Archive for the ‘popCulture’ Category

Hell no, we won’t pay: How technology transformed our perception of value

Open Source. The backlash against Software Patents. Cloud Computing. Bitcoin. 3D Printing. Post-PC. Cord-Cutting. Electric Vehicles and Alternative Energy.

There are ideological and social drivers that are unique to every single one of these things, and yet there is a common thread that ties them together. I call this trend “anti-spendism”.

Anti-spendism is not necessarily a social movement that is tied to the betterment of society as a whole. It’s not like socialism or communism, where we are talking about a desire to more equitably distribute wealth to the have-nots.

It is by definition, the personal, self-centered desire not to expend capital at all. Or to put a more modern take on it, rapid advances in technology have so lowered our perceptions of what things should cost, that ultimately many goods and services have become devalued far below what people are willing to pay for them.

To put it bluntly, anti-spendism is “Hell no, we won’t pay” syndrome.

via Hell no, we won’t pay: How technology transformed our perception of value | ZDNet.

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300 million dollars out of thin air: Bitcoin turns four and approaches $30 value.

Money is a delusion – but a delusion that works as long as it’s shared. The value of a U.S. dollar was once tied to a government guarantee that you could, at any time, exchange it for a quantity of precious metal – but since America officially abandoned the gold standard in 1971, its value is now more or less rooted in its ubiquity. If large swathes of people decided they would no longer accept it, it would suddenly be worth a lot less.

The Bitcoin - global anarchist financial revolution, giant scam, great investment or some ...

Government currencies like the American dollar are also a bit odd, in that a government can decide to print more money at any time to serve its own purposes. This is very handy for the government, but through inflation it causes each individual dollar to be worth a bit less each time.

It’s a problem that will persist with pretty much any currency that’s managed by one central organization. And distrust of these organizations is one of the strongest driving forces behind alternative currencies like Bitcoin. The idea is to create an entirely new currency that’s widely accepted, fairly stable, and more or less inflation-proof because the money supply can’t be increased at the whim of some central figure.

So how do you create a new currency?

The answer, more or less, seems to be that you simply build it, convince people it’s worth something, and give them an incentive to get on board.

Bitcoin was first proposed in 2008 – a fortunate time, since faith in the global banking hegemony and government control of money was crashing as the global financial crisis kicked in.

It was designed by “Satoshi Nakamoto” – a pseudonym, possibly for a group of anonymous designers who have never revealed themselves. Bitcoin’s key selling points from day one were solid, trustworthy and transparent technology, a controlled money supply and a built-in early adopter bonus that made them very cheap to produce while the currency got off the ground.

The third point is probably the most important; Bitcoins are produced by getting a computer to crunch complex algorithms. Once a certain amount of work is done, you create a brand new bitcoin. That amount of work was very quick and easy early in the piece, so early adopters were able to churn out large numbers of coins. But the algorithms are designed to become progressively more difficult over time, until a point some time around 2040 when the supply will be capped forever at around 21 million bitcoins.

Effectively, if you got in early, you could use your personal computer to churn out thousands of bitcoins – giving early adopters a heavy incentive to find things to do with them. But now, the Bitcoin mining process is already so difficult that you need a specialized rig bristling with dozens of graphics cards to make any decent progress.

This gradual restriction of supply is what Bitcoin advocates maintain makes the currency inflation-proof. There’s no such thing as “quantitative easing” in the Bitcoin world. In fact, as the money supply crawls to a stop, the currency should deflate over time, making each bitcoin increase in value.

Of course, it also makes the Bitcoin system look a lot like a pump and dump scam as well – early adopters mined huge amounts of bitcoins early on for very little effort, and stood to gain huge amounts of cold, hard, non-virtual cash if they could convince other people the bitcoin was worth something. But let’s backtrack a little before we explore that.

How bitcoins work

The most important feature of a digital unit of currency is that ownership can be authenticated, and the money can’t be spent twice. You can ensure this by keeping a central ledger somewhere of who owns exactly which bitcoins – but the genius of the Bitcoin system is that this ledger is completely decentralized and run as a peer-to-peer system like the BitTorrent network.

When you make a transaction, the Bitcoin network sends out a notice and a confirmation process takes place. In this confirmation process, the transaction history of the particular bitcoin being moved is checked against the records of a number of different nodes in the system. Only when several nodes “agree” that the bitcoin is authentic does the actual transfer occur.

A bitcoin itself is just a string of letters and numbers – the system would be vulnerable to all sorts of hacks if it wasn’t for this peer-to-peer tracking system. And although the bitcoin’s entire transaction history is sent around the network for checking, it’s only a series of bitcoin wallet addresses that are used, rather than account names – making it virtually impossible to work out exactly who owned the coin in the real world.

This also makes it virtually impossible to prove you owned a bitcoin if you misplace its alphanumeric code. If you delete your wallet file or forget your passwords, your money is gone forever.

Getting money in and out of the Bitcoin system

First off, you need a wallet. You can either download the original Bitcoin client and run it on your own computer, or you can trust a third party online service like MyWallet to take care of it for you.

From there, there’s a number of ways to buy bitcoins with regular cash. You can strike a deal directly with another bitcoin owner over at Bitcoin OTC, use a big-time currency exchange like Mt.Gox or any number of others.

If you want to keep your identity as far away from the transaction as possible, you can use a cash deposit service like bitinstant – you notify the service that you want to buy X dollars worth of bitcoins, they give you some deposit details, and you simply walk into a bank (or another deposit location like a 7-11 or Walmart store) and drop off the cash with a given account and reference number. Once the transaction is verified, the bitcoins are transferred to your ownership. The process takes less than an hour and costs you a four percent fee.

To get money out of the system, you’ve got to effectively sell your bitcoins. The easiest method is probably to register with a big exchange, sell your coins and have them transfer the money to your local bank account.

There’s other services that will pay you back through Paypal, vouchers and all sorts of other options – and if you want to keep things totally anonymous, you can always strike a deal directly with somebody who wants to buy the bitcoins, and dodge the transaction fee in the process.

What’s a bitcoin worth?

Graph showing the value of 1 Bitcoin from 2009-2013. Created at bitcoincharts.com.

As I write this, close to US$30. Here’s a live update. The currency is still pretty volatile, its value changes constantly. If you’d bought yourself a bitcoin in December last year, you’d have doubled your money in the last 50 days.

That’s nothing compared to the gains the early adopters have made, though – bitcoins were worth literally nothing back when the system went online in January 2009. They were trading for less than US$0.10 back in September 2010, and only broke the US$1 mark in February 2011. They spiked up to US$27 in May 2011, then crashed down to US$3.50 within a couple of months when Mt.Gox and MyBitcoin were hacked, resulting in a leaking of user information and some straight-up bitcoin theft.

Right now, it’s riding higher than it ever has and spiking upwards like crazy, and there’s every chance you can still make money as a speculator – as well as every chance that it’ll crash again before 2014.

Read more…300 million dollars out of thin air: Bitcoin turns four and approaches $30 value.

Buy a Car Based on the Monthly Payment Cost

Owak / Kulla / Corbis

“It’s dangerous to think about a big purchase, like a house or a car, in monthly terms,” says Jim Wang, a blogger at Bargaineering.com. “It doesn’t illustrate how much of your total wealth has to be surrendered in order to own that house or car.”

“It’s also easier to swallow $200 a month instead of a five-figure number, so salespeople are trained to go after the monthly number,” he says. Whenever a salesperson is giving you financial advice, he says, step back and evaluate whose best interest they have at heart, yours or theirs. Always do the math on what the purchase will cost you in the long run.

“I’d say focusing on the monthly price of anything, and ignoring all else, is terrible advice,” Wang says. “While it’s important to look at that number for the purposes of budgeting, you always want to know how much you’d be paying in total.”

MORE: Drivers Upgrading to New Cars at Slowest Pace in Years

Read more: http://moneyland.time.com/2012/08/23/terrible-financial-advice-top-10-tips-you-shouldnt-follow/#ixzz27bESknpt

A Software Engineer, a Hardware Engineer and a Manager were on their way to a meeting. They were driving down a steep mountain road when suddenly the brakes on their car failed. The car careened almost out of control down the road, bouncing off the crash barriers, until it miraculously ground to a halt scraping along the mountainside. The car’s occupants, shaken but unhurt, now had a problem: they were stuck halfway down a mountain in a car with no brakes. What were they to do?

“I know,” said the Manager, “Let’s have a meeting, propose a Vision, formulate a Mission Statement, define some Goals, and by a process of Continuous Improvement find a solution to the Critical Problems, and we can be on our way.”

“No, no,” said the Hardware Engineer, “That will take far too long, and besides, that method has never worked before. I’ve got my Swiss Army knife with me, and in no time at all I can strip down the car’s braking system, isolate the fault, fix it, and we can be on our way.”

“Well,” said the Software Engineer, “Before we do anything, I think we should push the car back up the road and see if it happens again.”

Smart Dogs

Posted: September 15, 2011 in Funny, popCulture, puppies
Tags: , , , ,

Four workers were discussing how smart their dogs were.

The first was an engineer who said his dog could do math calculations. His dog was named “T-Square”, and he told him to get some paper and draw a square, a circle and a triangle, which the dog did with no sweat.

The accountant said he thought his dog was better. His dog was named “Slide Rule”. He told him to fetch a dozen cookies, bring them back, and divide them into piles of three, which he did with no problem.

The chemist said that was good, but he felt his dog was better. His dog “Measure” was told to get a quart of milk and pour seven ounces into a ten ounce glass. The dog did this with no problem.

All three men agreed this was very good and that their dogs were equally smart. They all turned to the union member and said, “What can your dog do?”. The Teamster called his dog whose name was “Coffee Break” and said, “Show the fellows what you can do”. Coffee Break went over and ate the cookies, drank the milk, went to the bathroom on the paper, claimed he injured his back while eating, filed a grievance for unsafe working conditions, applied for Workman’s Compensation and left for home on sick leave.

A woman gets onto a bus with her baby.

The bus driver says, “That’s the ugliest baby that I’ve ever seen. Ugh!”

20110909-124238.jpg

Lumpy may be a bit of a monkey, but he ain't ugly!

The woman goes to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her, “The driver just insulted me!”

The man says, “There’s no call for that. You go right up there and tell him off. Go ahead, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”

 

Photo by www.melissaannphoto.com

A visitor to a certain college paused to admire the new Hemingway Hall that had been built on campus.

“It’s a pleasure to see a building named for Ernest Hemingway,” he said.

“Actually,” said his guide, “it’s named for Joshua Hemingway. No relation.”

The visitor was astonished. “Was Joshua Hemingway a writer, also?”

“Yes, indeed,” said his guide. “He wrote a cheque.”

Can you figure out which photo wasn’t digitally modified post-production?

Twitter Hedge Fund Is Making More Money Than You

 

 

All you investors with your crazy research and economic “theories”: You should just be reading Twitter! Derwent Capital, a hedge fund that bases its investment strategy on Twitter data, outperformed the market in its first month.

According to eFinancialnews:

Derwent Capital, which finished its first month of trading at the end of July, beat the S&P 500 which fell 2.2% in July, while the average hedge fund made 0.76%, according to Hedge Fund Research.

How does Derwent work? It invests in whatever Justin Bieber tweets about that day.

Read the rest of the article here.

  

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OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Read the balance of the article as it has been posted at nytimes.com

http://nyti.ms/p8bLnp

 
  

To contact me, check out my Contact Me page.

To Learn more about me, check out my About Me page.