and shame (From where? I dont’ know. Protestantism probably.) in a cocoon of abstraction and insulation. This would shelter me from any critique of my actual character for years to come. Let’s face it, no one is inherently bad because of their race, class, gender, language, or ability — including white people, including me. But if I tell you that I’m cool because I’m really not cool because of all these fairly average facets of my birth, genetics, and upbringing then you’ll think I’m cool, or you’ll just be confused and weirded out by the really intense and pitiful white guy at the party that can’t loosen up and have a fun time. I mean white guys already have a hard enough time dancing… Why do you gotta burden them further with indoctrination and theories of justifiable self-hate? … Anyways, the point is that Social Justice creates Social Justice Zombies who internalize binary and divisive categorizations of people and then proceed to point fingers at themselves and others who they perceive to have privilege (privileged brains, want to eat…!). It’s an easy way to create — or limit yourself to — a small cadre of similarly-minded and small-minded people with which to launch lengthy verbal attacks at the world with the Critical Catapult of Political Correctness. In short, it’s a great way to not grow. Label yourself in order to stop growing.

And that is what I did.

I wrote long treatises and short poems, prosy things that didn’t rhyme, back then. Used words like agency and superiority and allies a lot. Very little of it defined. Where in truth agency was the willingness to confine yourself and curtail your own natural thoughts and desires, sublimating your feelings, and sacrificing yourself to the greater good of Diversity, Democracy, and Socialism — to all the Heavenly Abstractions of Perfect Righteousness, in fact. I talked about reprogramming myself to have no ego, melting into something greater than myself, a flipped world of hyper-New-Age spirituality and black presidents — oh, wait… A flipped world where instead of white people being evil, they were good, but no better than any one of any other color. In fact, maybe we would do away with color then. Maybe we would lose our color and our form, all melting into a primordial human swamp of hive mind mentalities and dogmatic sputtering spontaneous movements. Wouldn’t it be grand? We wouldn’t need allies any more. We would be The Ally. We would be our own Ally, supporting our own decisions, every whim and fanciful notion 100%. Pure genius!

In truth, I felt inferior. Best to tell yourself that you’re actually superior but don’t deserve it right? … No, not really, I’m kidding. That’s just confusing. It’s best to be honest with yourself. Acknowledge where you are. Have you hurt anyone today? Have you gotten out of bed? If the answers are No to the first and Yes to the second then you’re doing pretty good. No need to hate yourself for being a white person or a straight guy or anything else.

Social Justice was my opium. It lulled me into a deadly slumber. The early artifacts of Thrivenotes give hints of this — I was asleep, I was blind, I was naive. While I don’t think it a complete waste to try to base a blog on Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, as I did, what I probably needed was not to espouse liberal philosophy and try to convert strangers to egalitarianism through an obscure blog in some tucked-away corner of the internet… Instead, what I needed was a bit more Love, a bit more of a sense of Belonging (but to a community of fun-loving, non-judgmental people), and then to work hard to deserve the feelings of Self-Esteem that I desired as a young man about to enter the field of public school teaching as a noob who still looked like he was in high school.

MaslowsHierarchyOfNeedsSo now let’s return to the tagline again:

We welcome chaos with calm compassion.

What was this chaos? Apparently I welcomed it. Was it my own expected emotional turmoil and self-inflicted insults of unloveability? My own ego destruction? Perhaps more than an abstraction… Perhaps more than symbolic self-obliteration… Perhaps, in a way, it was prescient.

I certainly wouldn’t want a world of Sameness. I want a word that is dynamic and yet orderly; complex, yet navigable. Perhaps chaos was the expectation of conflict with those who would inevitably disagree with me. I was the only one of my four male roommates who thought we were living in a Patriarchy. They all thought we were living in a Matriarchy, by contrast. This caused me to experience chaos. Perhaps this chaos was my other drug. Perhaps chaos was the feeling of trying to stick to my lonely dogma while people around me were trying desperately to loosen me up, to love me. If anything, Chaos was my cocaine. Exciting, stimulating, addicting, fleeting, and ultimately unfulfilling. What I really wanted was to know what was going to happen, to know that I was going to be okay. Asking my ego to die was my way of hiding from the world. I wanted to know what to expect. I wanted regularity. I wanted to be comforted. I just didn’t know it. I was in denial.

Perhaps my Anti-SJW Journal can lead with this article:

Deconstructing Liberal Fear-based Guilt-reinforcing Obfuscating Abstractions for the Purpose of Liberating Feaful and Isolated Young White Men

Now let’s get down to it: I was a grad-student who shouldered overwhelming perennial social and environmental issues in order to feel worthy when I didn’t. I was scared to enter the real world, where growth is slow and painstaking. But Thank God I climbed down from that Awful Ivory Tower of Indoctrination. The people there, the Multicultural Education professors to the greatest extent, seemed quite unhappy. The serious education researchers and philosophers seemed the happiest. Perhaps because they were less encumbered by lofty, glorified notions of constant revolution and idealized vernaculars.

The exciting thing about all this for me is that I’m noticing I feel more excited about life with each passing day. I am looking for more and more people of differing dispositions with whom to exchange ideas and enter into friendships. My previous schema and idealism had me cut off from the true diversity of the world, one which is not static like the identities of a multiculturalist worldview.

I feel so lucky to have been able to let go of so much. To have left some things undone.

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.— Lin Yutang

Life is, in many ways, simpler and more nuanced, slower-paced and more exciting than I ever would have expected.

I can’t wait to see how the next eight years turn out.

16
May

My Current Stack, v3.0

by adminadam in home

Nootropic Stack — Version 3 — May 2015

BENEFITS ACTIVITIES AMOUNTS FREQUENCY NOTES
anxiolysis, focus Meditation 10-15 minutes weekday mornings breathing exercise: nose 5 sec. in, mouth 10 sec out. repeat x10.
memory, focus Study Japanese 15-20 minutes weekday mornings helps discipline in other areas
energy, focus, muscle tissue, immune support, balance, flexibility Taekwondo & Muy Thai one hour classes two times per week self-defense, sparring, board breaking, weapon training, and “forms”
anxiolysis, focus, muscle tissue, balance, flexibility Slacklining 5-30 minutes once a week on average, more in the summer excellent for core and leg strength and balance
BENEFITS SUBSTANCE AMOUNTS FREQUENCY NOTES
wakefulness, executive function Modafinil 200-300mg tablet weekday mornings upon waking drink lots of water. add salt to maintain electrolytes.
wakefulness, anxiolysis Matcha Green Tea [buy] 4-6 grams powder, mixed in water from waking through early afternoon works with cold water.  contains calming L-theanine.
anxiolysis, immune support, hormonal balance Ashwagandha [buy] 500mg capsule with 300mg KSM-66 standardized extract and 200mg whole root powder twice a day calming and pro-social
anxiolysis Tianeptine Sodium 12.5mg powder three times a day powerful depression and anxiety relief
anxiolysis, energy Bromantane 75-100mg powder weekday mornings upon waking powerful anxiety relief
anxiolysis, energy, immune support Rhodiola Rosea [buy] 500mg capsule, 3% standardized extract once a day upon waking best on empty stomach
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BENEFITS SUBSTANCE AMOUNTS FREQUENCY NOTES
12
May

Your Vote Doesn’t Matter

by adminadam in home

A Brief Treatise on the Futility of Mainstream Political Action and the Promise of Smart Contracts and Cryptographic Governance

Before I touch on new techniques available to the aspiring political entrepreneur I would like to set the scene with a bleak but informative view of the poverty of our modern, mainly American, political system (not to exclude anyone!).

Public opinion has no statistically-significant impact on public policy in the United States, whereas special interests can block any bill they dislike whilst, more often than not, getting the OK from congress for their own bills.

Unless you are one of the power elite your vote, your political opinion doesn’t matter.

And while the creator of this video would have you believe that there are ways to fix this broken system, I view things more cynically. I would like to make corruption illegal, don’t get me wrong. But I have a feeling that a movement to do so would be co-opted. I see that power elites corrupt and undermine popular political movements and figures on the daily. I see that they control the media and manipulate and sculpt our attention, too. They do this, as Noam Chomsky described, by encouraging lively debate within narrow bands of opinion:

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”

Thus we are diverted from meaningful, profound discussions on a full-range of important issues. Instead, we seem to either A) partake in the spectacle of superficial, divisive debates orchestrated by Puppet Authority Figures on either delimited side of the argument, B) switch to thinking about the next pressing issue, “in other news…”, or C) take hit after hit of interminably-juicy celebrity gossip. The populous is dumb and it has been made dumb with brutal efficiency. But this is not the only reason that I have doubts about the promised, this-time-it’ll-be-different, Represent-Us Revolution, the plan for which you might be led to peruse if you watched until the end of the above video.

Let’s take a moment to review the basic situation here in America, and then I’ll tell you why I am not going to bother with this or any other mainstream progressive reformist movement for political change in the foreseeable future:

  1. Like they say in the video, politicians have been bought and sold for at least 40 years in the United States. The people that run the country are in bed with the people that run the largest corporations, and only the power elite get their policies enacted with anything more than a jackpot-lottery-ticket-winning success rate. We are dealing with a more-or-less self-sustaining, self-correcting system, a well-oiled machine.
  2. The American people are uneducated and ignorant of the workings of the machine. In fact, they are prevented from getting an education — at least insofar as they are given no regular opportunities to get exposure to nuanced, unbiased debates on wide-ranging, un-preselected topics. Americans don’t necessarily inherently value intellectual pursuits or learning in general either as far as I can tell. And yet we are impoverished not only in terms of knowledge and understanding…
  3. The American people are impoverished through excessive taxation (upwards of 50%) and the intentional and unchecked inflation of their currency by the Federal Reserve Banking System; hence, they have not the money or time to care about fomenting political change. Our mental and financial resources are drained in other nefarious ways as well, like through the attention-grabbing, counterproductive drug war.
  4. America is constantly at war — no, it’s not just with drugs — and the dispossessed (on both sides of the world) are the ones footing the bill.
  5. We know that if we speak out about corruption, warmongering, taxation, coercion, the broken health-care system, or the destruction of the environment, that we are more likely to be scrutinized by Five Eyes Intelligence Agencies. Although we may not care on average as Americans that we are being spied upon, Edward Snowden and others have worked tirelessly to bring it to our attention. Those that do care and are politically and technically savvy enough perhaps know better now the extent of the surveillance and understand better the design of the Panopticon, feel its chilling effects more profoundly in their bones. It is a scary time to promote and make plans for radical, political and economic deviations from the status quo. But that fear… Perhaps it is the sign that we are entering new territory. So what would moving forward actually look like?

On to the root of the issue of how to — or how not to — create change:

The problem with Occupy, the Tea Party, Revolution.us, and the next dozen yet-to-be-shouted-from-the-rooftops Movements fed up with the status quo is that their solutions regularly rely upon established practices, methods, and institutions. They march, write, phone-in, text, plead, promote, proselytize, fund-raise, and propose legislation. Surely for their supporters, seeing a Movement Member interviewed on the nightly news is exhilarating. And it happens to some extent — perhaps just enough to satisfy this need for a broad-enough-but-still-divisive rhetorical theater in the media as Chomsky described. But my problem with these movements isn’t the limited penetration they achieve into the information-feeding troughs of the average American television viewer or web surfer. My lack of faith in their projects has little do to with their paltry track records for bringing about lasting change, in fact.

My problem lies in the reliance on third-parties in general. By third-parties I mean other groups or individuals on whom the success of the movement, or the achievement of a redress of grievances, relies. Ultimately, if some vaguely socialist democratic movement, let’s say, were to gain power, overthrow and oust the power elites, fix the broken law/financial/environmental/societal system on their own terms, what would it amount to? Obviously we can assume their victory means just what I said, that they’ve achieved what they wanted. But now we’re left with another problem, if not a bigger problem: There is a new power elite, a new administration, a new congress, a new constitution, new third-parties, and new points of failure. Reading Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed serves as a firm reminder of the necessity of constant revolution in radical political projects. All these movements, these configurations of human capital, sadly — no matter how virile, impassioned, or disciplined — suffer from the tendency in human-dependent systems towards a centralization of power. Ultimately, this leads to their decay. I — and I believe I speak for many of my readers as well — grow weary of this kind of karmic political cycle, the investment of large sums of energy, getting the ball rolling, only to have its energy siphoned off steadily in an entropic process of attrition and a cutting of supply lines for the movement. So I ask myself if there is a better way to structure our political system. But then I have problems with democracy itself, you see… The whole thing may need to be reworked. But allow me to explain…

What’s the problem with democracy?

It’s not only about centralization and corruption for me. Here’s my problem with democracy: In the first place, in a majority-rule country like ours, at most half of the country (consider especially how few people actually vote) is able to elect the representatives and enact the policies favorable to it. Secondly, those representatives are not bound by contract to deliver on their election promises. And we could even forgive their transgressions — on both sides — those voters who were duped, those elected officials prevented from carrying out ‘the will of the people’ in one way or another. The point being no one need take the blame; this system functions (if you can call it functional) with or without consent, with or without consensus, but more often than not without either in terms of the what the whole country wants. And our media have us believing that this is the best we can do. We swallow this lie and preach it to the heathens that suggest anything else might be better. Meanwhile we swim with sharks in the shark tank, trying to lobby and protest the measly scraps of food we manage to procure as we twist and turn to avoid being eaten ourselves…

Are you telling me there is a way to 1) guarantee that policies get carried out and 2) prove that consent has been obtained from all constituents? Is there a system less vulnerable to fraud, less dependent on malleable and often unscrupulous political intermediaries?

Enter smart contracts. This is what I believe we will use to obviate corruption even if we also succeed in making corruption illegal. So support revolution.us if you want to, but know that we have the tools today to start to programmatically restructure politics or even build alternative, parallel political and legal systems. Cryptographic Governance will allow us to make the shift from being reactive to being proactive in trying to fight corruption. So how does this work, and what are smart contracts?

Let’s let Andreas Antonopoulos, Bitcoin Protocol Champion Extraordanaire, begin. Note this is a highly technical intro; rest assured, further elucidation of the ramifications of what’s being said is forthcoming.

Of course, only in the last 20 seconds or so of this verbose description of smart contracts do the non-monetary applications of this Bitcoin protocol contract scripting language receive mention.

Effectively, what Andreas is saying is that wills, trusts, and other types of agreements can be encoded using this new programming language found in the Bitcoin Protocol to be carried out without (and despite) human intervention given that certain constraints are met.

While we will want to apply this technology to politics, his first example of how a financial transaction can be secured and managed automatically through a smart contract is illustrative:

Basically, amount $XXXX will be transferred from Company A to Company B IF AND ONLY IF:

  1. Company A signs the transaction to release the funds
  2. Escrow Company C signs off on the transfer, verifying Company B has fulfilled their end of the bargain and that Company A has the available funds in their wallet
  3. The transaction is dated after January 1, 2015, and
  4. The NASDAQ is at 2500 points

A will could be carried out along the same lines, and with it the deeds to an estate transferred, a hitherto encrypted message to the heirs unlocked, and the deceased’s collected private records expunged from all electronic databases, assuming an approved doctor’s death certificate has been uploaded to proofofextistence.com according to predefined criteria.

I think you can see where this is going. Any policy, the rules of governance of any entity, business or political, if they can be defined clearly enough, can be made to execute “no matter what anybody wants to happen.” To paraphrase from Andreas Antonopoulos, the diffuse power inherent in these decentralized technologies is much less corruptible than centralized power. The mayor would no longer keep the keys to the city, but would be given access to them IF AND ONLY IF. You can imagine myriad things as well, I am sure. But just for fun let’s say the mayor gets to use the mayoral limousine IF AND ONLY IF his klout score is above 80, his budget is in the black for the year, and 3 or more proof-of-existence photos of him playing with children in the park have been uploaded to the town webpage during the last 30 days. (A bit silly of a set of definitions, for sure, but that’s what the citizens of Ogdenville decided on!)

This is the world that you and I and our community members can build, leaving the oligarchs out of it. We will not wrest control from the power elites; we will innovate around them (without their permission). This is the future of bitcoin-secured smart contracts and cryptographic governance that I envision.

Take a look at a few noteworthy projects already up-and-coming in this space:

  • Counterparty is a platform for free and open financial tools on the Bitcoin network. Counterparty tokens can be used for a wide range of purposes and act as their own cryptocurrency, while still running on the Bitcoin blockchain. Unlike ordinary bitcoin, custom tokens can be used to issue dividends, confer voting rights, as electronic tickets, access to content, and more. Counterparty offers multisignature wallet addresses, which require signatures from more than one Bitcoin private key in order to spend their funds, allowing for flexible consensus-building systems to be built.
  • Ethereum calls itself a “platform for decentralized applications” and promises to make writing smart-contracts simple and efficient. One such fascinating project to emerge from the Ethereum-sphere is Augur, a “fully-decentralized, open-source prediction market platform, intended to revolutionize forecasting, decision making, and the manner in which information consensus is collected and aggregated”. Read more about Augur at augur.net. Etherparty is an intriguing user-friendly platform written using Ethereum to make writing smart-contracts easy for non-programmers.
  • Blockstream is another project and future platform with similar goals to Counterparty and Ethereum: Making smart-contracts and digital asset management easy and secure. They plan to use a feature of Bitcoin called sidechains to create two-way pegs between bitcoin and other assets or tokens. These assets and tokens in the sidechain can be comprised of anything: digital ballots, contracts, representations of other real-world currencies, the sky is the limit. The main-selling point with Blockstream is the tie-in with Bitcoin’s superior network hashing power — something that makes Bitcoin prohibitively expensive to attack.
  • Colored Coins and the Open Asset Protocol is another protocol for tying assets and digital keys to a subset of bitcoin to be transacted over the Bitcoin network. Applications include companies issuing shares in the form of ‘colored coins’, which could then be traded frictionlessly through the Bitcoin infrastructure. Also, a bank could issue colored coins backed by a cash reserve. People could then withdraw and deposit money in colored coins, and trade those, or use them to pay for goods and services. The Blockchain becomes a system allowing us to transact not only in Bitcoin, but in any currency by linking it to a set of colored coins. Additionally, locks on cars or houses could be associated with a particular type of colored coins. The door would only open when presented with a wallet containing that specific coin. This protocol is already being utilized by NASDAQ to “expand and enhance the equity management capabilities offered by its Nasdaq Private Market platform”. This will allow for greater efficiency in the issuance, transfer, and management of private company securities within the Nasdaq ecosystem.

Other noteworthy projects include:

  1. Lighthouse for decentralized crowdfunding (think: uncensorable, distributed community project donation pages),
  2. Open Bazaar for decentralized online marketplaces (think: uncensorable, distributed farmer’s markets),
  3. Maidsafe and Storj for secure P2P information storage (think: Dropbox but no one can spy on you or take down your data; it is distributed in encrypted shards and spread throughout the internet), and
  4. BitLendingClub and BTCjam for microloans to/from anyone anywhere in the world.

The future is looking pretty bright all of a sudden. But it is incumbent upon us — particularly those of us with the skills and resources available — to help build out these systems and make it happen. We need to maintain and improve upon our already-powerful open-source, cryptographic algorithms. We need to fight to encode privacy and our god-given human rights into the very fabric of the world. Edward Snowden said so himself. It is actually part of what spurred him on in divulging the crimes of the NSA and other government agencies:

“While I pray that public awareness and debate will lead to reform, bear in mind that the policies of men change in time, and even the Constitution is subverted when the appetites of power demand it. In words from history: Let us speak no more of faith in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of cryptography.”

[From Glenn Greenwald’s new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State]

Snowden’s goal for us is to create a more free and equal internet. In an earlier interview with Laura Pointras, Snowden explained:

“The shock of this initial period [after the first revelations] will provide the support needed to build a more equal internet, but this will not work to the advantage of the average person unless science outpaces law. By understanding the mechanisms through which our privacy is violated, we can win here. We can guarantee for all people equal protection against unreasonable search through universal laws, but only if the technical community is willing to face the threat and commit to implementing over-engineered solutions. In the end, we must enforce a principle whereby the only way the powerful may enjoy privacy is when it is the same kind shared by the ordinary: one enforced by the laws of nature, rather than the policies of man.”

By implementing these new cryptographic systems, we may move one step further towards what Snowden envisioned: distributed and secure math-based ecosystems that enhance our privacy and allow us to innovate further in all areas — in government, in finance, in communications and journalism, etc. Even if you inherently trust our government — kudos to you for reading this far, by the way — I would argue that the price of non-action here is great: Dictators around the world, future corrupt leaders of America, they all stand to benefit if citizens are denied these tools.

Another of my idols in this space is singer/songwriter/activist Tatiana Moroz, creator of the song, “The Bitcoin Jingle” (see further below). She speaks about the importance of these new kinds of projects in liberating us. In her talk just below, she describes her journey of hope and betrayal, a tale of a loss of innocence, a growing political cynicism. She fell first for presidential candidate Dennis Kuchinich, and then later for candidate Ron Paul, only to be disappointed at their negligible impact (some would say the negligible impact they were allowed to have) in American politics. She later learned about how the Federal Reserve controls and fuels the political machine under which we suffer. But then she found a new source of hope and light in the currency and technology platform known as Bitcoin.

Although I enjoy her talk immensely, concerning the creation of the first pro-artist digital currency, Tatiana Coin — amongst other innovations and insights she shares — it’s not strictly necessary to watch till the end. [Jump to the 19:00 minute mark for the meat of the discussion on smart contracts.] I think you get it. I think you see that people are talking. People like Tatiana, Andreas, and Edward are fired up — and they want you to join in the fight. Greater transparency in government, a reigning in of corruption, proper implementation of secure protocols, the funding of important projects, the re-installation of our civil rights, and perhaps most importantly: the fueling of people’s curiosity and desire to experiment, to live in a wondrous and endlessly-fascinating world. That is their call. And that is the promise of smart contracts and cryptographic governance.

The Bitcoin Jingle, by Tatiana Moroz

SOURCES:

1. Gilens and Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” Perspective on Politics, 2014. http://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf

2. Washington Post, “Rich People Rule!” 2014.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/04/08/rich-people-rule/

3. Washington Post, “Once again, U.S. has most expensive, least effective health care system in survey,” 2014.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/06/16/once-again-u-s-has-most-expensive-least-effective-health-care-system-in-survey/

4. Forbes Opinion, “The tax code is a hopeless complex, economy-suffocating mess,” 2013.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrenzel/2013/04/04/the-tax-code-is-a-hopeless-complex-economy-suffocating-mess/

5. CNN, “Americans pay more for slower Internet,” 2014.
http://money.cnn.com/2014/10/31/technology/internet-speeds/

6. The Atlantic, “American schools vs. the world: expensive, unequal, bad at math,” 2013.
http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/american-schools-vs-the-world-expensive-unequal-bad-at-math/281983/

7. Sunlight Foundation, “Fixed Fortunes: Biggest corporate political interests spend billions, get trillions,” 2014.
http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2014/11/17/fixed-fortunes-biggest-corporate-political-interests-spend-billions-get-trillions/

9
May

Ode to Satoshi

by adminadam in home

Published on Feb 13, 2014 – http://youtu.be/zEQ2nPSL5-0

Bitcoin Tips: 1Bu6CHFzHwv522pBLQoBgDAaf2C7hvXxGo
Litecoin Tips: LLHeNqNAFeJeXmxyFLNqYRkfk6dcQH8bub

To Purchase the mp3, go to BitcoinsAndGravy.com or use this link:
satoshibox.com/5336dab64c347b9666008353

Email questions/comments to: jcbarrett2003@yahoo.com

Cover Photo by Jim McGuire, Nashville, TN

Ode To Satoshi

Well Satoshi Nakamoto that’s a name I love to say
And we don’t know much about him, but he came to save the day
When he wrote about the way things are
and the way things ought to be
He gave us all a protocol this world had never seen

Oh Bitcoin as you’re going into the old Blockchain
Oh Bitcoin I know you’re going to reign, gonna reign
Till everybody knows, everybody knows,
till everybody knows your name

Down the road it will be told about the Death of Old MtGox
About traitors trading alter coins and minors mining blocks
But them good old boys back in Illinois
and on down through Tennessee
See they don’t care to be a millionaire,
they’re just wanting to be free

Oh Bitcoin as you’re going into the old Blockchain
Oh Bitcoin I know you’re going to reign, gonna reign
Till everybody knows, everybody knows,
till everybody knows your name

From the ghettos of Calcutta to the halls of Parliament
While the bankers count Our money out for every government
Old Bitcoin flies on through the skies of Virtuality
A promise to deliver us from age old Tyranny

Oh Bitcoin as you’re going into the old Blockchain
Oh Bitcoin I know you’re going to reign, gonna reign
Till everybody knows, everybody knows,
till everybody knows your name
Till everybody knows, everybody knows,
till everybody knows your

“Give me some Exposure”

Everybody knows your name

Singing:
Oh Lord pass me some more
Oh Lord before I have to go
Oh Lord pass me some more
Oh Lord . . . before I have to . . .
go . . .

“Thanks East Nashville! Y’all be good to each other out there ya hear!”

Read the rest of this entry »

5
May

Namecoin

by adminadam in home

See more at weusenamecoins.com.

Quick Rundown of Namecoin:

  • Used primarily for domain name registration
  • Domains registered using Namecoin cannot be censored or shut down by ICANN, any government, or any other private entity
  • Host your own website or use an out-of-jurisdiction VPS for greater resiliency against take-down requests
  • Can also be used as a currency, for tips, etc.
  • 21 million Namecoins total to be produced
  • Mined and secured just like Bitcoin
  • Transaction history kept forever in Blockchain public ledger
23
Apr

Noteworthy Bitcoin News: Spring, 2014

by adminadam in home

A few weeks before tax day, the IRS gave guidance saying (that is, they declared that) Bitcoin is, was, and always has been a commodity in regards to tax burden. Capital gains tax applies each time a transaction is made with this currency commodity (shall we call it a commurrency?), even if it is just a cup of coffee being purchased. If the price of Bitcoin was higher when you bought the Bitcoin than when you made the purchase, then you are liable to pay capital gains tax on that purchase. This is great for institutional investors, not so great for people in the U.S. who are using it as a currency. Personally, I wonder about the IRS’s capacity to enforce and act on this with the growing adoption of Bitcoin. Also, since the ruling is retroactive, all purchases/transactions made with Bitcoin since the beginning of time are fair game. So what if you don’t or can’t know the input and output values of all your coins (including other virtual currencies like Litecoin, Dogecoin, etc.) since 2009, when Bitcoin was released?

There is a clause apparently that says that if you can’t provide this information for some reason, or if you don’t have the records, then you *may* be forgiven of some of your burden for some of your gains if you appeal upon being audited for a given amount. Losses do deduct from total gains, just like you would expect, but I guess I just wonder how the IRS expects to keep track of Bitcoin transactions and audit people going forward. I know a number of people who bought their first Bitcoins through coinbase using a bank transfer. Like most people in this boat, you then transfer those coins to a safer-than-coinbase storage medium, whether that’s a paper wallet or the Bitcoin-Qt Standard Software Wallet which you run on your home computer (hopefully safely encrypted and backed-up — see my guide on doing this here). Each transaction made in order to get these coins under your control in this scenario is a transaction, but note: you haven’t purchased anything, or traded anything of value for your Bitcoins. Ultimately, essentially, all Bitcoin transactions whether purchases or personal fund-movements appear identical to the Bitcoin network. Were there some greater level of willing transparency on this issue from the IRS, we could know if they plan to, say, host their own bitcoin node, download the blockchain themselves just to make sure they understand it, or merely check transfers using an online blockchain (the public ledger), like blockchain.info, for example.

The final obstacle in collecting (and reporting) revenues from cryptocurrencies stems from high-frequency trading — say you bought your Bitcoin on a U.S. exchange, then transferred it to BTC-e in Bulgaria (where it’s counted as a virtual currency, incidentally…), then engaged in a bout of high-frequency Bitcoin/Litecoin/Dogecoin/Peercoin trading. The IRS doesn’t likely have legitimate access to these trades, nor may you have even a decently-complete record of what’s transpired; all you know now is you have more fill-in-the-blank-coins than when you started.

Another complication arises with the arrival (soon: May Day) of dark wallets and (next-gen) seamless coin mixing services. Dark Wallet by Defense Distributed is one such development which will be used to strip coins of their identifying information (i.e. where they came from first/middle/last). Anonymity in cryptocurrency will be possible (more possible than it is now). Add to this the facilitation of anonymous purchases through dark markets and distributed markets, such as BitWasp and DarkMarket (this also from Defense Distributed). Where the Silk Road was shut down, Silk Road 2.0, and others now exist. Add to this these 2 more new projects and project outwards: we are seeing exponential development and evolution in this economic space. Many more black, grey, and unrestricted markets will bloom — expect to hear more about this soon!

In other news, China is still wishy-washy about Bitcoin, but hasn’t outright banned it, and since some time has passed since the last definitely-going-to-be-banned rumors spread, the price has come back up a bit to around $500, from a low of approximately $350. Ultimately, the failure of Mt. Gox brought the value down by half in the early part of 2014, simply because so many people lost their money, and also because of all the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) spread about by the media; read: “Mt. Gox failed; Bitcoin’s dead!” Such proclamations will likely continue to be heard for a few years to come for a variety of reasons, but whatever happens in one country or region need not happen in another (I’m talking about legislation, FYI…). Finally, I will say I believe Bitcoin’s value will continue to rise as the technology is made more accessible through simple, non-smart phones, as more people learn how to send Bitcoins through SMS, and as more charities and families are able to receive donations and remittances throughout the world with near-0 friction, essentially for free at that.

Lastly, in the news: Sidechain innovation. I’m excited about this for Bitcoin and its future. Basically, instead of creating new alt-coins in the future, it may be possible to update the Bitcoin core to more easily extend Bitcoin into semi-temporary Sidechain-coins with different, varying properties based on people’s needs. Say you need a coin that transacts (or is confirmed) quicker — you simply create a sidechain, put some Bitcoin in escrow to initiate this, and create Side-Quick-Bit-Coins or whatever you wanna call them. Then when or if the need is gone, return the Bitcoins in escrow to the normal Bitcoin network. I’m fuzzy on the details, but stoked about the implications, particularly for Bitcoin’s ability to compete with Ethereum and other Bitcoin 2.0 protocols like Mastercoin and Colored Coins. The bottom line is new functionality and greater scalability with this.

BONUS DARK WALLET PROMOTIONAL VIDEO