Crypto Speculation and Seneca

Seneca, Dying. At the Lourve; photo taken by me.

Approaching the physical age of 56, I am constantly reminded of Seneca’s thoughts on mortality.

You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.

I’ve been trading in financial investments in some form or the other for the past 40+ years. Mostly stocks, some mutual funds and ETFs, and for the last 2-3 years, crpto currencies. My current crypto holdings are in Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Steem (Steem) and nem (XEM).

To be sure, investing is not for the faint of heart, and all investments require fortitude to stick with a plan, or abondon it when the plan is failing. Over the years, I’ve shaken off so many market corrections that I can’t even count them, simply because I know these happen, and stocks will eventually rise again to new hights. As Tony Robbins puts it in the title of his latest book, Unshakeable. (Here is the take-away from the book: Buy and keep buying the lowest load index ETF – I own SPY -, regardless of price, and don’t panic.)

Cryptocurrencies, especially BTC and ETH will rise , fall, then rise more again as well. No doubt. They are here to stay, and nothing can stop them. (And, before you ask, yes, I am bullish on STEEM and XEM or I would not hold them, or more importantly write on this platform).

But now, my investment horizon is starting to fuck with me in a way that I can’t quite get my head around. For 40+ years,, I’ve have been almost always fearless and unshakeable, but the confidence I have in Steem and other cryptos are coming into a conflict with my investment horizon, or what I commonly refer to as “having too much life at the end of the money, or too much money at the end of the life”.

This Seneca quote is particulary troublesome:

How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years, aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!

Cryptocurrencies, especially BTC, are crossing the chasm from the early adopters to the early majority. Just a week or so ago a colleague asked me which crypto he should buy. I don’t think he had ever seriously bought crypto before. This was the very morning that BTC hit an all-time high over $2700. I took some profits off the table right then.

Regardless, my bucket list is there, my mortality is there, and the knowledge that cryptos are the current and best wealth investment today are troubling me.

I am very interested in hearing others thoughts.

If you post a reply, please let me know at least your age (or any other thing that affects your investment horizon).

Tesla Doubting and Big Rigs

Tesla's original model, the Roadster

Tesla’s original model, the Roadster

Range Anxiety. It is the number 1 reason that fewer people own all-electric cars. I’ve heard comments like this for years:

Weight, cost, space are my only concerns. Versions/hybrids are currently running with success. I see a combination of a small diesel powered generator, battery and electric motors being the most viable and easiest to achieve in the near future. Having to charge every 600 miles? Getting infrastructure for CNG has been tough enough, imagine the banks of charging stations needed, drivers have a hard enough time finding parking for breaks. 34,000 lb. payloads might be a little skinny.

This response was from an article about Tesla’s upcoming semi rig.

I think a fundamental assumption was made that someone else has to build the charging infrastructure. Tesla doesn’t wait for that. Currently, there are over 2600 chargers in over 370 locations in the United States. There are plans to double those in 2017 alone. And I ain’t talking for semis. Or, at least I don’t think I am.

I live in the “black hole” of Tesla charging stations. Arkansas does not have a single one, nor are there any in western Tennessee. It is easy to be myopic regarding Tesla when an MSA of 300,000 plus has probably less than 10 Teslas on the road, and the nearest Supercharger is 100 miles away. Arkansas is also a black hole for other things, but even Mississippi has more superchargers.

But those in the rest of the country see them all the time. I counted 5 at a traffic light stop during a visit to San Jose. I’ve seen them used as Uber and pizza delivery cars. I heard that one is being used as a food truck in Portland. (Ok, I don’t know the food truck one is real, but it feels true.)

Hybrids Are Not Part of the Plan

I Googled “why didn’t tesla start with building hybrids?” and found this post on Quora. The takeaway from Ernie Dunbar is that “…they didn’t want to fuck around.” Indeed, that is precisely why. Hybrids are an interim solution to the all-electric, solar-powered future.

It is also why those in the transportation industry should take notice how quickly all of this has happened. It stems from failing to question generally accepted conventional wisdoms. Lockheed-Martin could not believe an individually financed company could unseat them at NASA. But SpaceX did.

Ford and GM (maybe not Ford, now) probably don’t think that Tesla can unseat them as the largest auto manufacturers in the United States. I know that Blackberry never saw Apple coming, then went through their denial stage until their death. Steve Ballmer at Microsoft ridiculed Apple for getting into the phone business. People told me in the Eighties that personal computers would never be in someone’s home. A whole slew of people thought letting Donald Trump run the country was a good idea.

True industry disruption occurs when someone questions conventional wisdom and starts with “first principles“. Why can’t we re-use rockets? Why do we have to wait for others to roll out infrastructure? Why can’t roofs be made from solar cells, instead of mounting them on top? Why do electric cars have to look like shit?

Electric power has gobs of torque. Battery technology is constantly improving.

Sure, the first ones may only go 600 miles and only have have a payload capacity of 34,000 pounds, but the Tesla roadster (a “hacked” Lotus) was released in 2006, but by 2012 – just 6 years later – Tesla released a new-from-the-ground-up 4-door legitimate all-electric card that outsells most full-size luxury sedans to this day.

Tesla went back to first principles to question design, engineering, manufacturing, everything. For the upcoming Model 3, they even skipped a build prototype stage that conventional manufacturers use to test actual manufacturing processes with disposable manufacturing lines and vehicles. Saved Tesla months in getting the Model 3 to market, and will probably revolutionize auto manufacturing.

The internal combustion engine is dying before our eyes. 20 years from now it will be a quaint thing that will be nostalgically remembered like rotary dial phones. Only car aficionados and collectors will be interested in ICE cars. Electric will be too mainstream and a “no brainer”.

CERN and the Invention of the World Wide Web

CERN and the Invention of the World Wide Web

Recently I visited Europe, and the high point of the trip was my tour of CERN (wikipedia link).

After trying unsuccessfully to register for a tour, I decided to just go for it, and when I arrived at the visitor center, the group just leaving had extra space so I joined up.

High-energy particle physics probably bore most people, but for me, it was nerd heaven.CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid

The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) facility is where the detector and control room are. I was able to go underground. Here is a selfie of me with the 2,000 ton detector:

CMS Detector

Birthplace of the World Wide Web

What many people don’t know is that the World Wide Web was invented at CERN by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Not the Internet (the WWW is just a part of the Internet). Here is a photo of the first World Wide Web server (sorry about the low-quality, but it is housed in a weird globe), which is another remarkable footnote of computing history – Steve Jobs’ NeXT computer:

First WWW server at CERN

 

Al Gore and the Internet

Since we are on the subject, Al Gore did not proclaim to “invent” the Internet. What he did do is help create and nurture the Internet. That is in fact, true. When asked what distinguished him from his challenger in the 2000 Democratic Presidential nomination, he stated this:

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

As Vice President, Gore was in charge of promoting and developing the “Information Superhighway” and launched a number of initiatives that without a doubt placed him on the list of people that helped create what we know today as the Internet. Don’t believe me?

Vint Cerf (“Father of the Internet”) and his colleague Bob Kahn, who actually did create the Internet (along with others; it was a world-wide group effort) wrote this in response to the critique and ridicule of  Gore’s statement, which they felt was unjustifed.

Some Excerpts:

Al Gore was the first political leader to recognize the importance of the Internet and to promote and support its development.

…But as the two people who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore’s contributions as a Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time. [Emphasis mine]

The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and promoting the Internet long before most people were listening. We feel it is timely to offer our perspective.

As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship.

As Vice President Gore promoted building the Internet both up and out, as well as releasing the Internet from the control of the government agencies that spawned it. …Gore provided much-needed political support for the speedy privatization of the Internet when the time arrived for it to become a commercially-driven operation.

No one in public life has been more intellectually engaged in helping to create the climate for a thriving Internet than the Vice President. Gore has been a clear champion of this effort, both in the councils of government and with the public at large.

The Vice President deserves credit for his early recognition of the value of high speed computing and communication and for his long-term and consistent articulation of the potential value of the Internet to American citizens and industry and, indeed, to the rest of the world.

When the fathers of the Internet verify his help, it is real. So please give credit where credit is due.

Guide to Selecting an IT Service Provider

So, I wrote this a few months back, but recently re-edited it and updated it, as well as created a . mobi and .epub version as well.

I really don’t think it will be a waste of time if you are frustrated or confused about what types of IT service providers there are in the world.

This thing is FREE. As in speech air.

 

It is for Kirkham.IT, and you can get a copy here.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Warning on America and Science Denial

Redglass Pictures teamed up with Neil deGrasse Tyson to produce a 4-minute film that communicates something that I have been feeling for awhile. Tyson calls this “maybe the most important words he has ever spoken”. The film covers the recent rise of science denial in this country.

“That’s not the country I remember growing up in. Not that we didn’t have challenges… But I don’t remember anytime where people were standing in denial of what science was.”

Indeed, Neil. I too watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I was one of the first to actually use the Internet, then the World Wide Web. I used cell phones when they were so novel that people would stare at me using one discreetly in Wal-Mart.

“This is science, it’s not something to toy with! It’s not something to say “I choose not to believe E=mc², you don’t have that option!” …it is true whether or not you believe in it, and the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with… how to solve the problems that face us.”

Once had a friend – he is still a great, smart friend – that when I brought up a conversation from some 10 years or so earlier, I asked him if he still believed that global warming was a hoax. His reply was, “No, but it shouldn’t be a religion either.” I’ve thought about that remark a lot, and it reminds me of this Carl Sagan idea:

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.

My friend is right in a way. I believe that religion builds policies, procedures, and systems around spirituality, but not in a scientific method sort of way.

Religion doesn’t establish or even create morals, it establishes trusts. Throughout history and various cultures, these trusts between others in the tribe have moved civilizations forward, and sometimes backward. Two steps forward, one back.

It’s time to accept science spiritually. We have bigger things to do.

The Reports of Mac’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Seen reports from others – many of whom I greatly respect – about the demise of MacOS and Mac hardware.

Admittedly, a Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Pro is on my top 3 laptop list alongside a MacBook Pro. Windows has improved that much, and some of the hardware is very nice, especially these two pieces from Dell and Microsoft.

But, here we are 4 years on without an upgrade for the “tall boy” Mac Pro, and the new MacBook Pros with their Touch Bar (meh) aren’t exactly thrilling. It does appear that Apple might have spent far more time and care on iOS devices.

Who could blame them? iPhone is what has made Apple the largest company in the world.

However, how would Apple look if all they made were consumer devices? Would they still have that Apple cult following? I think so, but the Apple “experience” would not be as deep and rich. The power users and pros that use Apple products are what adds to the mystique.

Well, here we are with a mea culpa from nonother than Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller. From this excellent TechCrunch article by Matthew Panzarino:

Apple is acknowledging that the Mac Pro they introduced in 2013 has run aground on the cleverness of its own design, and they’re re-thinking the entire machine. In addition, they’ll be releasing a new external display — something it had previously opted out of.

Always surprised that Apple somehow thought that users would want something so non-Apple so prominent on their desktop. Hell, I hate to see anything other than a Dell monitor with a Dell PC.

The narrative is that Apple has not put the resources needed into making the Mac work for pros, has neglected updates and could even be working toward a future where there are no Macs, just iOS devices. That’s the picture you’d get from the think pieces, anyway.

Can’t argue with that…

Schiller goes on to say that the Mac user base is almost 100 million users; it’s nearing a $25 billion run rate; Apple now ships computers at a ratio of 80 percent notebooks to 20 percent desktop computers.

And so that leads to this…

We want to be as transparent as we can, for our pro users, and help them as they make their buying decisions. They invest so much in the Mac, we want to support them, and we care deeply about them. So that’s why we’re here.”

But this is more about hardware than it is software. And so, the Quadrant is invoked.

Please read the entire article, but this comes up:

And then Schiller calmly drops the hammer. “We are in the process of what we call ‘completely rethinking’ the Mac Pro,” he says.

Not this year, but next.

Expect something great.

Skepticism ≠ Cynicism

Apart from the moral philosophical context of skepticism and cynicism, the difference between skepticism and cynicism lies in belief. A skeptic seeks truth without the belief that one notion or the other is true; A cynic believes one notion over another, with truth being secondary.

Bitcoin ETF Will Be Approved, One Way or the Other


Jeff John Roberts on Fortune has a good write-up of the imminent SEC decision (probably today) on the Winklevoss ETF. Those of you thinking about finding a way to invest in BTC without all the hassles of actually buying it may soon be able to buy it on the market, I think one way or the other.

Some takeaways:

While there are plenty of places to buy bitcoin, many investment funds can only hold assets that meet certain regulatory standards—such as approval from the SEC.

Pessimists… can point to two sets of concerns that could lead the SEC to give the thumbs down. The first of these relates to how the Winklevoss intend to run the operation. Some people are uneasy that the proposed ETF would use Winklevoss-controlled businesses to source and store the bitcoins that would back the shares.

If the SEC says no, it will have a negative effect, though probably not a very dramatic one. The reason is there are two other ETF application[s] before the agency.

…there is a general feeling that approval for a bitcoin ETF of one type or another is inevitable, and so a rebuff by the SEC to the Winkelvoss proposal would only be a temporary setback.

One of the other 2 apps in front of the SEC includes an ETF that proposes to insure it’s assets.

It’s not a matter of if any longer. It is simply a matter of when.

Average American Scared of Autonomous Cars

A great article by Matt Posky at The Truth About Cars:

”[A] vast majority of surveyed Americans admitted to being “afraid” of riding in an autonomous vehicle while over half said they felt less safe at the prospect of sharing the road with driverless technology.”

“[From] a random sampling of 1,012 adults, AAA found that 78 percent of American drivers surveyed reported feelings of fear at the mere concept of being a passenger in a self-driving vehicle.”

“By and large, every study on current and future autonomous features seems to underscore added safety.”

But hey, shark attacks make the news, although a human being is more likely to die from influenza than ANY type of automobile accident. The stats are questionable, but Elon Musk states that currently Tesla’s Autopilot is 50% safer than human-piloted automobiles.

Uber’s Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost

 

Uber appears to be stepping into a steaming pile. First came revelations from Sarah Fowler that forced out apparent uber-harrasser Amit Singhal. Next it was revealed that they refused to pay a $150 permit to test self-driving cars in California (really, who DOESN’T want to cover their ass over something that could go horribly, horribly wrong?), and the self-driving technology itself is the subject of a lawsuit filed against them by Alphabet-owned Waymo.

I think Lyft heard the rumors, and moved on it with their commercial that was released this past December.

Alison Griswald at Quartz also sums it up nicely: “Corporate values were always an afterthought for Uber.”