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November 19, 2011

Bitcoin just won't die

The October 10 issue of the New Yorker (yes, I'm behind, but not irretrievably so, after the intermezzo of the October 30 Marine Corps Marathon and associated goings-on) had a superb article by Joshua Davis on bitcoin, which by the way was not capitalized in the story and thus won't be here, on the premise that what's good enough for the gimlet-eyed New Yorker copy desk and researchers and fact-checkers and editors is plenty good enough for me.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah, bitcoin.

I must say I was enchanted by the idea of bitcoin from the get-go even though when I applied for a piece of one — "free!" — to get me started it didn't happen.

Then all the naysayers and poo-poo-ers weighed in here to explain why it's a fraud and illegal and all but you know what?

It's kind of like in the O.R. when a resident would start in with this, that and the other about how difficult the intubation was and he couldn't see anything and then I'd take the laryngoscope out of his sweaty hand and insert it and expose the vocal cords and say "Put the tube right into that black "V."

In other words, I didn't believe what he was saying and I didn't believe the bitcoin party poopers either.

Now comes Davis in his article with news that bitcoin may not be illegal after all but, rather, a threat to the perceived order — which is oftimes reason enough to declare something illegal — and that, in fact, it's quite hackproof and robust, even in the face of very serious efforts to blow it up.

But enough from me; excerpts from the piece follow.

There are lots of ways to make money: You can earn it, find it, counterfeit it, steal it. Or, if you're Satoshi Nakamoto, a preternaturally talented computer coder, you can invent it.

At first [in January 2009], a single bitcoin was valued at less than a penny. But... at the end of 2010 their value began to appreciate rapidly. By June of 2011, a bitcoin was worth more than $29.... By September the exchange rate had fallen to five dollars. Still, with more than seven million bitcoins in circulation, Nakamoto had created $35 million of value.

And yet Nakamoto himself was a cipher. Before the debut of bitcoin, there was no record of any coder with that name.... Then, in April 2011, he sent a note to a developer saying that he had "moved on to other things." He has not been heard from since.

With digital currency there is the danger that someone can spend the same money any number of times. Nakamoto solved this problem using innovative cryptography. Buyers and sellers remain anonymous, but everyone can see that that a coin has moved from A to B, and Nakamoto's code can prevent A from spending the coin a second time.

Nakamoto's software would allow people to send money directly to each other, without an intermediary, and no outside party could create more bitcoins. Central banks and governments played no role.

Bitcoin, however, was doomed if the code was unreliable. Earlier this year, Dan Kaminsky, a leading Internet-security researcher, investigated the currency and was sure he would find major weaknesses. Kaminsky is famous among hackers for discovering, in 2008, a fundamental flaw in the Internet which would have allowed a skilled coder to take over any Web site or even to shut down the Internet.... Bitcoin, he felt, was an easy target.

He quickly identified nine ways to compromise the system and scoured Nakamoto's code for an insertion point. "I came up with beautiful bugs," he said. "But every time I went after the code there was a line that addressed the problem.... I've never seen anything like it."

Kaminsky ticked off the skills Nakamoto would need to pull it off. "He's a world-class programmer, with a deep understanding of the C++ programming language," he said. "He understands economics, cryptography, and peer-to-peer networking."

"Either there's a team of people who worked on this," Kaminsky said, "or this guy is a genius."

Nakamoto had good reason to hide: people who experiment with currency tend to end up in trouble.

Lewis Solomon, a professor emeritus at George Washington University Law School, who has written about alternative currencies, argues that creating bitcoin might be legal. "Bitcoin is in a gray area, in part because we don't know whether it should be treated as a currency, a commodity like gold, or possibly even a security," he says.

Gray areas, however, are dangerous, which may be why Nakamoto constructed bitcoin in secret. It may also explain why he built the code with the same peer-to-peer technology that facilitates the exchange of pirated movies and music: users connect with each other instead of with a central server. There is no company in control, no office to raid, and nobody to arrest.

Anyone can review the code, and the network isn't controlled by any one entity. Bitcoin, in other words, survives because of what you can see and what you can't. Users are hidden, but transactions are exposed. The code is visible to all, but its origins are mysterious. The currency is both real and elusive — just like its founder.

November 19, 2011 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Double-Wall Cold Cup


"Acrylic walls and air barrier prevent condensation."


Screw-on lid with straw.

9"H x 4"Ø.


November 19, 2011 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"We never talk anymore" — Paul Karasik


Good news/bad news.

The good: the cartoonist has a blog.

The bad: the last entry was on February 6 of this year.

Maybe if we all close our eyes and think real hard... we can stop this rain.

Wait a minute....

Here he is on Facebook.

Here's a video starring him.

Here's a 2004 interview that appeared in Indy Magazine.

Here is "City of Glass: The Graphic Novel (New York Trilogy)," which he adapted from Paul Auster's original work.

November 19, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Complaint Sticky Notes


3" x 3" pad.


November 19, 2011 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Doc in an iPad


"Doc in a box" is so over.

Screen Shot 2011-11-19 at 9.12.12 AM

From AppAdvice



Philips Introduces a New Way To Measure Your Pulse and Respiration on the iPad 2

Imagine walking up to a friend or co-worker and saying something like: "Stare deep into my iPad 2 and allow me tell you... your pulse and respiration rate." Sounds kind of silly; however, Philips has made it possible with their new app: Vital Signs Camera.

Philips uses the front-facing camera combined with their software to measure your breathing and pulse.

To be more specific, Vital Signs Camera will measure your pulse by the color of your face and analyze your breathing by the motion of your chest. I had a hard time believing it would get the pulse right but amazingly it did.

No app would be complete these days without having some type of social networking built in, so of course you can share your results on Facebook, Twitter or by email.

There is a disclaimer in iTunes about Vital Signs Camera which says:

The Vital Signs Camera App for iPad 2 is not intended for diagnosis or for clinical measurements, monitoring or decision making. Measurements and statistics are provided for entertainment purposes only.

No surprise they posted this; however, my results were pretty accurate. Vital Signs Camera only works on the iPad 2 as you need the front facing camera.


99 cents.

[via Richard Kashdan]

November 19, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kit-Cat Clock


The first iteration appeared during the mid-1930s.

You could look it up.


Measures 9" x 4" x 3".

Requires 2 C batteries (not included).




November 19, 2011 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

American Migration

Screen Shot 2011-11-19 at 8.37.13 AM

Wrote Jon Bruner on Forbes of his interactive visualization: "Americans are enormously mobile: 37.5 million people moved from one house to another last year, with 4.3 million of them moving between states. This mobility makes us efficient seekers of economic improvement — moving into, and then leaving, cities like Phoenix as their fortunes rise and fall."

"My interactive visualization, based on IRS data, illustrates these patterns by tracing inward and outward moves for every county in the country. Each move had its own motivations, but in aggregate they ­reflect the geographical marketplace during the boom and bust of the last decade: Migrants flock to Las Vegas in 2005 in search of cheap, luxurious housing, then flee in 2009 as the city’s economy collapses; Miami beckons retirees from the North but offers little to its working-age residents, who leave for the West. Even fast-growing boomtowns like Charlotte, N.C., lose residents to their outlying counties as the demand for exurban tract-housing pushes workers ever outward."

Map caption: "Close to 40 million Americans move from one home to another every year. Click anywhere on the map: blue counties send more migrants to the selected county than they take; red counties take more than they send."

The screenshot up top is the visualization of migration centering on my Podunk town/boj World Headquarters®™©.

[via Flowing Data and Richard Kashdan]

November 19, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Knit Bow Headband/Ear Warmer



Also Black or Grey.


November 19, 2011 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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