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The running joke about Chemical Valley is about its eventual demise. We all know something bad is going to happen here, when we drive by Belle and smell the chemical plants across the river, Union Carbide, and others, we all kind of live here knowing it’s a disaster waiting to happen – we figure that sometime in the future there will be dead bodies lying every where, it won’t be about clean water. We wonder when DuPont will implode, and the chemical cloud will come down the valley and we will die choking. But I guess it’s like living under a volcano. It spews out magma, a few people get hurt, stinks up the place but then the news goes away. You get used to keeping a wary eye while wondering when its going to full-on explode. I’ve always wondered how people felt when they lived next to a volcano. Is our volcano your volcano, our poisonous cloud your poisonous cloud, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Washington, DC?

Possibly 12 million people are potentially exposed to “4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, which is used in the froth flotation process of coal washing and preparation by Freedom Industries whose storage facility was last inspected in 1991, and the source of the leak.” It occurred not from terrorism but ineptitude.

MCHM was released by two escapees from a Carl Hiassen novel. It affects, not merely 300,000 easily dismissed West Virginians, but if you count Cincinnati, Louisville, and all the population between there and the Gulf of Mexico you exponentiate to the millions.

Our nightmare has come true, our water systems have been compromised, and not from terrorists but from ineptitude, from surgical budget cuts that hobble inspectors, and from a no-regulation ideology in a state desperate for employment. Two companies that lacked oversight, and one that lacked zero regulation have endangered the population of the middle America and its water supply.

Think it doesn’t affect your city, it’s a West Virginia problem – not thinking is why we are here – it is recommended that we don’t think. A city runs on water. Water seeks it’s level. You cannot stop rushing water, nor can you control seeping water. It is a force. You cannot keep it out of your tap water, unless you take action.

Call, write, persuade your representative to intercede in this national crisis. It’s not just those West Virginians who live in Chemical Valley who are not able to drink municipal water after the NO DRINK BAN was lifted.. The Elk River spill will slither its way to the your doorstep. If you escape this one with the aging infrastructure, and a state with few or no regulations, will your town be next?

Cincinnati, Louisville, and cities and towns down the river route to the ocean are exposed to a sinister chemical that although it has not been tested thoroughly, and has been known to kill rats, to interfere with the formation of the embryo, lower white blood count, and possibly cause leukemia and lymphoma, according to the wording of a major lawsuit filed in the brink of a major toxic water event that is unfathomable. Is there any acceptable level for this chemical? Are sores, burns, rashes, and pneumonia acceptable?

Any city’s financial health is tied to the daily delivery of drinkable, useable water to restaurants, salons, schools, and hospitals, communities at large. MCHM does not disappear when Cincinnati closes its valves for 48 hours. Louisville, regardless of what American Water, a corporation traded on the stock exchange tells us, the source has not been eliminated, the river banks, as well as the streams will most likely release it for sometime.

If perchance this stuff gets into your water supply in sufficient quantity, your customers will not drink this stuff. It stinks like cherry-liquorice commode cleaner. Wash a customer’s hair in it they might have sores on their scalps, or not, you might have introduced a stealth carcinogen to your customers. Like to fish, and like to eat your fish: caution.

So, it happens to you, but your neighbor’s water is flushed, but the ban has not been lifted in your area, the offending company brings “clean” water around, distributes it to the high school. All is good, right? Wrong. In West Virginia, the water company runs around back, loads up its tankers with dirty water, distributes it at the local high school, still smelling like commode cleaner. They pass the tanker water off as clean water; they don’t admit it is dirty water until people begin complaining. So, you ask yourself, can a company who tells you it’s delivering water from clean source be believed when it says it’s tested the water, and it’s safe to drink?

The CDC is usually the agency you go to for answers, but this time they wouldn’t back themselves up. It was the same mantra over and over. When the CDC was asked if the water was safe the questioners were referred to the American Water Company, and when the reporters went back to the water company they were told to contact the CDC.

The people of West Virginia were told the chemical was safe to drink and bathe in. Forty-eight hours later they said, no, wait, maybe pregnant women, children under three, and those with immune system problems shouldn’t drink it. A doctor from the health department said essentially that it is all in the heads of the complainers, it will go away. Who are you to believe. You want to bathe, you want to wash dishes, you want your life back.

And, the CDC decision to call the toxic water fixed at one part per million is a joke, and the real joke is on all the states bordering the rivers that the Elk River in West Virginia flows into, and leaks away from to free standing wells and septic tanks, because this chemical cannot be turned off by closing the valves for 48 hours, it’s still coming. The 60 mile plume is only the most evident sign that it’s passing your cities.

And if you can smell it, and you get pneumonia are the particles in the air hazardous? The smell is not a detector like Mercapton in natural gas. Natural gas smells funky because it has an additive that smells, and warns us when it leaks so we can detect it. Gasoline smell is simply gasoline. It irritates when ingested or breathed. MCHM does the same.  MCHM has an odor described as faint. Crude MCHM contains six additional ingredients, which we may or may not have an odor, and may or may not cause lungs, eyes, and throat to burn. [There is too little information about the crude MCHM in combination with the other six ingredients to say for sure if the combinatorial chemical is hazardous to breath.]

I am nothing if not cynical about West Virginia, my state of birth and the nation I’ve respected and loved. We are led by leaderless, self-absorbed, greedy, without conscience, arrogant, superior feeling group of politicians who spy and lie to their constituents – barefaced lies, that barely conceal their contempt for those they deem inferior – anyone who is not them. They are smarter and more deserving, smug and sure, and ripe for political upending.

Our elected representatives from the president of the United States down the line through the Senate and Congress failed to report to duty, or rather reported, then ran off when the real work started in West Virginia, offering flats of water without offering words of assurance or compassion, or a plan. The city of Charleston’s fragile economy is falling apart. A city runs on water. Do you understand the implications, Cincinnati and Louisville? West Virginia is small enough to fail. Cincinnati may be too large to help.

California burns, North Carolina leaks radioactive water, poor children miss the only sure meals for the week because they cannot attend school in West Virginia, a mother whose husband has died chooses between buying kerosene for heat or water for her children; a school shooting happens in New Mexico, but who cares or notices.

The national pundits fiddle while California burns, the Kanawha, Ohio, and Mississippi rivers are poisoned, and North Carolina streams – who knows, so little about the recent radiation damage is published. While our children are hungry, and our unborn babies development threatened, the national media fawns and fumbles over the Chris Christie cat fight, a footnote in history. Not all of the media, thank goodness. Some are brave and relentless, appalled and letting us know it, like Ken Ward Jr. at the Charleston Gazette, giving us information to make decisions for an about our families.

When you have two corporate weasels and two corporations not locally owned, and politicians bought and paid for, and a system not propped up by regulations, inspections, and regular maintenance, it’s surprising it has not happened before on a larger scale.

 

National Science Academy

Credit Allvoices

23&ME GENETIC TESTING UPDATE, WOW!

Below is a reprint of my story about my 23&me experience from Allvoices. At the time I’d just tested with 23&me. It was an incredible experience. The information added to my life. Dollar for dollar it’s been worth it. It’s been several years since the testing. Since the latest controversy about 23&me I wanted to reprint my story for others to read. The graphic above was added to my site after an enthusiastic reception by thousands of readers. I have borrowed it for my site asking forgiveness rather than what ever it is you ask for, for using the graphic but it feels right. So, read on.

Somethings I’ve learned since the story, of course, but most everything I wrote is spot on several years later. For instance I’m pretty darn sure now that my father is my real father, and anyone who knows me could’ve told me that but hell I wanted to know. I found out that I’m related to my son-in-law, quite Appalachian, there. I’m not Jewish I’m 99% northern European with 2% American Indian. On my father’s side, my two brothers tested, and they are 99% European, 1% African.

Our family shows high to average amounts of Neanderthal genes. Now tell me would you ever get that kind of information in a doctor’s office? Early on the test didn’t say specifically that we had Neanderthal genes. It showed up in other DNA programs that enthusiasts had built to study their genomes. I was hesitant to add that we might have Neanderthal genes at the time. Later 23&me added graphics to show everyone who tested how much or how little Neanderthal genes they had inherited. It was great fun!

Good news for Alzheimer’s genes, low risk. I show an intolerance to wheat. That was the biggest find for me. I’d toyed with starting and stopping eating wheat products, even though wheat will send my brother to the emergency room, I still doubted that I had a problem because the symptoms were so hard to pin down. Stopped the bread, the wheat, and I am so happy to say I feel not just better for it, but wow! I’ve bought some Glutenease now, and take it when I eat a verboten pizza or roll, but I can say that knowing that I’m prone to Crohns Disease changed my life.

Sure some of the information might change in the future when more is known, and some of it might not be correct, but very large part of it made sense to me — it rang authentic. I got more diverse, more useful information, more interesting information from the 23&me test than a doctor would have time or resources to test for, for the small price of $99. When does a medical customer ever get out of a doctor’s office for $99? And I didn’t expect a medical outcome. I don’t expect a doctor to know everything or tell me everything about my body, because that isn’t possible. Why expect perfection from an early effort at genetics? We are early adopters who realize the potential. As early adopters we were a group mostly of educated professionals. We were not rubes who had to be protected. For me this test was great fun! I didn’t expect to be wowed! but I was and still am.

I’M AN EVERYDAY JOE WHO TESTED HER DNA WITH 23 & ME

I’m not an adoptee looking for parents, I’m not dying from a genetic disease that needs a fast cure, I’m not a student molecular biologist or an armchair scientist, I’m definitely not a genealogist tracing bio-ancestors. I am not über educated.

I’m one of the curious who came to 23and Me, a genetic testing site, co-founded through what looks like a gutsy move by biotech analyst Anne Wojcicki, and imbued with the aura of Google and 23andMe investor, Sergey Brin , Co-Founder of Google.

I came to look and stayed.

I waited until testing fell to one hundred dollars, a price too good to pass up. I’d call myself a pioneer homesteader; one who came after the true pioneers who blazed a trail for me starting in 2007 on 23andMe, who did a lot of the hard work defining the forums, and asking questions of the staff, and asking for changes that improved the site.

And, I brought my family with me, in all our dysfunction and scientific ignorance. We are important, though, and those like us are important because we are a trend. We appear when an idea has found its time and its time has come. Personal genetics’ time has come, and along with it, predictive medicines’ time has come. And, I don’t think it’s the vision that Pharma and doctors nor the FDA had in mind. Nevertheless, plug the dike all you like this personal genome thing is too cool, too personal, too useful, too empowering to overlook or diminish.

Three months ago I paid for the 23andMe genetic test that included risk percentages for illnesses, including breast, colon, and skin cancer, which I was sure I would never have. No one in my family had them. Everyone I knew died of heart attack, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, COPD or aortic aneurysm, and something odd my grandmother had that included dementia that I could never accept as Alzheimer’s.

I sort of feared Alzheimer’s disease because my youngest daughter had already begun preparing mentally to care for me when-and-if, and I wanted to spare her that hell, which knowing me, she was pretty sure would be hell, but mostly, my family did not live long enough to get it, so I didn’t worry much about that either.

Three days after my sixty-fourth birthday, I got my results – the first results of many of my family who would test. I’d fretted the closer it got. I waited six weeks and in those weeks I had time to think about what I might find. I hoped that I would find Basque, a Spanish-French nationality, in my family. I read about the Basque and wanted to be one. I wondered about Aspergers and Autism or ADHD in some form, and was I Jewish?

Where did these odd questions and expectations come from? I don’t know but they did make more sense after I got my test, and found genes to match some of what I wondered about. I expected heart attack to be high up on the list. No surprise there. Not such a bad way to go for those you love, if it’s fast, and if I had to choose between Alzheimer’s and a quick exit, I’d take it. Yet, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know my risks the closer it got. And on the other end of it I wondered if the science was far enough along to get past my skepticism. Would all this be a hodgepodge of smoke and mirrors? Or would something valuable come of it?

I pretty much knew in my heart my father was my father, but I wanted to see it in pictograph, in black and white genetics, so I asked my brother to test. I had a night or two of fitful sleep around my birthday, two days before it posted, not from paternity worries but from risk factors I might not have anticipated; then when I saw my stuff post the angst disappeared, and curiosity and anticipation set in. It’s kind of like having your first child, and worrying you might not be able to do this thing, that maybe it wasn’t a good idea, and then you see the child, you hold the child, and it is so full of promise, you never think those things again.

In earnest, I mostly wanted to know why I was so eccentric. Born in a small, rural town in West Virginia, into an eccentric family that inordinately valued books and ideas, and into a family culture that was mostly alien to those around us, and into a family who was surrounded by Baptists and Pentecostals, but who were not outwardly religious in a traditional sense, and did not participate. I wanted to know why I was different. Why my family was different. Why my children were also different.

Some women and some people can drop themselves into a slot and fit like a key in a lock: click. I hadn’t found the door that fit with my key, and it didn’t look as if I would. On every Myers-Briggs personality test I scored as the rarest of rare, a female ENTP – a human salmon who swims against the current it’s whole life. I wasn’t sure how far research had gotten for personality traits but I’d at least wanted to see what the early research on personality said about my genes. Did I have the infamous DRD4 marker, for a risk taker; did I have a tendency for ADHD?

Why do I score so high in abstract thinking and seemed to lack the concrete ability to do more than basic math, yet loved math theory even though I could not fathom most of it? Did I have some kind of genetic glitch? Seriously.

And, the one medical issue I wanted to confirm was do I have the gene for Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroid disease: too many in my family take thyroid hormone and are diagnosed with thyroid disease and autoimmune issues; my brothers, my sister, me, my children. It has taken a chunk of our lives. So I thought.

As I clicked on the left column, medical risks were listed first, and below that fun stuff like traits; color of eyes, tongue rolling, photic sneeze. Parkinson’s disease was the scariest to open. Alzheimer’s didn’t show up on 23andMe health risks at that time. I assumed I was okay (later results showed a decreased risk). I clicked on the locked Parkinson’s report, I sighed maybe, but I didn’t hesitate to click. I didn’t have the high risk gene marker. I let out a deep breath.

I quickly ran down my many high health risks: Celiac, high; Crohns disease, high; colon cancer, high; heart attack, high; no diabetes; Behcet’s disease, a red arrow pointing up. What is that? I look it up. It is more of an Arabic disease not common in the US, rare even, that helps me understand maybe my grandmother’s illness, but not where it came from. She wasn’t Arabic, and furthermore, our family isn’t Jewish; so I was a non-Jewish adult with a risk for a prevalent Jewish disease? Crohn’s disease?

Next Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, typical; plain old thyroid disease, typical; thyroid cancer, typical. If I didn’t have a high marker for thyroid disease was it possible that the diagnosis was wrong? Might that be why I’m having such a problem getting well? I’d spent most of this winter in bed, sick, fatigue, trying to get my thyroid levels to stop bouncing up and down from one lab to the next. I’d been sick since 1992, on and off. I didn’t see what I expected in health risks. No Hashimoto’s thyroid risk but plenty of other cancer and autoimmune disease.

Inexplicably, it wasn’t the cancer that upset me, even if I didn’t expect it, the thing that got me, was the alopecia, hair loss. I’d had a nightmare before I received the test that I had inch wide strips of hair missing from my head in corn rows, and a big pile of knotted hair stuck in my hairbrush, as huge as a toaster, and there it was alopecia, as one of my higher risks. Every time I brushed my hair after that I cringed until my daughter said you know that amount hair loss is normal.

I put the health risk area away for a month. Just put it aside, emotionally, and looked at Ancestry Painting and Relative Finder, and exchanged emails with genetic genealogists, some, who had been around since 2007, old timers, who were waiting breathlessly for the next boatload of 23andMe immigrants for them to compare to their genes.

On both sides, our family is from the US going back to the 1700’s. Yet, my brother is R1a1a, or northern European with 1% African genes. I am U3a1 or northern European on my mother’s side, descended from a very old clan of women from the Jordan area and the Caucasus Mountains, and maybe the Roma . And, I can say, if my mother resembled these women or acted like them, they have white-white skin with dark black hair and characteristically, are of a fierce, protective mothering temperament. Strong, independent women.

In Relative Finder I am related to a lot of males with Basque genes. On the female side I’m related to lots of Jewish women, and Bedouin. By now, I have nearly 800 relatives in Relative Finder of various degrees from third cousin to distant cousin. My brother is related to nearly the same number in his Relative Finder account. (Men automatically learn both their father’s and mother’s haplogroups or lines they are descended from. When women test, they find only their mother’s line, women have to test a father, brother or uncle to find their paternal line.)

I have quite few Brits for relatives, and some Irish, Finnish, German, Cuban, even a Macedonian. I’ve contacted maybe fifty people or they have contacted me about family genes that we share even though genealogy is not a favorite pastime for me.

After I downloaded my password protected gene cache from the 23andMe site – and burned it to a DVD – further searching with the help of the site not associated with 23andMe, took me to an Kamaran Island off Yemen where an ancient relative once lived.

And I had to ask myself if the Behcet’s mutated SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism), which can cause dementia like my grandmother had, and her mother had, could be sent down the line from earliest times from an ancestral migration through Arabia to reside in my body? Passed on through parent after parent through ancient times to modern times. I was thinking in terms of a few hundred years not thousands of years. It was a concept that was alien to me. What about Crohns disease. Did I have Jewish ancestors? I had no family history of Jewish family.

Since I knew nothing about genetics, and wanted to know the basics, I began reading. I read a book by Craig Venter [Unlink], genetic pioneer, A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life, whose book I really enjoyed, and who I am guessing has about as much trouble fitting in sometimes as I do, and truly made me feel better about myself, and I read books about the imperfect, but perfectly interesting Watson, and his co-discoverer, Crick, Cambridge geneticists, who uncovered the DNA double helix, and a slew of other scientists, so I could understand some of what I was seeing, and appreciate what genetic scientists have accomplished to make this a personal biology.

I read fourteen books on the history of genetics and genetic biographies, like Misha Angrist’s book Here is a Human Being, and Bryan Syke’s Seven Daughters of Eve, and The $1,000 Genome: The Revolution in DNA Sequencing and the New Era of Personalized Medicine by Kevin Davies .

I Googled Geneticist George Church’s Personal Genome Project, and looked up DNA terminology, and asked genetic genealogists questions. I asked dumb questions that I knew were dumb but I wanted an answer. I asked smart questions, too. I asked questions as long as someone would answer them. I looked up each new gene or SNP that I found in the news. Still do.

Taking time to learn how to navigate 23andMe helped me understand that the 23andMe site is a layer upon layers of possibility, set up for the beginner to the enthusiast, to the researcher, and I could understand some of it, and could hope to understand more. I began to see it for the treasure the 23andMe site is with all the flaws that might be inherent in an early system. And when I saw my genome represented with my chromosomes on the screen in “browse raw data,” it was one of the most exciting experiences of my lifetime. I’ve stopped worrying over paternity. I’ve seen lots of things to explain my personality.

I don’t have DRD4. I do have genes associated with ADHD, Schizophrenia and Autism. I think I have the Neanderthal gene MCPH1. But don’t quote me on that. I’m still learning. I learned that I had gene MTCO1, which results in up regulation of marine oil that reduces adipose fat in the abdomen, which I’m guessing might mean that if I eat fish my metabolism will work better. I’ve learned that I’m meant to be lean. I’m sure these studies will be up for grabs and changes in the future. But that’s all right because I’ve begun thinking about my health and who I am differently because of the personal genome test, and the ease of use designed into 23andMe.

The biggest surprise was the changes I made to my health and to the way I think about the rest of my life. This test has changed my life. I had to take a closer look at Celiac and Crohn’s disease and consider that with that high a risk I had to give it some consideration. My brother had to have a special diet to control his celiac disease, and it had been years since he could eat wheat.

I was sick I wanted to get well. I’d already come to the conclusion that my well periods were due to the things I “didn’t eat” as opposed to what I did eat. My up and down health seemed to coincide with eating and not eating wheat foods. As a test, I ate fish and spinach and blueberries, and non-wheat breads, and suddenly I was no longer ill. Ill health that had dogged me, taken me to my knees, curtailed my business, and personal life; but my illness evaporated with the no-wheat diet.

The medication, thyroid hormone, I thought I would have to take for the rest of my life, was no longer necessary. I started swimming, walking, not sleeping most of the day, I could think clearly, I stopped going to the bathroom immediately after I ate. I cannot tell you how valuable this genetic test has been for me and for my daughter, whose health also gotten better with a no-wheat diet. I think it means a longer life for the both of us. I know it means that I have a better quality of life.

When I saw those risk numbers beside Crohn’s, I thought about my brother’s celiac disease, and realized, perhaps, many of the other high risk diseases might be an affect or part of a larger problem from wheat intolerance, and the subsequent inflammation, such as maybe, colon cancer, and inflammatory heart disease, and lupus, celiac disease, who knows? inflammatory breast cancer? Stomach cancer?

I quit wheat then and there. No, it wasn’t necessarily scientific, but I will not look back. I have had it out of my system for three months, now. When I eat it I know what to look for: swollen abdomen, diarrhea, flu like symptoms, gas, deep fatigue and sleepiness, and nausea. I would not have quit wheat if not for the 23andMe genetic test. I’d thought I might have a problem but always I rationalized myself back into garlic bread sticks and Danish filled pastry, and whole wheat cereal. I think the test may have saved my life in subtle and not so subtle ways. I have a life now, at least.

When 23andMe offered their kits for zero up front and a monthly subscription of $9.00 a month per person, this April, I bought five more kits for my family. In all I think we will have tested 11 family members and one non-family member, who will likely become related through marriage.

Over a year, my cost is $108.00 per relative. I didn’t particularly have the money at the time but I felt that I couldn’t afford not to grab this chance for other members of my family to be among the genetic pioneers. And, how soon would it be before the FDA decided to appropriate control of my family’s human genome to medical Machiavellians or expedient corporations, who don’t allow us to have access to our genomic information? The FDA hearings during April 2011 didn’t look promising. And could my grandchildren’s health and lives be changed with predictive medicine if our mutations were known?

I thought so. So, I agreed to allow 23andMe to study my data. My brother has done the same. My daughter abstained. Other family members have opted to not release their genome for study. I think it’s important that some of us do this. It isn’t for everyone but I’d like to think by 2020 that in some way my contribution helped my children and grandchildren live longer healthier lives.

If not, I will not have played it safe, and not played it greedy, I will have shared my genome with the hope that good comes from it – knowing that there are no guarantees in life. And, by then the FDA issue about whether an individual should own their own genome, uncensored or whether the government should own that information, and only a doctor should be allowed to access it, and charge the owner for each peek, should be a historical footnote.

It is my family’s decision, what we do with our genomic information, not the FDA’s, and because it is our decision, and because we can learn from our genome about our own biology, we might prolong our life, or improve our quality of life, and with predictive medicine, the medicine of the 21st Century, genetic information might change to accommodate not only my family of early adopters, but all people. I participated in 23andMe, January 24, 2011. After I tested my life changed, and my health changed for the better. I’d like to yell from the highest building. Go get tested. It might change your life. In some cases it might save your life.

To read Shirley Grose’s comments on the FDA regulating the human genome, May 2, 2011, go to http://www.regulations.gov, Docket number FDA-2011-N-0066, Comment Tracking Number: 80c3dc1d

If you’d like a definition for the modern euphemism, food insecurity, or to really understand the feel of day-to-day poverty, and the desperation it engenders, read my Grandmother Johnson’s personal letters to her daughter, Carol, who left Upper Glade, West Virginia, to move to Akron, Ohio in 1953, the day she graduated high school to find a job at Goodyear. 

Virginia’s weekly letters tell a story about her struggle to hold her family together during years of joblessness. The UPPER GLADE LETTERS are poignant and warm, weary and heart breaking. Virginia DeVaughn Johnson’s determination is the only glue she had to hold the family together.

Whipped by an economy that had too few jobs, and a husband who was afraid to tiptoe into the world, a son who slowly was lost to her through schizophrenia, and my father, who she feared was a failure because he dreamed dreams that didn’t include working in a coal mine. The letters are a daily correspondence written by my Grandmother Virginia DeVaughn Johnson during the family’s often joblessness between 1953 – 1968. The letters characterize my childhood, and chronicle my father’s climb from poverty to the middle class.

Neither she nor my Grandfather were born to poverty, in fact he was born in a house locally known as the Johnson Mansion. A college stands now where that house stood. The land for the college was donated by the Johnson family. My grandmother was a writer, a poet, and a musician. Poverty engulfed them the same as it has many talented middle class people of the recent economic crisis.

My father, Hays Johnson, made it out of the grinding poverty. He, my mother and my brothers and sisters, built an impressive home from the ground up with their hands and sweat, and my parents income from both their jobs. All of his children became productive, well-respected members of their community. His sisters migrated to Ohio to jobs and husbands. My Grandmother died in that horrible lifestyle in 1972.

Now, once again, I’m watching as others quietly trudge along rationing their groceries so they can stay in a rented home, but this time migrating to a new state will probably not find new jobs for the mass of people who are out of work, and have run out of unemployment compensation. Some, especially the well-educated are leaving the nation. Brain-drain. Brain drain is catastrophic for any country.

Noam Chomsky tells us there is a class war against the poor and the poor has been redefined as the middle class, and is even encroaching on the upper middle classes. Those are fine sentiments that mean something to those who stand up against corporations, and laws that make us less well than well off, and those powers that encourage joblessness, but those words as true as they are do not get down to the floor, and scrub up the nittty-gritty, dirty bottom of the poverty of soul, heart and stomach of joblessness that degrades our humanity in a nation that has sponsored democracy with our ancestors blood, and sometimes personal financial ruination.

Poverty for black & white and all colors between isn’t lack of initiative. It is the result of skilled predators who are good at privatizing others wealth, and ignoring the betterment of the whole. It’s time it stopped. As I read my Grandmother’s letters again, I feel sickened at the waste that was her life. She may or may not have become famous but she could have lived her life, and died with some dignity, if there had been adequate jobs. Jobs wouldn’t have solved all the Johnson family problems, like a son’s schizophrenia, but it sure as hell would not have been hell on earth for her, the idealist.

EULOGY

June 29, 1910 – March 8, 1972

Virginia Devaughn Johnson, mother, poet, writer of philosophy and above all, companion and friend to those around her.

During her life she tended to the sick of body as well as those of spirit, asking nothing in return. She was a totally unselfish person.

Her life style was that of a lover of all things and activities. Matter not, they be eccentric, for her philosophy was: no human activity is alien to me, for I too am human.

She did not follow a particular religious doctrine but instead imparted her own wisdom to those who would accept it. Many did and they are here today, be what they be.

Hays Johnson


20130422-DSC_0153Photo by saltypalette

BOOK REVIEW

Living energetically and working on a second and third career are within our reach, working and supporting ourselves into a late middle age — 80-100 — is nearly within our grasp, but we are not quite there yet. Medicine has a ways to go, especially medicine for the currently aged. Sometime in the next ten to twenty years this may change.

But, before it does, disparaging social security for those who will need to depend on it in the next few years by the well-heeled, who will not need it, is a bit cold, and a bit too fashionable. 

In his book Ageless Generation, author, Alex Zhavoronkov explores the current social thought about social security, and its negatives, and the economics of biomedicine and how it impacts longevity and worker productivity. It’s sometimes controversial, sometimes relevant.

The Ageless Generation  is a book about the business of biomedicine, not a book about the biomedicine of aging. Ageless is not so much about the latest advances in biomedicine, as it is about behavioral economics. The title seems to infer that managing to live a longer life through future biomedical advances is it’s main topic — instead, Zhavoronkov writes too often about money, and the cost senior citizens put upon society in general.

Zhavoronkov uses pejorative phrases like senior welfare, old age welfare, senior welfare programs, state welfare, when referring to programs for the retired. Citizens pay into social security – it’s incorrect to refer to social security as welfare. And to put it all in perspective, after the Federal Reserve misplaced nine trillion dollars, social security could have been replenished with a few trillion dollars that has disappeared.

Zhavoronkov’s book is more like a slant view of our social history written by someone who echoes his personal bias rather than actual history. Nevertheless, renowned theoreticians in the field of longevity wrote blurbs for The Ageless Generation; so he does have professional gravitas.

Zhavoronkov writes about compliance or conformity to a health regimen, overseen by an employer. He talks about getting “compliance” from the middle aged worker. Compliance is similar to the happy theory of government just now, or the “nudge” tactic, which is behavioral economics, that for instance, nudges the middle aged worker to do the right thing, the thing which is economical in the long run for a company or government, and as a side affect may be good for the worker.

Zhavoronkov seemed to be saying that doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the corporations have nearly all the answers to our upcoming aging problems, and everything will be okay if workers just do as they say  —  perhaps  go along or lose their jobs or their promotion? The worker of the future may need to ask do I trust my health in the hands of my employer, which might be Walmart or Verizon or any corporation for that matter?

Do these ideas empower the aging or aged person – empower them because it’s a human impulse, a good thing to do, is it an idea that will increase their happiness, health and well being. Or is the customer of the health policy a distant vision, removed from the picture where only the economics become important.

Most of what we believe about aging and health will be turned over within a very few years, much of what researchers think now most likely will not be true even in five years if indeed Moore’s law works for longevity medicine. So, what if compliance amounts to bad health advice or advice that cannot realistically be achieved?

What if the all-knowing experts are wrong? Someone will always know what is best for you; if you will just let them, they will make better decisions than you or so they believe. Problem is, you, the aging person is the one who has to live with those health decisions that look a lot like they are cookie-cutter shaped, meant for the masses not customized for an individual and their personal DNA structure. What if the experts are wrong?

Zhavoronkov seems to be saying that he, the expert, has seen the future and knows what is best. He seems to make these financial and health decisions about seniors from his apartments in Moscow and Los Angeles, which sounds like a lofty financial position to make decisions that affect the mass of less wealthy seniors.

Zhavoronkov did discuss the proton therapy machine, an interesting treatment for cancer. The proton machine is not widely available. Apparently, it’s very effective. It “treats cancer with a thin beam of protons with an accuracy of less than 1 mm, or the width of a pencil lead,” which might be a mind saving treatment for someone with an inoperable brain tumor or breast cancer.

The proton machine requires a cyclotron the size of a football field. “As a result, there are only 13 such machines in the United States, so there is a long waiting list for patients to utilize proton beam therapy.” A website for the National Assoc. for Proton Therapy says, “The patient feels nothing during treatment. The minimized normal-tissue injury results in the potential for fewer effects following treatment, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.”A lot was lost in translation. The proton therapy information was buried in paragraphs of political thought.

 

bluegreen underwater

Life at the Speed of Light

Sitting here in a cushy chair staring at a screen for half-a-day, reading whatever I want to read, I get a little philosophical, and that’s not difficult to do when I read geneticist, Craig Ventor’s book that attempts to answer the big question “What is Life? I start from disorganized ignorance, and get off the track from there to politics.

I start out wanting to understand words and concepts from Craig Ventor’s recent book ” Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, a good read by the way about how he lead his team to create synthetic life.

I highlight phrases and terms that I want to know more about like resistivity or resistance in current flowing through an object as it applies to life, and a periodic, repeating pattern or DNA, and then I come across a phrase asking “what is life, that discusses the Erwin Schrödinger “lecture to the thermodynamics of life.”

In defining life, it seems Schrödinger was unhappy associating human beings with low entropy, so he created a new rule for humans, and perpared lectures about it. The 2013 book,  Life at the Speed of Life  by J. Craig Venter, is an attempt to answer the question that Schrödinger asked in his 1944 book that influenced so many future scientists, “What is Life.”

This pastiche takes me to another search that turns up The Natural Order of Things, which has  a nice twist, wherein, Matt Ridley says that “Darwinian selection explains the appearance of seemingly ‘designed’ complexity throughout the world — not just in biology but in the economy, technology and the arts.” And, where at some point he famously says, “living beings are eddies in the stream of entropy.”

And of course I couldn’t stop there, so I applied it to politics. And the question I asked myself, are democracy and freedom, then, an expected and persistent eddy in the stream of entropy or a fluke?

Political eddies in the stream of entropy

Is then Democracy an eddy in the stream of entropy, like a living being? Democracy and freedom almost seem a fluke at times. Democracy, however, continues to persist despite the obstacle flows, rocks and boulders, if you will. It does not seem to get swallowed up in low entropy; instead it has evolved quite nicely over the centuries, regardless of our impatience or the blood spilled.

And how about resistivity in Democracy? Do some groups, cultures, people’s possess more resistivity than others? Is it due to education, or education and hard fought battles for independence? And I’m not suggesting American exceptionalism for America is without equivocation a melting pot of the world, and rationally cannot claim exclusivity since we originate from the rest of the world population.

My mother’s DNA is European and American Indian. My father’s DNA is European and African. Our last ancestor from another continent left Amsterdam in the 1500s and Ireland around 1700. We are American born, yet our cells are citizens of the world.

If I go back thousands of years I am from Haplogroups U and R, some of the oldest peoples who started with a journey from the Caucasus Mountains and a Siberian steppes, carrying a smidgen of Neanderthal in their DNA. Geographically I’m an American, but as an eddy in the stream of entropy I’ve recombined many times over, picking up a half-dozen origins of ethnicity, and so have the whole of Americans.

Seeing ourselves as eddies in the political stream

Is the DNA of freedom and democracy encoded in all our blood? *Halliburton drilling states that a difference exists between rocks filled with hydrocarbons, which are poor conductors of electricity compared with those filled with salty formation water. Are we a different kind of rock? Do we have what it takes to resist entropy of democracy.

I think we do. And for most of America’s history, internally, with the exception of the American Civil War, mostly we’ve achieved it with intelligent resistance such as that of Martin Luther King Civil Rights movement and the Women’s suffrage movement in the last century. It is my belief that an expanding world democracy as well as American Democracy, is enduring just as sure as DNA because it is encoded within us, in the dignity of each and every one of us.

 Footnote

*[Resistivity is the ability of a substance to impede the flow of an electrical current. This is a very important rock property in formation evaluation as it helps to differentiate between formations filled with salty waters (good conductors of electricity) and those filled with hydrocarbons (poor conductors of electricity). Hence, a difference in resistivity exists between rocks filled with hydrocarbons and those filled with formation water. Resistivity and porosity measurements are used to obtain values of water saturation to help evaluate producibility of the formation.]

Warmstrip 

A family friend, then twenty-three-years old, finds she has the Parkinson’s gene. She calls me, and is upset, and asks me what it means. I have no idea at the time what to say to her or how to say it to make her feel better. The following is our conversation that day, describing what it is like to find out at twenty-three that you are genetically predisposed to develop the devastating disease, Parkinson’s. Lee found out after testing with 23andme genetic testing company.  (This story is a re-post from Allvoices, from last year. Lee, of course, is not her real name).

 

I’VE GOT THE PARKINSON’S GENE!

I am Italian. I really am Italian!

You kiddin’? No one doubted it but you. I mean look at you there’s no doubt.

Born in Jersey, big brown eyes, gorgeous thick layers of dark hair, and perfect skin, Lee’s mother was adopted, and she knew little of her origin other than she came from Italy as a small girl.

After all the laughter and chit-chat over the phone with my daughter about the fun things, a pause.

Mom, she says she’s at risk for Parkinson’s.

I’ll let you talk to Mom.

I’ve got the Parkinson gene.

I held the phone a second. Blindsided by this one. I fumbled out a sentence about how she had sixty years before she worried about Parkinson’s, and how either stem cell or gene therapy would cure it before then. I wanted to say something soothing, something wise – something her mother might have said – it came out awkward. No one I knew had had Parkinson’s.

Lee’s going to be marrying into our family, she’s twenty-three. After I took my DNA test at  23andme she wanted to take one, too. She said she wanted to have kids, and she thought she should have them early because she said her family didn’t live long. Odd, for a young woman to think that way I thought at the time; I would never have, but then I’m goal-less. She isn’t.

For Lee it wasn’t a simple decision that she was making as a very young woman. She was on the fast track with a full scholarship working towards a degree in chemical engineering. She talked about how she’d love to get into MIT. She’d been accepted to several choice colleges with scholarships.

We forgot about Parkinson’s for a while then she sent me an email.

  • >>>Are there any really early symptoms of Parkinson’s? Ones that develop in your 20s? I’ve done a little research but its very unclear.
  • >>>I think maintenance of this disease is what you are after. You may never get the disease, but I think even if you don’t get full scale Parkinson’s it will affect you, and from what I’ve seen it starts early, it just isn’t recognized early, because the body is young enough to fight it off or maybe repair itself. What they are finding now is that diseases are not just all go or all stop, but are partially expressed or maybe even minimally expressed depending on (protein folding) (?).
  • Also, glutamate is another part of the puzzle. There are toxins made in the brain that attack brain cells. Starting young is a must. This disease starts when you are born I am guessing, and progresses on an individual basis. I’m also guessing that if you figure out how it is personally geared to your body, you have a really good chance of pushing the disease further down the road, and not damaging your brain until either genetic cures or something comes from the SergeyBrin and Michael J. Fox research.
  • >>>So theoretically if I have it, my brain is already deteriorating? That explains a lot haha.
  • >>>I think that even if you don’t get Parkinson’s it will affect you slightly.
  • >>>Oh, you think that my brain is deteriorating?
  • >>>Oh, remove foot from mouth. Was never known for my diplomacy. Sorry.

Again, an awkward, unsatisfying answer for her, from me. So, I dug into Parkinson’s research, an unfamiliar area, to get answers for me and for her.

I was surprised to learn the positive things about Parkinson’s. It’s not your grandma’s disease anymore. In 2011, researchers are putting a new spin on an old syndrome.

  • After testing many drugs, the team found that phenylbutyrate could activate DJ-1 and keep dopamine neurons from dying. Next, they put the drug in the drinking water of mice genetically programmed to get Parkinson’s disease as they aged.
  • Aging mice receiving the drug were able to move normally, had no decline in mental function, and their brains did not accumulate the protein that causes Parkinson’s. By contrast, older animals that did not get the drug saw a steady decline in their ability to move as their brains were damaged by abnormal proteins. (Drug trials on Parkinson patients began in 2009)
  • Source: Drug Stops Parkinson’s in Mice, Human Trials Begin – ResearchersPublished by:Steven J Hendrikson 17th Mar 2011 | bySteven J Hendriks

The next ten years truly may truly be revolutionary in brain medicine. Neural cells from the most complex organ on earth are now grown from skin cells where they can be stressed and observed. Never before have living brain cells been so accessible. It’s an exciting time if you are researching Parkinson’s disease.

As I researched further, I was surprised by what I thought was a cut-and-dried disease, narrow in scope, treated easily with L-dopa, and a disease that one out of two older people will get eventually. A disease that Michael J. Fox has, that’s relatively rare in younger adults, but he looks fine (?) He’s wickedly funny, and talented – except now, when I see his performance on the “Good Wife,” and then read about his trials with this disease, his performance is more than impressive.

I was surprised to find a website for “Young People with Parkinson’s SA” that has links for young women who want to get pregnant who have Parkinson’s, reassuring them that they can have children. Richelle from Australia says, “I am a 22 year old who was given the title of a Parkinson’s sufferer at the age of 17. I decided there wasn’t enough information out there for people my age…” Australia’s second leading disease is Parkinson’s, and many younger Australians have Parkinson’s, more so than in the US. http://youngparkinson.wordpress.com/

I was surprised to learn that Parkinson’s is a syndrome. Syndromes are almost impossible to pin down or diagnose or cure. I was surprised to learn the energy it takes to live with it, the many forms it takes, how some people have any where from level one to level five stage symptoms and these can vary from hour to hour, depending on medication. And onset can range from juvenile to octogenarian.

I was surprised to learn that Nebraska is the king of Parkinson’s in the US. The Nebraska Chapter of American Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, says, “The world’s highest prevalence of Parkinson’s Disease of any region is in Nebraska, U.S.A. with 329.3 people per 100,000 population.” “The Amish, Nebraska, the area around the ferromanganese plants in Breccia (Italy) have rates of 407 per 1000, and the Parsi of Mumbai (India), have the highest rates with 328.3 per 1000 Parkinson’s in the world.” Agricultural states, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa known as the “Heartland Hub” have the highest rates for the US.

I was surprised to learn that southern Italy is home to Parkinson’s through the Contursi family. Jill Marjama-Lyons, MD, says “Perhaps the most famous family with inherited Parkinson’s disease is the Contursi family…in which sixty members of the same family over five generations were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.”

Most of all I was surprised to learn from Jill Marjama-Lyons’ and Mary Shomon’s book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Parkinson’s Disease. Holistic program for Optimal Wellness that early diagnosis is very important. The disease is around at least 10 years, sometimes twenty years in submarine mode before a diagnosis is made. “The dopamine cells that die off in Parkinson’s disease are in such a small area of the brain” that a CT scan or MRI “of the brain is not able to show these microscopic changes, and most patient’s with Parkinson’s disease will have normal scans.”

During this time, 60-80% of the dopamine neurons will be killed before motor symptoms become evident. This time of submerged stealth may be a time for intervention. The earlier it is diagnosed the better the management of it.

There may be neuroprotective agents that might minimize brain neuron loss until a cure is indeed found like taking large doses of COQ10, and antioxidants to clean up the free radicals, maybe coffee and exercise, and much more that can be found in the book  What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Parkinson’s Disease. Holistic Program for Optimal Wellness

So, if you’re in your twenties, like Lee, and any of the five Parkinson genes discovered so far are yours, they might just be medically “actionable” or correctable, in the sense that you are an individual, and your body may be healthier than others, you have time on your side. You can make better decisions based on what new things you know about Parkinson’s research. You can comb the Internet, read research, read books written for and by those who have gone before you. You can ” Save Your Own Life” as Marie Savard, MD says in her book to patients.

You can choose not to live near farmlands with the pesticides like rotenone , and you can choose what you eat, what you don’t eat (wheat), and take antioxidants to forestall motor loss in your brain. You can do Pilates and Yoga or dance, any exercise that actively engages your mind at the same time as your body, you can take yourself out of stressful situations, and manage anger, rather than suppress anger, and put good things into your life that naturally trigger dopamine instead of gobble it up and plug your brain with Lewy bodies.

Lee was born into an era that will be the fastest changes in medicine in over a century. She may be the first generation to never know what it is like to live with Parkinson’s disease. She has a lot of reasons to be optimistic. And, if I were to give one bit of advice to Lee, or anyone who has the same DNA results, I’d say read  What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Parkinson’s Disease. A Holistic Program for Optimal Wellness. It is a wealth of knowledge about Parkinson’s disease written by a physician who deeply cares for Parkinson’s patient’s lives.

 

Psychopathy

KEVIN EAGAN

On Saying Goodbye to My Books.

via On Saying Goodbye to My Books.

In three weeks, I move across the country to a house near Kissimmee, Florida. My wife and I are starting over, and for the first time in my life, I’m not holding on to anything except the essentials for work and life. We’re hoping to take only what can fit in two cars

Phishing for poetry

So, I was half-asleep and clicked a phishing email, and, there inside the source code, at the very bottom where I almost missed it, was the first line of a poem that Anvari attributes to John Muir, American Naturalist. I liked it so much that I added the quote as my tagline. Below is a few more lines to make the thought complete.
 

wizard of oz

Photo by Saltypalette

As goatherd learns his trade by goat, so writer learns his trade by wrote.

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.

I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of the flood, storm, and avalanche.

I’ll acquaint myself with glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near to the

heart of the world as I can.

sled

Size 2 inches x 1 inch.

Geo Art Cache

‘A series of geocache trails created by artists.  Geo Art Caches are being hidden  . . . for you to find! IN A NUTSHELL: Geocaching is like treasure hunting with a GPS.’

Benefits of abstract engineering

“Want to study photography? Grab a camera and go take some pictures. Want to be a writer? Start a blog. Want to be a civil engineer?” The following quote from Engineering Revision describes how to begin.

20130408-DSC_0995

To be a successful software engineer (or indeed, any engineer), one first needs to be utterly and completely broken by failure. One must be so humiliated by a complex system that they give up and realize that the only chance of moving forward comes from being a supplicant to the complexity, by approaching it with humility and caution, not with hubris. You have to listen to the system, coax it into behaving. Commanding it does not work.

blkchnwallet.png

Virtual Wallet

TSF

Bitcoin & Ripple used by everybody?

It’s really difficult for the average person to understand how digital money works if only because it’s unfamiliar. The average person has conquered complex technology before, though, and digital money is getting better. In that case, Bitcoin and Ripple may become household words.

My feeling about Ripple is that it, or something very like it is going to be used for micro-payments for the average person worldwide. It may be that in the near future Bitcoin and Ripple will run in parallel channels, mutually beneficial to one another. Yes, it might be commercialized just like the web was when .com was added at the end of web sites rather than .org. The wealthy may gravitate to one and the rest of civilization gravitate to the other. Commerce has shifted many times in history.

I agree with Charles C. Mann

I’m reading a book titled 1493. It’s about ecological globalization. It tells about how quickly the world globalized after Columbus landed in the Carribean, which led to the Spanish trading with the Chinese in the Philipines from the new route. The book is by Charles C. Mann. He says, “Nothing like this worldwide exchange had existed before…nor had they operated on a scale large enough to disrupt societies on opposite sides of the planet . . . the worldwide network is still viewed w/ unease, even by many of its beneficiaries anti-globalization . . . In the end, though, they lost, each and everyone of them.”

I’m guessing that we are watching a seismic globalization of commerce. Merchants need speed in the money exchange, frictionless transactions. Google and Amazon-like businesses are hungry for territory, the poor are hungry for opportunity. Give them a phone and some Ripple XRP, and watch them acclimate. Today’s commerce is far behind what the market can handle. This won’t be linear; it will be exponential technological change. It won’t be just one technological change. When one change erupts others come along. I think what we are seeing is strong emergent system that ignores borders.

I disagree with Jon Matonis.

“Ripple’s trusted pathways are unlikely to be formed between people who are not already connected socially, he added. “Someone in Japan is not going to care about someone’s reputation in California,” he said. “I see Ripple being used more in localized, regional community environments rather than as a global international application like gold or Bitcoins,”

Does Matonis forget about the students in colleges and Universities the US, and Canada, worldwide for that matter, who have connections in Japan and other places, the student who needs money for an emergency, now, not in 48 hours or not in a week? Does he forget about the refugees from Africa and Egypt, and the immigrants from Mexico who have family who could use their help or vice versa?

Does Matonis forget about our military strewn about the world who have trust relationships? Walk through Union Station in Washington DC, that’s almost what the US population looks like now, it’s international. The average American is a myth. There is a trust network far greater than he imagines. And the trust from that group that will branch out will be exponential. Each family will bring friends of friends of friends.

Could it be that Ripple is going to be larger than Bitcoin, and actually be the unexpected concept that changes the world? This remark on reddit about the average person caught my attention.

We Are the Hosts of the Let’s Talk Bitcoin! Show! We just spent 4 days at Bitcoin2013, Ask Us Anything!

Bitcoin is important for the average person. We just forget who the average person is.

*The average person is a South-East Asian male, aged 22 without any bank account, access to credit or ability to participate easily in the global economy.

The reason Bitcoin fascinates me is that it embodies the possibility of bringing the other 6.5 billion online into the global economy on a level playing field.

Even in the US, 18% or more of the population are “unbanked” – lacking credit, legal status, or access to banking services. In the rest of the world, the unbanked are much higher percentages of the population. Some estimated by the UN and others put them as high as 6-6.5 billion.

Bitcoin can change all that and make it possible for anyone with a cellphone or an Internet kiosk or share computer to acquire the means to transact internationally with very small fees. It changes everything

20130317-DSC_0427

 

NERVOUS ABOUT THE BITCOIN GAME?

Like me, you’ve probably read about the couple who invested when Bitcoin was a nickel and cashed out when it skyrocketed,  and now they’re millionaires, and you’ve heard sound bites about Google Ventures investing in “Ripple” — whatever Ripple is.

The black-market slash Silk Road chatter is dying down and this thing looks like it might become legit, and might take off.  The Wall Street Journal headline reads Bitcoin Startups Begin to Attract Real Cash. And, Forbes, Kashmir Hill writes about living on Bitcoin for a week or Bitcoin 2.0: Can Ripple Make Digital Currency Mainstream?

Think if you will an updated more efficient Paypal account whereby you can now buy select goods from Etsy members or buy a Pizza from a local Bitcoin merchant, or whereby “BitPay is [now] integrated with Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), so you can accept BTC payments on your website, and automatically have Amazon ship the merchandise.”

You’re ready to try it. You’re intrigued but none of it makes sense because you’re not going to buy a $2000 dollar ASIC Bitcoin Miner to get a Bitcoin to experiment with. You want to date Bitcoin not marry it. After all this is a blind date. And we’ve heard about those.

CONVERT SMALL AMOUNTS UNTIL YOU ARE COMFORTABLE

There are  less expensive ways to understand crypto currency before you commit to it than mining. Then if you get hooked on Bitcoin, and are one of the very few who immerse themselves into the culture, then Bitcoin mining is an exciting, James Bondish way to increase your wealth.

The easiest way I’ve found is to open an account at Ripple open wallet and fund the account at Ripple Union Gift Card Exchange. Open wallet for Ripple is free, it’s activates immediately. Ripple Union Gift Card Exchange is an inexpensive way to fund  your first wallet.

The Amazon.ca gift card should be at least the amount of the gift card plus the $2.00 fee. My first gift card was for $5.00 ($2.00 fee included), you can purchase, which will give your account more than enough Ripple XRP to grant a trust, so you can begin trading. RippleXRP can be exchanged for Bitcoin once you have accumulated enough Ripple XRP, US dollar, Euro, or currency of your choice. You are now in a position to see how Bitcoin and Ripple work in your world.

“The concept, community, and [Ripple] technology are from 2004. The new implementation and creation of a start-up company all happened earlier this year.” 

Ripple is still in beta. It’s been described as one of the least risky Bitcoin APIs, but Ponuleus on reddit said it best, “NEVER keep excessive amounts of funds in any of such payment processor systems.” That said, OpenCoin  is the firm behind the Bitcoin exchange Ripple, and Google is putting their money behind Ripple.

If you need more reassurance, you might like to read about OpenCoin the firm behind Ripple at Google Ventures invests in OpenCoin, the firm behind Bitcoin exchange Ripple or  Now Backed By Andreessen & More, OpenCoin Looks To Build A Better Bitcoin — And A Universal Payment Ecosystem, OpenCoin | 2020Here’s another helpful link on how Ripple works.

RIPPLEUNION GIFT CARD EXCHANGE

RippleUnion Gift Card Exchange is a user friendly site that I use that allows me to fund a Ripple account with Amazon.ca gift certificates. I buy an Amazon.ca gift card certificate for myself, and I email the card’s code to RippleUnion Gift where I exchange it for RippleUnion CAD IOUS, which I can use to buy XRP or anything else. (I email the gift code to giftscards@rippleunion.com along with the address for my Ripple Open Wallet account.) My wallet address is public, I share it with the world. Your Ripple address will look like the address below.

You can view my transactions at Ripple Live at wallet address: 

rp9TzPE7hKS1AWujmN89LwpVLg1xXyVJEB

 To see what transactions look like between Ripple Union Gift Card Exchange and my Ripple account go to the Ripple Live page. In the upper left corner of the site where the address box is, copy and paste my Ripple address from above into the box and click GO.

You can see all my transactions with Ripple Union Gift Cards gateway including our first transaction. If you like, after you get your Ripple XRP you can send me 1 XRP (value less than 1 penny today) to this address. I’ll return it to you. This is a check to help you see how it’s working for you. You can then go to the Ripple Live page, paste your Ripple address into the box, and you can see the genesis of your Ripple ledger.

 You can exchange as much as $25.00 gift card every ten days. At this time RippleUnion will add 500 Ripple XRP to an empty account, and return any money due in Canadian dollars. Or if you already have a few Ripple XRP in your wallet, then it will top it off to 500 R-XRP, and credit your account with the change in Canadian dollars, which you can convert to US dollars if you like.

Weber: Ripple, like the traditional banking system, is a system for tracking debt between parties.  You trust some entity to borrow cash from you (just like you loan your money to the bank when you deposit it there), and in return you get a balance that can be traded with anyone else who also trusts that entity.  Ripple takes this one step further, allowing you to trade this so-called “IOU balance” to anyone who trusts someone who trusts the entity, etc, so that people all around the world can be paid as long as there is a path for liquidity between them and you

WHO IS RIPPLE UNION GIFT CARD EXCHANGE?

Ripple Union Gift Card Exchange is the brilliantly crafted, easy to use gateway service that Stephen Paul Weber  and Jonathan Lamothe launched to help the Ripple community catch on.

Weber, who is singpolyma on Reddit says, “My partner and I are long-time Ripple users (I’ve been using Ripple since about 2004, maybe 2005).  When the new one launched, we knew there was going to be a demand for gateway-like services, so we just kept our eyes on the community for ideas of what would work. Ripple as a technology is already seeing great strides in this new incarnation.  A lot more exposure (mostly because we never tried to do any marketing on the old system, since we all were waiting for a distributed version to get built by someone).

I interned with a startup called AideRSS (later PostRank) for the whole life of the company, which was then sold to Google, where I worked for 4 months.  After turning down a full-time offer from Google I moved on to artbarnlabs.com, where I am currently a partner.

My partner at RippleUnion, Jonathan Lamothe, has been with Ripple since 2010ish.  He works in low-level systems automation programming and services, having worked up through the ranks from a line worked at the same firm (he lacks a degree, but makes up for that by being more awesome than a lot of people who have degrees 🙂 ).”

CREATING A VIRTUAL (CRYPTO) WALLET

Maybe you’ve wandered over to reddit, maybe someone there explained Bitcoin in a thousand words or less, and maybe it’s still not clear, maybe you’re as mystified as you were to begin with. Then a redditor suggests that the best way to understand Bitcoin is to try it, so just for shite & giggles, you open your first virtual (crypto) wallet, its a either a Block Chain or a Ripple wallet, and it doesn’t look a thing like anything you’ve experienced before. Below are sample wallets.

WALLET CHOICE: RIPPLE WALLET OR BLOCK CHAIN WALLET
Two wallets are especially good for beginners as well as for pros: Ripple and Block Chain. Of the two wallets, ripple is the one I recommend to beginners. Both wallets are free, and do not require cash or credit card information. They do require an email address. If you like you can set special email address to use for this account only, one up especially if you are trying out ripple.

HOW TO SET UP A RIPPLE WALLET
Step 1 How to Set Up Virtual Wallet (RIPPLE Or BLOCKCHAIN)
Step 2 How to Back Up Virtual Wallet (RIPPLE OR BLOCKCHAIN – DROPBOX)
Step 3 Two Simple and Inexpensive Pathways to Fund a Ripple Wallet
a. Fund Ripple Wallet From A Friend for Free
b. Fund Ripple Wallet From A RippleUnion Gift Gateway – $5 – $25.00 (scroll down page for step-by-step illustrated guidelines)

CRYPTO LAW

Ripple Union Gift Card Exchange is located in Ontario Canada. If you’d like to read more on Canadian law for Bitcoin exchanges, see Canadian regulators welcome US Bitcoin refugees with open arms. Also, interesting is the FINTRAC letter that’s discussed in this story,  Canada becomes bitcoin-friendly FinTRAC does not see the need to regulate several Bitcoin exchange models at Pokerati.

NEW RELEASEImage

 

This guy’s book will cost 0.1 Bitcoin or approx. 2700 ripples if you care to convert your hoard to Bitcoin, which is about $11.64 (amirite or amiwrong?) When the book debuts on Amazon June 3, 2013,  it will cost $4.99 on Whisper net. It’s available pre-order on Amazon, only.

If anyone orders this book would you please let me know how easy (difficult) it was to buy the first book w/ Bitcoin.

BIOGRAPHY

CHOOSING YOURSELF by James Altucher, James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, and author. He has founded or cofounded over 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr. Wikipedia

Found “Choose Yourself” review in a BUSINESS INSIDER story.

ALTUCHER QUOTE

I’ve made money, I’ve lost money. I’ve lost my home/family/friends. I’ve made some of the above back. I’ve gotten really lucky. Several times. With determination I’ll make it stick, and I think you will also.

 

EricSchmidt

 

 I expected to read details, hitherto unknown to us, about that weird country, North Korea, in Eric Schmidt’s book, The New Digital Age. After all, North Korea is a hot topic, and Schmidt, recently, had a bird’s eye view of it.

Schmidt is on the short list of a very few Americans to experience North Korea intimately, notwithstanding the blinkered Dennis Rodman, who attended a North Korean “celebrity sporting event” a month before Kim Jong-un threatened nuclear annihilation to four U.S. cities: Washington, Colorado Springs, Colo., Los Angeles and Honolulu.

Or, let’s not forget the photo-op of ashen-faced, hostage negotiator, ex-president, Bill Clinton who stood on stage beside the elder, Kim Jong-II during a tense hostage situation. We are curious about North Korea, as-is, on a day-to-day basis, rather than a sanitized distance. Schmidt entered the inner sanctum.

Yes, there were many quotable lines about North Korea and the future of business in Asia in The New Digital Age, but for the rest of us, seeking ephemera, the chapters were like dry lake beds encrusted with cracked mud. 

Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen dual authored The Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business. The book was published this April, several months after Schmidt’s business and sightseeing tour with his daughter, Sophie, to North Korea.

Since books are printed in bits instead of ink, mostly, nowadays, it seems like Schmidt and Cohen could’ve updated their Kindle version to include more North Korean local color before it was published; could’ve added a page or two of local kitsch slash melodrama for those readers who are so very curious about, but will never see the innards of North Korea; with those edits in mind, Schmidt could’ve let his daughter write the book.

Daughter, Sophie’s hot-wired blog post written after her visit to North Korea with her father, Eric Schmidt, was far more fun, informative, and readable than Schmidt’s and Cohen’s book. You might like to visit Sophie in North Korea or read Eric Schmidt’s Daughter Recounts the Duo’s Bizarre Trip to North Korea, a Gizmodo story. It’s lively.

Seemed like the Schmidt-Cohen combo was possibly cautious about letting loose Google secrets or damaging a future working relationship with that Manchurian Candidate-kind-of-country, North Korea. Or something.

A Kindle search for the phrase ‘North Korea’ in The New Digital Age leads to no less than thirty-four instances. But for all those talking points the authors might have been describing a dull gray, nondescript, electrical box that every body owns.

Yeah, we know the North Korean government filters their public Internet. Give us details we can chew on. Give us concreteness. Give us gossip, any morsel, scrap, tedious leftover. Linsday Lohan gets better coverage than that bad-boy, North Korea, after a Schmidt visit.

Maybe informed readers with insider views to Google, and the future, read more into Schmidt’s lines than disappointed reviewers read. I’m sure, reading between the lines totally titillates CEO’s and those who like to guess what Google’s next move is about — readers get that, but a good read that broadens our understanding of the future, sprinkled with some bling-bling, and magic dust, particularly, when describing North Korea is what most readers expected.

A few reviewers on Amazon reviews were disappointed. We were in the minority. Below is the gist of my comment left on Amazon:

Bought The New Digital Age book on Amazon Pre-Order because I thought it was a book I might enjoy a lot. Rarely do this. The first chapter was interesting enough, but the writing kept me, the reader at a distance.

After the first chapter I would find myself flipping through other books in my Kindle. I didn’t get much past the first chapter, though I sampled later chapters to try to find a place to anchor my interest. I gave up on it.

Had just finished reading James Merkosi’s Burning the Page with little effort; I read it page for page, and gave it a good review on my blog. The distance between the two books on the WOW scale was wide. I read Burning the Page without a bump, but there was nothing but turbulence in the cockpit when I attempted to navigate The New Digital Age.

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Internet computer conversation has changed. I like to tinker. But, lately, it’s like standing in a room full of people chatting up something interesting like Mountain Lion 10.8 OS X when without notice you are alone. Everyone suddenly exits to see something more exciting outside the building. You wonder over to the window to see what all the babel is about. On the lawn techies are crowding around this seven-inch rectangular mirror thing that’s got everyone mesmerized. No mess of cords: simplicity.

That’s how I felt as a tinkerer before Nexus 7 Tablet arrived at my place. Alone, behind times. OS X was no longer fresh. I was on the line about abandoning Snow Leopard 10.6.8Mountain Lion 10.8 was more of the same, a buggy system that requires updates to fix the bugs that the last version didn’t fix. Shades of Windows. My 2006 Intel dual core PC is to this day a work horse, ahead of it’s time when I bought the $1500 motherboard and power supply fashionably ensconced in what is still a bad ass black X Blade case.

It became clearer everyday that if I wanted to stay current with OS X I had to buy more hardware like a sound card, video, or buy a motherboard, and Mountain Lion OS software. I adopted a used Mac desktop from a family member who couldn’t fix it. It just quit. Took it apart to find a tiny bit of solder missing on a fragile metal object that made it not fixable, at least by me.

Windows 7 shelf date came and went, OS X grew a dull patina starting with boot, too. When Google Chrome developers decided to dump OS X Chrome browser, and it acted finicky when video played, that was it. What is a middling, not serious tinkerer to do? Buy a $180 video card. Throw good money after bad? TonyMacX86, goodbye. You’ve been a great site!

I de-tethered from my desktop. I want battery life that is as promised. Nexus 7 has 10-11 hour sustainable battery power. My HP Pavilion DV7 lasted three hours when it was new. Writing a simple column on battery only was a pain. No goofing off with housework to return to a black screen from where the battery had fully discharged, and lost text.

In two years the HP battery was dead, anyway. I either had to spend more dollars to replace it or stay hooked to an outlet. That’s for a device that is stationary, runs too hot to balance on my lap, and runs the power hogging OS, Windows 7. HP runs Ubuntu or a Linux, too, of course, and can do OS X, but like Windows those have lost luster. Drag that five pound monster to Starbucks, and all the fun is missing.

I wanted a genuinely portable tablet like the Amazon Fire, like the one I bought for my daughter. Kindle Fire is has an elegant design, limited browsing power but is a damn good first in an affordable 8 GB tablet. Ever since I booted the Kindle I’ve wanted to break it, to root it, but since it was her gift, bricking was not in the spirit of the gift. This spring Google announced Nexus 7. The reviews read like every nerd’s dream, every spec covered most of my bases, and those things that were not covered, new apps like the Nexus Media Importer and the new OTG hardware hack written about on forums, made possible the last wish on my list.

The final Lego fell into place when Larry Page (I think) dropped a tidbit about wired Ethernet as a possibility. A hack made possible by the On The Go or OTG cable. Our Internet is wired. If I were to run the wireless I had to interrupt the household Internet for fifteen minutes to get online for minimal browsing, and email. OTG, an unpublicized option, made my decision final. The Nexus 7 Tablet 16 GB was my next computer system. I didn’t have the cash to spend upgrading hopelessly clunky systems.

The OTG cable hooked into Ethernet, and a 50 ft. cable, LOL. (and Belkin USB Ethernet adapter.) A wireless tablet is nice but a wired tablet is really nice. I wanted the option to tether my phone, ditto. Bluetooth, ditto. I wanted the option to type on a keyboard for speed or thumb-type-touch for convenience. I wanted to connect at Starbucks without weight or complexity. And I wanted to try the apps tech writers raved about.

Google gave a $25.00 gift certificate to spend on Google Play with purchase. Spending someone else’s money is fun I’ve got to tell you. Google’s money was spent well. It was a win/win. Google educated me about their App Store and Google Wallet in a direct meaningful way that it would have taken me years to get to.

I bought my first apps, yes, I know this is sad, but these were the first Apps I’d needed to buy since I own an inexpensive Samsung phone. I have never owned an iPhone or iPad, nor have I wanted to own one. Those systems are too slick — to limiting — too expensive.

A big chunk went to Quick Office. And a good choice for a writer. At first it didn’t seem that way. Now, after three weeks, Quick office is a ritual. After I check my email, browse the news, I open Office to write. I get a choice in file formats.

I save doc files compatible with 1997-2003 Office — my current software version. Upload the docs to Google drive or email them to my personal email account without ever exposing my business account to Android’s ever-open email access. Download the files to my HP laptop, which is looking useful again, and print them. Or I could print them from the cloud. Or upload posts to my blogsite Technosociofile.blogspot.com. The Nexus 7 Android OS, Jelly Bean 4.1, ecosystem is consumer friendly.

Google has thought the Nexus 7 Tablet strategy through. They’ve integrated their ecosystem, which is remarkably like the one I want, to make email simple, browsing fast, an ecosystem that has open frontiers to explore. It’s not a walled-in community on the level that Amazon built.

Kindle books are a must. The reader is backlit. Kindle is awesome on Nexus 7. Sunlight. I can sit under the canopy at Starbucks to type or browse. Google needs a shipping and customer infrastructure to match their product but as a frontier-settler-nerd this works exceptionally well for me. I had one disappointment.

The Nexus 7 official case covers were sold out at $20. I ordered the swiss army knife for Nexus covers from a company named CrazyOnDigital, described as a “Rotating Stand Leather Case Cover for Google Nexus 7 Tablet (Black)[Smart Cover Function: Automatically Wakes and Puts the Nexus 7 to Sleep” from Amazon. Got it in a few days at a cost of $14.85. And it absolutely revolutionized productivity on the Nexus.

And, behold another computer system has come to my attention, the Raspberry Pi. Gotta have the $35 credit card size motherboard to make a HDMI home theater. Android Ice Cream Sandwich works for video on the Raspberry Pi. If only it played sound. Google’s AudioFlinger is missing. Debian works pretty good for now. Oh, well, another day. Another OS. Reprint from defunct blog at blogspot.com.

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BURNING THE PAGE: THE EBOOK REVOLUTION AND THE FUTURE OF READING. It shows us how magic came to be. It tells the story about a modern day sorcerer, Jason Merkoski, who spent his life working on the “front lines of the ebook revolution.”

Like FAHRENHEIT 451 the page was burnt, destroyed in the most anarchic invention in the twenty-first century, the Kindle book. To save the page it was deconstructed from atoms, and resurrected to bits.

From paper to zeros and ones. From print to Kindle, and later from bits to bits, conceived on a screen and published onscreen. James Merkoski and the Amazon team quietly changed our lives, and changed a world-wide paradigm that’s been the thread woven into our daily life for centuries – the bound book.

It’s a narrative about the Kindle-dot-com – Amazon, about “Google, Jeff Bezos, and the ghost of Gutenberg. It’s a true story of the eBook revolution—what eBooks are and what they mean for you and me, for our future, and for reading itself,” but mostly it’s the intimate memoir of an inventor entwined w/ the memoir of the Gutenberg invention, the book from beginning to present.

It’s a love letter written to the book as we’ve known it and an elegy to it’s passing. It’s an imaginative glimpse into the new technology that has revolutionized reading and writing books; it is the socialization of books.

Digital books were available before the Kindle; only the Kindle caused a revolution in reading. Before that digital texts were the province of disparate publishers of history books, technical manuals, and fiction books, mostly from established writers like Stephen King. eBook publishing was reserved for the few forward thinkers, sometimes self-publishers, the techno-savvy who, early on, published eBooks in the digital space as a PDF file, a file both awkward and serviceable. The personal Kindle reader, and app, and the flexible-format MOBI file revolutionized eBooks.

The Kindle incarnation proved it could almost displace the much-loved book bound in leather, paper, and cloth with distinct smells and feels, and an almost living presence to bibliophiles. It begrudgingly won us over.

Burning the Page carries forward this astounding history that has happened right under our noses, in writing, story, and a style that begets “pastness, presentness, and futureness, joined by association” tying all these concepts together. It’s a complex style that works as best I can describe it.

Amazon Kindle books have breached the “third digital revolution” described by Neil Gershenfeld, “in which matter and information merge”, where things are turned into bits and bits are turned into things. James Merkoski captured a Gutenberg moment in his book just as one epoch is ending and another beginning. Book lovers and Technosociofiles will not want to miss this one.

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Daily Beast made an interesting point in a story about the Tsarnaev brothers. “For all the different labels that get attached to it—terrorism, serial killing, ethnic war—much of mass violence is actually one big thing: the attempt by a small group of nihilistic and idiosyncratic individuals to murder, indiscriminately, a great many more.” Every American Muslim’s Fear

In other words, this urge to “murder, indiscriminately,” that played out in the Boston Marathon bombing might be less political, and more the act of one or more garden variety psychopaths, who’ve found absolution through the “book of the guilty” by attaching themselves to to an ideology, terrorism.

It’s too common for caring people to look for THE reason when an unfathomable, mass murder occurs, but maybe because we know how to care, we’re overlooking the basic cause of the problem, the reason a teenager and his older brother became enthralled with extremist philosophy.

I can’t help but feel that one of the brothers is a psychopath. Or maybe both, but the one who seems the most pleased to perpetrate this act on the crowd he’s passing through, and the one who gives the appearance that he could pass Hare’s checklist for psychopathy, wearing the “mask of sanity“, is the baby brother.

Salon published “The Depressive and the Psychopath: At last we know why the Columbine killers did it” by Dave Cullen. There are many parallels between these two tragedies. The Salon story draws the surprising conclusion that the depressed Klebold did not lead the seemingly normal Eric Harris in the murders, as it appeared, but Harris, the psychopath lead Klebold.

Cullen writes, “He [Eric Harris] was sweet-faced and well-spoken. Adults, and even some other kids, described him as “nice.” But Harris was cold, calculating, and homicidal. “Klebold was hurting inside while Harris wanted to hurt people,” Fuselier says. Harris was not merely a troubled kid, the psychiatrists say, he was a psychopath.”

In reading the many stories on the Boston Marathon attack, generally Tamerlan is deemed leading his younger brother astray. But much like the Columbine killer’s profiles I believe the older Tamerlan was the depressive, religious brother, and Dzhokhar was the one who had the confidence to carry out their audacious plan. It could be that Dzhokhar played Harris the psychopath to Tamerlan (Klebold) the depressive; Dzhokhar kept Tamerlan focused and calm. Tamerlan kept Dzhokhar energized with his know how in inventing explosive devices.

The Tsarnaev brothers’ actions reflect something akin to school shooters, even though one of them was in his late twenties. They reflect a combined fantasy: an egocentric, self-serving wish for devastating, international notoriety, duplicity on a grand scale, and the completion of a homicidal urge against all those they hold in contempt, which is everyone except for the two of them.

Many similarities exist between these two sets of killers. Both chose guns and explosives to carry out their plans and schemes. The Columbine killers chose the United States as the backdrop for their drama, the Tsarnaev brothers chose the entire world for their staged drama.

Like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were “gunning for devastating infamy on the historical scale.” On the surface their violent Tsarnaev acts look like they might be connected to a larger cause, which most likely will be true, but to what extent I would not predict.

Psychopathy is found across all ethnicity. Psychopathy is a trait that’s found in all religions: Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, name one. It’s found in CEO’s, doctors, lawyers, ministers. It’s found in men especially, women to a lesser degree. Psychopaths make up about four percent of the population.

I’m not sure what the Tsarnaev brothers saw during their childhood that would make them so disaffected from those they shared everyday life with, but I’m guessing it was bad. Genetics affect the DNA endowed psychopath profoundly if early childhood is harsh. It will be interesting to see what psychological profile is decided upon for the Tsarnaev brothers. I believe that the younger brother had many possible futures but with the same tragedy that extreme psychopathy brings.

stories that matter

THE EMERGENCE OF NOVEL IDEAS. Below is a blurb from the new site MATTER, which will introduce you to a journalism subscription concept that I’m excited about. It features emerging ideas on the fringe of our knowledge. If you’re like me you like to read magazine length, in depth stories about science, technology and the future. If you’re like me sometimes you like to listen to these stories or parts of them while you’re doing something else. Now you can. If you would like to download science journalism the length of a novelette to your Kindle or reader, you can. Read DO NO HARM, Why do some people want to cut off a perfectly healthy limb? Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). for your introduction to MATTER, a Kickstarter project that consolidated MEDIUM and MATTER.

Stories that MATTER


MATTER is the new home for in-depth writing about the ideas that are shaping our future. We publish a single piece of extraordinary long-form journalism every month, from tales of corporate misdeeds and untold environmental scandals to stories of radical new scientific ideas and the people behind them.

We also think it’s crucial to find smarter ways to fund this kind of journalism. That’s why we’re building a community of readers, contributors and supporters who agree. For just 99c each month you can be part of it too.

Sign up today, and you’ll get:

• Access to all of our stories, including each month’s new release and our archive.
• Audio versions of every story, so you can listen on the go.
• E-book editions to read on your Kindle, iPad or Nook.
• The MATTER newsletter full of amazing links and tips from great writers.
• Editorial Board membership, so you can help shape the topics we cover.
• Exclusive Q&A sessions with the authors and editors of every story.And it’s easy to change your mind: you can cancel your Membership at any time with a single click.

It’s a circus this morning. Opened up my digital wallet, BitCoinSpinner. One Bitcoin’s worth $69.11 at this moment.  It dropped like a rock from $266.00. A new sheriff is in town – Ripple backed by Silicon Valley behemoths announced they were releasing into the wild 50 billion coins in May for those who sign up. A new posse is trading up Bitcoins for Ripples this morning, raking gravy from the nerd-famous, volatile currency for drug lords, libertarians, and those who can’t help themselves. Mt. Gox sounds like a biblical place but it’s the Japan based home for a centralized, math-based, coin exchange. Looks like the Winklevoss twins have saved the day or BitCoin currency I should say. The trade slide has stopped for now, the wounds cauterized. Watching the currencies battle it out is like watching a new sport for the new decade — Bitcoin-ball.

Bitcoin has received its most high-profile endorsement yet as the Winklevoss twins, famous for their legal battle with Facebook, reveal they could be the largest holders of the controversial digital currency – just as the bubble bursts and the price plummets.

burningpageOh, am I bad. Embarrassed myself on the last post about the Twitter Feed. Took the time to sign into twitter — @technosociofile. Now I get that the “Burning The Page” twitter site for Jason Merkoski’s book tweeted twice for me, attractive tweets advertising the released book in my Twitter account, Technosociofile. Where the account revoked came from is a mystery, but all is good, cause I now “get it.” I get why Twitter is awesome and why it’s a good resource for stories. Took me long enough. Sincerely, LMAO. Chalk up my ignorance to my ongoing digital literacy.

Somehow during a phone conversation I wandered into Nick Bilton’s Twitter feed. He writes Bits column for the New York Times. While I’m talking and clicking I tweeted that I’d read the first chapter of Burning the Page. Twitter message pops up goes something like your account has been revoked. Oh, well, big deal. It took me just a second after my phone conversation ended to see I had interrupted Bilton’s conversation tweeting about a book he may or may not review. Am I an unintentional spammer or just damn rude? Burning The Page: The eBook revolution and the future of reading is already on the Huffington Post this morning. Nick if you read this, sorry ’bout that.

Burning The Page” is a great name for a book, especially if it’s by Jason Merkoski, book innovator who worked on the Kindle team to bring us eBooks on reading devices. So, far I’ve read the first chapter, and it’s yellow with highlights on “far off futuristic ideas.” I got sidetracked though. Merkoski added a hyperlink to Twitter for gifts like a digitally-autographed cover for his book. Ooh, proper good, and wicked keen idea his, this Reading 2.0.

Only thing is I’m antisocial, and resist Twitter. I’m a novice. Technosociofile has a slightly used account, so much so that Twitter sends me an email saying it’s good to see you, it’s been sometime since you joined in the conversation. But Merkoski’s autograph lured me to Twitter.

Bilton’s feed is the only Twitter Feed that I follow. He gets the futuristic stuff right in his column. I read his referrals. I am embarrassed to say as a Technosociofile that a social network that’s as widespread as Twitter is pointless to me. I’m such a privacy freak that I break out in hives near Facebook, and like fellow techie-paranoids, I wipe out my last web info with the Google tool that asks if I want to erase it from the beginning of time. If I had more time I’d spend it tearing down my system and rebuilding it again, not Twittering.

What Twitter does give me is long form journalism in the form of Bilton’s excellent Tweets. So, I’ll pursue the in-depth stories through my email alerts for Bilton’s Tweets where I don’t sign on, and refresh that which should not be refreshed — Tweets. In the meantime, I’m anxious to get to chapter two of “Burning The Page.”

HACKING YOUR EDUCATION: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

HACKING YOUR EDUCATION: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

REVIEW: Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will


Dale Stephens says he wants to teach you how to navigate the Kafkaesque educational bureaucracy. If you are twenty-something buy this book, or if you are fifteen, and thinking about going to college read this book. If you feel helpless to find a job in this economy this book will have something concrete you can try like his “52 cups of coffee” focused networking, which isn’t anything new until Stephens tells his story, and why you should do the same.

In fact, the book was so full of new strategies and new ideas it wore me out reading about them. This isn’t your parent’s self-help book. This is real world stuff. If you can’t afford college, definitely read Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will.

Stephens talks about education like someone treading lightly through a mine field gingerly avoiding the financial education trap. He says that “there is a bubble in education and it is on the brink of bursting.” I agree.

Stephens says that “Universities do not train you for the real world: they exist to make money”; that an “MBA program is worthless”; that “schools can only teach what is settled”; that it “takes years for knowledge to become a part of formal curriculum.” And by then the expiration date on your education is stale.

Dale Stephens offers a path for the upcoming generation to get an education that is relevant, and not stale, and debt free, or at least less so that of those recent graduates who’ve spent a fortune on their masters degree, and work in the service industry when they graduate. He calls it UnSchooling or UnCollege.

UnSchooling is an educational philosophy that values learning over schooling. Dale Stephens says you need to “stop giving a s*** about grades and start building things.” He says ” Project-based learning is a style teaching in which students define problems they are interested in and then solve them with guidance from their teacher.” He talks about collaborative work groups instead of competition, creating a website and a personal portfolio, and networking with people who are interested in the same things you are interested in. He says make something.

Stephens says “hiring managers want to see experience. He says business has changed but education hasn’t kept up. He wants college age people to take their life into their own hands rather than handing it over to an institution that is trying it’s best to keep up in a fast moving century.

Stephens persuaded his parents to allow him to drop out of school in the fifth grade to school himself. It seems to have worked. He dropped into college then dropped out, again, forming a group to school himself. He founded UnCollege for non-traditional higher education. Stephens says he “agreed to write a book, never having written more than twelve pages.” The book is well-written. It’s more than readable, it’s enjoyable.

If Hacking Your Education . . . had a shortcoming it is that the book is ahead of it’s time. Degrees are still the currency that is valued, too often. The educational system is in flux. This might be the last decade for traditional education, but it is, yet, here. And, yes, Universities are a business first, but some are there to teach, to put the maker ideas into the curriculum.

Stephens probably had more financial and family resources available than a lot students heading for college, but he talks about strategies that work whether a learner has resources or not. He’s ingenious in his own life, and wants to teach others how to be ingenious. He asks for help from a friend or relative who works at Google, and gets a foot in a door he’s after. Too many will not have an uncle or friend of a friend at Google, or network connection in a high profile firm, but even that might surprise the ingenious student who buys 52 cups of coffee.

Technosociofile's Favorite Books

Technosociofile’s Favorite

Favorite Book List

  1. Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John McWhorter (Oct 27, 2009)

  2. Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do by Meredith Maran (Jan 29, 2013)

  3. Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves by George M. Church and Ed Regis (Oct 2, 2012)

  4. We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olson

  5. Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day by Stephan Talty (Jul 3, 2012)

  6. Black Irish: A Novel by Stephan Talty (Feb 26, 2013)

  7. Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert D. Kaplan (Sep 13, 2011)

  8. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson (Oct 2, 2012)

  9. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Oct 24, 2011)

  10. Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will by Dale J. Stephens (Mar 5, 2013)

  11. The Art of Betrayal: The Secret History of MI6: Life and Death in the British Secret Service by Gordon Corera (Jan 9, 2013)

  12. The Fractalist: Memoir of a Scientific Maverick by Benoit Mandelbrot (Oct 30, 2012)

  13. Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick, Steve Wozniak and William L. Simon (Aug 15, 2011)

  14. Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire by Bruce Nussbaum (Mar 5, 2013)

  15. Machinima: The Art and Practice of Virtual Filmmaking by Phylis Johnson and Donald Pettit (Mar 7, 2012)

  16. Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution by Rebecca Stott (Mar 19, 2013)

  17. Ignorance: How It Drives Science by Stuart Firestein (Sep 25, 2012)

  18. Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science by Michael Brooks (Apr 26, 2012)

  19. Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe (Vintage) by George Dyson (Dec 11, 2012)

  20. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution – 25th Anniversary Edition by Steven Levy (May 27, 2010)

  21. Phantom by Jo Nesbo (Oct 2, 2012) – Deckle Edge

  22. Adrenaline (Sam Capra) by Jeff Abbott (Jul 1, 2011)

  23. The Psychology of Dexter (Psychology of Popular Culture) by Bella DePaulo PhD (Sep 7, 2010)

  24. The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World by James Shreeve (Jun 28, 2005)

  25. Biopunk: Solving Biotech’s Biggest Problems in Kitchens and Garages by Marcus Wohlsen (Jul 31, 2012)

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“I think the case against Auernheimer is deeply flawed, and that the

principles the case raises are critically important for civil liberties online.”

 

“In a blog post Thursday, Orin Kerr, a professor from the George Washington University Law School, said he is stepping in to help Auernheimer due to concerns over the length of his sentence and the manner in which the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) was applied in the case.”

AT&T HACK

A few days ago, I read about “Weev” Auernheimer hacking AT&T to reveal a deep flaw. He did it for the challenge and a notoriety. He was hacking for fun not profit. He’s going to jail. Why?

Why are our brightest minds wasted in jail? A rapist gets one year and a non-malicious hacker gets three to four, and another altruistic one is driven to take his life, and yet another one, a talented Texas journalist rots in jail. It’s more than unfair. It’s wasteful. And, heart breaking.

I’m not a hacker. I tinker. Yet, our society is so backward, and so under-educated about technology that I might be lumped into that category. I tinker, like so many others. To say that I hack is like saying that singing Karaoke is the same as performing a musical virtuoso. What I like to do is write or at least think about writing. It’s probably what Barrett Brown likes best, too — what he thinks about while in jail for hacking, which he probably didn’t know jack about, what he knew about was writing and investigative journalism.

Technosociofile, Subspecies of the Nerd

Years ago I got fascinated by a new thing, a bulletin board, run by a skinny teenager who worked at Walmart. I don’t remember his name; I remember he killed himself, though. One day I had someone to share a hobby the next I had no one. I used to talk to him about computers when I went there to shop. I’d look him up. One day he wasn’t there, and they told me they found him by the wood pile near the shanty he lived in. He’d shot himself. He was a Technosociofile, not a terribly understood subspecies of the nerd. Seems they are the most vulnerable.

Brown, Swartz, and Auemheimer

In a small way that’s why I feel so bad for activist, Aaron Swartz, altruistic JSTOR hacker at MIT who committed suicide while under Federal indictment “facing decades of prison”, and to some degree, I feel bad for Andrew ‘Weev’ Auernheimer in what is considered “Federal overreach”, for the AT&T hacking. And then there is Barrett Brown, who got hold of a story that his journalistic personality wouldn’t allow him to let go.

Cyberwarfare Discussion

Don’t get me wrong I don’t like or support malicious hacking but hacktivism is another story. It often doesn’t come tied up in a nice bow with manners and etiquette. It’s comes in the package of a sometimes obsessive, reclusive, inquisitive mind who just wants to know if they can climb one more level in the game. And when they are caught, nowadays, lately, the crime often does not fit the punishment. I’m not saying all who hack and get caught should go unpunished I’m saying recently this is beginning to look like a witch hunt.

Is this an era we will look back on as a destruction of the best minds of the early twenty-first century, the ones who are self taught, self-motivated, the possible geniuses who might protect our country against cyberwarfare through exposing holes in the technology-Internet-infrastructure? I’m saying let’s have open discussion, let’s have oversight in sentencing, and let’s understand the difference between malicious destruction and hacktivism. It’s a very fine line but democracy has always allowed us to tread that fine line delicately.

RDIO APP

TV is last century. It might hang around like radio. I cut the cord long ago. Ah, forgot about RDIO! compliments of Nick Bilton’s tweet for his Bits column, Test Run: Rdio vs. Spotify in the New York Times. Installed the PC and the Android app yesterday. It will clean the air pollution. TV pollutes the air. RDIO masks the sound, blunts it. New music.

The Writing desk

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My white cup has black tea in the bottom. I’m at my desk, I can hear them. I know her, Isabella, our cat, and I know him, and I know Sunday mornings in the in-the-routine way that peaceful households are alike. She’s wrapping herself around his legs; he’s pattering to her, something inconsequential. The artist among us is still dreaming in abstracts.

My tax stuff sits in sight. Speakers lay sideways, collapsed on the desk entwined like a set of crossed fingers. Dvendra Banhart song plays on RDIO. A twenty-two inch monitor, a purple, half-inch storage cylinder for my tooth cap that came off w/ a caramel hard candy, a clotted canister coated with lotion, a bottle of bilberry sups to forestall the loss-of-light cones in my green eyes, hard bound notebooks to scratch notes in from books I read, short story ideas, and tasks to complete, mundane everyday stuff done over and over.

DVDs in a stack, spring water in plastic at hand on my right like a flask protecting me from thirst on a prolonged journey, the bottle beading drops of dew on mom’s oak desk, her long gone DNA captured in hand-applied varnish. My feet crossed at the ankles resting beside my laptop that’s switched on less and less since owning a tablet. A black HP keyboard w/ the stuck shift key damaged when it took a tumble when I got my toe tangled in the cord.

All the clutter I collect around me claims me. I have to see this stuff. It comforts me. I don’t want matching objects. I prefer asymmetry to balance. I prefer intermittent chaos to stagnation. I prefer change. Change is lop-sided. Even change doesn’t stay that way. It gets more symmetrical as stability rolls in.