Dopamine Coins

Cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, as well as the underlying blockchain technology, are things about which I have long been cynical. As far as I can see, they have no value, no purpose and no point other than providing yet another economic bubble, profitable for those that get out fast enough but disastrous for the schmucks left holding the things when prices crash.

Then again, I’m quite cynical about most new things — I thought podcasts were a stupid idea when I first saw someone attach an audio file to a blog, and look at how popular podcasts are now. So I have largely ignored all of the cryptohype on the grounds that, if my cynicism turns out to be misplaced I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.

However, as the reporting around these things increases, the more sure I am becoming that my cynicism was not misplaced. Indeed, if anything I probably haven’t been cynical enough.

Let’s start with the news that triggered this post, that One bitcoin transaction emits as much CO2 as a household in 3 weeks. I have long been aware that the cost of generating cryptoassets is eye-wateringly high, but it is useful to have some sense of just how much of an energy cost we are talking about. And it needs to kept in mind that this cost is in pursuit of generating something that has no use and no intrinsic value.

But you can trade them. In fact, the only thing you can do with these things is trade them. Which brings me to the second article I stumbled across recently: ‘Trading is gambling, no doubt about it’ – how cryptocurrency dealing fuels addiction.

I don’t have a very high opinion of financial trades or financial traders, but the exchanges that support this do have to comply with various regulations which — in theory, at least — provide some protection. Even casinos have to deal with a level of regulatory oversight, but not cryptoassets:

While some trading platforms that offer digital assets are regulated – because they also offer more traditional financial instruments – crypto coins and tokens are not.

Cryptoasset executives do not have to prove that they are fit and proper people to take people’s money. The companies they run are not required to hold enough cash to repay investors if they go bust. Nor must they worry about the FCA’s stipulation that financial promotions, such as those splashed across public transport in London, are fair, clear and not misleading.

If you get involved in cryptotrading, you are essentially handing large sums of money over to someone who, even if they aren’t actively trying to defraud you, will often prove to be unable to provide anything close to adequate protection. These exchanges are, all too often, being run by amateurs who lack necessary knowledge or skills and who wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near your money if real assets were involved.

Of course, the supporters of blockchain technologies will respond to these issues by claiming that these are just teething issues to be resolved, or some handwavy stuff about new or “disruptive” technologies needing time to prove themselves. But, as Molly White points out, It’s not still the early days.

Bitcoin has been around since 2009, other blockchain-based currencies and applications have similarly long pedigrees. This is plenty of time for any issues to have been worked out and plenty of time, if these things did have any value, for that value to become apparent.

The more you think about it, the more “it’s early days!” begins to sound like the desperate protestations of people with too much money sunk into a pyramid scheme, hoping they can bag a few more suckers and get out with their cash before the whole thing comes crashing down.

Blockchain is a solution in search of a problem. It’s had long enough, and it’s now safe to assume that there are no problems for which blockchain is solution. It’s a technology that needs to be abandoned, sooner rather than later.

Slightly better

A couple of weeks ago, The Guardian published an article on 100 ways to slightly improve your life without really trying, which is probably perfect for everyone who has already failed to keep up with their New Years resolutions, as well as the rest of us who didn’t even try.

The suggestions are all simple and very easy to implement. While not all of them will be appropriate for everyone, I was surprised at how many of these things I already do.

I particularly liked this one, though:

91 If in doubt, add cheese.

Box in My Head

For a significant part of 2021 I have found myself rediscovering some of the bands that I listened to a lot when I was younger. Mainly Blue Öyster Cult, which I discovered all the way back in the early 80s when I bought Cultösaurus Erectus. I have to admit that I bought this album because I liked the cover, but it has dated remarkably well.

The band is still going and, after something of a recording hiatus, released The Symbol Remains at the back end of 2020. It’s an excellent album, and one that not only demonstrates just how wide a range BÖC is capable of, but also one that improves with each listen.

Not surprisingly, Last.fm informs me that this is the album to which I listened to most in 2021.

There are a bunch of truly stand-out tracks on this album, but I’m going to start the year with Box in My Head, a typically sideways take on the sort of closeness that can develop over time.

Lightly Seared in 2021

As the year draws to a close, now seems as good a time as any to look back over my most popular (more accurately: most read) post of the last twelve months. As ever, my most read posts overall are technical notes written the best part of a decade ago, but if people still find this stuff useful, it’s all to the good.

Of the posts that I actually wrote this year, the most popular (surprisingly enough) is COVID-related. Specifically, when I announced that I was fully jabbed. Of course, I’m even more jabbed now having recently received my booster.

Oddly enough, the second most popular post of the year is Jabbed: Part One, which goes back to when I received my first dose of Pfizer.

Brexit was mentioned on this blog a few times, even though it received a lot fewer mentions than in previous years. It seems fitting, therefore, that my third most popular post is also the last time I mentioned the B-word to mention that a crisis had been averted.

I am still watching the Brexit-related news but I find myself have much less to say. The reason, I think, is that even though a lot of stuff keeps happening, it’s the same stuff happening over and over again. There are only so many times that you can mention the sheer stupidity of leaving the EU, or the fact that now it’s done there’s no way back, without both feeling and sounding like a broken record.

On the subject of going around in circles, COVID. And in March, I mentioned that 2021 was starting to feel like 2020.

On a more positive note, we did take a step towards eating more sustainably with burgers for all. That’s insect burgers, which we can make using mealworm.

And I can’t go a year without mentioning the weather: Flooded. Fortunately, I wasn’t.

Way back in January, Donald Trump tried to organise a coup. In After the meltdown, the climbdown I made (or tried to make) the more general observation that authoritarian impulses exist everywhere — we all need to be paying attention.

Remember OS/2? I did: Digital Nostalgia

Then there is the ongoing discussion about green energy and why nuclear power plants are necessary. I still it’s insane that the Green parties in Belgium want to burn more gas in order to decommission the nuclear power stations we already have.

And last, but certainly not least, is what I said back in May: Don’t Panic!

And with that, all that remains is to wish everyone a Happy New Year and all the best for 2022.

Seasons Greetings

It’s that time of year again, when COVID restrictions are tightened and we congratulate ourselves on having seen Spider-Man on Tuesday, before the cinemas were closed.

Today is my last day at work until next year. I have two weeks off which we will all be spending at home, around a table, playing games. The boys started expressing an interest in Dungeons & Dragons a few weeks ago and we have agreed to give it a try while we have plenty of time for a few lengthy sessions. I’m not sure who is most looking forward to this.

In other news, I had my COVID booster yesterday — Moderna this time. They really have the process working smoothly now: it’s literally a case of walk in register, get jabbed and go.

Life goes on, the freezer is full, and the presents are all wrapped and under the tree. We’re ready for the next two weeks, so all that remains is for me to wish anyone reading this a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the season.

Inspiration

I spent most of yesterday struggling with an application to which I needed to make a few small changes. And the changes were small, which is why I found it so incredibly frustrating that the end result didn’t work. I tested and tested and tested again and, while all of the individual components worked perfectly, it completely failed when I tried to put it all together.

Today, while out walking, I suddenly realised why it wasn’t working. I won’t bore you with the details, but it relates to the difference between Development, Test and Acceptance environments. What is more interesting is just how much I can solve when I let my mind wander.

I really need to get out more.

Fully Jabbed

I’m really slacking with this blogging thing at the moment. My last post was five weeks ago and merely mentioned that I’d had my first Pfizer jab. And the most interesting thing that has happened to me since then is that I had my second jab today.

And even that wasn’t very interesting. The process was just as smooth as before and I am not (so far) feeling any side effects. Kudos, though, to the man who brought an eBook with him so that he would have something to do during the fifteen minute post-jab wait. I wish I’d done that.

Tomorrow I can download the CovidSafe app and in a couple of weeks time I will be as CovidSafe as I can be.

Jabbed: Part One

I had my first Pfizer jab yesterday and it all went remarkably smoothly — from turning up at the vaccination centre to sitting down in the post-jab waiting room, the whole process only took about ten minutes.

And, after the compulsory 15 minute wait, I went out for a drink, because of course I did.

And in five week’s time I have to do it all over again for the second jab.

Don’t Panic!

Today is the 25th May, which is Towel Day, an annual celebration of the works of Douglas Adams.

As such, now is the time of the year at which I grab a towel and remind you all that…

It’s a tough universe. There’s all sorts of people and things trying to do you, kill you, rip you off, everything. If you’re going to survive out there, you’ve really got to know where your towel is.

Stay hoopy, froods.