Monday, September 15, 2014

Dogecoin and Bitcoin, What it Can Mean to Charities

   United Way recently announced that it was going to begin accepting Bitcoin.  This is an incredibly important step in the evolution of cryptocurrencies.
   One of the common questions about Bitcoin and Dogecoin, is why should I bother buying any?
    This is an extremely valid question.  Most people are drawn to Bitcoin for investment purposes and are hoping for some large payout like some of the earlier adopters experienced.  Tim Draper thinks this is still possible and predicts Bitcoin could be worth $10,000 in the next 3 years.  I hope he's right, but there are other reasons to use Bitcoin other than just dreams of riches.
    One of the clear advantages to using Bitcoin or rather accepting Bitcoin is the potential for crowd funding and micro transactions.  
     Ask yourself, why is buying a coke from a vending machine such a pain in the ass.  I don't have change, because seriously who carries change?  The dollar thing thinks my wrinkled dollar is actually a tobacco leaf and keeps spitting it back out.   I don't really trust the damn thing to give it my credit card information and the vendor sort of hopes I don't use a credit card because the merchant service fee on a $1.50 coke is like $0.25.
    So in today's high speed world full of technology, I can't figure out a reliable way to purchase a coke.  Enter cryptocurrency.  
    The advantages of accepting Bitcoin or Dogecoin for a small impersonal transaction are clear.  

1. No fees.  You could be using a service like Coinbase which charges a small fee (1% typically), but you certainly don't have to.

2. No risk of stolen credit card numbers.  With cryptocurrency I initiate the transaction.  The vending machine never has access to my information and so there is no risk that someone might be trying to steal my information for later use.  You can steal my wallet address, but without my private key it's not going to do you much good.

3. Portability.  I can send bitcoin using my phone.  I have my phone more often than I have $1.50 in quarters.

   Great, but what does this have to do with charities and United Way?  Well, the same advantages that a vending machine enjoys applies to charities, plus one more.
   When Hurricane Katrina hit, a lot of people donated money to Red Cross to help with the relief effort.  One of the more popular ways of doing this was by using text message donations.  Whoever came up with this idea is a genius.
   Basically a text number was created specifically associated with Red Cross and Katrina.  If you texted the magic passcode to the text number, you authorized your carrier to charge you $5.00 or some other set amount.
   No one is going to go to the trouble of mailing a $5.00 check to the Red Cross.  But texting is simple and when you watch those poor people sitting on their roofs surrounded by debris infested water and floating balls of fire ants you can't help but send a text while wiping away a tear.
   Bitcoin allows for these types of transactions without the middle man.  No phone carrier has to get involved.  No fees being sucked out by a bank or some other blood sucking corporation.  It's just United Way and you and some weird sense of accomplishment when you magically support a cause you heard about on Facebook.
   For charities, they can use crowdfunding to get millions of microtransactions and it would actually be worth the trouble.
   This is a big deal, especially for charities.  Suddenly raising awareness is actually valuable as opposed to some weird marketing campaign where everyone wears pink.  Now numbers could equal value and real money.
    The difficulty of course is that people are going to be reluctant to exchange $500.00 into bitcoin just so they can donate $5.00 to United Way.  But, the potential is there which means someone smart will figure out a way to overcome this difficulty.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bitcoin - An Over/Under View

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to talk about Bitcoin to a group of developers.  I've dabbled with Bitcoin (and dogecoin) for about a year now and this was a good chance for me to evaluate what I've learned.

I put together a nice little slide and wrote some text as a primer to Bitcoin for someone who isn't familiar.  Bitcoin and all of the terms associated with it can be complicated to understand, but I felt like this was a good place to start.  I could probably write an entire series on all of the different aspects, but I haven't simply because there are already so many resources out there.  However, since I've done this one already I'll go ahead and post it.

I enjoy answering questions and I certainly enjoy giving my opinion so if anyone ever has questions, feel free to ask and I'll be happy to answer.

Slide Show

Text Transcript

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Stupid Things We Remember

We've all at one time or another acknowledged the fact that we retain a lot of stupid facts.  Our poor brains are so stuffed with pop culture and nonsense that it must look like a hoarder's house full of memories.

I was reminded last night that my brain seems to have absorbed a lot of random things from the late 80's and early 90's.

Do you remember the movie, "Masters of the Universe"?  Yes, the 1987 live action He-Man movie.

Dolph Lundgren looked more like a roided version of MacGyver than He-Man, but I was so excited about this movie I probably watched it about 10 times when it came out on VHS or TNT.

Now, do you remember Gwildor and his Cosmic Key?  Gwildor was a dwarf like inventor who created a Key that used musical notes to open portals or worm holes through out the Universe.  Those musical notes sound like this:

Sound familiar?  If you've seen the movie, "The Hunger Games" then it should.

They're not exact matches, but similar enough that my brain recalled the Cosmic Key and I looked up the music to compare the notes.

I'll leave you with an early 90's classic to jog some of your own memories.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

An Open Letter to Marshall Henderson

Dear Marshall,
   I'd like to begin by thanking you for one of the most entertaining basketball seasons I've experienced as an Ole Miss fan, ever.  I'm going to confess that I'm not a huge fan of basketball.  I played basketball a little, but I'm a short Asian guy so surprise, it was never really my sport.  I do love Ole Miss though and I was actually in school when Ole Miss went to the tourney in 1998 and the famous Valpo shot occurred.  That memory still hurts.
   All of this to say that because of your fire and personality I started to watch and enjoy Ole Miss basketball again.
   Now I don't know you.  I watch you shoot 3 after 3, I follow you on twitter, I read about you on sports blogs and I saw your really nervous and awkward interview with Charles Barkley, but I don't know you.  But you seem pretty honest and "real" so I'll go ahead and make some assumptions.

   1. You want to go pro.  Hence the "I want to make that money" statement and really who doesn't want to go pro if they're competing at the college level.
   2. You enjoy the attention.
   3. You're overall a decent person.
   Knowing these 3 things, I'd like to offer you some advice.  It's free because I'm a booster, so do what you want with it.  If you really want to make a big splash and get some attention from the pro teams, now's the time to make a change or at least act like you're changing.
   The crazy eyed, bad boy image will only take you so far.  Eventually people are going to get tired of it and the only thing that will attract more attention is crazier antics.  But there is an inverse relationship between crazy antics and fan love.  People that once supported you will begin to turn.  You'll get national attention for kicking an elderly person down the City Grocery stairs, but not the type you want.

   America loves the bad boy persona.  Think of all of the movies and tv shows where the hero is the bad boy that doesn't give a damn about anyone or anything.  Swag.  Yeah, that's cool.  But America loves even more the bad boy with a heart of gold.  The bad boy that reforms just enough that everyone goes "aaawwwwhhhh, he really does care."  He said he doesn't but that's just the rough exterior.  Deep down he's a good guy that wants to make good. We eat that shit up.
   Step 1. Publicly apologize for the double bird salute on twitter.  You're going to catch heat no matter what, so go ahead and beat them to the punch.  Say, "I want to apologize to my fans for my rude behavior at the end of the game against LaSalle.  I let my emotions get to me when I heard a fan call my sister a bad name.  I shouldn't have acted the way I did and I apologize to all of the fans, but especially Ole Miss for not representing you the best way possible."  I'm not sure if that's 140 characters, so you may have to use two tweets.
   It's milk toast and maybe you're not that sorry, but we'll love it.

   Step 2. Take a break from twitter for about a month. No more pictures of you drinking or bragging about winning pong.  You can still do it, just don't let anyone get pictures of it and post it on twitter.  There has to be a dark period where we don't hear about you and can imagine in our heads that you went into a great depressive funk where you contemplated your future, your existence and behavior and suddenly it dawned on you that you need to be a better person.  You need to make a change!

   Step 3.  After a break, anything you put up there is good guy image. "AYEEE, can't wait to volunteer at the shelter.  I love puppies!!!"  "Man this test is going to be killer."  and then "Woo aced that test.  I guess studying pays off after all."  There will be quiet murmurs as people take notice that you've gone from beer to books (that'd probably be the title of a blog post).  People will start to wonder, fans will start to believe.

   Step 4. Begin posting about how hard you're practicing for next season.  Talk about how you're hitting the gym every day, getting up early to run.  We're talking Rocky running up the stairs preparation.

   Step 5. When basketball season gets here, it's all about your team.  Any time anyone asks about you, you answer about the team.  You say how hard the team has been working or how motivated everyone is.  Call out each team member by name and talk about their specific accomplishment.  This is called the "Peyton" maneuver.
   Step 6. When playing your 1st SEC game, get excited but don't do anything to taunt the fans.  Act like you're about to die to pop your jersey, but you thought better of it and didn't because you know that would be un-sportsmanlike behavior.  Fans will be sort of sad at first that you didn’t "go ham on those Auburn rednecks" but people will start talking.  Has Marshall turned a corner?  No more Marshall Madness?   When you get interviewed after winning and leading the team with 30 pts, talk about how you have “matured” as a player and you’re taking better quality shots.

   Step 7.  When you've won the SEC championship again, dedicate that shit to Jesus.  Game over.

  Bottom line, you'll get more fans and more NBA attention as a bad boy gone good then a bad boy --> worse boy.  More fans = more money.

  A fan.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Richie Rich for Senate

There is a video swirling around the internet that demonstrates the distribution of (or lack there of) wealth across America.  Besides the very cool graphics of walking stick figures and piles of money, it's fairly informative.

I haven't check all of the sources listed at the end, but I'm going to assume the figures are correct.  Here are the highlights:

Based on $54 trillion of net worth across 311 million Americans in 2009.

The top 1% of America owns 40% of the nation's wealth
The bottom 40% own nothing
The bottom 80% own 7% of the nation's wealth

The top 1% owns half of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds
The bottom 50% owns 0.5% of the investments

1% take home 24% of total income

CEO's get paid more than 300 times the average worker.

So basically the rich are really rich, the poor are really poor and the middle class aren't really in the middle they're poor too.  Let's again assume this is true.  It sounds true and if it's not exactly correct, it's probably pretty close.

Now let's ask how did this happen because 40 yrs. ago the distribution was a little bit flatter.  I'd really like to see how flat and what the distribution looked like through the decades, but it wasn't in the video and I don't have enough time to research all of that information.

So how did this happen?  Part of the reason is the rich get rich with the help of a tax system that greatly favors them.  I can pretty much guarantee that the top 1% have a lower tax rate than the 20% - 80%.  Wealthy folks can generate wealth from sources other than income.  So the income tax that everyone likes to fight about and politicians like to make a big deal about have little impact on the top 1%.  They make money of off real estate, stocks and bonds and weird loan structures.  They do this because they get taxed at a lower rate (15% for long term capital gains) and 0% for loans.  They have firms that are very creative in increasing their net worth while avoiding taxes.  Remember Steve Jobs?  Besides being famous for being the most innovative CEO in America, he was known for his salary of $1.00.  Now obviously he was compensated in other ways and I can bet you that those other ways were at a lower tax rate.  Personally I think he deserved every penny he ever got, but that's just me.

So the taxes on income from stocks and bonds is at a much lower rate than income from actual work. But who owns the stocks and bonds?  Oh yeah, the rich people.

The top 1% owns half of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds
The bottom 50% owns 0.5% of the investments

When a politician is arguing against raising the capital gains tax on stocks and bonds, he's basically arguing that rich people shouldn't be taxed more.

Let's look at another tax that favors the rich.  The estate tax or death tax.  When a person inherits wealth, the wealth is taxed.  The tax rate is pretty high, so the government decided to exempt a certain amount.  That means if dear old grandma leaves you a pile of cash, you get to keep all of it up to a certain amount.  In 2001 that amount was $675,000.  Thanks grandma! But the politicians said hey, that's your money you should keep it.  So they raised the amount. And then raised it again.  And then permanently raised it for evermore. In 2008 it was $2,000,000. 3 years later it was $5,000,000.  Wow!  Thanks politicians for looking out for my best interest.  Wait.  Grandma's not that rich.  I don't know a lot of folks with grandparents worth over $5,000,000 but I'm also not part of the 1%.

So politicians who can't agree on balancing the budget or the fiscal cliff or any other bill that impacts the 99% can readily agree on tax rates that benefit the 1%.  Thanks guys, you're the best!

Oh by the way, 50 senators (50%) have a net worth of $6,210,000 or higher.  So the rich are passing laws that just happen to benefit the rich?  Wow, never would have seen that coming.

The problem as I see it is that the rich are passing laws that favor the rich and increases the poor distribution of wealth.  I don't believe in socialism and everyone being equally wealthy, but I also don't believe in systems that are completely unfair.  A moderately equal distribution of wealth benefits everyone.  It creates a stable society, it fosters creativity and growth.  We as a general rule should strive for a fair tax system.

I also don't believe in bitching without presenting solutions.  I'll outline some of those solutions in my next post.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Who Reads this Crap Anyways?

1181 views.  One of my posts had 1181 people click on it.  I'm sure a lot are accidents, Googleing (is it Googling or Googleing?) for something and somehow the right combination of nonsense and luck leads you to my post.  For instance if I mention Justin Bieber, Natalie Portman and Kim Kardashian I'll probably get a few hundred views.  I'm also certain all of those searchers will be upset with the results.    

Regardless of how they get here people do get here.  Which makes me feel like my little dark corner of the internet isn't so dark or cornered.  I'm old, so I like to imagine that when I have a blog that is open to the public that's about me and my thoughts only my friends and family would ever really read it.  After all, why would anyone else care?  

I don't think anyone does care, but it's still there and people still have access to it.  Which scares me quite frankly.  I have lots of opinions and thoughts.  I have strong opinions about gun control and the government.  I have strong opinions about religion and life.  So does everyone else and most of the time my opinions are contrary to other people's opinions.  People that I respect or that I consider friends.  Some of those people know at some level that their opinions are different but we both agree to sort of look away and not make a big deal out of it.  And we remain friends.  But when we start posting crap on the internet then it's out there in the open for anyone to see.  Exposed like your ugly birthmark on the side of your hip.  It can't be unseen.  It can certainly be forgotten by people like me, but not everyone has the same unstable and foggy memory that I do.

And not everyone is sane.  Let me restate that, everyone is pretty crazy.  The internet makes people do strange things and become even crazier.  During the college football signing period people were sending death threats to 17 yr. old kids because they thought the kid had disrespected their favorite school by choosing to not go there.  Like the anonymous stranger really had any type of say over what a 17 yr. old kid decides to do with his life.  Like it's so important that we're going to threaten to kill someone over football.  

People find power behind the anonymous internet that they don't have in real life and they abuse it.  To compound things, the internet makes it easy to reach these people.  It makes it easier to know addresses, phone numbers, friends and family members.  It makes the world smaller which is uncomfortable really if you think about it.

That scares me.  Now, I freely admit I'm more paranoid than most about such things but I'm also a realist.  99.999% of the crazies are too lazy to get off the couch or too stupid to really be a threat in real life.  So I'm not going to suddenly "go dark" (that's a cool term that wannabe military people like to use) and try to erase my internet presence or end this blog.  However, I am going to not post the rest of the story about me.  2 yrs. ago I started and promptly failed an ambitious project of writing an autobiography.  I started to pick the story back up today and after some thought have decided not to.  It's just more than I would like to share with anonymous strangers.  A major disappointment, I'm sure.

So what will I share?  I don't know, but stay tuned because I do plan on sharing more often.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Not The Update You Were Looking For

Well I told myself that I wasn't going to blog, but things happen and occasionally you need to publicly state something that doesn't fit into a FB post or a tweet.

I've been trying to occupy my mind lately and so the sadist in me decided I should start paying attention to Ole Miss football.   A lot of changes have happened since I last thought about our miserable season and I decided now that our season was over and Nutt was officially gone it would be a good time to peak under the covers and see what's going on.

The first major change is that we fired Houston Nutt. Finally.  Houston Nutt checked out after the second Cotton Bowl (if you want proof look at our recruiting classes) and never truly checked back in.  I'm not sure what was going on, if it was on purpose or what, but his disorganization and lack of motivation was poisoning the entire team.  I feel most sorry for the seniors that had to leave on such a low note.  The players deserved a coach that is willing to fight to the end.  Not one that just sort of shakes his head and says I don't know.  To me Nutt's attitude for the last two seasons highlighted the fact that he had no loyalty to the school, no desire to be in Oxford and really didn't care about the program.  Good riddance.  I was always cautious of Nutt to begin with because of the issues he had at Arkansas.  I have to respect you as a person before I can believe you'll ever be an effective leader.

The next big change was we fired Boone.  Yay.

We then hired Hugh Freeze. What, the Blind Side coach?  Really?  Yes that was my initial reaction too and I wasn't really thrilled.  I really wasn't sure who we would should hire, but I sort of expected someone with a better resume.

But then I started reading about Freeze.  The more I read, the more I started to wonder if this was the coach we should have hired all along.  Freeze is from the area and has ties to the school.  He wants to be in Oxford and wants to be part of Ole Miss.  This in itself is huge.  I know people scoff at the idea that this really matters, but it matters long term.  If a coach is motivated, his team is motivated.  If a coach can understand a school and its idiosyncrasies he can appreciate the school and sell it to recruits.  This was the first quality I looked for a in a coach and Freeze fit the bill.

Secondly he's young and hungry for a chance.  Freeze proved himself on a smaller scale.  He helped turn around two programs and at Arkansas State won his conference.  "It's not the SEC" is usually the first response.  This is true, but I'm willing to gamble on a young coach that will have success and stay in Oxford and build a program then put my money on a coach that will have two winning seasons and try to jump at the first school that makes him a better offer.  Besides, winning is winning.  His system in the Sunbelt may not work in the SEC, but maybe a different system will and if he can come up with a winning system before why not again?

He's cerebral.  This may end up being a fault later on, but after the last two coaches it's a real positive. You can tell he's actually using his brain and will do things to eke out an advantage with limited resources. He'll play to player's strengths, adapt to the talent he has, recruit the talent he wants and exploit other team's weaknesses.  He could get too tricky with his plays, but for now it's nice to have a coach you can understand at the press conferences.

He's spiritual.  I know this sounds folksy, but again I have to admire the person before I can believe they are an effective leader.  Freeze is spiritual and focused on family values.  This is an excellent trait and will help his team to rally around him.  It'll help him choose players who will stay out of trouble and will sacrifice for each other as opposed to being self centered and egotistic.  It will help his players play as a team, not as individuals with a lot of talent.  It's the same trait that everyone admired about Dexter McCluster and it's the same trait that made him a leader.

All of these things combined and I'm starting to really like the decision to hire Hugh Freeze.  There is a lot of room for improvement and I know after the last few years everyone is highly skeptical, but I'm calling a turn around right here.  I think we'll win at least 5 games next year with the high possibility of more.  I think we'll play with a passion that has been missed and I think we'll win the Egg Bowl.  There I said it.

The last time I predicted anything it was the first year that Nutt was coach and I predicted we were going to beat Texas Tech.  Everyone figured we would get murdered, but there were many signs to me that we were likely to stomp the shit out of them.  The score didn't really reflect how badly we beat them, but the dejected looks on all of the Texas Tech fans that streamed out after the third quarter did.  So, I'm publicly stating now that I think we've turned a corner and there are some very positive things for us to come over the next few years.  Hotty Toddy.