About Modern Family Man

Just a man, with a family, living in modern times.

Is Bitcoin a joke to financial experts?

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Dear “financial experts” who write off Bitcoin,

Do you ever look at Bitcoin, not as a commodity or currency, but as a backbone technology, very much like the technology behind the internet (except this technology happens to be pre-commoditized)? Many detractors focus entirely on economic theory, and admittedly insane price gains that point to an unsustainable price bubble (tulips and Beanie Babies are often brought up). However, these arguments 100% ignore the technical relevance of a system that allows extremely low-friction and low-fee digital payments, in a world that is become more and more about digital connections.

Admittedly, the interfaces and trading mechanisms for Bitcoin have been somewhat clunky and difficult. And user adoption is still extremely low. However, I think tomorrow could well be a very different story. There have been many tens of millions of dollars invested by VCs in the past six months to forward technologies based on Bitcoin. Plus thousands independent developers are working hard to come up with new Bitcoin technologies. These people are often the brightest of the bright.

Sending money to anyone using Bitcoin is as easy as sending a text message. Yes, it’s actually that easy today, if you happen to have a specific smartphone messaging app (Gliph) connected to a funded Bitcoin exchange. So if I have no cash, I can just send a text message with a specific value (denominated in any currency) to pay a friend for half a dinner bill. Or I can send Bitcoin to anyone in the world in need, they just need a smart phone and an internet connection. There are no PayPal or credit card fees, no waiting for wired funds to be available, no middle-man at all; it’s almost like directly handing someone cash through the internet. That capability has been around for months now. But this type of payment will become much easier in coming months and years.

You don’t want to hold Bitcoin because you fear it’s a bubble or it’s just too volatile? As we progress down the road a bit, people will be able to instantly trade in and out of Bitcoin, if they just want to use Bitcoin as a transfer mechanism (BitPay and other companies have enabled merchants to do this for quite a while). Or people could keep some amount of savings in Bitcoin, if they believe the currency will continue to appreciate in the longterm, as the trend has been.

This payment functionality is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s hard for me to even imagine everything that can be built on top of Bitcoin in coming years, just as it was hard to imagine everything we do with the internet today, when the internet was in its infancy (You may be too young to remember, but there was awhile when buying something over the internet using a credit card seemed extremely scary, and most didn’t even consider it. Now almost everyone buys merchandise and connects to banks and investments online). I think when you consider the implications of the technology behind Bitcoin separately from looking at the traded value, it gives an entirely different perspective. Comparisons between tulips and Bitcoin are fair when one focuses only on the run up in price. But that seems to be a very myopic way to view an emerging, disruptive technology.

Sincerely,
Rob

Sponsored by Bkeychain.com – Brass-plated two-sided Bitcoin Keychains

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Bitcoin Trend After “Crash”

Media and bloggers just made huge news of a Bitcoin crash. However, if you look at this chart of the past 180 days, the recent severe spike (and return) in value looks like an aberration, and that Bitcoin is still solidly headed upward.

Why am I talking about Bitcoin?

A little over a year ago, I heard a podcast with computer security expert Steve Gibson discussing a relatively new experimental digital currency called Bitcoin. It seemed interesting, and after examining the open code to the digital currency, Mr. Gibson seemed to think the cryptographic Bitcoin system seemed very sound.

I had been hearing more and more news about Bitcoin, and decided a couple of weeks ago that it wouldn’t hurt to buy a small amount, in hopes that the long trend of appreciation would continue. There are plenty of good arguments for and against investing (gambling) in this currency, and plenty of talk about bubbles. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that anyone bought more Bitcoin than they could afford to lose. And a bit of research is required, just to understand how to safely buy and hold the digital currency.

The way I see it, there’s a 25% chance that bitcoins purchased today will be worth at least 1000% (10 times) their current value in less than five years. Statistically speaking, if you take those types of asymmetric bets regularly, you’ll come out ahead. Of course, these numbers are just my assessment (others think Bitcoin will be worthless within weeks).

I found out first-hand how difficult it is to sign up and fund an account with a Bitcoin exchange. It’s not rocket-science, but it requires careful reading and a bit of a leap of faith. But I think it’s clear that it will become easier to buy Bitcoin as new companies get involved, bringing Bitcoin to the masses. There’s even a Bitcoin ATM that is apparently coming, with the first two locations planned for Los Angeles and Cyprus (when you live in some countries, an appreciating currency looks particularly attractive). I think when the barrier to entry is lowered, and more and more people can easily try buying this geeky currency, that will drive the price higher. The biggest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, said recently that they are adding 20,000 accounts every day, and I imagine that number is growing. I don’t see how so many additional people interested in buying Bitcoin won’t add upward pressure to the price of Bitcoin.

Note that this chart is from Blockchain.info, but I added the gold line to show what I thought was a true trend line. As I write this, the price of Bitcoin on Mt. Gox is hovering around $115. If you bought just one month ago, your Bitcoin value has more than doubled! And that’s after the very-hyped “crash” of Bitcoin.

Quicktime can easily rotate videos and reduce video file sizes

My family attended a wedding recently, and my three-year-old son had a great time cutting it up on the dance floor. I took a long video of him dancing with my iPhone 4S, but when I got home, I realize that the entire video was rotated 90° (so it was sideways). Not only that, but due to HD being the only option with the iPhone (and iPad) camera app,  the video was also a huge file, which makes it a bit more difficult to share. Fortunately, the free Apple application Quicktime, that comes with every Mac computer, makes it easy to deal with these problems in just a few steps.

1) Drag the icon for your video (from iPhoto or anywhere) to the Quicktime application.

2) If you need to rotate the video, simply go to the Edit menu, and you’ll find options to either Rotate or Flip the video. You can even Rotate twice to make a video upside down.

3) Now that you’re done, you need to Export your video. There are a lot of options under Export, but I prefer to use a trick of sorts. I select Export for Web, then make sure all three options are checked, I type in a name for the export (while taking note of where it will be saved on my computer), then I press the Export button. It may take awhile, depending on the length of the video and the speed of your Mac, so you may want to do something else while Quicktime works away at creating three new, smaller video files.

4) When the export is done, fine the folder (with the name you gave it, wherever you saved it), open the folder, then open the enclosed folder named Resources. Inside that folder you’ll see three files ending in .m4v, with varying sizes, all much smaller than the original video.

5) You can drag any of these files into Quicktime or iPhoto, and they’ll work perfectly. But if you double-click the video, your Mac may not know which app to use. So here’s a trick: just click the file names and change .m4v to .mov for each file. Your Mac will ask you if you really want to do it, just say yes. Now your Mac will know to open the file using Quicktime.

6) So now you can watch each video and review each file size, and decide which you want to share. You’ll see, even the biggest file has a much smaller file size than the original video, thus making it easier to share (such as uploading it to YouTube or Facebook). You may even find the smallest video file is small enough to email. And you’ve also fixed that annoying video that was sideways (often happens if you’re moving your iPhone around when you start the video, such as if you’re dancing, or a roller coaster, etc.). Just note that these new files are not of the same quality of your original video, so if you want to keep your original highest quality source, don’t throw the original away.

Aggressive Venice Ducks

I took Zach to the park this morning. We weren’t ready for a group of aggressive local Venice ducks to be there. I tried to be friendly and talk to them, but they didn’t say anything back, and just gave me the stink eye.

Aggressive Venice Ducks 1

"Whatcha looking at?"

Before I knew it, a couple of ducks chased Zach off.

Aggressive Venice Ducks 2

"Get the kid, he's got a banana."

Now it seemed the leader wanted Zach’s brand new Crocs.

Aggressive Venice Ducks 3

"These shoes are mine now. Just walk away."

And he wasn’t planning on sharing his newly-claimed shoes with his friends.

Aggressive Venice Ducks 4

"That's right, keep walking."

With sadness, we felt forced to leave the local park we have frequented many times in Zach’s three years of life. Definitely look out for these ducks if you frequent the canal park in Venice, I don’t want any other families to go through what we just experienced. And especially look out for a duck wearing green Crocs.

Aggressive Venice Ducks 5

"I said, beat it!"

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Toddler loves our hot air popcorn popper!

When I was a kid, there were two ways I knew to make popcorn, either in a pan of hot oil, or the more fun way, with the use once, all-in-one Jiffy-Pop, with the growing tinfoil lid.

 

Then this amazing thing came out when I was a teenager, the hot air popcorn popper. All it required was cheap popcorn kernels, and almost no work or cleaning, and so popcorn became a food staple of mine in college. It seemed like everyone had a hot air popcorn popper.

Then, microwave popcorn came to market, and once again, it seemed like everyone forgot all previous methods of creating popcorn. For a decade or two, just about the only made-at-home popcorn I ate came from a microwave. There were even low-fat popcorn packages to make in the microwave, and I assumed this was a healthy enough snack.

But what did I know? Very recently, I came to find out that many people believe microwave popcorn is extremely unhealthy (references 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.). There are indications that harmful compounds in the lining of the bags vaporize and leach into the popcorn (DuPont has agreed to eliminate use of the chemical FPOA by 2015, 5). Many people working at the plants that make the microwaveable popcorn developed a lung condition, which was sometimes fatal.

It seemed easy enough to revert to the 80s, and so I purchased this hot air popcorn popper on Amazon.com for $20. Now making and eating popcorn with my 2-year-old son is an effortless pleasure; he loves to watch the hot air popcorn popping process. I assume it’s as healthy as any empty-calorie snack, in that it has fiber, not many calories, and no real bad stuff (fat, additives, etc.). Hope no one tells me hot air poppers are unhealthy for some reason!

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“I won’t let toys take over my house!”

I don’t think many childless people realize they can be pretty judgmental about the way their friends and family deal with child rearing. I thought I was pretty open-minded, but I can see at least one big way I flipped in a belief after having my own son. I used to be judgmental of parents when I’d see pile after pile of toys in their house. I’d become even more judgmental when I saw parents bringing home junky toys for their kids every time they left the house for more than 10 minutes. I wondered what horrible things this was teaching these kids. Would they expect free stuff to rain upon them for the rest of their lives?

Along these lines, when my wife was pregnant, and my bachelor pad had already become something other than a bachelor pad, I made several very strong statements that I didn’t want to have a house with toys strewn about. I insisted to my wife that we would keep all of our son’s toys in his room, and not let them accumulate. We also would not buy him tons of junky toys. Just imagining my once minimal house becoming cluttered with child’s toys made me cringe.

Fast forward to today, 2.5 years later, and our living area has toys everywhere. We have stickers on our living room wall. And our son has a ton of toys, probably ten times more than I envisioned him having. But strangely, having my bachelor pad become a kiddie play zone has been totally fine with me. In fact, much of it is my own doing.

Even the phrase that used to send shivers up my spine five years ago was recently overheard coming out of my mouth: “Come with daddy grocery shopping and I’ll get you a toy.” What the hell has happened to me?

One could argue that I was judgmental, and I’ve become a hypocrite. But it almost feels like some biological change happened once I had my son, and my mind just works differently now. Am I ruining my son? I hope not. I’m banking on the belief that, if my wife and I are consistent, and follow through on promises as well as punishments, and if we set reasonable limits on behavior, then we won’t be spoiling our son. What do you think?

While my son sleeps #2

I’ve made more than two wood block towers for my son while he slept, but this is the second one I’ve photographed. Besides the Yo Gabba Gabba and Toy Story characters, there’s a working wind-up train with tracks in there, which I found at the 99¢ store! But you can also get it on Amazon.com (though not so cheap). I guess I should mention that the wood blocks were a really good deal at $16.33 on Amazon.com.