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John Ratcliff's Weblog



On occasion, when the spirit moves me, I intend to post to this WebLog so my friends scattered across the country can pretend they know what is going on in my life.



Updated: 2018-03-05T20:13:55.062-06:00

 



I drove a brand new Tesla Model S 100D 3,000 miles in a week. Here's what I found.

2018-01-09T09:32:05.036-06:00

I just bought a brand new Tesla Model S 100D and drove it over 3,000 miles in a week.  While the experience is fresh in my mind, I thought I would take a few minutes to share my thoughts with others.A little preface.  I already own a Tesla, a 2010 Tesla Roadster Sport with the R80 (80kwh battery upgrade).  I have owned it for about two years and I absolutely love the car.A top down view of my 2010 Tesla Roadster Sport R80 with my sports car dog in the passenger seatThat said, driving a Tesla Roadster doesn't really prepare you much for the experience of driving a modern Tesla Model S.This post is going to sound somewhat critical, and it is, but to be clear I love the car.  In fact, I have very little criticism of the physical car itself.  It's everything I expected.  It's a phenomenal luxury car and I'm very happy with it.I am still a huge Tesla fan boy though. I not only  own two Tesla's and a lot of Tesla stock, but I'm also a reservation holder for the new Tesla Roadster.  I plan to keep all three cars, all in red.A screen capture of my 'My Tesla' pageAlmost all of my criticism is about the user interface experience of the software.To be generous one would have to describe the user interface as 'quirky'.  I was a bit surprised that Tesla does not have a better more refined user interface than they present.I sort of impulse bought this car.  I have had a Tesla Model 3 reservation for some time now.  It was fully my intention to patiently wait until I could get that vehicle.  The Tesla Model S is a bit too large for my taste, I prefer smaller vehicles personally.  However, I recently went through some life changes and that pushed me to cancel the Model-3 and just buy the Model S instead.My wife and I just recently bought a home in Colorado.  We are in the process of relocating there over the next 8 months.The last time I drove back from Colorado I passed a guy in a Tesla Model S using the auto-pilot feature and that kind of did it for me.  I couldn't see waiting two more years for the Model 3 when I could just have the Model S right now.  Another factor is that Congress was working on the new tax bill and in at least one revision they had removed the $7,500 federal tax credit for a new electric vehicle; so I wanted to buy the car before the end of of 2017 to lock in the tax credit.I decided to push the trigger and buy the Model S now.  I got an inventory car which came with an $11,000 discount, plus the $7,500 federal tax credit and a $5,000 state tax credit from Colorado all of which made it seem like 'a deal' at the time.I flew out to Colorado to take delivery of the vehicle and then immediately drove it back to St. Louis.  Once I arrived in St. Louis, just a day later, my wife and I drove the car all of the way back to Colorado again.  We spent a week in Colorado doing sight seeing and just finished driving it back  again.All told we put over 3,000 miles on the car in a week, almost all highway driving on interstate 70 back and forth.While I remain enthusiastic about the physical car, there are a lot of concerns I have with the software and user interface.  Some of my thoughts are as follows.Regenerative BrakingI wanted to make a very brief comment about the regenerative braking feature of the Tesla Model S.  Regenerative braking is a feature in most electric cars where the car will regenerate energy to slow the car down when you take your foot off of the accelerator.This is pretty much my favorite feature on my Tesla Roadster.  On the original Tesla Roadster the regenerative braking is extremely strong.  So strong in fact that I have virtually never touched the brakes on my Roadster.I was a little bit disappointed with just how often I actually have to use the brakes on my Model S then.  Either because the regenerative braking isn't as strong on the Model S, or because the car is much heavier, or maybe a combination of both, but you do actually have to hit the brake pedal frequently to stop th[...]



Should you buy a used Tesla Roadster sports car? The definitive answer blog post

2016-07-01T10:13:02.084-05:00

In today's blog post I will definitively answer the question "Should you buy a used Tesla Roadster sports car?"  Rather than burying the lead, let me get the answer out of the way right up front.  The answer to that question is, "Maybe"Any car purchasing decision is a highly complex one.  There are so many factors to take into account that there is no certain answer until all of those variables have been fully considered and, even then, you are likely to second, third, or fourth guess yourself.I did just buy a used Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5, and I have now owned it for a couple of months.  I can definitely say that the correct answer for me was "Yes", but how I came to that decision was very complex and I have even second guessed myself quite a few times.I hope that by reading this article you can help make that decision for yourself, by comparing your priorities versus my own.A few months ago, when I was trying to decide what my next sports car was going to be, I wrote a long and rambling article reviewing cars I had owned in the past and what I might consider for the future.  Now that I have made that purchasing decision, I want to discuss what I am happy with, as well as what I have been disappointed in or am missing a lot.I will begin by making a list of the things which should influence your decision in order of importance.How important is it to you to own an electric vehicle?  Are you a Tesla 'fan boy'?  If the idea of owning an electric vehicle, especially a Tesla, especially this Tesla, with all of it's history, is exciting to you then your decision is going to be a fairly easy one.  For me, the idea of owning an electric vehicle was intriguing, certainly a new experience, but I have most certainly not lost my love for conventional sports cars in any way.How important is it to you to own a vehicle which is extremely rare?  For me, this was probably the deciding factor.  I drive my car in parades and I like to go to car shows.  Perhaps it is a bit vain and silly, but I like owning a car that almost no one else has.  The Tesla Roadster is extremely rare.  There were only ever 2400 of them made, and there are only about 1400 in the US.  Compare that to just one model Ferrari, say the Ferrari 360.  There are 10 times more Ferrari 360's in the world than there are Tesla Roadsters.  That should give you an idea just how rare this vehicle is.  Before I bought mine, I had never actually seen a Tesla Roadster in real life, even though I go to car shows all of the time.  I live in the St. Louis area, and there is only one other Roadster besides my own in town, and I have certainly never seen it.  If the idea of driving an extremely rare car, one that has everyone asking you about it everywhere you go, one that you can put into a car show and know that you will have the only one there is a big deal to you, then the Tesla Roadster may be the car for you.How important is it for you to be able to beat nearly every other sports car off the line 0-60?  How often do you like to accelerate so fast that your passengers freak the fuck out every time you do it?  The incredible rush of acceleration in a Tesla Roadster is definitely it's strongest selling point.  It is highly addictive and, unlike other sports cars, when you go this fast no one will call the cops, because they won't even hear you doing it.  You can go 0-60 in 3.7 seconds in a Tesla Roadster Sport without chirping a tire, with almost no sound at all.  You can do it every single time, without abusing the vehicle or otherwise putting it at risk.  If you did that in a Ferrari you would piss off all of your neighbors, alert every cop in a five mile radius, and run the risk of having something burst or otherwise explode that could cost you many thousands of dollars to fix; which is why most people who own Ferrari's don't actually try to launch 0-60 in 3.7 seconds at every single stop light or on-ramp.  I assure you, that[...]



That Fun Period of time when you get to think about "Your Next Exotic Sports Car"

2016-04-24T22:16:19.584-05:00

Ever since I was a young man I have been driving sports cars.  I have either had a sports car as my daily driver, or I have maintained a third 'pleasure' car for fun in the sun.  Since the day I owned my first Mazda Miata, I became a huge fan of convertibles and have never looked back since.  Once you become accustomed to driving a convertible, a normal coupe feels 'claustrophobic' and, for myself, I can just never be completely happy with that roof over my head.I have owned 17 sports cars in my life, and I'm now considering getting my 18th.  I generally buy a 'new' (new to me, always used and depreciated by someone else) sports car on average about once every two years or so.  I'm 54 now, and I hope to be driving sports cars into my late 60's at least; hopefully longer than that.  I like to have different types of sports car experiences throughout my life.  After a decades long love affair with Mazda sports cars, I began exploring a lot of different make and models of vehicles. Over the past few years I have had the enviable experience of being able to buy a sports car, drive it for a year or two, put maybe 20,000 miles on it, and sell it for nearly what I paid for it in the first place or, in some cases, actually even more!  As you move into late model specialty cars, which have been well maintained and already have most of the depreciation taken out of them, you can manage to drive them very inexpensively; at least if you can afford to only use it as a weekend pleasure vehicle.It's now about the time that I begin seriously thinking about what my "next car" is going to be.  Even though I love the car I am currently driving today, still, I'm ready to move onto the next unique sports car experience.My criteria for buying a new car opens with my willingness to spend more money on a vehicle than I have ever spent in my life.  To date the most money I have ever spent on a sports car is my current vehicle, a 1996 Acura NSX-T, which cost me $38,000.  Prior to that, the most money I had ever spent on a sports car was $35,000 for a 1985 Ferrari 308gtsi-qv.  This time, I'm thinking about opening up my budget to reach a 'next level car', at least for me.  I'm willing to tie up as much as $70,000 in a car, so long as it's the 'right car' and will maintain most of its resale value.  Even though I may 'spend' $70,000 on the car, so long as I take good care of it and don't put too many miles on the vehicle, I should get almost all of my money back when it's time to get the 'next one'. Here is a list showing the main criteria for selecting my 'next car':Must be a convertible, or at least a targa top.Should not be a make of a car I have already owned before (I've owned a Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, Mazda, Alfa Romeo, Ford, Saturn, Acura, etc. so something 'different' is important to me).Should be unique.  I realize this may be a silly and vain criteria ("look at me, look at me") but I admit it; I don't want to drive a car that I see on the road every day of the week. This vain desire is probably the main reason I have never owned a corvette; even though they are great cars and they should be on my sports car bucket list; but there are so many of them on the road it's hard to think of them as particularly 'special'.The vehicle I buy must have already had most of the depreciation taken out of it, and hold its current value so long as it is well maintained and cared for.  This is a very, very, important criteria to me.Should not have a maintenance burden so severe, that the cost of ownership is cost prohibitive or causing me pain and grief.Should be a relatively modern car, I have done the whole 'retro' car thing and, while it was fun/interesting, I don't need to do it again.Surprisingly, if you apply these criteria, there are not a huge number of vehicles models to choose from.Before I talk about what my 'next car' might be, here's a quick run-down, in roughly chronological order, of the cars I have already ow[...]



Did Jamie Dimon ever stop to think, "Just what *IS* a bitcoin?"

2015-11-07T11:06:18.960-06:00

A Young Jamie Dimon contemplating the intrinsic value of paper and inkWhat 'is' bitcoin?  Bitcoin is a numeric entry in a database.  That's it.  Nothing more and nothing less.  Sure, there are a lot of messy technical details about cryptography and such, but at the end of the day to 'own' bitcoin simply means that you have an entry in a globally shared database.  That's all there is to it.So, step back and think about that for a moment.  How can a government make it 'illegal' to store an arbitrary number in an arbitrary database?People often forget that, for much of the lifetime of bitcoin, it had no value at all.  Quite literally none.  After all, think about it, who would pay a single penny to 'own' an entry in a random database?It took years before anyone would associate value of any kind to a bitcoin.  The first famous bitcoin transaction of value was when two pizzas were purchased for 10,000 bitcoins.  Since two pizzas cost, let's be generous and say $30, that means the first known recorded real world value of bitcoin was 1/3 of one penny!!So, what gives bitcoin its value?  It is simply that a community of free people decided to choose to 'believe' that it does; just as a community might choose to believe pebbles, or shells, or any other token has 'value'.  In fact, if someone did create an alternate token, any token really, the government would treat it with the same level of hostility; because what they are actually trying to legislate is 'belief' in what constitutes a token of value and, most importantly, who controls it.The only reason bitcoin is 'worth' anything is because a community has collectively agreed to believe that it does.  Well, the thing is, the same is true for all of the worlds fiat paper money as well.  If you don't believe me, just ask someone in Zimbabwe or Argentina or Venezuela.Trillions of dollars; that should buy a loaf of bread, right?Bitcoin, in a sense, exposes the fact that the emperor has no clothes.  It de-hypnotizes the population from the illusion that fiat (government issued paper money) has some inherent value when, in fact, it does not.  It only has value because we have all, collectively, agreed to believe that it does. Let me make this point more directly.  Just exactly what is existing fiat 'money'; I mean what is it physically?  It is a sheet of paper, with some ink on it.  If I hand you one sheet of paper and printed on it is the number 100, then you will give me 100 times more 'stuff' than were I to hand you a sheet of paper with the number 1 printed on it.  The only difference is the ink printed on it.  The magic is not in the paper or the ink.  The magic is that we have hypnotized ourselves into believing a sheet of paper with one number printed on it is 'worth more' than one printed with a different number; but, it gets worse than that, because today not much of our money is even physical any more. Even though bitcoin is purely digital, it was designed to mimic very closely the properties of cash.  The real reason governments and banks are so opposed to it.Most of our money is digital these days and governments around the world are, quite seriously, talking about banning cash outright all together.  Once all of our money is digital they can even more easily create as much of it as they want, out of thin air.  They don't even have to bother turning on the printing press.  They can will a billion dollars into existence simply by typing a number into a computer and hitting the 'enter' key.  And, not only can they manipulate the money supply with ease once it is all digital, they can do much more nefarious things.  Once money is all digital the government can track every single penny you send, they can know every single financial transaction you make, they can confiscate your money at will, they can introduce negative interest rates, they can block access t[...]



Medical Marijuana in the State of Missouri

2015-02-19T15:33:55.699-06:00

The state of Missouri is considering a couple of bills that might legalize medical marijuana.  If I get an opportunity to speak at an upcoming hearing, this will be my statement. My name is John Ratcliff and I thank you for allowing me to speak today.  I am a married, father of four, and a long time resident of Lake St. Louis.  I work as a software engineer, and I am active in my community.  I am the current president of the Lake St. Louis Lions Club, member of the Shriners, and twice past Master of Wentzville Masonic Lodge #46 and Napthali Lodge #25.The issues surrounding the use of cannabis are numerous and complex. Today I would like to discuss with you just a single issue. An issue which I feel is a major problem in our society, and one that touches very close to my heart. According to the CDC 15,000 Americans are dying annually every year from doctor prescribed pain medications. Almost 1/2 a million are taken to emergency rooms for the same reason as well.These numbers are both significant and shocking. Prescription pain medication is highly addictive and can easily be lethal, yet it is the only option we offer doctors to treat those suffering from long term chronic pain. Worse yet, patients often become physically addicted to pain medication and eventually turn to heroin and other dangerous substances.In stark contrast, cannabis has proven to be an effective treatment for pain and does not carry with it the same consequences. Cannabis is not physically addictive and it is impossible to overdose from it. This is an important point. In history not a single person has ever died from an overdose of cannabis. In states which have legalized medical marijuana overdose deaths from opioid pain medications has dropped by nearly 25%.  At a certain point we have to ask ourselves, how is that that we don't give doctors at least the *option* of prescribing a medication which is capable of providing relief to those who are suffering; a medication without the risk of addiction or death?On July 2, 2012 my sister, Patty Ratcliff, 50 years old, mother of three and grandmother of 5, died from an accidental overdose of prescription pain medication.  She suffered a spinal injury after a serious car accident and her doctor prescribed lethal, but legal, opiate pain medication for her treatment. I do not know if medical marijuana could have saved my sisters life, but what I do know is that I would want her doctor to at least have the option of prescribing a safe and non-lethal form of medication to treat her.My sister isn't just another statistic to me.  Her unnecessary death, leaving a young child of only 8 years old behind, is a consequence of a medical system which does not have legal access to safe alternatives to treat chronic pain.I thank you for your time in this matter, and I hope you will consider the story of my sister when you compassionately consider your vote[...]



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2014-08-29T16:27:35.028-05:00

On Facebook someone posted a link to a cute little parable on the topic of God and the afterlife and how it might just 'blow your mind' to read it.  Well, I read it, and it was cute, but it in no way came close to the mind blowing concepts presented in the Seth material which posits that consciousness is the root cause of reality, not the other way around, and that we live in a multiverse; meaning we live lives in an infinite number of parallel universes each acting out an infinite array of choices and decisions.  More importantly his philosophy does not limit itself to some isolated view of consciousness but instead posits a highly fractal model where levels of consciousness exist in ever enfolding hierarchies from the tiniest atom or sub-atomic particle up to the largest structures in the universe; and they are all interconnected in a web not easily separated.  At any rate, I find all of these concepts a lot more mind blowing than the other little story.That preamble aside, here is what Seth had to say about the concept of God which has always been to me my favorite explanation, like ever!--------------------------------------------------------------Note: Seth uses the word "God" sparingly, usually he speaks of All That Is or the Primary Energy Gestalt.If you prefer, you can call the supreme psychic gestalt God, but you should not attempt to objectify him.What you call God is the sum of all consciousness, and yet the whole is more than the sum of Its parts.He is not one individual, but an energy gestalt. He is a psychic pyramid of interrelated, ever expanding consciousness, that creates simultaneous and instantaneously, universes and individuals that are given duration, psychic comprehension, intelligence and eternal validity.Its energy is so unbelievable that is does indeed form all universes; and because its energy is within and behind all universes, fields and systems, it is indeed aware of each sparrow that falls, for it is each sparrow that falls.Dimly remembered through what you would call history, there was a state of agony in which the powers of creativity and existence were known, but the ways to produce them were not known. All That Is existed in a state of being, but without the means to find expression for Its being. All That Is had to learn this lesson, and could not be taught. From this agony, creativity was originally drawn, and its reflection is still seen. All That Is retains the memory of that state, and it serves as a constant impetus toward renewed creativity. Desire, wish and expectation, therefore, rule all actions and are the basis for all realities. Within the dreams of All That Is, potential beings had consciousness before any beginning as you know it.In Its massive imagination, It understood that the cosmic multiplication of consciousness could not occur within that framework. Actuality was necessary if these probabilities were to be given birth. All That Is saw an infinity of probable, conscious individuals. These probable individual selves found themselves alive within a God's dream and they clamored to be released into actuality. All That Is yearned to release them and sought within itself for the means to do so.Finally, with love and longing It let go of that portion of itself, and they were free.The psychic energy exploded in a flash of creation.All That Is loves all that It has created down to the least, for It realizes the dearness and uniqueness of each consciousness which has been wrest from such a state of agony. It is triumphant and joyful at each development taken by each consciousness, and It revels and takes joy in the slightest creative act of each of Its issues.All individuals remember their source, and now dream of All That Is as It once dreamed of them. And they yearn toward that immense source... and yearn to give it actuality through their own creations.Now in the same way do you give freedom to the personality fragments wit[...]



Talking to Myself : Answering my own questions about Bitcoin

2013-11-08T23:05:48.565-06:00

On May 25, 2013 I made my first blog post on the topic of Bitcoin, entitled 'My take on Bitcoin'.  Since then I have been steadily 'investing' (i.e. gambling) on Bitcoin.  At one point in time I had bought 100 bitcoins costing me a total of around $10,000.  Then I freaked out a little bit when I realized that I had violated my own rule of never investing more than I was willing to lose.  So, I sold half of them at a small loss, so that I felt a little more comfortable at that level.  Then, over-time, I decided that I was open to a little bit more risk as Bitcoin continued to develop and grow, up to the point that I have now invested about $16,000 to acquire over 120 Bitcoins which, if I sold today, would make me over $12,000 in profit.  Now, maybe that makes me stupid, but not as stupid as a bunch of people who have invested a hell of a lot more than I have in this crazy social experiment we are currently engaged in.Even though I am currently, as of today, showing almost a 12k profit on a 16k investment, still I have no interest in selling now. (Update, on November 8, 2013, I sold 50 bitcoins when the price of a single bitcoin hit $350 apiece; which paid back 100% my original investment.  The remaining 70 bitcoins, I am letting ride. For an explanation of why I did this, you can read this thread on the bitcoin sub-Reddit.) My real goal ideally is to never cash out to fiat currency at all.  My real goal is to see Bitcoin become so widely accepted that it is at least on par with PayPal, and then I will just use it to make purchases directly instead.My reason for making this post today is to kind of answer my own questions.  When I first started really getting 'into' Bitcoins I made a number of blog posts, which included a lot of opinion and some questions, that I now see many other people share.  I've learned quite a bit, and I think I can answer most of the outstanding questions that I had and I can correct some of my misconceptions as well.On May 31 I wrote the article titled 'Some Bitcoin Questions??'.  I think I can answer them now.* "What about the bitcoin blockchain growing larger and larger!?!" : This turns out to be not such a big deal.  Most people do not need to have the entire blockchain on their computer.  Only software developers or people mining are really going to want to have this.  The average person will just use a wallet application or web-based front end.  The blockchain grows at a relatively predictable rate.  Disk space is cheap and no one seems particularly concerned about the size of the blockchain, so you probably shouldn't worry about it either.* "What about all of the bitcoins which are lost?" : It turns out this is a pretty standard question people ask all of the time too.  Bitcoins which are lost are, well, lost.  That just makes the remaining bitcoins more valuable for everyone else.  Bitcoins are, for practical purposes, infinitely divisible.  Even if there was only one bitcoin left in the world, you could still just keep subdividing it to service the economy.  Probably the bigger question isn't about the Bitcoins which are lost, but instead what about the Bitcions which are in hibernation and might come out to disrupt the marketplace at some point in the future?  It's an interesting problem to try to distinguishing between lost coins and hibernating ones.  Over Christmas break I plan to write a program to analyze the Blockchain to begin to provide an answer to this question.  I believe through statistical analysis some fairly reasonable predictions can be made on that front.* "What about when you buy anything you want with Bitcoins and you don't even need to convert to fiat any more?  How will the government regulate that?" : I am no closer to answering this question now than I was then.  This is s[...]



A techy solution to protecting your bitcoin wallet

2013-07-22T08:36:33.786-05:00

(TipJar: 1F5E21Tn8hAXxcCt9vp142RoqLAhdMNPgZ)In my previous post I discussed how it can be a problem trying to secure a bitcoin wallet safely.  I thought I would take a few minutes to write a short article describing at least one way you can do this if you use a desktop machine, which many people do.Now, there are a whole lot of different ways to secure a bitcoin wallet; so this is just a description of what I am doing, and is by no means meant to be the definitive or the 'right' way to do it.I would also like to address another issue as well.  In my previous post some people took issue with my very negative comments about using third party wallets (websites which will host a secure wallet for you), like Coinbase or Blockchain.infoLet me clarify.  I think it is just fine to store a relatively small amount of money on a wallet hosted by Coinbase, Blockchain.info, or your cell phone.  I just wouldn't, personally, put thousands of dollars onto one.This is a also a good time for me to say that I kind of wish it wasn't even a big concern.  I would so much rather hundreds of millions of people had 'just a little bit' of bitcoin on their cellphone rather than a much smaller number of people hoarding vast treasure chests worth of the stuff. The people hoarding the treasure chests are doing so almost exclusively in the hopes that, some day in the future, bitcoin becomes a common unit of currency used by hundreds of millions of people for small transactions like buying a cup of coffee or a beer.  If, and when, that day ever comes then the value of bitcoin is guaranteed to increase substantially simply to accommodate the volume.  (For the record, I have a small treasure chest, bigger than some but a whole lot smaller than a bunch of others, and I'm looking forward to spending it if/and when bitcoin becomes a generally accepted form of international currency.)Until that day comes,  there are people who have invested thousands of dollars in bitcoins and are legitimately concerned about keeping them safe.Before I present the strategy that I am using, let me explain something. Just what is a bitcoin 'wallet'?  What does it 'hold'?  How does it 'hold' your coins?Actually, a bitcoin wallet doesn't hold any coins whatsoever.  Your 'coins' are all actually held in the public ledger called the bitcoin blockchain which is copied across tens of thousands of computers all over the world.All your wallet contains is the 'key' to access those coins; a key which proves that you are the owner and have the right to spend them.  You use a piece of software to actually submit transactions to spend your coins, but it is important to remember that the wallet doesn't actually 'hold' any coins at all.So, just what is this key?  Well, as far as you are concerned it's basically just a huge ass monster number. It's a number so large that you can't even wrap your mind around how big it is.  It's a massive super giant random number which gives, to whoever possesses it, the right to spend a certain quantity of bitcoins.When you fire up a wallet application it generates this giant random number (called a private key) which is guaranteed, though the magic of cryptography, to be completely unique from every other private key in the known Universe.  This number is so massive that it would take a near infinite amount of time for two computers to generate the same exact 'key' and, in fact, the chance of this happening is considered to be so low as to not even be a relevant concern. This concept is at the core cryptography. Isn't math amazing?  If you want to read more about this in less childish language, follow this Wiki link.So, the point of describing all of this is so that you understand that the only thing that your 'wallet' contains is just a giant number that you seriously, seriously, want[...]



My take on 'Bitcoin'

2013-07-21T09:06:14.023-05:00

Like a lot of bitcoin enthusiasts I have a Google news alert set up on the topic, so I get notified of every news story that gets written; the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Most of these articles are just a rehash of the same old stories that get repeated again and again; like "what is bitcoin", "who made it", etc. etc.  One of the amusing things that happens is when you get alerts for stories which cover a topic that is like four weeks old.  In bitcoin terms a four week old story might as well be four years ago.  Things are moving fast...Some of the stories are written by people who are clearly cheerleaders for the technology.  They are spreading hype in hopes of continuing the bubble that is bitcoin.  To be clear, bitcoin is only 'worth' anything because a bunch of people all agree that it is 'worth' something.  The minute they lose the faith, then it will collapse to it's real value, which is essentially zero.  Meanwhile, people who are hyping the currency feed a steady stream of stories which make it sound like it's about to take over the world.  A recent series of stories designed to make it sound like millions of Kenyan's now suddenly had bitcoin wallets is a case in point.  There is only a drop of truth to this particular story.  While technically millions of people in Kenya do now have access to bitcoin via their cell phones, there is no evidence any of them even know about it or have any intention to use it.Some of the articles I read clearly have an agenda the other way.  I just read one a couple of days ago which demonized bitcoin and encouraged investors to stick with existing international money transmission services like Western Union.  Stories like these are fairly obvious and, frankly, serve as a fair counterpoint to the stories written by bitcoin proponents.The stories which really disturb me are the ones designed to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), and often include both outright lies and slanderous statements.  The article I recently wrote about where the author suggested that the only practical use for bitcoin was to purchase child pornography was the absolute most disgusting example of this I have seen so far.  Others are a bit more straightforward and just try to paint all bitcoin users as criminals, money launderers, tax dodgers, and the like.  And, since there is certainly some small element of truth to these statements, the critique, while perhaps unbalanced, isn't entirely unfair either.To be clear, by far, the vast majority of all money going into and out of bitcion today is based on pure speculation.  It is truly no different than the behavior of people manipulating any other 'penny stock' with a one billion dollar market cap.The purpose of my article today is to dispel one particular myth that I have now heard repeated in multiple places online.  The people who are writing this nonsense are either simply woefully ignorant and misinformed or they are being deliberately deceitful and trying to intentionally spread lies about bitcoin as a currency.The myth I am referring to is the claim that bitcoin is 'hard to use as a currency'.  This is just simply blatantly false.  And I intend to prove that with this article.There are a whole lot of things problematic with bitcoin, but actually using bitcoin isn't one of them.   Bitcoin is by far the easiest to use currency in existence, at least so long as you have a cellphone and a wallet app, which last I checked several billion people have access to.So before I sing the praises of how great bitcoin is to use as a currency, let me be fair and unbiased by stating right up front what is wrong with bitcoin.* Bitcoin can be difficult to acquire.  While I would argue it is no harder to get bitcoin than it is to open a Paypal ac[...]



My last post on this TED Conference debacle

2013-03-18T17:04:32.809-05:00

The TED conference staff just made a post about this controversy I have been commenting on these past few days.It appears they have listened to the responses of critics and formed a more articulate position than they started with.Here is a link to that post.I have a friend of mine who has been involved with TED nearly since it's inception.  He cannot understand why I have become so emotional about this topic and vocal as well.  To him, it seems like a not very big deal, especially considering the thousands and thousands of talks sponsored by the organization.It is out of respect for him, and this response from the TED conference, that I'm going to let this topic drop.I pretty much stand by everything I wrote in the past few days.  My opinion hasn't really changed.As far as why I'm so emotional?Well, let me tell you why.  Because it really, really, pisses me off when professional skeptics organizations try to control what the rest of us are allowed to see, say, or think about.  They believe they 'own' the domain of science and get to pass judgement on what is, or is not, considered 'psuedo-science'.This simply offends me deeply.Even in the TED response linked above, they still frame this outcry in the context of supporters of the two speakers.I'm afraid that really misses the point.  Sure, plenty of people hollering are Hancock and Sheldrake fans.However, a whole lot more of us are simply fans of free speech, free thought, fans of open inquiry and, yeah, we are fans of preventing skeptics organizations from censoring content.That has always been my issue since the moment this controversy erupted.The TED conference has repeatedly been promoting radical activist atheists in their conferences these past few years. I'm sorry to say, but not the entire world is a big fan of the radical atheist agenda which, often, boils down to strict material reductionism.Guess what?  Reasonable people have a differing point of view, but the TED conference seems to have allowed itself, in this instance, to be controlled by a very specific group of professional skeptics who do not represent the majority view of most people in the world.This is my last post on this topic.  I think the rest of the Internet has it pretty well covered by now.For me, I believe my previous sarcastic post really got to the crux of the issue and just why I, and so many others, got emotional about this.No one likes being told what they can or cannot see, think, or feel about something.  We do not need a professional skeptics organization or group of radical atheists telling us what we are allowed to believe or what is, or is not, to be considered 'science'.If you couldn't figure out that this is what all the fuss was about (not even the content of what these speakers said) well then you do now.Look, you can promote an atheist point of view, you can promote a skeptical point of view.  Let's have that debate and discussion   But don't you dare suggest you can control what I, and everyone else, can or cannot see, think, or believe.  Because free-thought means the freedom to explore all ideas, not just the ones approved by Anderson, Coyne, Dawkins, Dennett, and other members of these skeptics organizations.[...]



TED : IDEAS WORTH SPOON-FEEDING

2013-03-18T14:55:58.405-05:00

At what point does Chris Anderson, chairman of the TED conference, not realize that censorship, in any form and for any reason, damages the TED brand far more than leaving a controversial talk online does?Is it just me or is this simply basic common sense?I guess I’m just too dumb to realize how smart TED is being by protecting me from the idiocy which slipped through the quality control of one of their conference affiliates.Thanks so much Chris! I simply feel so much safer knowing that you are out there protecting my weakened and enfeebled mind from exposure to dangerous pseudo-science.One has to wonder how,  without you protecting poor little me, I could possibly survive in a bad bad world of free and open ideas?  And it's not just me either.  You, and Meyers, and Coyne, are out there fighting the good fight protecting everyone from dangerous thoughts that we are simply too stupid, or incompetent, to make up our own minds about.If it wasn't for Chris Anderson protecting me I might just want to go see a psychic, believe in angels, get reiki, do yoga, drop acid, join Scientology,  read a horoscope,or become a TED fellow.Thanks Chris, you are my mind control hero!Sarcasm aside, I find it interesting that the TED Conference keeps hosting militant atheists at their conferences, one after another.  Especially a character like Dennett who argues that we are all mindless robots and consciousness is a stupid and pointless illusion. Why not invite someone like Dr. Henry P. Stapp to speak and give a more nuanced view on the topic?Nah, that would require keeping an open mind.Chris, thanks for the spoon-fed material redunctionist gruel, please sir, may I have some more?[...]



TEDx : The Red Headed Step Child of Chris Anderson

2013-03-17T16:56:01.213-05:00

After lengthy discussions online about this controversy the argument appears to have boiled down to this.  The TED conference is a great and powerful brand but the independently organized events called 'TEDx' are out of control and run by a bunch of psychic hippie weirdos.So, I get that.  What I don't get is how come you blame your organizational flaws on invited guests; especially famous ones at that.If the people at TED are concerned about how invited guests at TEDx conferences are hurting their brand, and clearly they are, then they need to start revoking some franchise rights immediately.My recommendation to the people at TED is that you either (A) assume executive control over the peer review and vetting process for invited speakers at TEDx conferences or (B) disband and dissociate from them.However, and I want to be very clear on this point, what you don't do is slander, attack, and suppress invited guests who gave up their own personal time to give a presentation at one of these events.It is incredibly rude and hurts your 'brand' far worse than simply letting these popular talks by very famous people stay online in their original form.Instead what we find is Chris Anderson (chairman of TED) attacking the speakers rather than the real problem, which is the selection process at these out of control TEDx events.My recommendation is that the TED organization disband all TEDx affiliated conferences immediately and have those who approved Sheldrake and Hancock's talks be taken out and shot.The level of rudeness being demonstrated by the TED conference in attacking invited speakers instead of their own internal selection processes which allowed this to happen, is simply beyond the pale.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Over on the main TED conference website they keep changing their argument and moving the goal posts.  It's been interesting to watch this debate evolve as they keep trying to rationalize away this truly abhorrent behavior.  I just responded, yet once again, to another poster who claims that the TEDx conferences have nothing to do with TED and are essentially out of control independent agents.  I repeat a lot of what was covered before and above, but I'll copy it here anyway.Here was my reply to that argument:------------------------------------------------------------------------Ok, so the TED conference has nothing to do with TEDx?  Ok, I see.  So, if that's the case, how can the TED conference suppress a video recorded at TEDx conference then?If the TED organization completely distances itself from the TEDx conferences, then what gives them the right or authority to insult and libel their guests, be incredibly rude to them, and suppress their contribution?If TEDx has nothing to do with TED, and TED doesn't like these two speakers, that's just fine; don't post them on the TED site, but let's quickly allow the TEDx sponsors, who invited these individuals, to post it on theirs.The problem here appears to be between TED and TEDx, and they really need to get their story straight.This should have nothing to do with Sheldrake or Hancock.  They were invited to give a non-scientific speech, of only 18 minutes long, at a non-scientific conference, and are now being insulted, libeled, and suppressed by a completely separate organization???Look, the stories and excuses here keep changing rapidly.  The simple fact of the matter is that Chris Anderson of the TED conference has been almost inconceivably rude to a couple of very famous individuals who were kind enough to give up their time to produce very popular speeches at a conference which, as far as I can tell now, TED is trying to completel[...]



TED : IDEAS WORTH SUPPRESSING

2013-03-17T00:12:18.711-05:00

The Ted Conference : Suppressing Free Thought to Protect the General Idiot Populace like YouWell, I have had a couple of days to calm down, so today I will see if I can write a blog post on this topic without using emotional or foul language.When I wrote my original post I had not even seen the two talks which were removed from the TED conference website.  At the time, my thought was that the content of the talks was irrelevant, since in my mind the issue was about free speech.  Since then, I have watched both of the talks in question (only available on a hidden page where the TED chairman makes numerous libelous accusations against the speakers) and, well, my opinion hasn't changed in the least.The only thing I learned watching the talks is what others have said; that the accusations against these two speakers are completely baseless and false.I have also learned that the reason the talks were removed was because some radical atheists, in particular Coyne and Meyers, launched an attack to have them suppressed.  Now that they have succeeded they are crowing loudly about the great victory they achieved for 'science'.  Apparently, they have absolutely no shame over suppressing free speech and don't believe in allowing the general public to make up their own mind (the general public, by the way, was dramatically in favor of keeping the speeches online.)The excuses TED gave for suppressing these videos are baseless.  If their only rationale is that the talks are not 'scientific enough' then, in that case, simply move them out of a section heading of 'science' and move them to a section heading on 'philosophy' or 'social politics', but don't remove two extremely popular talks by dynamic speakers because you bowed to pressure from people with a radical atheist agenda.I am not going to get into a debate here about the scientific validity or merits of these two talks.  To me that is simply not the issue at hand, even though that is the claim for why they were removed.The TED Conference is more like a motivational seminar than a scientific conference.  Scientific conferences are peer reviewed and people are not accepted to speak at a conference unless their material has met a very strict criteria.  In contrast, the key requirement to be a speaker at TED is that you are a dynamic speaker and can present new ideas in an intriguing way.  Both speakers in this case did an excellent job in that regard; and their talks were extremely popular online before they were suppressed.As both I and many others have pointed out there have been, over the years, many speakers at TED conferences who expressed very speculative ideas that would be deemed 'non-scientific' by the thought police over at CSI (committee for skeptical inquiry; formally CSICOP).So, why were these other talks not all suppressed as well?  Probably because those previous presenters didn't directly attack the establishment paradigm of material science.  This whole thing has been reduced to the kind of behavior you would expect of spoiled children who got their feelings hurt.  Or, maybe the better analogy, the behavior of religious fanatics who got angry when someone attacked their dogma.There is no honor in any of the behavior surrounding this situation.  The only way this fiasco could be salvaged is if the people at TED apologized, admitted that they had made a mistake, restored the talks on their site (but could move them out of a science section and into one on social politics or philosophy). But, seriously, I don't think that is going to happen.  I strongly suspect that the organizers of TED are going to become stubborn and belligerent, and double d[...]



The Ted Conference Suppresses Free Speech and Ideas

2013-03-14T21:48:46.438-05:00

Hey Ted Conference : Go Fuck Yourself!!Today I am pissed off.  Really, really, pissed off.  The 'Ted Conference', which has been this little darling hipster club of pseudo-intellectuals has just completely fucked up.I'm not going to go off on a big rant here, I don't have the time.  I will simply share the facts of what is going on.The 'Ted Conference' invited Rupurt Sheldrake and Graham Hancock to speak.  Their speeches were put online and, today, the 'Ted Conference' decided they would remove them from their site!!!!!!!!!!Their reason for doing so was that neither speaker was scientific enough and Hancock promoted the use of psychoactives in his speech.Now, a couple of points here.  First, I am *not* a supporter of the views of either Sheldrake or Hancock.  That isn't the issue.I may not agree with the views of Sheldrake or Hancock but I would defend with my life their right to say it!!Look, Sheldrake and Hancock are very well known characters in the 'fringe' crowd.  Arguably Sheldrake is a bit more mainstream than Hancock, but they both have very controversial views which they have published in numerous popular books and lectures in the past.There should have been no surprise what these guys were going to talk about at Ted.  So, why is Ted now doing the Internet of equivalent of a book burning to them now, especially considering the fact that they just spoke about the same exact topics they always do!Has somehow CSICOP managed to take over 'Ted' at this point?  Is the 'Ted' conference now restricting speakers who hold non-mainstream and, more importantly, non-material reductionist views of reality?Look, let me be clear.  I do *not* support the views of Sheldrake and Hancock.  What I do support is their right to say them. This kind of censorship of free speech and alternative views, especially to *INVITED SPEAKERS* is outrageous!!!!!!!!I don't know what committee of gestapo ideologues have taken over 'Ted' but this is a complete and utter load of horse-shit.  I say once again to the people at 'Ted Talks' who made this decision, *FUCK YOU*!----------------------------------------------------------------A follow up here.  I just found the weblog of one of the people responsible for this travesty.  He was crowing on his page about how proud he was that his witch-hunt of ideological purity had succeeded.Here is a link to this guy's website.  What a piece of work.Here is my response to him.-----------------------------------------------What the heck is wrong with you?  First of all.  I am not a believer or supporter of Hancock or Sheldrake in any way.That is so not the issue here in any way.The issue is blatant and deeply disturbing censorship. These two were invited to speak at the conference.  Their non-scientific views are extremely well known.  They have both published popular books and given numerous lectures on their 'woo woo' views.The Ted conference was not blindsided by them in any way.  They went on and talked about the same stuff they always talk about.  The Ted conference can then post the videos and let individual people decide, for themselves, whether they like the talks or not.  The Ted conference can even post editorials by other members taking issue with Sheldrake and Hancock.  But what happened here is simply obscene censorship.If the Ted conference wants to maintain a pristine level of scientific rigor in their conferences, that's absolutely fine.  But, if that is the case then they never should have invited these two people to speak in the first place!!But, they did.  And th[...]



Scientific Proof of Mental Telepathy?

2013-03-12T19:08:57.375-05:00

I know I haven't written a blog post in quite a while, but I'm going to take a quick break and write one today.  This short article is kind of a troll.  I'm hoping to stick this out onto the Internets and either get a response or influence the thinking of people who are involved in this controversial research topic.Now, I have never been particularly interested in the topic of 'telepathy' in the past.  In fact any alleged psychic phenomenon which is wide open to subjective interpretation doesn't interest me that much at all.  However I am, like almost anyone, curious about something which might be concrete and indisputable.The other day I was listening to a Joe Rogan podcast episode featuring Amit Goswami.  Here is a link to the specific episode in question.Amit Goswami is one of those 'quantum physicists' who uses quantum mechanics as a leaping point (and I do mean leaping) to speculate wildly about philosophy and spirit.  Because he has a scientific background and uses scientific terminology, he is an expert at confusing people on which points he is talking about something which is scientifically factual and when he has extrapolated off into pure religious philosophy.Goswami, and his ideas, are not the subject of this blog post.  The reason I mention him is that on the Joe Rogan podcast he made a rather outrageous claim that I would like to discuss further.  He claimed that there have been (and I quote) "dozens" of published scientific experiments which have proven, unequivocally and without a doubt, that mental telepathy is real; that it has been scientifically proven in a laboratory setting, devoid of all subjective interpretations, and is absolutely indisputable.Well, that is quite a claim and I for one have a lot of doubt.  When Joe Rogan pushed Goswami on this point, asking him that if this were in fact the case how come these experimenters haven't picked up Randi's million dollar prize, (a fair question), only then did Amit backpedal quite a bit.Goswami replied by saying that the experiments were only between '60% to 80%' accurate and would, therefore, be dismissed by skeptics because it wasn't a 100% accurate.This statement by Goswami is what I want to discuss in this blog post because, somehow, someone as smart as Amit Goswami did not see this all of the way through.If his claims were true (and that is a big if) then it would be incredibly easy to make it perfectly reproducible 100% of the time with exact accuracy!!  How come he doesn't know this?  How come no one has performed this experiment??  I really want to know!So, the first thing I tried to do was find these alleged 'dozens' of experiments but I had no luck.  Searching the Internet for valid scientific evidence of psychic phenomenon is kind of like using as your search term the word 'boobs' and expecting to get scientific literature on mammary glands; it ain't gonna happen!I'll cut Amit some slack.  Maybe these scientific experiments have been performed and achieved the results he claimed, and they have been published in peer reviewed scientific journals, and they been repeated by independent researchers.  Maybe.  That's a damned big maybe, but maybe.  But me, I want to see the proof first. Anyone reading this blog who has links to 'dozens' of replicated experimental results of the protocol Amit discussed, I want love to see them.  I will gladly update this blog post with those links as soon as I have them.However, something tells me I'm not going to find 'dozens'.  I'm going to find at most a few, and of those a few which probably vary their protocols quite a[...]