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This is cool

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 4:20 pm - November 12, 2014.
Filed under: Amazing Stories,Science,Technology

The European Space Agency confirms that it has landed its probe, Philae, on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

As the CNBC writer says, “It’s the first time a man-made object had ever touched down on a comet. The lander will extract and analyze samples from the comet, and scientists hope the data could contain hints about the history of the universe.”

Some nice images of the comet in the video below, from about 7:30 to 9:50:

And suddenly, HFT

I never knew that Casey Kasem was the voice of Shaggy. But I digress.

CBS recently did a good piece on High Frequency Trading (HFT), a means by which well-connected computers churn the stock markets and skim the cream. 15 minutes, here it is:

But a few things are odd about HFT as a story, or at least noteworthy.

First: the curious absence of government involvement. HFT has been going on for years (Zero Hedge started blogging it in 2009). Where have the vaunted government regulators been, all this time? Answer: Nowhere (until right now, as we’ll discuss in a minute).

The CBS piece praises Brad Katsuyama, a trader who figured out years ago how HFT works and founded a new exchange, IEX, to try to defeat HFT. That’s a great example of private enterprise being ahead of the regulators.

In fact, private enterprise has run circles around the regulators; first by creating HFT, then by being years ahead of government in working to defeat HFT. Could it be that government regulation isn’t effective? (cough)

The mainstream media’s absence from the HFT story until now (2014) is also striking. And that brings us to the second oddity: the timing of the CBS story. As if by magic, within days of its airing, we have also had announcements that the FBI will finally probe HFT. And that Goldman-Sachs will back IEX, the new HFT-free exchange. (Update: And the pr0n-watching SEC finally, also, investigating.)

I’m old enough to recognize a co-ordinated campaign. Granting that HFT is a real story, I still must speculate that the reason why HFT is suddenly on our collective lips, under investigation, etc., is because somebody powerful finds it convenient, at this time. (Where in the previous five years, they didn’t find it convenient.)

Who is that somebody? I don’t know. I did just note that Goldman-Sachs is rolling with the punches, at least. Over at Zero Hedge, they speculate that HFT is now being set up as the scapegoat for a coming stock market bubble-crash. The Federal Reserve is (by its QE, ZIRP and many other policies) the biggest market-rigger of all. The Fed has engineered the stock market bubble of the last five years. And, when that bubble bursts eventually, the Fed will want us all to blame something or someone else.

UPDATE: On CNBC, Katsuyama and a (truly obnoxious) pro-HFT guy get down-n-dirty. Good times.

The Taxman cometh to Bitcoin

Posted by Jeff (ILoveCapitalism) at 5:10 pm - March 25, 2014.
Filed under: Economy,Technology

Since Bitcoin came up recently in a GP thread, I thought I’d note that the IRS has just ruled it is property (not currency).

This means that, in the eyes of the IRS, every Bitcoin transaction is a property-for-property barter. If you’re paying Bitcoin, for example, then you must figure out its worth in dollars on the day you paid it, and pay the appropriate capital gains tax (if your Bitcoin had a gain, measured in dollars).

Bitcoin is NOT crashing on this news, but I believe that it will kill Bitcoin over time – to the extent that the IRS enforces it. The record-keeping alone will be an onerous burden for anyone who uses Bitcoin often. The main reason any alternative-currency scheme works is because it lets people escape painful tax burdens. When there’s no escape, then…

Smart Phones and Rude People

I saw this article on Yahoo Monday about a TED talk Sergey Brin gave last week, where he discussed the ways that he finds his smart phone “emasculating.”  I don’t have a strong opinion on that topic, but it’s also partly because I don’t have a smart phone.  I’m not really a luddite as much as I am true to the Swiss, German and Scottish parts of my ancestry in my frugality and my reluctance to adopt the latest fads, especially when those fads come with a monthly fee I’d rather not have to pay.

I only have a rather primitive cell phone, and I rarely use it very often.   I remember back around 2000 watching the Oprah show one day when Oprah confessed she didn’t have a cell phone, and she couldn’t understand why people needed to be available that way at all times and in all places.  While I’m sure Oprah has relented and gotten not just a cell phone but a smart phone by now, I still remember her remark in resisting that particular technology.

But while I might not have a smart phone, most of the other folks I know or encounter have one.  And that brings me around to my topic of the moment.  I’m less worried about whether or not smart phones are “emasculating” than I am about their tendency to make people more self-absorbed, oblivious, and frankly rude.

I’m appalled at work when I see people checking their smartphones during meetings, but I see it all the time.  And then there is the matter of the folks who text (or play “Angry Birds”) while walking or crossing the street or, worse, while driving.

My particular gripe at the moment is something that I see more and more frequently when I fly these days, and that is people who flout the rule against using their cell phones during flight.  Maybe it is an unnecessary rule, but it is still a rule, and ostensibly a rule put in place for everyone’s safety.  Nevertheless, I’ve witnessed people within my line of sight who don’t turn off their phones when instructed, or who furtively turn them on in mid-flight to start texting or checking e-mails (and I’m not talking about a flight with wi-fi), or who hide them away only to have them ring during flight.   On one of my most recent flights, a phone rang and a guy took the call and started talking as we were going into the final descent before landing.   I’m not a frequent flyer, so if I’ve witnessed all of these things, I can’t be the only one.

Maybe I’m just being a grouch, but it seems to me that the advances in communications technology have desensitized many people (and not just the Alec Baldwins of the world) to the demands of common courtesy and common sense.

Law of Unintended Consequences, Gun Control Edition

It never ceases to amaze me that so many liberals fail to grasp the reality of the law of unintended consequences with respect to any piece of supposedly well-intentioned legislation.  I use the word “liberals” here rather than “leftists” because I mean to refer not to the hard-core, doctrinaire leftists, but to the garden variety liberals who continually get fooled by the left into supporting their ill-intentioned schemes.

The difference between a basic liberal and a hard-core leftist is nicely illustrated by the anecdote that opens this article about the left’s scheme to undermine American power in the world and the American way of life.  Daren Jonescu describes an acquaintance of his, a teacher, and a liberal, who was surprised to learn that the Communist Party of the U.S.A. had endorsed Obama:

When I explained that the Party’s official endorsement cited Obama’s signature policy initiatives as the surest means to achieving socialism in America, and that CPUSA leaders were actively campaigning for Obama in swing states, my colleague fell silent for a moment, and then said, matter-of-factly, “It doesn’t really bother me; I guess it might bother me if Obama were endorsing the Communist Party, but if they’re endorsing him, it doesn’t matter.”

In typical fashion, the liberal here manages to convince himself that what should be obvious is really inconsequential.

But I digress.  While it seems clear to me that the left’s aim in pursuing gun-control is to disarm the populace, liberals always buy into it because they believe the lie that gun-control will somehow reduce “gun-violence,” even though lawbreakers will always find ways to acquire guns.

In the current environment, for example, all the gun-control talk has created a run on guns, ammunition, and the magazines that the politicians are talking about outlawing.  And the liberals are flummoxed and upset about all of the guns being sold these days.  It’s a classic case of failing to understand the law of unintended consequences whenever gun-control becomes a fixation of the politicians and their agents in the media.

Of course, that is only just the beginning.  Opponents of more gun-control are always quick to point out that as the measures fail to achieve their aims, the calls for more restrictions and more confiscatory legislation will only escalate.  Conservatives recognize this, and leftists know that is their ultimate aim.  But liberals always delude themselves into perpetuating the lies of the left.

Every so often, though, they get a clue that the problem might not be as easily fixed as proponents of immediate legislative fixes would have them believe.  Consider, for instance, the title of this recent Washington Post article: “Weapons made with 3-D printers could test gun-control efforts.”

To follow the implications of that story to its logical conclusions is to recognize that one unsuccessful gun-control bill is but the first step down a slippery slope that can lead to more and more government intervention into every aspect of our lives, yet “liberals” still manage to remain in denial about that reality.

Are my computers telling me to take time away from the Internets?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 6:00 pm - January 4, 2013.
Filed under: Blogging,Technology

I sit now in a Starbucks where I have found a slow Internet connection; I had retreated here precisely to access the Internet as I have issues with wireless connections at home.

Sometime last night, the mouse on my iMac (my primary computer and the one only which appears able to regularly to connect to the Internets from my home) just decided to start working erratically, sometimes not functioning at all, other times choosing to work only in certain segments of the screen. I did call AppleCare and a very nice woman named Chimika (sp?) very patiently helped me track down the serial number (since, at that point in the conversation, the mouse wasn’t working on the left side of the screen where is located the Apple icon–I had to climb up on a chair to read the number of the box which, packrat that I am, I had kept*).

Since I had been able to use the Wireless keyboard, she determined it had to be the (wireless) mouse (and not the port on the computer itself), so we set up an appointment (for Sunday) when I could take it in to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store. Fortunately, I have AppleCare so a replacement mouse will be free.

The long and short of this is that I do not have Internet a home. And the internet I found at this here Starbucks is slow. So maybe it’s a sign.

And with my fantasy epic backed up on a thumb drive, I can work on that (even on this laptop) at home. Or even here — because Starbucks’s slow internet shouldn’t impact the speed of Word.

I may try to post when I make an excursion to a neighborhood coffee shop. Or not. Next project now is to cut and paste a post that ILoveCapitalism has written for us.

* (more…)

Welcome To The Future

This is my first posting via my new iPad. Just so you don’t think I’m a rich millionaire like Obama, I cashed in years of AMEX miles points to get it.

I’ve had it less than 24 hours and already love it. It is the most user friendly computer device I’ve used since I first loaded the game “Lawn” into the cassette player attached to the 60lb PC.

There is a lot of functionality that I hope will allow me to do more frequent blogging on the go. Always remember that if you REALLY need your daily GayPatriot fix … I’m a minor celebrity on Twitter! (@GayPatriot.

The other thing I’m hooked on with the iPad is the quick way to get information. There are a lot of multimedia sources available (think: the “come to life” newspapers in Harry Potter’s world)

And books!!! My Kindle subscriptions can be read in full color and it LOOKS LIKE A BOOK!! By the way, I’m currently reading “Rawhide Down” — the in-depth story of what happened behind the scenes on March 31, 1981.

For now, so long. I’ll be back soon….as long as there’s a free WiFi!!

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

A Reflection on the Declining Number of Verizon Stores*

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 7:47 pm - July 7, 2010.
Filed under: LA Stories,Random Thoughts,Technology

Almost up until the day in 2002 (nearly exactly 8 years ago) I signed up for my first cell phone, I had vowed I would never get one.  I didn’t like the idea of being constantly reachable.  Yet, after a wonderful day at Disney with two nieces and a nephew, don’t know how I could have managed many family gatherings without one.  Simply put, because both my brother and I had cell phones, I could take my 14-year-old niece on rides her (much) younger siblings were too young (or too small) to enjoy.

Not long ago, I vowed I’d never upgrade to a Smartphone, not wanting to have the temptation of internet access wherever I go.

Today, after much consideration, I went out and bought a smart phone, in large measure due to recent nudging for my sister-in-law.  To be sure, had been wrestling with getting one, but kept putting off the decision because I’m a Mac guy and the iPhone is not available to Verizon users (& I have long been very happy with that service).  But, well, I got a great deal on an LG phone via a Verizon mailer (about $50 with rebate).  (Yes, I’m aware that Verizon users may soon be able to keep their carrier on iPhones.)

All that said, today, when I returned home from Disney and got said circular in the mail (seeing this as a sign to followup on my sister-in-law’s concern), I figured I should check the phone out at the local Verizon store.  Anyway, when I googled Verizon, I came up with only two stores near me.  Eight years ago, when I had bought my first cell phone, I recall there being about seven.  Indeed, the store where I bought my first cell phone (as well as the one where I bought my second) has long since closed down.

So, I was wondering that, as cell phone usage becomes commonplace, there is less need for such outlets, fewer people going in to set up (their initial) cell phone service, with more stores selling cell phones and helping you transfer your (already existing) service to the new gadget. (more…)

Just How Bad Is My Twitter Addiction?

Posted by Bruce Carroll at 7:30 am - February 26, 2009.
Filed under: New Media,Technology

I haven’t read The Corner at National Review Online all week.

K-Lo…. please get The Corner on Twitter!

PS — Patrick Ruffini declared Tuesday was the day that Twitter “jumped the shark”.   Ironically it was the same day I figured it all out.   That is pretty much par for the course with Internet & techy stuff for me.   Dan (GPW) is 6 months behind me.  :)

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

Gaza War’s New Front: Facebook

Posted by Average Gay Joe at 5:05 pm - January 10, 2009.
Filed under: Technology,War On Terror

[A]s the Financial Times notes, social networking site Facebook has become an important venue in the Arab world for protesting the Israeli campaign, as well as a potent fundraising tool for supporters of the Palestinian cause…

Of course, Israel has plenty of Facebook friends as well. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported today how Matt Freelander, a young Jewish Londoner, organized a pro-Israeli demonstration through Facebook; around 1,000 people showed up for the rally. Radio Netherlands notes another Facebook site that aims to round up a million supporters of Israel. (Wired)

It makes sense that this is happening. Islamic terrorists have for years now been using internet chatrooms, message boards and even YouTube for connections and propaganda purposes. It looks like Israel has learned from this and is now likewise engaging the enemy online in this current conflict through such efforts as the IDF’s new YouTube channel.

– John (Average Gay Joe)

On Customer Service & Computer Repair

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 6:12 pm - January 7, 2009.
Filed under: Blogging,LA Stories,Technology

In the past few days, I really grew to appreciate the value of good customer service.  I had to run a lot of little errands, buying necessities for my apartment, a DVD or two for my entertainment, oil for my car, books for my education and gifts for nieces and nephews celebrating their birthdays.

I was amazed at the number of stores I visited where I received excellent customer service.  The friendliness of my reception made those tedious tasks less trying.  It was in stark contrast to the chilly service I frequently receive at commercial establishments in the Hollywood area.

The greatest irony of this recent cycle of errands is that the one store where I normally get the best service was the only place this time where the staff seemed indifferent to my concerns.  Perhaps this was because the owner (and his wife) was absent from the toy store where I stop first when shopping for gifts for my nieces and nephews.  (I have patronized this shop for as long as I’ve been in LA and will definitely return.  The man who runs the place was born to run a toy store.)  The teenager working there Monday night was clueless about the newest Thomas engine which one of my three-year-old nephews just had to have.

Thanks to an amazingly friendly woman at the Toys ‘R Us on La Cienega, I was able to find just that engine which he will soon have.  :-)

The customer service which most impressed me was that of the folks at Techrestore.com.

(more…)

Dan Gets a New Computer (mostly so he can blog better)

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 7:45 pm - November 9, 2007.
Filed under: Blogging,Technology

Just got back from the Apple Store at The Grove where I bought a new computer. I had intended to get a basic MacBook so I could have a smaller, more portable laptop instead of my bulky Apple PowerBook Notebook 17″ . I thought I’d get a lower end model, largely because it’d be the cheapest. And anyway, the main purpose of the computer was to have something more compact so I could more easily grab it and go (to a cafe or similar locale) when I get stuck working at home.

But, when I had started playing around with the computers last week at the Store, I contemplated spending a little more money so I could get a little nicer computer.

Oh well. At least it was a lot cheaper than my current computer. Anyway, I haven’t yet had time to set it up, but this new smaller computer will have nearly four times the RAM as the one on which I type, perhaps making it easier and faster for me to blog when I travel and visit cafes.

It’s so much fun getting a new computer, especially when it’s a Mac. And I always end up getting the extras. This may well be the first machine I bought specifically to facilitate my blogging. We’ll see if it succeeds in helping me become a better blogger.

I should also note the amazing service I got at the AppleStore. It was a real pleasure to buy this computer; the cute (somewhat geeky) guy and quite possibly lesbian woman who helped me couldn’t have been more accommodating. I may have to write to Apple singling these two out for their efforts.