Buying Lunch with Bitcoin?

This weekend, I had occasion to eat at a food truck that had this intriguing sign in the window:

Sign reading "Crypto accepted here, with the icons of various cryptocurrencies" in the window of a food truck.

This intrigued me, because the way I understand it, it takes 10-20 minutes for Bitcoin transactions to go through. That’s why it doesn’t work everyday purchases like, for instance, lunch at a food truck.

I asked the vendor about this, and he told me that “Oh, no. If you have $APP, it goes through right away!” There was a line, so I wasn’t able to ask more questions, but when I read the reviews for the app, a lot of the complaints involved how long it took for transactions to be processed: up to an hour, in some cases.

So I suspect that the food truck guy is confused: yes, you can instantly get a hash that says to transfer X amount of Bitcoin from address A to address B. But the real question is, will that transaction actually get recorded in the consensus ledger? This is similar to the way it only takes a few seconds to write someone a check; but you can’t really spend that money until the check clears, which can take a week. But if I went around to two or three food trucks in the same ten-minute window, I think I could “spend” the same money, and only one of the transactions would clear, in the end.

In short, I think this guy is lucky that he’s only dealt with honest people. Either that, or he figures that there’ll be some amount of theft, and that’s just the price of doing business.

Odd Plurals

We all know about irregular plurals like “mother-in-law” → “mothers-in-law”, “attorney general” → “attorneys general”. I just ran across another one, courtesy of a music podcast.
One of the hosts was saying that there are about 11,000 people who listen to the show, but only 100 or so write in or like it on social media. He added,

Where are the rest of the 10,900 people? You piece of shits.

(emphasis added)

Kind Of

Do you remember, some years ago, some people had a habit of using “literally” not in the dictionary sense, but for emphasis, as in “The boss is literally breathing down my neck”? In recent months, I’ve noticed people using “sort of” and “kind of” not to mean “more or less” or “in a way”, but for punctuation, emphasis, or decoration.

A lot of times, adding “kind of” doesn’t change much (“we need to kind of speak up about this”), and so it is merely useless. At best, it means “the following isn’t exactly what I mean, but it’s close, and I want to move on, rather than waste time finding the correct word.”

Sometimes, though, it contradicts the rest of the sententce. I’ve heard “This is kind of really important.” And just this morning, in a news story about Afghanistan, NPR’s correspondent said,

I think for Mr. Mattis it’s slightly personal, which is he wants to come back and make sure that he’s connected over here and provides the best kind of advice on what to do forward.

Which immediately raised the question, “What kind of advice is the best kind?”

I’d like to appropriate a piece of advice often attributed to Mark Twain: instead of saying “kind of”, say “fucking”, your editor will delete it and your sentence will be as it should be. Except that people don’t employ editors in casual speech, so maybe autocorrect can be modded to do this.

“If You Don’t Agree, Unfriend Me”

I’ve heard sentences of the form “If you [don’t agree with the blindingly-obvious point that I just made], unfriend me” a lot lately. And while I sympathize with the sentiment, I have to disagree with the tactic.

The message is, if you can’t even agree that women should control their bodies / gay people should have as much of a right to marry as straight people / evolution and climate change are real / Obama is not a literal devil / whatever, then you and I have nothing to discuss because we can’t even agree on the basics; and also, you’re probably morally-deficient, so you might as well fuck off.

All of which is, unfortunately true. There are lots of morally-deficient people out there who’ll never see reason. Everyone’s favorite whipping boy stereotype Your Racist Uncle (YRU), springs to mind.

My only qualm is that if YRU unfriends you, then he won’t see your posts/tweets/stories/chats and will have one less opportunity to change his mind. Likewise, if you unfriend him, then yeah, his racist memes / hate-filled screeds / religious reposts won’t raise your blood pressure on a daily basis, but you also won’t know what he’s reading, saying, or doing.

The US is currently as divided as it’s ever been, as far back as I can remember. And part of the problem is that we don’t know each other, don’t watch the same news outlets, don’t start with the same basic assumptions. We live in separate bubbles, so not talking to each other seems like it can only exacerbate the problem, and dig a moat between the bubbles.

I’m not saying you have to agree with YRU, or respond to everything he says. But if you can keep him in your timeline, even if you never respond to him, then at least you can keep an eye on him. Call it reconnaissance if you like, keeping an eye on the opposition. The next time someone at your local Demo-Liberal Hippie-Love Eco-Tea-and-Greet suggests that the way to fix the country is a drum circle in front of the local GOP headquarters, at least you’ll be able to think, “What Would My Racist Uncle Do?” and be able to critique the idea effectively.

And if nothing else, maybe you can agree to keep the political discussions on Facebook, and not bring them to the Thanksgiving dinner table, so you can enjoy dinner en famille.

A Mother’s Day Sermon

I ran across “Mother and Grandmother”, a Mother’s Day sermon by one Edwin Whitney Bishop from May 14, 1911, about a hundred years ago, and was curious to see what it might say.

The first surprise came in the first sentence:

A VERY decided attempt is being made in many quarters to have this second Sunday in May set apart as Mother’s Day, or perhaps better as Parent’s Day, as a counterbalance to the very wide spread observance of the second Sunday in June as Children’s Day,

I would have placed the origin of Mother’s Day some time in the 1950s or 1960s, and I certainly didn’t know that it was preceded by  Children’s Day.

After a couple of pages about the importance of raising children properly, like bred roses or horses, he starts railing against people who shouldn’t have kids:

It is perfectly permissible for consumptives, habitual criminals, and feeble minded to marry at will and populate the hospitals and alms houses, and no one shall say them nay. We pass laws to cut down peach trees that have the yellows and we eliminate cattle that have the hoof and mouth disease, but we have thought nothing of having diseased people transmit certain terrible tendencies to the third and fourth generation.

Bishop was clearly an advocate of eugenics. He cites the cost to society of having murderers, beggars, convicts, children born out of wedlock, and people leading “disreputable lives”, something that he sees as being passed down from parent to child, genetically as we would say today. “And yet there are those who insist that the State has no interest in who shall be parents !”, he exclaims.

No doubt there are creationists who would love to claim that this man of God was corrupted by the Great Satan, Darwin. So here you go:

For whether you are a disciple of Spencer and Darwin, or a disciple of Häckel and Weissman as to the way the facts shall be interpreted, the facts themselves are beyond question.

And a bit later,

Endless life is promised by evolution as well as by Christ only to the righteous. It may take millions of years to bring it about, but it is sure to come — the evil self-destructive in its own nature and therefore self-limiting will annihilate itself out, and the good which always has in itself the embryo of eternal life will flower in richest perfection.

And

Henry Drummond in his book, entitled : “The Ascent of Man,” has in it a remarkable chapter, called : “The evolution of a mother.” He shows how motherhood comes to its own only in the human race.

(passages emphasizes in bold to tweak Ken Ham.)

The interesting thing to me about this passage is that in Grand Rapids in 1911, a preacher seemed to consider evolution to be settled science, at least in its broad outlines, and that the only areas on which educated laymen might disagree concerned the particular hypotheses being hashed out.

He does hold a misconception that’s still widespread, though: after talking about reptiles and birds, he says that “[l]ions are higher up in the scale”. Throughout his sermon, he seems to take for granted that there is a Great Chain of Being, with some above (and better than) others: reptiles above insects, birds above reptiles, humans above lions. I wouldn’t be surprised if he considered some humans to be above others on this scale.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

Would You Get Off the Plane?

There’s an old joke about an instructor who asks, “if you were on a plane, and found out that the inflight systems were controlled by a beta version of software written by your team, would you get off the plane?” Most of the students pale and say yes. One person says, “No. If it were written by my team, it wouldn’t make it to the runway.”

The implication is that most software is far crappier than people realize, and that programmers are keenly aware of this. But I’d like to present another reason for getting off the plane:

Even if my team writes good code, the fact that it’s still in beta means that it hasn’t been fully tested. That means that there must have been some kind of snafu at the airline and/or the software company for untested software to be put in control of a flight with ordinary passengers. And if management permitted this error, what other problems might there be? Maybe the fuel tanks are only half-full. Maybe the landing gear hasn’t been inspected.

Thanksgiving Pho

Yesterday, around dinner time, we started digging through the Thanksgiving leftovers to see what looked good. M wanted soup. Great. Except that we didn’t have enough noodles for a decent soup, but we did have maifun rice noodles, so we used that instead.
Basically, J combined the noodles with leftover turkey, plus carrots, onions, celery, and the herbs and vegetables used to stuff and flavor the Thanksgiving turkey. I called the result Thanksgiving pho, and it was surprisingly good. I added Sriracha to mine; the others didn’t, for some reason.
Try it. You know you want to. Plus, you’ve got to do something with that leftover turkey, right? Might as well put is in a dish that tastes good no matter how you make it.