Tag Archives: Wikipedia

A Bitcoin Primer.

Update 7/12/14: A great article over at Borro explaining what Bitcoin is, how it works, etc. Highly recommend reading it. This article still has more links to jump off of, but the Borro article is really, illustrated, and concise.

Bitcoin has become all the rage in recent days. At first it was just a niche news item, then it began to virally spread across geeky news sites and blogs – now it is taking to the mainstream. There is a plethora of articles and sites related to Bitcoin available and I don’t want to add to this mess – so I’ll try and keep this simple and provide a few brief pointers and then a summary of some of the best resources currently available on the topic.

Note: I recommend also reading Brennon Slattery’s article on PCWorld, which discusses attempts already to shutdown Bitcoin by lawmakers (due to use in the facilitation of drug sales) and article by Dan Goodin for The Register about a heist of $500,000 worth of Bitcoins, highlighting the potential for theft of the new currency.

Introduction to Bitcoin:

Other Interesting Bitcoin Articles:

Bitcoin Related Sites:

  • Bitcoin P2P Virtual Currency – The official website for Bitcoin, you can download the P2P software here.
  • ClearCoin – serves as a form of escrow serve for Bitcoin transactions.
  • Bitcoin Venture Capital (BTCVC) – A venture capital firm focused solely on supporting startups that utilize bitcoin.
  • Bitcoin Mining Pool (gbyte) – Allows one to work with others to “mine” bitcoins.
  • Bitcoin Plus – Allows you to within minutes get started generating bitcoins.
  • Bitcoin Bonus – A rewards site that offers bitcoins in exchange.
  • Bitcoin Classifieds – Get stuff off a classifieds using bitcoins, or sell stuff for bitcoins.
  • Bitcoin Watch – Allows one to see how much bitcoins are selling for at various exchanges.
  • Bitcoin Miner – By a professional bitcoin miner, blogging about the experience.
  • BitcoinMe – A friendly site that attempts to introduce folks to the bitcoin economy.
  • We Use Coins – An introductory site to the bitcoin economy similar to BitcoinMe.
  • Bitcoins.lc – Another mining pool similar to gbyte for mining bitcoins.
  • Bitcoin Faucet – Gives you 0.01 free bitcoins.
  • Bitcoin Charts – Provides charts and other analytical informationa bout the bitcoin network and exchanges.

My Thoughts:

I recently posted about the need for a non-profit banking system. I’m interested in Bitcoin b/c of it (or something similar) to provide a “non-profit” banking system of sorts. I think Bitcoin has potential and as I have ridden other potential moneymakers (e.g. AllAdvantage) in days far past, I figure I might as well take this ride as well, and see where it ends. From AllAdvantage, I ended up with maybe $200. That said:

  • Bitcoin’s complexity is off-putting. Unless it is significantly simplified it will not achieve mass appeal.
  • Bitcoin has a reputation problem. It can easily facilitate illegal activities, just as many other technologies can, and it is likely to face legal challenges in the upcoming months.
  • Bitcoin has a security problem. At some other juncture I’ll talk about the state of information security in general, but lets just say it isn’t pretty. So having one’s entire wallet stored on your computer…well, it’s risky!
  • Still, Bitcoin could be the start of something useful…a currency that cuts out lays of fat from the economy that result in unnecessary fees and complexity.

Book Review: Streams of Mercy (Author: Mark Rutland)

At Philadelphia Biblical University, in the school bookstore, there is a section for used books. I don’t know who the suppliers are (a few folks who sell used books I think) but they keep several hundred volumes stacked on the shelves at low prices all year round.

As an undergrad student (and to this day) I loved walking into the bookstore and browsing through the shelves – looking for some gem to take home. So many of the books are priced between $1 and $3 it is just a beautiful opportunity to buy books.[1]

In any case, as I was perusing the shelves so many years ago I stumbled upon a small blue paperback entitled Streams of Mercy and subtitled “Receiving and Reflecting God’s Grace.” I’d never heard of the book or the author before – but I was struggling horribly with scrupulosity and so I picked up the book and went home.

I’m not sure when I actually began reading the book. It is not unusual for me to acquire a book and for it to sit on a shelf for a year or two before I actually crack it open (or even longer), but when I did, God used it as part of some major renovations He was doing in my heart and life.

Rutland’s book is not a complex theological treatise, rather it is a humble, passionate, and logical discussion of humanity’s need for mercy, God’s provision of mercy, the many ways in which we deny and ignore mercy within and without the church, and a discussion of how receiving mercy allows us to be completely changed and minister to others from the overflow we have received.

Rutland doesn’t attempt to tease out every theological complexity – instead he allows paradoxes to stand and instead focuses on what we do know and understand about the nature of God. He carefully attempts to balance his portrayal of God so as not to diminish God to a you-can’t-do-anything-wrong Grandpa in the sky.

Rutland’s book is filled with personal experiences, anecdotes, and thoughtful stories that bring me to tears. I’m reading the book again – for a third or fourth time. For anyone who knows me – you know this is astounding. I do not read books more than once. There are a very few I might read twice…and I absolutely do not read books three or four times!…and when I finish it, I have every intention of starting at the first page and reading it again and again and again.

Rutland’s book is balm for the soul and he does it in such a way as is sure to upset all forms of Christians equally and soothe all forms as well. Rutland is a charismatic Christian, but he does not emphasize or even acknowledge this within his work – instead focusing on a common truth that all Christian’s share about the grace and mercy of God.

Every once in a while I look into where this Rutland guy is and what he is up to…and always I’m impressed. Now, all glory belongs to God for the work of grace He has performed in Rutland’s life – and I am sure that he would be the first to state this…but for those who are interested, take a look at the Wikipedia article describing Rutland’s life and ministry thus far.

Dear Father, Might you extend to us grace and mercy in abundance that we might reflect your grace and mercy to others in an overwhelming manner. In Christ we pray, Amen.

  1. [1]Yes, I struggle with not buying books like the stereotypical member of the female gender struggles with not buying more shoes. :)

Omega-3 Supplements (Coromega)

horsepills
Image by D’Arcy Norman via Flickr

Omega-3 is believed to be helpful to the body for all sorts of reasons. The Wikipedia article on Omega-3 fatty acids notes research indicating that Omega-3 can be helpful in battling cancer, reducing cardiovascular disease, improve immune system functioning, improved mental health, and the reduction of inflammation.

Unfortunately, our diets contain significant less Omega-3 in them than they have historically – this is due to a significant decrease in our consumption of fish. We could increase our consumption of fish – but then there are concerns about mercury toxicity and for people such as myself – we simply don’t like fish!

There have long been supplements available – usually in capsule form – of Omega-3. These pills have traditionally been quite large (and difficult to swallow) and I’ve found that after consuming them I have a very bad aftertaste and occasionally burp fish breath. Yuck!

Several years ago I discovered Coromega – and I’m a huge fan! While more expensive than traditional Omega-3 supplements, Coromega greatly deserves the extra cost because it:

  • Comes in small yogurt like packets and tastes sweet – very easy to consume and very easy on the taste buds.
  • Doesn’t give you a bad aftertaste and doesn’t cause fish breath burps.
  • Has 300% better absorption than many of the softgel capsule alternatives.

You can learn more about Coromega at the official website. I purchase my Coromega from Amazon, a three month supply is around (or $20.50 if you have Prime!). That is $8/mo! Not too bad.

Why do I take Omega-3?

  • I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Depression, and ADD and Omega-3 is believed to assist in proper mental functioning.
  • I am a knowledge worker (IT) and need my brain to function at its peak for prolonged periods of time – something it can’t do without Omega-3.

Thinking Well: Christianity and Singularity (Part 1: Why it Matters)

Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator)
Image via Wikipedia

Introduction:

I still do not know how to answer the question, “Who am I?” When pressed, one method is to describe some of my salient characteristics or interests – and, there are certain ones I am not eager to share. In my life two of the salient characteristics/interests/values are my faith (in Christ) and my technological inclinations.

Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about the intersection of Christianity and the Technological Singularity. There is much that has been said and is being said about the Technological Singularity – but very little (that I am aware of) being said about how Christianity and the Technological Singularity can, should, or cannot coexist.

Let me close my introduction by simply acknowledging my feebleness in approaching this task. While my knowledge on this topic may be significantly more than many, it is also significantly less than all who work within this realm. I apologize for any misrepresentations or misunderstandings that I may make or propagate in this article and look forward to the opportunity to refine this article and (more importantly) my thinking through ongoing discussion and learning.

To the Christian (or Why the Technological Singularity Matters):

I am sure I have already lost a significant percentage of those who visited this posting. Technological Singularity? What is that? There Dave goes talking his geek-speak again. I see it every day when I try to explain technological concepts to others – their eyes immediately gloss over. If you have read this far, please bear with me for a few moments more as I explain why the technological singularity is applicable to the non-geek.

Simply put, the technology singularity (in theory or actual existence) may become the single largest challenge to Christianity in the near-term future.

The technological singularity will allow for the self-improvement of mankind to the point of perfection. Tom Foremski, a technology journalist writes perceptively on this topic in his article, “Is ‘The Singularity’ The Elite Geeks’ Version of ‘The Rapture’?”[1]

Christianity revolves around the central tenets that (a) man is irretrievably broken and (b) Christ is God’s way of fixing the irretrievably broken. Yet, the Technological Singularity offers an alternative. Salvation (fixing) is available not (only?) through God’s grace but also through technological progress. This removes the necessity of a other-natural[2] process for redemption.

Other religions – as we traditionally conceive them – will not be our greatest challenge. Rather, we now face a challenge which will provide a secular alternative to redemption which seems provable and actually occurring[3]

To the Technologist (Or Why This Isn’t an Anti-Tech Rant)

:

At this juncture I am sure many of my technological readers are also beginning to close this page and navigate to some other, less spiritually adventurous blog posting – I would ask you to bear with me as well.

While I view the technological singularity as one of the largest challenges to the Christian faith this does not mean that I am opposed to idea or the pursuit of a technological singularity (necessarily). Rather, I am attempting to discuss in what framework (if any) the singularity may be discussed without abandoning a theological context. I hope (in part) to demonstrate that Christians are not and need not be Luddites, but rather should be amongst the foremost advocates of technological advances – when placed within a correct framework.

Does Anyone Really Believe in the Singularity?

I am not a fan of abstract debates[4], and am oftentimes frustrated when discussions move towards the theoretical too heavily or consistently. I try to be a person who lives in the “real world” and deals with the issues and dilemmas of today. I want to be more concerned about the issues of my own wickedness and apathy than about topics which I cannot do anything more than hypothesize about.

When I talk about the Singularity, for many this will be their first introduction to the topic. It seems like the stuff of science fiction (and surely, much has been written in this vein on the topic), but I firmly believe that it has a much more practical and present application – and is and will genuinely impact our lives.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to demonstrate the importance of the Singularity is to note some of the individuals and organizations associated with the movement. This does not prove the theory correct, only that it has support and finances behind it – and is likely to garner a growing following in the near future.

The Singularity theory has a number of proponents, one of the most vocal and important is Ray Kurzweil, author of the massive work, The Singularity is Near. While best known for his ideas about the future (the singularity) he is not an ivory tower philosopher. Among his accomplishments were the invention (in high school!) of a “sophisticated pattern-recognition software program that analyzed the works of classical composers, and then synthesized its own songs in similar styles.”[5] He went on to invent a software application that matched high school students to colleges (while a sophmore at MIT), innovations in Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Text-to-Speech synthesization, musical synthesizers, and speech recognition. Seriously, Kurzweil has been involved with some of the most significant inventions of recent times – read the Wikipedia article for more information. Kurzweil co-founded The Singularity University which is located at NASA’s Ames Research Center. This University is backed by corporate funding from Google, ePlanet Ventures, Autodesk, Kauffman Foundation, Nokia, FIAP, 23andMe, Canon, LinkedIn, WordPress, X Prize Foundation, Cushing Academy, International Space University, among others!

If you want to find a list of some of the great intellects today in technological and scientific realms – take a look at the faculty and advisors page of the Singularity University: Neil Jacobstein (Stanford), Dan Barry (NASA), Jason Lohn (Carnegie Mellon), Dharmendra Modha (IBM), Peter Norvig (Google, NASA, Sun Microsystems), Sebastian Thrun (Stanford), Raj Reddy (Carnegie), Daniel Kraft (Stanford), Jim Karkanias (Microsoft), Ralph Merkle (Institute for Molecular Manufacturing), Peter Diamandis (X Prize Foundation), George Smoot (2006 Nobel Prize in Physics), Pete Worden (NASA), Bob Metcalfe (Co-Founder, 3Com), Vint Cerf (Google), Will Wright (Electronic Arts), Brad Templeton (Electronic Frontier Foundation), Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Workweek), Matt Mullenweg (WordPress), and Dave Tosh (Elgg). Some of these are academic types you won’t be familiar with (neither was I…), some will be more familiar to those in the tech industry (see bolded), and some may be familiar either by name or affiliation to most readers (italicized). I only listed a few – and didn’t spend any significant amount of time picking out the most important or respected…

End of Part I:

I had hoped to write my entire article on this topic, but I have only introduced the reason this discussion is important…I hope to write some continuing articles on the topic in the near future…

I’ll close by suggesting some reading for those who are interested. The Wikipedia article on Technological Singularity is a good place to start for a brief introduction. The ‘definitive’ text on the topic (which I am currently plowing through) is Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near. Once one has a basic understanding of the technological singularity I’d recommend looking at some books that cover where this science fiction is becoming reality and the nature of feedback loops. These books are not about the singularity directly, rather they provide insight into the current and future state of technology and help provide concrete examples of how science fiction is becoming reality. Peter D. Kramer’s Against Depression is an excellent read on the biological and physiological nature of depression and mental illness (and worthwhile, even without its implications for singularity) and Fritjof Capra’s Web of Life is an excellent resource in understanding chaos theory, systems theory, feedback loops, and other concepts that play directly into the singularity philosophy.

  1. [1]Kudos to Foremski for choosing to place his punctuation (?) outside of his quotation marks. This is against traditional English grammar but evolving into acceptability due to technological requirements where punctuation can change the meaning of commands for input/output to a technological device.
  2. [2]I prefer the term other-natural to super-natural. I find super-natural to be too closely identified with the ethereal and unbound, despised by the intellectual. Yet, the spirituality to which I refer and I believe that Christianity teaches is not an unreality but rather a greater or other reality. It is as real, more real, than our reality – it simply is beyond our current comprehension or scientific measurement in many facets and aspects.
  3. [3]More on this later.
  4. [4]This will come as a surprise to many, as I participate in discussion on what many would consider abstract topics…
  5. [5]Wikipedia. Ray Kurzweil