Friday, December 19, 2014

Rubles and Bitcoins.

On August 18, Bitcoins (on bitstampUSD network) hit an intraday high of 510 Bitcoins to USD, and an intraday low of 442 -- a 13.3% difference in a single day. On October 6, the difference between intraday high and low was 19%. From November 13 to today, Bitcoins have declined 30.8%.

In that same period (November 13 to today), the Ruble has declined by 26.1%. In a particularly volatile day last week, the Ruble's intraday high and low spread was 26.2%.

One payment system is asserted as fiat money (without inherent value) while the other is said to hold intrinsic value. Funny then, that both are equally volatile -- and this matters a great deal, whether fiat or not.

Regardless of paper or gold, currency must be relatively stable or else it is not so useful as a payment system. Which is why we're now seeing foreign companies (Apple, GM, Audi, and others) stopping sales in Rubles.

Therein lies a critical problem for Bitcoin: It is not a stable currency; it is not a store of value.

Its backers have said that, over the long haul, Bitcoin will become stable as it gains wide acceptance, and therefore a store of value. Except, Bitcoin is faced with a chicken-egg paradox: Does stability come as a result of wide acceptance or does acceptance come as a result of stability?

It'll never gain stability. As a completely free-market system, its value is fully subjected to perfect supply-demand elasticity. Panics and bubbles have no limits whatsoever. The mechanisms for stability, such as monetary policy, are absent, and in fact, loathed by free-market purists.

Of course, these Bitcoin fans will point out, then, that the Ruble has shown that stability mechanisms have failed Russia. Except, Russia's problems are multiple, stemming from crony capitalism and a flight from the Ruble by the same people who most benefited from Putin's cronyism.

Furthermore, Bitcoin fans have not shown why Bitcoins are better than sovereign paper currency. All they've shown is that Bitcoins are no worse than the worst currency stuck in a currency crisis -- and that should say something about Bitcoins.

10 Thoughts for December 18, 2014

  1. When I booked my flight, it turned out that with just two days advanced booking, I could have grabbed a flight to Hawai'i at just $220, with the return flight at $200. (For comparison's sake, most of the time the cheapest price each way would be $198, and were you to try to early book a flight for March of next year, the price would be higher than what I paid.) I was so sure that I'd have to pay well over $300 each way.
  2. Words that, when broken down, can be understood: "hemodynamic compromise" = Hemo (blood) dynamic (movement) compromise (blocked). Or how an industry preserves its value through nomenclature. Why did this pop up on my radar screen? Well, because I added the New England Journal of Medicine to my RSS feeds a month ago, and the words popped up in a post this week. Geek.
  3. I have an admission to make: I totally ignored Twitter while I was away in Hawai'i. I didn't have the time to keep up with what was going on, but moreso, I just don't use it to keep in touch with folks who matter most.
  4. I saw a lot of single people taking selfies while I was in Hawai'i. The sight was amusing. Here I am, taking photos of the things I enjoy -- Rainbow's, Leonard's, Diamond Head, the beach -- and there I see people taking pictures of themselves with the things they enjoy, obscured in the background of their photos.
  5. All because I was wearing my Seahawks shirt, I had the pleasure of teasing the 49er fan at Leonard's Bakery, while also exchanging shakas with a fellow Seahawks fan at Hoku Bakery, the day before the Seattle beat down.
  6. I forgot just how naturally beautiful women in Hawai'i were, and I'm not talking the tourists walking around in bikinis. I think I stared too much at my dad's head nurse and doctors. Geez, did my eyes just pop out? Sorry about that, Nurse Alice and Dr. Lee.
  7. True story: Even in the middle of Winter it was still too hot to sleep well at night in Hawai'i.
  8. In two terms, President Obama has certainly shaped the future of America for years to come, but the last two years have been a barnstorm of change, with gay marriage, marijuana, immigration, Net Neutrality, Iran, Cuba and Russia all coming up on the radar. He's so far gotten everything right (in my textbook), even if partisans vociferously oppose his measures so far -- were a Republican in office to do exactly what he's done, Republicans would be surely voicing broad support for his / her actions on these issues.
  9. I haven't yet read -- nor might I ever read the entirety of -- the torture report, but c'mon now, if you actually believed that the US did not engage in torture, or that the tactics resulted in actionable intelligence, then you're just not capable of dealing with cognitive dissonance. Or perhaps your name is Dick Cheney. I didn't need to know about Abu Ghraib to know that the CIA were engaged in fishy and probably illegal actions. The problem here, is that the partisan Republicans have their heads stuck up in their arses to see the light of day.
  10. One last thing: The Hawaiian Air planes all had USB charging plugs (Airbus A330), which is quite awesome. I never had to worry about losing juice -- probably a bigger issue on very long haul flights.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Something I learned about myself, while on vacation.

First off, it really wasn't much of a vacation; nonetheless, I was mostly separated from the internet, not by a lack of access, but a lack of time.

The obvious point here, is that one begins to prioritize when faced with limitations, and these were my choices:
  • Instead of blogging via Blogger, I stuck to the faster, easier and plain Google+ platform. I did not make a single blog post, but I posted several photos on Google+. I just didn't have the time to do full posts and edit photos / edit HTML.
  • I skipped a lot of reading of design-related articles, but I nonetheless read most tech stories, though I completely skipped out on commenting on any of the stories that piqued my interest.
  • I did not watch a single Hulu video, which means that my queue is now a dozen videos long.
  • Along a similar vein, I mostly skipped watching any YouTube video from my subscriptions.
  • I totally ignored my Twitter feed and didn't touch Pinterest.
  • I still played my games, but barely. By the time I finally got down to playing a game or two, it was late at night and I'd end up falling asleep shortly after a few games.
  • I completely passed on reading emails from retailers and skipped out on daily deals.
  • I ignored my Yahoo email 100%.
  • I stopped obsessing.
Aside from Hulu / online videos and using Blogger, I'm probably going to cut back on all other items to focus on design.

During the flight to and from Hawai'i, I found myself focused on reading and working on design ideas, which came pouring out like crazy. Upon observing other family members, it became clear that most of us had ADHD.

So there it is.

If only I could tame my limited attention span, I could probably break through what I've long suspected was a self-imposed ceiling.  I might go see the doctor to grab a prescription to test out what happens if I limit my ADHD, if I can't keep to my plan to limit my online activities.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

About Ferguson.

I wanted to write about what happened in Ferguson, and I had actually reached 400+ words on the subject, before erasing it all. You see, all of my experiences so far, have shown that Ferguson is no longer about an incident, but about themes.

So here's the deal.  I've taken multiple implicit association tests -- tests that indicate potential unconscious biases -- and not only do I moderately favor (like) African-Americans over White-Americans, but I have neutral bias between Asian-Americans and European-Americans.

Yet, if I open my mouth (or take to writing) to explain my opinion, based on the fairly extensive research and reading I've done on Ferguson, people shut their minds and revert to their bias. It is absolutely frustrating.

I can't tell you about how there is truth to all of the themes of racism in America, but that they don't apply to Ferguson, because your mind is already made up that racism applies to what happened in Ferguson.

Likewise, I can't tell you that racism remains a systemic problem in America, most pointedly demonstrated by what happened to Trayvon Martin down in Florida in 2012, because the rest of you are also biased and have long made up your minds that we live in a post-racial world.

I can't explain that, in fact, police brutality widely exists because there are idiot police officers out there who fail to follow their training and deescalate confrontations.

I can't do any of these things, because people have turned their ears and eyes away, stricken by their biases.

I am juror 8, and the world is full of angry people.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

10 Thoughts for December 2, 2014

  1. Football: Bitcoin Bowl? There are 39 bowl games in total, including the two playoff games and the championship game. Bowl season is officially out of control when you have a bowl game named after an intangible currency.
  2. Football: Great win for USC over rival Notre Dame, and a great way to end the season on a very high note, with Cody Kessler taking the weekly honor of PAC-12 offensive player of the week. If we -- fans -- are upset at Sark, it is because we saw the potential of this year's team, and if not for a couple of plays, USC would be a two-loss team playing Oregon in the PAC-12 championship and possibly in the CFB playoffs and Kessler would be competing with Marcus Mariota for the Heisman.  That's all.
  3. Football: Oregon Ducks fans may be about to hit the sweet spot and win a national championship while seeing its starting quarterback win the school's first Heisman. With Heisman in tow, the Beavers no longer have anything to brag over the Ducks -- a very big deal in these parts of the country. Enjoy it, soak it up, Duck Fans!
  4. Football: Michigan Wolverines football head coach Brady Hoke was fired. I said it before and say it again, that it was never about his handling of a player showing concussion symptoms on the field. Rich Rod, the former UM head coach, had his own moment of truth when he allowed his quarterback to play, even as he threw up on the field in a game against USC during a commercial break, following a blow to his head. Rich Rod made UA competitive while Brady Hoke's teams have gotten worse. This was always about winning and never about the health of athletes.
  5. Football: Nearly 3 weeks ago I said that the top 4 in the first college football would be Oregon, TCU, Alabama and Ohio State. FSU has so far escaped losses to mediocre teams and has dropped to #4, while TCU has leapfrogged them to #3 and Ohio State is at #5 knocking at the door.  Unfortunately, with OSU losing its (second) starting quarterback to injury last weekend, it does not look good for them against Wisconsin for the B1G championship. As a result, the CFP may be stuck in a difficult position of allowing two Big-12 teams into the playoffs or a 2-loss team.
  6. Geopolitics: Russian Stagflation? Russia's Central Bank has raised its key rate to 9.5%, just as its core inflation rate is expected to hit 8.59% for November. The value of its GDP has shrunk significantly as its currency undergoes rapid devaluation (~69% decline) making its boot from the G7 a moot point, while it is expected to hit an official recession in 2015, with a -0.8% decline -- might it get booted from the G20, as well? I think we're starting to see the effects of forced deglobalization.
  7. Race: I had a true epiphany yesterday, that racism is part of a series of biases that make us a less-efficient capitalist market. When you decline to hire someone because of their skin color, religion or creed, you may have turned down a future leader of the company or your future top employee. When that bias is systemic, then society is less prosperous and less efficient than what it could otherwise be. Similarly, inequality is driven by the insidious bias that the richer you are, the smarter you are, and therefore again, creates inefficiency.
  8. Race: I had an entire piece, written in draft, on the results of the Ferguson / Darren Wilson / Michael Brown case. But then I realized that when I popped my head up and looked all around me, no one gave a damn about research and truth. Ferguson is about themes, and practically no one in the media or politics is willing to tackle the discomforting contrast between themes and reality. In other words, not only are we not in a post-race world, but most people are trapped or otherwise caught up in these overarching themes. These are dangerous times to be an independent thinker; these are dangerous times to attempt to disentangle racial themes from Ferguson. It bothers me to no end, that the nation has taken up Michael Brown as a worthy martyr, even while Trayvon Martin has become nothing but a footnote in racism.
  9. Race: Well, since I'm on the topic of race, this is an interesting test to see if you have preferences towards Black or White Americans. The instructions seem to me to be a bit oddly written, though, and I had to sit there for a minute to verify that I understood what they were saying. Interestingly, I belong to the group with the lowest percentage -- I have a "Moderate automatic preference for Black people". I can definitely empathize with Black Americans, far more than White Americans, though I find it difficult to believe that I lean towards Black Americans. [add:] I found the European / Asian American IAT bias test (among many others) here. In this case, I have "little or no association between Asian American and European American with American and Foreign." In other words, I have no bias between Asian and European Americans.
  10. Economics: You might have heard that the EU is looking to break up Google. Meanwhile it is also looking to boost its domestic companies' competitiveness by investing in a private-public venture capital fund. In a nutshell, this perfectly illustrates Europe's problems as an old-world system: On the one hand they cannot compete with foreign countries, therefore have taken to anti-competitive actions. While SpaceX uses private money and minor federal (competitive) grants to create its own rockets, Europe has announced billions in public investments to bolster Arianespace to compete with low-cost space transportation from SpaceX.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for a dog that amuses me, who never seems to grow old, and football on Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014