2018: Year of Bitcoin & Alternative Currencies

 Last year I suggested I was going to devote more time to Bitcoin and the Alternative Currencies many of which have been derived from it.  I will in the future introduce individual coins and discuss their relative merits, but today I wanted to go over some basics.

First, why do people place any value on digital coins?  Bitcoin was the first digital coin to gain any notoriety,  and it addresses a libertarian mindset that values community over government. If you want as little government involvement as possible, then one of the more important places to address that problem is in who controls the money. Libertarians like Rand and Ron Paul have complained that the dollar is not linked to Gold, and that the US Federal Reserve cannot be trusted. In other countries a similar mistrust of the government control over money is even more rampant.

To address this problem most digital currencies like bitcoin (and alternative coins), assure that the control of digital coins belongs to the community rather than the government. The bitcoin ledger, where they keep track of each transaction belongs to and can be accessed by anyone who own some of the coin, with the right knowledge and patience. If you own Bitcoin (especially if you mine it)  you could have some say in what happens to it.

While Bitcoin is the best known crypto-currency, close on its heels is Ether and other alternative currencies like Steem. Many of these have improvements like greater functionality, but all of them have advantages over dollars, yen, euros and other centralized currencies.  Whether and/or when to buy them is a different question, but I will discuss those issues later.

 

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Study Indicates Stress Effects Decision Making

Silvia Maier, in a study published in Neuron, showed that stress may negatively impact decision making and self-control. This study by a Swiss graduate student, revealed that when stressed people indicated preferences for tasty food over healthy food.

Stress, in this study was manipulated by subjects having their hands plunged into cold water for several minutes. This way of inducing stress has often been used in hard science research. Cortisol was a mediating factor noted in the study conducted in Zurich Switzerland.  The study was small and involved 29 persons, and did not measure anxiety levels but instead just focused on normal stress pathways.

Published in: on August 25, 2015 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Leonard “Spock” Nimoy Dies at Home

Leonard Nimoy died in his home at 83 years old. The actor, who all of us know as Spock, had a chronic Pulmonary problem that was the cause of his death. H credited his smoking as the reason he had these problems.

Mr. Nimoy also was a musician and poet, and enjoyed photography. Here is spock doing Bilbo Baggins:

Live Long and Prosper Spock
Dif-tor heh smusma

Published in: on February 27, 2015 at 4:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Maya Angelou has Died

In case you had not heard, Maya Angelou, renowned poet and Medal of Freedom winner, has died according to her agent:

Maya Angelou Dies

While all of us loved her, she has lived a remarkable life. For example few know that she was a calypso singer who recorded an album as such that won her some fame, before he poetry was recognized.

She turned pain into poetry and gave her voice to those who were voiceless. She encouraged girls to grab the world “by the lapels.” Here is Maya reciting “Still Rise” : Still Rise by Maya Angelou on Youtube.

While she may have left her body, she left a body of work that will be eternal

Published in: on May 28, 2014 at 10:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Teachers for Safe Schools

If teacher’s unions would go on strike until the gun control laws have actually passed, we could get some movement towards school safety. Starting, say Feb 1 (getting legislation before that would be impossible) they could go out and not return until schools all have resource officers and assault weapons are banned. We also need to limit ammunition clips and unlimit how we treat and deal with mental illness.

I suspect most other public unions would not cross the picket line, and might even join in. We could call it responsible and responsive government.

Published in: on December 20, 2012 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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General Hospitable- Soap Opera Surges

I am rather amused that everyone seems so obsessed about who General Petraeus is sleeping with or sharing his smiley faces by email.  This whole affair is more like a soap opera than a real issue, worthy of public debate. It is a reality show run amuck. I think they could have a Bachelor Pad type set up on a middle east base, with the top brass and their wives/girlfriends, complete with candid footage shot by drone.  American viewers could vote them off one at a time, until the last general and his partner get to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

I for one am pleased that the real surge included women in a support role, but I think we would be better off if we put the women in charge of the military ansd politcal choices, especially when it comes to conflict. Men can be so alpha, and the last thing the military needs is a few alpha men trying to “one up” each other. This is, I think, the best argument I have heard in a long time, for cutting military spending.

I really thought the days of J. Edgar Hoover were over, when  the FBI had dossiers on all the politicians and could use them as they please, to end or build someone’s careers. This was the slippery slope we started back down when we made getting a warrant unncessary during the Bush and Cheney era. Everybody said, “hey, don’t worry, it will only be used against terrorists.” 

I did not  really expect to see Petraeus and Ossama Bin Laden given the same protections (none) and now we know that the agencies with access to emails and other personal communications will use them to curry favor, and to tarnish rivals.

If they can snoop and blackmail when it comes to flirtations, custody battles, and affairs, who really believes that it won’t also be done for financial and/or political gain? I want my constitution back, especially my rights to privacy.

April is Child Abuse Month

April is child abuse monthApril is child abuse month, so I wanted to give a shout out to all the children (often now grown) who have survived monstrously terrifying adult parental figures  and the families who failed to adequately protect them. If you made it this far, chances are you are a brave, creative and noble soul with a lot of personal resources going for you that helped you make it.

In case you don’t already know it, I want to be clear it was not your fault.

There are a lot of trained clinicians who know how to help you reclaim your life and piece together a solution that can transend the things that happened to you. If you can harness these experiences and build a better today the world will be a better place and you will be able to use your wisdom gained to help others find thier own best solutions.

David J Berndt

Phot credit: by Brean

Published in: on April 5, 2012 at 8:54 am  Comments (1)  

Banking Settlement Is Baloney

Five Banks who were caught destroying the American Dream of home ownership are getting a slap on the wrist and wished well.  The  banking settlement reached between five major banks and some States Attorney Generals is pathetic pandering. It’s another example of how the 1% make out like bandits, even when they are caught red-handed.

Some state Attorney Generals refused to sign on, because it was far too weak.

In the settlement terms, the five biggest banks involved will pay approximately $2000 to everyone whose home went imto foreclosure when the banks had run amuck.  That won’t seem like much to the homeowners who lost huge multiples of that, to the same banks.

It’s as if someone got caught robbing your business of 50K and they got to keep $48,000 and as a penalty had to return only $2000 of what you lost.  Meanwhile your business goes under, and the banks make record profits stealing from you.

Or, it is as if a fat cat got drunk, and he crashed his BMW into your Volvo, crippling your daughter and then he had to pay 1% of her medical bills. However, since he could afford a  good lawyer, he can still keep their driver’s license, with a promise that next time maybe he wont drink so much when he drives.  Such a deterent.

Of course Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan, Ally, and Wells Fargo have also agreed to refinance some more loans, which might be a little to their disadvantage. However, the chances they will do that, are the same as their compliance on other matters to date- slim and none.  If they ignore the settlement, what will be the consequences? Who will know, other than the next homeowners who go under?

The state of California and Countrywide already had a much bigger settlement about the same illegal practices, but Bank of America, who acquired Countrywide, has ignored the previous agreement.  All 5 banks flagrantly ignored legislation aimed to fixing the problem when it was starting to boil over, and did they ever pay a penalty?

No!  So why would they worry about complying this time?  These settlements are merely a small fee of doing business- dirty business that is anti-American.

Remember none of these Robber Barons have done any jail time.  Robosigning is fraud and theft. It was at times like these (homes being lost to unscrupulous banks)  that Bonnie and Clyde captured the hearts of the American People, by robbing the banks that brought this country into the depression. 

Now the banks are at it again, teamed up with politicians from both parties. Where are the populists of both parties?  The little guy needs a voice, has anyone got one? Where is Teddy Roosevelt when we need him?

Girls and Boys Preference for Pink

In a recent child development study, on gender-based preferences, there is new evidence that girls develop a preference for pink at about age 2, and while their prefernce may fade somewhat by age 5, the aversion to pink by boys stays steady  between ages 2 and 5.

The study, by Lobue and Deloache in the Brittish Journal of Developmental Psychology , casts doubt on recent speculation that the preference has to do with an innate preference for louder colors, like pink. Indeed if there was such an innate preference we would likely see it reflected sooner.

In the study, toddlers indicated their preference by a paired choice of otherwise identical items, differing only in color. While this choice seems to overlap with a developmental phase that includes verbalization of some ability to distinguish genders verbally, it is still a long way from showing that these changes reflect acculturation.

The study did not look at a preference for blue, a preference that has not been shown to be very robust.

An interesting approach would be to control for language development, and look at the children of parents who themselves have differing views of gender equality, to see if these results are independent of these two factors.

New Class of Diabetes Drugs Questioned

The FDA failed to approve the new diabetes drug dapagliflozin, from Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca, due to several concerns that may stop the development of a whole class of drugs for Diabetes.

When the FDA rejected dapagliflozin, it also imperilled projects with SGLT2-inhibitors under development at Bristol Meyers and Johnson and Johnson. There was concern raised by the FDA panel about the mechanism of action in the kidney and urinary tract, as well as numerous smaller issues with side effects.

Previously dapagliflozin had been seen as promising because it did not appear to have negative heart/cardiovascular problems. These questions raised by the FDA likely would make research too expensive now to bring most of these drugs to market.

There have been a dearth of new diabetes drugs approved, the most recent dating back to Merck’s 2006 entry Januvia. Of course there is still a great deal of research going on into new drugs and devices, but nothing in the pileline is looming.

Published in: on July 21, 2011 at 8:42 am  Comments (1)  
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