steampunk

This is a telecom annoucement...

Since a few people have added me recently, I'm going to tack this on the top so people know.

By in large, I've abandoned LiveJournal.  I typically post content to my main website, http://feedle.net .  My personal website accepts OpenID for login, as well as a number of other authentication systems.  If you log in and create an account there, I can give you access to "content filters", similar to what you may have here on LiveJournal.

I also encourage everybody to check out about.me/feedle for more links, including to Facebook, Twitter, and a bunch of other places...
steampunk

Goodbye, Summertime.

Originally published at feedle dot net. Please leave any comments there.

We had a lot in common, you and I.  Mom found you in a parking lot, much like she found me without a home when I was too young to take care of myself.   She took us in, and loved  us like we were her own flesh and blood.

And when you were older, and our mother was gone, you were happy to walk along this road of life with me.  You shared my food, and when I proved I was a poor hunter tried to share your kill with me.  You cheered me up when I was sad, you kept me company when I was alone, and you were always there.  You followed me from Southern California to Portland, and save for a few months when I wandered to Montana and Central Oregon, you walked with me.

And I learned much from you.  I learned that it’s ok to be a Hunter in a Farmer’s world.  I learned from you that sometimes the simple things in life.. like sitting in a warm basket by a warm fire (or at least the gas heater) has value.  You annoyed me when I was not taking care of myself. And you reminded me that there are reasons to keep fighting.  And you perpetually got in everybody’s way: even earning the names “Speed Bump” and “Roadblock” at places you stayed.

Today, you left this world to walk with Bastet.  You looked at me and I knew it was time.  You were tired, you were in pain, and it was time to go.  And it hurts to know that tomorrow, I will awake to a world without you physically by my side.  You’ve left a mark on me like few have: you weren’t a mere cat, you weren’t a mere pet, you were my familiar.

Norma took this candid photograph of us a year ago when we lived out in the middle of the Badlands.  It will always be the image of you in my mind: walking beside me and being a good friend.  Goodbye, dear one.

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steampunk

Why I’m bear-ish on Bitcoin

Originally published at feedle dot net. Please leave any comments there.

OK, this has come around again, so I guess I need to actually fill a few of you in on something. I hate to be the one to break this to you. But, Bitcoin isn’t going to ever achieve any kind of mass success.

There’s no conspiracy theory, no “big banks are keeping it down, man!” plot. The reasons why Bitcoin will fail like EVERY OTHER ATTEMPT to create a digital currency before it simply boils down to this.

Social and political issues have never been solved technologically. They’ve always been solved.. well, socially and politically first, and the technology has only played a factor long after the shouting has stopped.

The reasons for this involve “tipping points”, and I won’t go into the whole theory on tipping points and macroeconomics here. Go read Freakonomics and The Tipping Point if you want an exhausting analysis as to the reasons Bitcoin has yet to achieve enough critical mass (and more importantly, enough critical mass in the right areas).  The TL;DR edition: until you can use Bitcoins at a mass-market retailer, fuhgeddabout.

But let’s wander back to the first point, which is, technology never solves social ills by itself.  It only solves social and political problems when it is clear to enough “somebodys” that Societal Ill A can be solved by Technology B in a direct, linear fashion.  And, to that end, Bitcoin doesn’t even serve to solve the societal ill it claims to combat.  And that goes double here in the US, I’m afraid to say, because we do live in a self-styled “democracy”.. and I’m ashamed to admit this, but most Americans are too dumb to understand any cause and effect that can’t be summed up in a 15-second infographic on CNN.

Bitcoin is trumpeted up as being a way for, say, the Occupy Movement to finally free us from the financial tyranny (*snort*) of the Big Banks.  Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but.. please explain to me how any third-party currency, be it Bitcoins, Lindens, or Disney Dollars, “frees” me from dealing with the Big Banks when it is impossible to buy any of the “necessities” of life (food, clothing, shelter, and transportation) without using US Dollars.  It’s not just difficult, it is impossible.  Even the handful of small merchants who accept Bitcoin are doing it largely via automatic exchanges that are converting the coins into US Dollars at clearance.  You can probably count on one hand the pure-play merchants who are keeping any quantity of Bitcoins on hand.

And that shouldn’t surprise anyone.  How many brick and mortar merchants keep a large quantity of cash on hand?  None of them do, don’t be silly.  They may keep a few hundred dollars in change, and they may have a day’s receipts worth of cash because they haven’t made the bank run yet.  But in the back of the grocery store on the corner there isn’t some massive safe with thousands of dollars locked away in it for any longer than it has to be.

And that goes double for Bitcoins, because of the very volatile nature of the “currency.”  Minute to minute prices of Bitcoin fluctuate, so if you’re a merchant that accepts Bitcoin you are playing a game of “beat the clock” every time you accept Bitcoin.   You want to get that out of the liquid state of Bitcoins into cold, hard US Dollars as quickly as possible, lest you potentially lose the entire value of the transaction when the Bitcoin market has one of it’s frequent and violent cases of shitting itself.

Businesses are highly risk-averse, and there is no greater risk heavier than acting as a currency exchange.  In effect, every merchant that wants to accept Bitcoin has to know the value of Bitcoin to whatever they’re paying out in expenses in (and with rare exception, regardless of where in the world it is, that essentially becomes the US Dollar).  There is actually one or two of the major Bitcoin trading houses who do this automatically via a “shopping cart”: and guess what they clear the funds in.  Usually, the quicker the better.

Point is, even in some hypothetical future scenario where Seven-11 takes Bitcoin (hey, it could happen, they take PayPal, amirite?) they’re not going to be trading in Bitcoin, just accepting it and converting it to a more fungible, negotiable currency.  Right now, that currency is the Federal Reserve Note US Dollar, who.. yeah, we know.  Big banks.

At the end of the day, big banks have their hold over us precisely because they’re.. big banks.  When Kroger needs a loan to open a new store, they’re not going to launch a Kickstarter. They’re going to talk to their banker, and depending on their financial solvency they may issue more stocks, or a capital bond, or borrow the money.  In all three cases, the people who are giving them the money will be giving it in US Dollars, and expecting payment in US Dollars.

And why not?  The US Dollar is a reasonably stable currency.  You know that if you loan out $1,000,000 at 5% interest exactly how much you’re going to get paid back.  And the only calculation you have to make as the loaner of the money is the risk of the investment itself compared to other potential investments: you don’t have to necessarily worry that the currency will be worth substantially less in five years’ time.  The ups and downs of the US Dollar are “well understood”, the risks are largely able to be mitigated.

The only way Bitcoin will ever succeed as a widely accepted currency is if the US Dollar fails.  And to be honest, if that happens, no cryptocurrency will save us: there will be no capital available to keep the lights on to even think about a cybercurrency.

steampunk

Why I’m actively buying a bottle of Stoli

Originally published at feedle dot net. Please leave any comments there.

I don’t drink vodka. I’m not a fan of it at all. I’m also not a fan of Dan Savage.

And, yet.. today, I’m going to stop by the liquor store and pick up a bottle of Stoli vodka. Maybe I’ll pick up one of those funky fruit-flavored ones so I can actually maybe drink the stuff someday.  No, I’m not going to start listening or reading Savage anytime soon.

Yes, I’m aware of the fact that there’s a popular #dumpstoli campaign right now. But this campaign (like a lot of things that comes out of the piehole of Mr. Savage) is not only misguided, it’s very much quite wrong.

First off, the Stoli we buy on the shelves here in the United States doesn’t even come from Russia, it comes from.. well, depending on some different factors most likely Latvia (although supposedly some Stoli is actually distilled in one of a handful of countries including even Canada). The brand is owned by a Eurozone corporation with it’s HQ in Luxembourg.  And, yes, it’s majority owned by a wealthy Russian businessman (who I understand spends most of his time in Paris nowadays anyway).. but one that has few, if any, ties to Pooty Poot.. and one that has been critical of his government in the past.

But more importantly: Stoli has a long history of actually SUPPORTING the LGBT community before this.  I won’t go down the laundry list, but this BusinessWeek article pretty much sums it up.

I have my suspicions that this has nothing to do with “gay rights”. Maybe somebody just needs a new sponsor for one of his media properties, and maybe this is an excellent way of browbeating one of the importers or producers into sponsoring his show.

It’s certainly not because Stoli did anything wrong. At best, this looks more like spousal abuse1 than a campaign for change.

Stoli, I stand with you, even if I think the rocket fuel you sell is way too astringent to actually drink.  Будем здоровы!

  1. Not to discount spousal abuse, but it is a similar pattern to one form of abuse I’m familiar with: be all lovey-dovey one minute, and then lashing out for some minor percieved slight that may not have even been intended []
steampunk

“The Big C”

Originally published at feedle dot net. Please leave any comments there.

So, this week I finally got a doctor to look at something that’s been nagging at me for a little over a year now. I have had this mole on my arm that started itching a while back, and I scratched it. And I’ve been continuing to scratch it. And it’s starting to change.

What’s scary to me is that the little I know of my biological family for certain is that there is some history of skin cancer, and that it seems to become a problem when my biological lineage gets to be in their mid-40′s. Well, guess fucking what.

I know, at least at a logical level, that if this does turn out to be a melanoma it is in it’s earliest stages and is getting caught. And that this sort of thing when caught this early and removed is pretty much a “slam dunk” surgery-wise and the overall prognosis is good. I’ll have a 15mm hole in my arm that’ll get stitched up and heal quickly, and a quick blood test some weeks out (if the biopsy is positive) looking for cancer markers. That will likely come back negative, and I’ll get the “Survived a 15mm cancer growth” to my Achievements tab, a dubious accomplishment at best.

But at an emotional level, it’s very challenging to face. I saw what a simple skin cancer did to my uncle. Other people in my life have (or are continuing) to suffer from the effects of cancer, although a lot more serious cancers than a simple wacked-out mole. And it’s scary precisely because now that I have one mole that’s gone The Way of the Dark Side (even if it isn’t malignant) I’m more likely to develop others.

My appointment is on Thursday. I’ll let you know how this goes.

steampunk

pics.feedle.net

Originally published at feedle dot net. Please leave any comments there.

I’m currently migrating from the old Gallery site to the new one. If you need the old site for some reason while I’m doing this, it’s at “http://newpics.feedle.net” (yes, I know that’s counterintuitive).

steampunk

Wow, really?

Originally published at feedle dot net. Please leave any comments there.

So, I have no idea if this is a legitimate E-mail or not.   Please let this actually be scammy, because if this person’s English skills really are this poor, I weep for our Republic.  I honestly don’t know where to begin.  (OK, I do know where to begin: you’re doing “church missionary work” and you are willing to defraud public assistance programs?  Even my religious ethics say that’s wrong.)

 

Hello,
I receive your mail indicating your interest in my home for rent and i hope you are serious about this. Please let me know when you are ready to move in and also indicate if you can take good care of my home cos i made up my mind to sell the house until my lovely wife advised that we keep it for future purpose. right now we are renting and not selling but we would like to leave it into a good hand. I want my property to be well taken good care of, and there are some rules and regulation in which I do give out to tenant who are willing to rent my house so please don’t disrespect my order but if you are still capable of renting my house the rules and regulation goes this way, You must keep my house clean including the surrounding, you must know the way in which you use the stove so as to avoid fire outbreak, you must not disturb the neighbor. I decided to rent out the property due to our transfer to (Los Angele’s, CA) on a Missionary Work by my church here, so we are renting it out since we need someone to take good care of the property on our absent. Don’t be surprise if you find the home with another site and deference price, I have plan to rent it through Real estate before, but they are not serious simply because they have a lot of house to lease out and they added some money to the rent while there commission is not fair. Have this in mind you must know the kind of person that I’m nevertheless I am giving you this rules because of what corresponded between me and
my last tenant. the keys and documents are with us here in Los Angele’s, CA… So I will need to ship them to you before you can occupy the house But you can drive by the house anytime to take a look at the area and surrounding, You can also peek through the windows if you don’t mind. For now we are looking for 4 or 5 years lease or rather lets us know how long you wish to stay.
Attn : The rent are including the Utilities are intact such as Dishwasher,Dryer, Electric Stove, Fridge, Washer,Air Condition,Sewage,Trash,all included in the monthly rent,as i am in a governmental programmer that sponsors my utilities on monthly basis etc.
Please note that, we are a kind and honest family,that spent a lot on property that is available for rent, so in one accord,we are soliciting for your absolute maintenance of this house and want you to treat it as your own. We want you to keep it tidy all the time so that we shall be glad to see it whenever we are around on a visit.
steampunk

Why the entire “gun control” discussion is irrelevant.

Originally published at feedle dot net. Please leave any comments there.

There are times when I feel like I’m the only person in the world who fucking pays attention.

Right now, we’ve got this big debate going on here about whether or not certain guns should or should not be banned and all the wharrrggble that goes along with any time somebody tries to start a level-headed conversation about guns in this country.

Am I the only one who has been watching what people are doing with 3D printers?

Primitive “printable guns” already exist, that only require a small amount of actual metalworking to work.

I’ll repeat that with details, for those of you who seem to be missing this.

It is possible now to have only basic and rudimentary skills as a metalsmith or machinist to assemble a usable firearm using about $2,000 in computer-aided manufacturing tools one can build themselves, using plans and patterns easily obtainable on the Internet.  As we move forward, the skill level required to manufacture these parts will only decrease, especially if there’s an “incentive” created by a partial or complete ban.

Go ahead, ban the “manufacture and sale” of assault weapons. The reality? In the next 2-3 years there will be an underground network of people who posses the tools to build them anyway.

And those weapons won’t be trackable, because they can be one-offs built from a machine that costs about the same as a good assault rifle costs today.  Those weapons will be inherently “hackable”, coming right off the autolathe and printer as “full auto”.

 

Making a gun isn’t rocket science, it’s a late Renaissance invention that was made before we had computers, autolathes, 3D printers, composite plastics, and advanced metallurgy and chemistry.  Even before CAD/CAM techniques anybody with a basic knowledge of machining parts could make a usable gun out of scrap metal parts probably in any metalsmith’s “junk box.”  It doesn’t take a lot of technology to slam a hammer into the back of a percussive cap, detonating a small charge of powder to accelerate a metal slug to near-the-speed-of-sound, and having a long and straight enough tube to guide the bullet to it’s target.

steampunk

Urban Planning and the bourgeois tourist, or “Oh hell, how did I miss that?”

Originally published at feedle dot net. Please leave any comments there.

So, I have this friend James. James and I would, when we both lived together in Southern California, get in his Toyota pickup and drive to all sorts of weird remote places.. ostensibly to look for telephone company related crap (a lot of which is now gone).

One of the side effects of this extensive traveling is I’ve discovered I get this weird.. well, “Spidey sense” for urban planning. I get this minor “unsettled” feeling when I’m in a neighborhood and I haven’t seen what I consider to be the “normal” parts of a neighborhood.  ”Is there something I’m missing,” is the feeling.

Even the worst planned neighborhoods typically contain a school, a gas station, a grocery store, a fast-food establishment (or, the seemingly Pacific Northwest variant of same: a coffeehouse), and a family restaurant somewhere within it. In post-war Southern California, the tendency was to build major boulevards about a mile apart on a Euclidean1 grid, put the businesses along those boulevards, and fill in the spaces between with residences.2

Since moving to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve noticed the trend is more or less the same. In Portland and Seattle, you need to think a little outside the box.  The lines tend to follow old streetcar lines instead of the modern automotive street: in Portland, this has resulted in most of the major retail corridors being on east-west streets, and the pattern seems to imply the housing was built FIRST, and the commercial corridors added later.

The point is, if any attempt at urban planning is being done there is somewhere within a neighborhood some commercial development for people to buy food and fuel.

As a side effect of this observation, whenever I’m exploring a new urban landscape I always seek out these neighborhood commercial clusters, because they give you a great window into the demographic makeup of a given area.  Five minutes in the grocery store and lunch at the neighborhood fast-food joint (or coffeehouse) will tell you more about a particular place than any map or Chamber of Commerce summary.  You see (what the neighborhood considers) “normal” people doing the normal things people do.

I recently discovered a neighborhood in Bend that had me stumped.  There was no commercial corridor here.  In fact, it was kind-of an island by itself, a little bit disconnected from the city (although still very much IN the city).. but it puzzled me.  There was no grocery store I could find, no gas station.. nothing.  It was a little unnerving: I wound up saying to myself “where the hell does Mom get the sugar she forgot to get at Fred Meyer?”

Today I discovered the shopping district I missed.  It was actually buried on the southern edge of the development.  It didn’t have the gas station I would have expected, but it had the grocery store, the coffeehouse, and the sit-down restaurant I would have expected.  When you looked at it on the map, you could almost tell that this wasn’t supposed to be where the city stopped, this was supposed to be near the center of this little development.  The economic realities of the housing market bubble of the 2000′s stopped “progress” dead in its tracks.

It’s interesting that I’ve developed this sort of “sixth sense” for knowing that there HAD to be a grocery store / strip mall there.

But more interestingly, maybe if I spent less time as a young adult trashing around looking for phone company shit and more time with biochemistry maybe I would have cured cancer by now.

 

  1. Orange County went so far with this Euclidean madness they actually named a major north-south boulevard.. “Euclid St.” []
  2. It’s worth noting that even in South Orange County, which attempted to get away from the “uniform grid” style of city building, does the same thing except the roads are curvy and often don’t follow any general cardinal direction: but the tendency to build commercial strips along them and fill the spaces between with residences is still the norm. []