Friday, May 18, 2018

How Can I Make a Unit of Currency?

I wanted to identify a question anyone can ask when they hear about a new currency.  It is likely that the U.S. will create a new currency at some point, and if you ask how you can make one, the answer will be: You Can't. You're not allowed to make one.  That's the point.  It's also the point of cryptocurrencies: You Can.  You may need to buy hardware and get software and configure it, but there's nothing illegal about doing any of that.

If you want to make a Bitcoin, you can enlist the help of a Bitcoin Mining company.  If it's a good company and you have enough patience, you will help to create a bitcoin.  You'll probably be helping to create 12.5 bitcoins.  You don't have to use a Bitcoin mining company though.  You can create a bitcoin by purchasing bitcoin mining hardware and running the software yourself.  If you do that, then you will be working on creating a package of 12.5 bitcoins - by yourself.  That's about $100,000 worth of Bitcoin right now, so you can expect to spend about that much to get the job done.  Caveat! The process involves a lot of randomness, so it's possible to spend millions and never actually make any bitcoin.  This is why most people go through a bitcoin mining company, called a "mining pool."

A lot of the money you'll be spending to make your package of bitcoins will be spent on electricity to run the hardware.  What the hardware does is to create a fingerprint for a bunch of data that is strung together in a "block."  I say "fingerprint" but the technical term is "hash."  You may be familiar with the fact that when you enter 16 random digits into a field on a webpage that asks for a credit card number, it usually responds right away that the number is invalid.  You might also know that this is because the first fifteen digits determine what the 16th digit should be, so only one out of ten random 16-digit sequences can be a valid credit card number.  That last digit is a kind of "hash" or fingerprint of the first 15.

The data being strung together into a "block" is transaction data.  Everyone who wants to spend bitcoin has software they use to do it.  The software makes a little packet of data that indicates what bitcoin is being spent and what the new rule is to spend it next time.  That new rule is identified by the bitcoin address to which the bitcoin is being sent.  The bitcoin address is based on the secret key that the receiver has; their "bitcoin private key."  The sender uses their own bitcoin private key to cryptographically sign the packet of data (a "transaction") and then it goes public on the Internet where bitcoin miners can collect it and add it to their block.

Here's why the miners fingerprint those blocks: A fingerprint, or hash, of a block is a number with about 77 digits.  Let's consider that it's between 0 and 1.  So, for example the fingerprint might be 0.123456...77, where that last 7 is the 77th digit.  The actual result is a very large integer, but if we divide it by 2 raised to the 256th power, it will be a number between 0 and 1, and it will have more than 77 digits, but the digits after the 77th one aren't important.  In order to create bitcoins, the hash has to be very small.  For example, the hash I suggested, 0.123456...77, regardless of what digits are represented by the ellipsis, is way too big.  If it were 0.0000...12345677, and the ellipsis represented several more zeroes, then it would be small enough.  What do they do if the fingerprint is too big?  Well, they change the data and recompute it.

The block contains a bunch of transactions along with a piece of data called the "nonce."  It's just a number that starts at 0, and they add one to it each time they get a hash that is too big, and then they recompute.  The block also contains a timestamp, and the nonce only goes up to about four billion (2 raised to the 32nd power), so when the nonce gets to the highest value it can be, it rolls back to zero and the miner has to change something else.  There are many things they change, but usually it's the timestamp, and it's really the software that changes it automatically.  If they've received new transactions to add to the block, they can restart their nonce back at zero.

The very first transaction in each block currently specifies that 12.5 new bitcoins, plus all the "extra" bitcoin from all the included transactions (called "transaction fees") now belongs to the bitcoin address entered by the miner.  So if you do "mine bitcoin" you can create 12.5 bitcoins and also earn some transaction fees.  I hope you're curious about the transaction fee because here's an explanation: If I identify exactly one bitcoin and declare that 0.9999 goes to your bitcoin address, that leaves 0.0001 on the table.  That's the transaction fee.  If I specified that you get the whole 1.0, then miners wouldn't bother including my transaction in their blocks, so no permanent, globally accessible and cryptographically protected record of the payment would exist and you will never be able to spend it.

Way back before I (or anyone else alive today) was born, anyone could make a unit of currency.  That was before the advent of "legal tender" laws which barred courts from ruling that the stuff anyone can make (like gold coins) must be handed over in a lawsuit.  If you want, you can still get some gold or silver and make a unit of currency, but the government will most likely pretend that what you made looks like a unit of currency that only the government is allowed to make and prosecute you for it.  That's what happened to Bernard von Nothaus who created the "Liberty Dollar."  So people who want to be free went digital.

Banks and governments are now scrambling to make something they can say is based on "blockchain," because they crave control.  My aim with this post was to arm you with a question you can use to avoid being under that control.  Whatever currency they make, ask them how YOU can make a unit of their currency, and see if it requires licenses or permits or privileges or whatever, or if they just ignore your question.  That's what the IRS does when you ask the important questions.

When a currency exists that anyone can make, currency production is "decentralized" and thereby protects those who use it from the corruption inherent to power.  This is why I love cryptocurrency.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Beware of Legalese

This is not a sob story.  This is an appeal.  I'm appealing to you to speak up.  You've probably received several notices from websites that tell you the "Terms of Service" and/or "Privacy Policy" has been updated to reflect recent changes, such as the General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union.  What we need to speak up about is something that most people don't know about, so I'm going to tell you.  This is a copy of the text I sent to LocalBitcoins, and I'm inviting you, beseeching you, and imploring you to send it along to any outfits that tell you they are updating their policies.
An important legal concept is that a law which defines a term causes that term to be completely stripped of its common meaning wherever in that law the definition declares that the definition applies.  Can you clarify where you use terms as defined in a law (and provide a reference to that law)?  The language could be as simple as:

   - Language of our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service
LocalBitcoins recognizes that the legal jurisdictions of our members may have laws that define certain terms.  Except where indicated, the language used in these Terms of Service and in our Privacy Policy uses only the common understanding of these terms.  A URL and the specific legal terms defined there have been provided where appropriate so that you can look up the definitions.

Specifically regarding the GDPR, a handy URL in this effort is https://gdpr-info.eu/ 

I received this lovely response from LocalBitcoins, and I'd love to hear if any of you get something similar.
Hi David,

thank you for the feedback!

I will pass the suggestion to our legal department and hopefully, we will be adding it when doing next update to the TOS.
Lawyers constitute the "Ruling Class" of our planet now, which is why I'm taking the LSAT in June and planning to join that class.

From an evolutionary perspective, I'm already in the ruling class because A) I take responsibility for my own life and B) people see value in my thoughts and incorporate them into their own lives.  The law degree I seek will simply create a paper credential that I can use to help people who rely on such things (sadly, a very large portion of our species).  While I don't have the paper, my thoughts are easy for them to dismiss, and so they lose out on the benefits I offer.  This blog entry is being sent out to people who have joined my mailing list too, and you can check that out at http://eepurl.com/Pp7jf and/or read over the archives at https://goo.gl/ZNjWe9

Monday, April 9, 2018

Simple Tricks for Mailchimp Users

Hey guys,

First, a shoutout to everyone who finds this on my blog: y'all are eavesdropping on my email to people responsible for one of the world's greatest freedom festivals, Libertopia!  Come join us if you can!

I am expecting to be invited to go meditate in the desert for ten days without interacting with other people and I'm VERY EXCITED about it!  I might not get invited, but my intention is that I do.  If it works out as I intend, I will be incommunicado for ten days during which you'll want someone else to write copy and send newsletters.  Here is a list of the little tricks I use to make the process easier:
  1. To make a new one, visit "campaigns" and use the drop down (which will NOT appear until your mouse is in the row for that campaign) on the right side to select "Replicate"
  2. Click "Edit Design" in the Content section of the next page to change the contents.
  3. Click something in the left pane (it's a preview of the newsletter) to put the editable version in the right pane (which I'll call the Edit pane).
  4. Do NOT be alarmed that the links in the preview pane don't do anything.  That is by design.  When it goes out, they will work.
  5. Double click an image in the edit pane to make changes.  You'll get TWO steps, the first is to "Insert or Edit Link", but once you clear that window, you'll be able to resize it or (click "show image style options") move it to the left or right, center it, adjust the space between the text and the image, or add a border.  BUT you can't change the image here.
  6. If you want to use a different picture, delete that one (click it once and then press DEL or backspace) and click the "picture" button in the toolbar (the sixth one).  If you want to pull an image off the Internet, you can click the down arrow next to "Upload" and select "Import from URL".
  7. If you don't mind complexity (I thrive on it) you can fix some peculiarities by clicking the second to last button ("<>") to view the HTML.  At least in Firefox, the cursor is not always where it appears to be, so I usually just CTRL-A (select all) and CTRL-V (paste) it into a text editor and mess with the HTML there.
  8. The very last button in the toolbar (on the top row) isn't actually a tool, but a switch to show more tools by expanding the toolbox.  Using that, you can get buttons to make bullet lists, numbered lists, center, right, left, or both -justify the text, change the text color, etc.
  9. Well, I won't be around to ask, but Google is helpful.  I should probably post this for all our fellow mailchimpers.  Oh look, I already did!

Monday, March 12, 2018

What is the weight of a priority mail envelope?

Ten 12.5x9.5 USPS Priority Mail envelopes weigh 14.9 ounces.  An ounce is 28.3495 grams.  How much does one envelope weigh?  This question also applies to USPS Priority Mail Express envelopes of the same size.

14.9 ounces times 28.3495 grams per ounce divided by 10 envelopes:
14.9 * 28.3495 / 10 = 42.24 grams per envelope.

Have you heard of "units analysis"?  It's a decent way to check your math when you do this kind of calculation.  You can ignore the numbers, but you have to remember that anything over itself (as in a fraction) is 1 and multiplying by 1 has no effect. So, applying that to the above, we have:
ounces times grams per ounce (g/o) divided by envelopes (e), or
o * g/o / e.  This puts ounces and grams in the numerator and envelopes and ounces in the denominator, and that allows us to "cancel out" the ounces (because they are in the numerator and the denominator), leaving us with grams per envelope.

When I get a receipt from Mailwerkz, my favorite place to send and receive packages, it shows the weight of the package I mailed.  This is very handy because I can convert it from pounds to grams and subtract the weight of the envelope to find out how much what I mailed actually weighed.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Take Responsibility

I found a great discussion in my email box a few days ago.  A "Ralph Lopez" had started the discussion by sending an unsolicited email to several people (including me) with the subject "Can false flag survivors and families form a united front?" Groups formed for and against Ralph's perception that authorities are largely responsible for a lot of the problems we face.  The divisiveness got to me and so I wrote a reply.  Before I put it here, let me give you a little background from the discussion. One of the emails in the discussion contained this:

Laurie Van Auken illuminated this distinction in her response to the government's declaration that "everyone is responsible for 9/11, therefore no one is [personally] for 9/11," to which she commented, "everyone is responsible for 9/11, therefore everyone is responsible for 9/11."

Now I want to share my input with my readers:

These are two very important and seemingly contradictory perspectives.  "Seemingly" I say because perspectives are always and everywhere just what seems to be, to someone.  I think in analogs and allegories.  So I imagine myself saying, after doing something evil: I take full responsibility, but I also blame all of you, in this email thread, in my life, in the world - everyone is to blame for my bad behavior.

However, someone, or some group (me, maybe some conspirators, friends, followers, whatever) created an "evil" intention and then executed on it.  Certainly, the intention was created out of the world and its condition, something to which every single one of us contributes.  What are we?  We are pieces of the physical universe capable of creating and executing on intentions.  With that capability comes responsibility.  Every individual has the responsibility to mind the intentions they create and on which they act, regardless of everyone and everything else.

In view of all of us having (and accepting) responsibility, let's confront the issue of mass murder.  Lord Acton wrote to a Bishop in 1887 that "Power tends to corrupt..." and corruption is a violation of the trust we put in others.  Putting trust in others can be overdone, and I think that's what's going on.  How do we measure the right amount of trust to put in our leaders, should we choose to have leaders?  With light, that's how.  Exposure and knowledge and work to establish an understanding of what's so is how we can know how much to trust.

What Ralph shared with us had this at its core: " full transparency, disclosure. Govt accountability. Public Right to Know. "  What Brian shared has this at its core: " we're all completely fucked by our own greed, avarice and stupidity, ".  I can do something - several things, actually - about both of these things, and it turns out it's the same set of things:
  • Speak up
  • Respect people
  • Recognize my own fallibility
  • See from the perspectives of others
  • Keep others informed about what I have to offer
  • Be honest and trade honestly and in good faith
  • Maintain my ability for self-defense
  • Protect what is valuable
  • Pay attention

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bitcoin Dealer Archive (COMPLETE)

Mailchimp provides an archive of my newsletters (sign up here), but it only has the most recent twenty posts.  Below is a usually-complete list for those who would like to start at the beginning, as I recommend.  The latest few newsletters might not be here yet, but that second link to the latest twenty has them.

CAVEAT: There is no way to alter the content of these newsletters (aside from violating Mailchimp's ToS, which I'm not willing to do and don't know how to do anyway), so be aware that some of what they say is out of date.  For example, "Newsletter Meetup" mentions a meetup that no longer exists.

Newsletter Intro
Newsletter LongCon
Newsletter ScammerID
Newsletter ScammerSampling
Newsletter IRS
Newsletter IDs
Newsletter Receipts
Newsletter Anti-Fiat
Newsletter Cash
Newsletter Meetup
Newsletter NSA Letter
Newsletter Palmdale
Newsletter Start Dealing
Newsletter Nicaragua
Newsletter Bounties
Newsletter Holidays
Newsletter Stabilization Fund
Newsletter abond4.me
Newsletter Thunderclap
Newsletter BTCAlldayallday
Newsletter Suppliers
Newsletter The Peace Revolution
Newsletter Fork
Newsletter Convenience and Savings
Newsletter Scammouflage
Newsletter Lend, Engage, Persist, Publish
Newsletter Joseph Bennett
Newsletter WoC
Newsletter Notes on Justice
Newsletter Opheus
Newsletter My First Correction
Newsletter Crowdsourcing
Newsletter Crowdsourcing (copy 01)
Newsletter Bitfinex
Newsletter Bitcoin Sale
Newsletter Think Tank
Newsletter 2016 Plans
Newsletter 2017 Plans
Newsletter Gov Attack
Newsletter Unclear Law
Newsletter Kickstarter 1
Newsletter Landmark!
Newsletter Bitrated
Newsletter Trace Mayer
Newsletter Trace Mayer with Link
Newsletter CHOSE 1
Newsletter Contributions
Newsletter Contributions (copy 01)
Newsletter Complete Archive
Newsletter Chocolate 
Newsletter Bitcoin is Many Doors

Thanks to my friend Candy for showing me that the Mailchimp Archive link does NOT provide a full archive.  I submitted feedback to Mailchimp about this, so hopefully they will fix it soon.  Meanwhile, I constructed the list above by logging into Mailchimp and copying the "page source" of my "Campaigns" page after I clicked the "Load More" button to make sure all my campaigns were listed.  I used a text editor to remove all the lines that didn't contain this:
id="dijit_form_CheckBox_{X}" value="{HEX}"
... where X is a number and HEX is a hexadecimal number.  My Regex in Textpad was:  
^.*[^0-9]([0-9]+" value="[0-9a-f]+").*$
Next, I copied those lines into Excel and turned them into links with the following Excel formula:
="Newsletter "&C19&"

Column C was a list of the titles of the links from my page source, and "@Column2" was the column that had the hexadecimal numbers in it. If you'd like help getting the titles, leave a reply and I'll see what I can do. I hope these instructions help others who followed the same rabbit hole trying to find a complete list of archived newsletters on Mailchimp's site.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Disqus censored me :-(

I love Disqus, but I left a comment on their post about 973 Disqus commenters and they removed it.  Thankfully, it's still in my profile, so I figured I'd post it here because I like the idea so much:

AI has gotten very good at finding "similar input" and I would like to see Disqus provide commenters with a way to "Fit your comment into 25 words or less for our AI matcher to see if we can 'automagically' strengthen your input with that of others, and lead you all to others who have similar input." It would be helpful all around to see automation recognize and point out to a publisher (and their audience) when they do something especially good or bad.

For example, for this comment, I'd write "Use comment similarity to highlight shared sentiment and connect those who share it."

I believe that some sites do not show comments by default, but require the user to click to view them. I think this is a dirty trick used by publishers who realize that comments destroy the power of their propaganda. It would be nice to see some research into whether there is any correlation between showing comments by default and reader satisfaction with various aspects of what a publisher does.

For this second part of my comment, my 25-words-or-less version is: "Research correlation between reader satisfaction and requiring a click to see comments."

Since they removed it from the article, I copied it and sent it to Automattic, the makers of wordpress plugins IntenseDebate and Akismet among others.