Thursday, December 31, 2015

A list of potential cryptocurrency variants

Hearing about Bitcoin has given me a number of great ideas for Cryptocurrencies. As we all know, Bitcoin has an inflation rate that cuts in half every four years, which has led to the most stable currency valuation since Zimbabwe's. But why not try a few other options:

  1. VanishCoins. The inherently deflationary currency. Instead of new coins being mined, the existing coins disappear at random intervals spread out over a year. Spend them fast or they're gone! Or hoard the remaining ones until they're worth millions.
  2. MarkCoin. The inherently stable currency system. There is only one coin in the network. Exactly one. It can not be divided. You can spend it on any merchant that accepts the MarkCoin. The exchange rate is expected to be infinite.
  3. PonziCoin. You can only purchase a Ponzi coin if you commit to buying two more Ponzi coins at a future date at a slight markup. It's the pyramid scheme you can play all by yourself. 
  4. SpeculativeInvestmentCoin. The SICoin is not permissible as legal tender anywhere and makes no pretenses of having an exchange rate. In fact, you can't even purchase an SICoin. You can only buy exotic derivatives that fluctuate in price as the SICoin itself does. Why does its value change? Who knows! Who cares!
  5. RandCoin. On any given day your wallet has an equal chance of increasing by 10% or decreasing by 10%.
  6. FullFaithAndCreditCoin. The money supply is controlled entirely by me. Will I inflate it? Will I deflate it? How well do you think you know the man behind the curtain?
  7. MathCoin. Transactions using MathCoin can only occur in powers of two. You can trade 2, 4, 8, 16 Mathcoins etc, but nothing in between. You can only send one MathCoin transaction out per day. Liquidity is expected to be an issue.
  8. CloneCoin. At the moment of its inception, one CloneCoin is issued to everyone who owns a bitcoin, then the network continues in parallel. Which is worth more? Are they philosophically identical? Does it have free will?
  9. USDollarCoin. Accepted in vending machines and ignored nationwide.
  10. PokeCoin. Each coin comes in 151 possible flavors of collectible goodness. Gotta mine 'em all!

The Hobbit movies are not the worst prequel trilogy ever made

So after watching all of the Hobbit Prequel trilogy, I've reached the conclusion that I hate it less than the Star Wars prequel trilogy.

1) The Hobbit movies ruined fewer of my favorite characters. Aragorn for example, barely name dropped. Sauruman, so confusingly portrayed it might not have been the same character.
2) Anakin ranting about sand was a less plausible romance subplot than the dwarf/elf romance, even though girls never actually pick the shorter guy.
3) Magic, although barely used, is never explained away through pseudoscience.
4) Bunny sled is better than Jar Jar
5) The gratuitous callbacks to the original movies were less offensive somehow, maybe because Peter Jackson has shown no intention of reediting the originals with his new bloated vision.
6) Even though the third movie resolves the unnecessary cliffhanger of the second in the first few minutes like it's some TV serial and gives us an hour of Thorin high on dragon gold, it's still more compelling than Anakin's character arc.
7) No one ever says "that was so wizard", despite the actual presence of real life wizards doing wizard things.
8) Similarly, Legolas spins on more than one occasion, but has the quiet dignity not to call it out as a good trick.
9) Without the audio, the staggeringly incomprehensible visual spectacle of the Hobbit wins out chiefly for its artistic value as a tour through New Zealand
10) If you edit out all the filler and awfulness, you're left without about a half hour of good movie in the Hobbit, which might be a worse ratio than the Star Wars prequels, but still more raw quality

2015 wasn't like Back to the Future promised

(backfilling some content I posted on Facebook at the time)

As I look at the state the world is in on Back to the Future day, it makes me a little melancholy. No flying cars, no hydrated pizzas, no ubiquitous hoverboards. I truly enjoyed the fundamentally optimistic view of the future presented in Back to the Future 2. Rather than taking the easy route and making the future into a fallen dystopia, they decided the world would continue to advance and get better in fantastic ways. I'm a little sad we no longer have that goal to shoot for. We missed our chance to make that world real.

We've changed the world in ways Marty McFly would still have been surprised by, we have ubiquitous access to information compared to his future where there was a fax machine on every street corner. Conquering physics is just a lot harder than we thought.

There's still a silver lining though. At the end of Back to the Future III, it's made clear the future Marty sees isn't going to happen, it's a blank slate for him to fill in. That future was never out there waiting for us to be carried into it. Our future is still whatever we make it into.

Reflections on the first six Star Wars movies

Written prior to seeing Episode VII.

I think the only way you can make sense of the whole saga and all the flaws of the prequels is if you conclude Yoda and Obi-Wan underwent a major change in philosophy as a result of the events of the prequels. In the prequels the Jedi are basically super soldiers fighting wars where both sides of the conflict are in service of evil, and Yoda fights multiple Sith pitting strength against strength, employing forces that will ultimately destroy them all. In the original trilogy, Yoda says wars don't make one great, a Jedi should never use the force to attack, and that the evil you encounter is only what you take with you. The Yoda in the prequels is a warrior who fights evil directly and uses clone armies to destroy his enemies. The Yoda in the original trilogy is a sadder wiser creature who learned that pitting violence against violence is not the answer, and chooses to live in isolation rather than fight.

Luke defeats the Emperor by throwing away his weapon, preferring to die and leave himself defenseless rather than give in to hate. He doesn't save his father by becoming more powerful, his supreme act of defiance is rejecting the cycle of violence in pursuit of power. He mirrors Obi-Wan's final moments: in an act of love, he refuses to harm the man he should have every reason to hate. Vader isn't saved by a stronger power, but by mercy. The scenes in Return of the Jedi are so compelling because it's not a battle for who's stronger, but a battle for the souls of Luke and Anakin. Luke wins because he's able to love the monster the Emperor built for him to hate.

The prequels are a loud bombastic mess where the Jedi and Sith are two sides of the same coin, employing similar powers and tactics, a Sith is just a Jedi who favors a different leader. The original trilogy shows the Jedi as rejecting the tactics and worldview of the Sith. And saving someone from the evil within their heart is far more compelling of a resolution than fighting to kill them.

May the force be with us all.