Keeping it interesting, two months later: My cryptocurrency adventures

A couple of months ago I started playing with cryptocurrency. Small amounts. Just for fun. I didn’t expect to get rich or anything. Two months later I report that yes, it is fun, and no, I didn’t get rich.

Details:

  • I now have cryptocurrency holdings in three denominations: XLM, BTC, and BAT. Today the combined nominal value of all my holdings is under $100.
  • Since my initial venture into crypto my holdings’ value has fluctuated up and down by about 10%. At the time of this writing I am down about 5%.
  • Moving crypto around is not free. Fees vary.
  • I still haven’t tried to cash out. I am in the process of obtaining a crypto debit card, which will allow me to spend my BTC online and offline.
  • The Brave browser (my default) lets users earn BAT by viewing ads. In just over a month, running Brave on all my devices, I have earned 22.35 BAT, valued at $4.30. In month #2 I am already up to 50 BAT, and the month is not over yet.
  • I tipped one web publisher 10 BAT.
  • Nobody has tipped me yet (other than myself, as a way of depositing BAT into my account).
  • It turns out Peter Thiel is a Brave investor. Make of this what you will.

SUMMARY: It is still interesting, like an online game — a great escape from the daily tedium. It is not a money maker (for me at least, yet). I am not planning to put fiat currency into crypto — not at this time, anyway.

Reading

Books I have read (or listened to) since returning to book-reading in 2018:

  • “Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody” by Joe Canzano
    • Presently reading. I bought this book because I wanted to support the author — a Facebook friend whom I know as a musician. I didn’t know what to expect from his writing. Fifteen pages into the novel I am hooked. Fast-paced sci-fi action amid witty dialog, taking place in the (not-so-distant?) future when the United Mexican Union is one of the nine nations on Earth. Quote from page 16: “He obviously wasn’t expecting anyone hostile, like a dentist.”
  • “Charting and Technical Analysis” by Fred McAllen ★★★★☆ 2020-02-16
    • First book bought with Bitcoin. Actually, first-ever Bitcoin purchase. Learning about stock trading and charts and trend lines and patterns and TA (technical analysis), and forecasting, and lemme tell ya: Voodoo is much more scientific than any of that. But I will finish the book, and I will use my new-found knowledge in my cryptocurrency adventures. I abandoned the book on page 114, at 43%. The book is written at a 9th grade level, which is probably what its target demo is. I bought this book because I wanted to make sense of the mumbo-jumbo on crypto Twitter, in which I became suddenly, (and briefly, as it were) interested. I also wanted to buy something with Bitcoin, and this book was a perfect candidate. It did its job for me, and gave me what I was looking for. I may return to it if and when I decide to become a day trader or swing trader. For now, I am just a HODLer.
  • “Finders Keepers” 🕪 by Stephen King
    • Presently reading. First King book in a very long time.
  • “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams ★★★★★ 2020-02-12
    • What took me so long to get to this book??? Quote (this is science fiction written in 1978, mind you): “Only six people in the Galaxy knew that the job of the Galactic President was not to wield power but to attract attention away from it.” Also: “There are of course many problems connected with life, of which some of the most popular are Why are people born? Why do they die? Why do they want to spend so much of the intervening time wearing digital watches?” Also: “It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
  • “Stealth” by Stuart Woods ★☆☆☆☆ 2020-01-21
    • A new low on my list. A wealthy NYPD detective owns an estate in the UK across the river from the estate of the female director of MI-6, with whom he has sex. He next has sex with an attractive female doctor, who is also an MI-6 agent. Russian paratroopers arrive during the night on black parachutes. Abandoned the book on page 56. Should have done it sooner.
  • “Camino Island” by John Grisham ★★★☆☆ 2020-01-20
    • Rather bland story set in the world of books, writers, booksellers, and stolen F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts. Main takeaway for me: the advice of a seasoned bookseller to a young novelist about what not to do in her novels. Not Polonius-level stuff, but interesting and potentially useful nonetheless.
  • “The New Girl” 🕪 by Daniel Silva ★★★★☆ 2020-01-24
    • The obligatory filler notwithstanding, this is one of the better and more interesting Silva books in the Gabriel Allon series. Loosely based on the killing and dismemberment of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the author fictionalizes the events leading to and following the murder, with an interesting twist of events.
  • “Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread” by Chuck Palahniuk ★★★★☆ 2020-01-10
    • Having belatedly discovered transgressive literature, I was both fascinated and disturbed by this collection of short stories. I didn’t finish it. Definitely not everybody’s cup of tea. ‘Zombies’ is a gem.
  • “The English Spy” by Daniel Silva ★★☆☆☆ 2020-01-12
    • I am having trouble finishing this one, either because I have little interest in the Northern Ireland / UK / IRA conflict, or because there’s just too much filler. 
  • “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan ★★★★★ 2019-12-24
  • “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” by Hank Green ★★★★★ 2019-12-10
    • Futuristic sci-fi with present-day characters. Sheer delight.
  • “The Heist” 🕪 by Daniel Silva ★★★☆☆ 2020-01-04
    • Like most Daniel Silva novels, this feels unnecessarily long.
  • “Permanent Record” by Edward Snowden ★★★★☆ 2019-10-31
    • This book did not tell me anything I didn’t already know or suspect, yet it caused me to reassess and alter my online behavior. The first ⅔ of this book is brilliant and dense, then things trail off in the last ⅓. Everyone should read this book, regardless of their personal opinion of the author.
  • “Die Trying” by Lee Child ★★★☆☆
    • I am having trouble finishing this one. Unnecessarily wordy, it feels as if the author is getting paid by the page. Maybe I’m just getting tired of Jack Reacher.
  • “The Black Widow” 🕪 by Daniel Silva ★★★★☆ 2019-12-10
    • Israeli uber-operative Gabriel Allon discovers, follows, and neutralizes an Islamic terrorist cell. Good for four weeks of commuting.
  • “Agent Running in the Field” by John le Carré ★★★★★ 2019-11-25
    • John le Carré’s latest novel, masterful as always. However, as someone who has read most (all?) his work, I can’t help but feel that he is running out of material.
  • “The 14th Colony” 🕪 by Steve Berry ★★☆☆☆ 2019-11-08
    • Bloated. Why is every recently-written fiction / adventure book over 400 pages? Do authors really get paid by the page? So much filler…
  • Gathering Prey
  • Neon Prey
  • Golden Prey
  • False Friend
  • False Witness
  • “The Mission Song” 🕪 by John le Carré ★★★★★ 2019-09-26
  • “Our Kind of Traitor” 🕪 by John le Carré ★★★★★ 2019-09-03
  • “A Legacy of Spies” by John le Carré ★★★★★ 2019-08-15
  • “The Pigeon Tunnel” by John le Carré ★★★★★ 2019-08-04
    • A beautiful collection of true stories as experienced and told by a field operative thinker
  • Death of an Honest Man
  • Death of a Kingfisher
  • Death of a Liar
  • Death of a Ghost
  • 61 Hours
  • Personal
  • Not a Drill
  • The Christmas Scorpion
  • Death of a Maid
  • No Middle Name
  • Never Go Back
  • High Heat
  • “The Fourth K” by Mario Puzo ★★★☆☆ 2019-05-18
    • Mario Puzo does a political thriller. It’s OK, but I keep waiting for the mafia to show up and it doesn’t.
  • Enlightenment Now
  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
  • Nothing to Lose
  • The Affair
  • The Murderer’s Daughter
  • Motive
  • Killer
  • Guilt
  • Victims
  • Deception
  • A Wanted Man
  • Past Tense
  • Bad Luck and Trouble
  • Jack Reacher: One Shot
  • Worth Dying For
  • Make Me
  • Small Wars
  • The Enemy
  • Night School
  • Deep Down: A Jack Reacher Story
  • The Midnight Line
  • Gone Tomorrow
  • Killing Floor
  • “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie ★★★★★ 2018-12-16
    • I first read this half a century ago in Bulgarian. It was called “Десет малки негърчета” — “Ten little negroes”. I have since read it many times in English as “Ten little Indian boys”, “Ten little sailors”, and now as “And Then There Were None” — the publishers progressively yielding to the PC demands of the day. Regardless, this is a superb mystery, and I will probably read it again in the future.
  • “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” by Agatha Christie ★★★★★ 2018-12-09
    • I first read this half a century ago in Bulgarian. It was called “Алиби” — “Alibi”. I have since read it many times in English. A superb mystery from the queen of mysteries. Allegedly Christie wrote this novel as a response to a friend’s claim that murder mysteries are transparent and it is always apparent who the murderer is.
  • Judgment Cometh
  • A Crime of Passion
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Blood Money
  • Reasonable Fear
  • Injustice for All

Future reading:

  • “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr
  • “Indistractable” by Nir Eyal
  • “The Looking Glass War” by John le Carré
  • “The Ministry of Fear” by Graham Greene
  • “String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis” by David Foster Wallace
  • “Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture” by Johan Huizinga
  • “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” by Horace McCoy

Confronting my technological prejudices

I have always been superficially prejudiced against all things Apple. When a seasoned technologist friend announced switching from Android to iPhone, I was curious. I asked him why. It was illuminating for me to hear his reasoning, which I present to you below.

***

When I saw that my friend Bill Dollins — a long-time Android and Linux guy — is now an iPhone user, I was somewhat surprised. I wondered why he switched. I swiftly jumped to my own conclusions about his reasoning. Then, realizing that my conclusions were probably colored by my own biases (they were), I decided to just ask him. Bill agreed to entertain a few questions.

AT: Bill, why did you switch from Android to iPhone? I thought tech people use Android as a badge of honor. I thought Apple products were for artists, celebrities, and the VP of Marketing.

Bill: Working in an Apple shop allowed me to learn more about their products than I would have on my own. My primary reason has become privacy and security. The contrast on these issues between Google and Apple is stark. Apple takes these issues much more seriously for individuals than does Google and it is evident in technical and business choices they have made. 

For example, Apple’s smart home technology, HomeKit, doesn’t specifically require internet access, though some individual devices may. They do things like video processing via a HomePod, which can be disconnected from the internet. These are functions that Google or Amazon offload to the cloud, so connectivity is required. This design choice means that HomeKit doesn’t yet have a video doorbell option, so it can “slow down” feature development when compared to Google or Amazon. I’m okay with that.

The iPhone takes a similar approach. Like Android, it has a location history feature. Unlike Android, the history and all related processing remains on the device. There’s no centralized Apple cloud where it’s being stored along with everyone else’s to train some machine-learning algorithm.

I should note that I haven’t done anything yet with HomeKit myself, but I am considering it. My information comes from my Apple consultant, James Fee.

Having said all of this, I know that no technology is perfect. Zealots of Googlism or Amazonism will certainly nitpick anything that I have said here. That’s what block buttons are for.

AT: Where do you stand on the Windows / Linux / Mac divide for desktops and laptops?

Bill: My primary desktop machine, which I use daily, is still a System76 Ubuntu machine. My MacBook is company-issued and mainly used for specific work tasks and for when I travel. Windows has been the big loser for me.

AT: I used a MacBook once, years ago. I remember apps performing an elaborate dance on open and close. It made me dizzy, and I thought it was childish. I haven’t touched one since. Do Macs still do that?

Bill: I haven’t noticed that since I have been using a Mac. One thing I did notice is that some Mac idioms, such as two-fingered touchpad scroll, exist on more modern Windows machines alongside the older Windows idioms. I have an older Windows laptop that doesn’t support it, but I haven’t looked closely to see if that’s because of the generation of the hardware or of Windows. I’m not really concerned about it enough to investigate.

AT: Don’t tell anyone, but I have been thinking about an iPhone for a while, mainly as a means to distance myself from Google. I haven’t done it yet because I am concerned that my reputation will take a hit. What say you to that?

Bill: I will defer to the expert on this topic: Joan Jett. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO6YL09T8Fw

Keeping it interesting

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I started playing with cryptocurrency. Not to Get Rich Quick™, or to hide assets, or to do something illegal. Just to Keep It Interesting, to avoid stagnation and complacency.

A confluence of circumstances made this possible. One, a small amount of “crypto” fell in my lap. Two, the Brave browser (which just came out of beta) comes with its own crypto wallet, and allows users to “tip” verified content creators directly from within the browser. I decided to use my XLM to tip a content creator, and participate in this New New Economy.

I got my free crypto in Stellar Lumens (XLM) via a Keybase Spacedrop. Since Brave’s native token is BAT, I needed to move some XLM to BAT. The process I found wasn’t very straightforward, but totally fit the bill for “Keeping it interesting”. With no direct conversion (that I could find), I moved some XLM to BTC, then the BTC to BAT. With the BAT in my Brave Wallet (powered by Uphold), I could (and did) tip content creators. Bingo!

Further — in the name of Keeping It Interesting — I set this blog (and my Twitter) as a Brave Verified content creator, so Brave users can tip me. Just for fun.

What’s the point of this exercise? For me — just a fun alternative to sitting in front of the TV. What’s the point of this post? To encourage my readers to give this crypto thing a whirl. It’s fun, it’s not that complicated, and it keeps it interesting.

***

[UPDATE 2019-12-10] If you download the Brave browser from this link I will receive some free BAT from Brave.

Let’s all go back to blogging

I’ll go first.

I went for a bike ride yesterday. Nothing new, except this time I allowed myself to break away from the pursuit of performance metrics (speed, distance, etc.), and focused instead on the journey (autumn, sun, cool air, trees). What a difference! I still hit some decent numbers, but that was secondary.

Here’s a pic from a break I took along Canal Road and the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Franklin Township, New Jersey:

Autumn_biking_on Canal_Road

Some formats are more legacy than others

Having promised to myself (and to whomever listens on Twitter) that I would not think about GIS over this long Labor Day weekend, I did nothing but. Why? A nagging issue that stems from my earlier effort to abandon ArcMap in favor of ArcGIS Pro. While most of my workflows port nicely to Pro, one of my workflows does not work at all. That workflow includes periodic MS Access downloads from a proprietary third party application and joining Access tables to “the GIS”.

It took the cumulative advice of a Twitter village over the Labor Day weekend to convince me that the weakest link in my workflow is MS Access, and that I should focus on liberating my data from Access tables instead of blaming Esri for dropping Access support in ArcGIS Pro.

In the next few days I will experiment with a number of Access-liberating workflow remedies, and will document my experience by adding to this post. Suggestions I have received so far:

  • Use FME
  • Install driver for Excel 2019 and copy/paste data from Access tables to Excel, then join the Excel table
  • Export the Access table to CSV or TXT, then create table(s) from the text file(s)
    • Either via the Access GUI or write a Powershell script to export the Access data to CSV
  • Use Airtable
  • Write Python script to export Access data

Many thanks to (in order of appearance): Simon Jackson, Craig Williams, Bill Dollins, Heather S, Jason Birch, James Fee.

***

[UPDATE September 4, 2019]: What I did today:

  1. Downloaded a 30-day FME trial. Looks great, but procuring $2,250 might be a challenge. Possible long-term solution.
  2. Downloaded the Excel driver, on install got this error. Graig Williams promptly offered a workaround, which worked. Copied Access data into Excel sheet, added Excel sheet to ArcGIS Pro, and joined the resulting table to my shapefile. Everything worked as desired.
  3. Exported the Access table via the Access GUI to a text file (named .CSV), added CSV file to ArcGIS Pro, and joined the resulting table to my shapefile. Everything worked fine, except the table truncated my leading zeros in fields such as ZipCode. I’m sure there is a simple fix.
  4. Looked at Airtable. Looks promising, but both the cost and the “data in the cloud” aspects make it a non-starter for this task.
  5. Did not write Python script. 

Going forward I will follow the steps in item 2 above, using the tools I already have. I will continue to explore ways for liberating Access data, up to and including writing my own scripts. I no longer blame Esri for dropping Access support from ArcGIS Pro.