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Sunday, July 10, 2016 - 00:48 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Next Epoch

"Hey! Hey! Come kick, come kick. Come.
You hit them well! If we lose then f**k it!

(Original source: Youtube)

- Ronaldo to Moutinho, Portugal vs. Poland
(he scored, they went on to win 5-3)

Much has been said about Ronaldo's individualism to the detriment of his team (oft contrasted with Bale/Wales), and self-confidence/arrogance (oft contrasted with Messi), but hell if he showed some leadership chops here; I'm rooting for Portugal to take it from France in the final now. By the way, punditry's an unforgiving job, as one koala has discovered.

Meanwhile, Mourinho has asserted that "fourth place is not good enough" in his maiden United press conference [summary], as predicted. Not only that, he went on to dismiss the (frankly crap) idea of shoehorning Rooney into midfield, with the astute observation that "you can tell me his pass is amazing, but my pass is amazing too without pressure."; this looks like leaving Wazza enough rope to hang himself. Of course, if Rooney somehow recaptures his old form up top, he'd then deserve his place on merit. Sounds good to me.

And, Messi's squeaky-clean image might have taken a bit of a hit, after he was given a 21-month (suspended) sentence for tax fraud (under appeal). Obviously, he won't be serving it, but when it comes to the Too Big To Jail stakes, he surely doesn't hold a candle to Hillary: despite basically committing gross negligence by insisting on transferring classified emails to her own vulnerable personal server 'cause she's Hilldawg, the FBI's not recommending charges because - in so many words - she was too dumb to understand what she was doing.

No, seriously, that was her basic defence. Meanwhile, TRUMP got ripped for... using a six-pointed star in his Crooked Hillary montage. Now there's partisan bias, and then there's head-scratchingly mind-boggling levels of utter ridiculousness...

"It depends on what your definition of 'lie' is... sigh."

Era Three

So The Halvening has come and gone, marking Bitcoin's survival for some seven-and-a-half years; it's been turbulent, and not without pain (not the least for those who had trusted collapsed exchanges such as Mt.Gox... though they are at least finally getting something back) and highs and lows, but if the price and the (some even state or bank-supported) copycats are anything to go by, the idea of independent, "neutral" cryptocommodities won't be going away soon.

"Neutral" being contained in quotes, since there will probably always be some political wrangling, with the block size debate covered in H.L. Ham's January AGM still simmering; while last week's drama was a purported hijack by Chinese miners due to impatience over capacity increases, the matter has since - like previous short-lived panics - quietened down.

Anyway, my analysis and stand on this issue remains unchanged from 2014: Bitcoin should exist as an ultra-reliable "base/settlement layer" of value, atop of which multiple secondary transmission layers can be built, simply due to technological constraints. The cost of decentralisation has always been that the network load would grow exponentially to the number of transactions/users, which means that Bitcoin was never going to scale "as-is".

One interesting argument against sticking so strongly to the existing 1MB per block limit according to the above reasoning, was that the figure seemed arbitrary - what if Satoshi had set it at 100KB, or 10MB, instead? On this, there are two main responses: firstly, that the 1MB limit was hardly as random as it might seem, and secondly and more importantly - that modifications to Bitcoin's base code, and the ensuing hard fork, carry an extremely high implicit cost.

My stand here would be that the top consideration for Bitcoin all along was its stability - shuttling weed money around is one thing, but when billions are held in virtual form, the underlying rules not being able to be changed on a whim must have been a key driver. As loud as some supporters have been, there has been next to no evidence of anything even approaching a consensus towards their proposed block size increase; in short, weighing Bitcoin's decline due to delayed transactions against a decline due to rushed updates introducing fundamental weaknesses (see Ethereum), and/or contested forks, I'd say that the latter would be far more dangerous and possibly permanently fatal.

In any case, with multiple secondary-layer Lightning Network implementations - and associated routing algos such as Flare - coming to fruition, the question might soon become mostly moot. With Segregated Witness recently merged (possibly enabling your sofa as a sidechain; jk), and thin blocks and invertible Bloom lookup tables (IBLT) now on the table, it looks like we might yet get away with "smarter" solutions.

Oh, and the Winklevii's COIN ETF might finally, finally be getting off the ground, with their switch to the seemingly more friendly BATS exchange from Nasdaq. If the crazy premiums over at GBTC are any indication, there might yet be a rush of diversification interest from more traditional retirement funds to come. And, to put Bitcoin's current state into perspective, its network is already over forty thousand times more powerful than the world's top 500 supercomputers, combined. Fun days ahead...

Quietly, Quietly Does It

Recall our reaction last August, when Premier Li promised that there was "no basis for continued depreciation of the yuan"? Well, he's basically been parroting the exact same line since then... just as consistently as the yuan has slid from about 6.20 to the dollar back then, to nearly 6.70 today, with the latest move apparently opportunistically using Brexit as cover (but, cannot like that say, otherwise very no face leh)

Of course, the big boys never bought into it in the first place, and neither did the loyal tycoons/party cadres, given how they have been funneling money out to bubble up foreign real estate markets (compare Japan in the 1980s). If you watch closely, the PBOC has been supporting the exchange rate whenever short-selling sentiment hits the news - if only to stave off the vultures temporarily - but it's looking increasingly likely that the slow bleed is here to stay, whatever the Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China says.

Pessimistically, it is also looking more and more probable that China's (and Singapore's) very recent wholesale promotion of "innovation", is actually a codeword for "we don't have any answers on hand for the mess we're in, so it's *your* job to pull a bunny out of your ass and get us out of it". Tellingly, China's push towards a buzzword-filled "innovation-driven economy" appears to have resulted in... the construction of "innovation centers" on a massive scale (why, real estate cannot be creative is it, comrade? Eh, actually, cannot)

Sincerely, for all that's been said, I just hope that China gets through this smoothly... but frankly the fundamentals simply don't look that good. Heck, even Temasek's bailing, though given that they have gone as far as to admit to a S$24 billion net portfolio value loss for the past year (unlisted asset valuations notwithstanding) - instead of papering over it with capital injections as per usual - one understands if they were getting cold feet. Eh, at least they gave early warning when they declared that "CPF is not your money"...

Legit innovation in construction
[N.B. But really, recent temperatures have been stupid]

Radio silence has also been the order of the day at Little Brother Singapore, with the definitely-of-public-interest news that thirty-five MRT trains had been recalled due to "non safety-critical" defects spilled by... Hong Kong reporters flying camera drones at Tuas. In contrast, The State's Times had to scramble to cover their backsides, having been rudely awakened from their accustomed routine of force-feeding the credulous populace milquetoast navel-gazing editorials such as "One in ten local teenage boys are inveterate liars".

The government has belatedly come (sort-of) clean (while trying to claim that cracks are normal), but the bigger problem here is the complete lack of transparency involved. Logically, had the faults really been no big deal, why the heck would one go to the trouble of shipping all of the entire bloody trains back to China, as a Singapore Bike Forum member expressed? One hopes that they don't come up with a higher-mortal-natural-aristocrat-no-need-to-know kind of excuse, but one suspects the most immediate action would be to ban camera drones...

On the brighter side, along with the suddenly-endemic elevator accidents (remember when maintenance certs were no longer required?), this could see good engineering finally gaining some recognition here - but, as EDMW is so fond of reminding, GPGT: Got Pay Got Talk.

Game On

After all that ranting, it'd be remiss if I hadn't done my own small part for the general economy, which began with a new phone (after the last contract ran out). I had made it a point to wait for the Mi5, given that I had no complaints about the old Mi3, only to find that Xiaomi were now out to chop robert carrot - Singapore's getting the 32GB version at a "cheap" S$619... which goes for just over S$400 in China, and S$512 over the Causeway. How to support like that? Liew eh, liddat might as well throw money at Samsung liao. Fine, so I've gotten addicted to surfing-on-the-go.

Initial impressions: solid and fast enough, not having the battery drain as if on steroids was a nice change, migration was a bit of a bother (Xiaomi wasn't compatible with Samsung's proprietary Smart Switch app), but Helium did the job adequately. Trivia: waterproof!

Which brings us to the most novel game concept I've heard of in some time - Pokémon Go. It's exactly like classic Pokémon, for the younger at heart, just that it works in the real world:

Eh, if you're gonna be a weeaboo, might as well get some exercise and invade some police stations while you're at it

Proof that one doesn't require a full VR headset to get immersed, just yet? Lucky kids nowadays, to be able to set off on the road to Pokémon Masterhood at just US$4 starting.

Couldn't resist the Steam Summer Sale running out either - like, what do we earn money for anyway? - and laid out fifty bucks for a bunch of titles I'd always had an eye on:

Age of Empires IIS$3.00 (85% off)
FTL: Faster Than LightS$3.15 (70%)
Serious Sam 3: BFES$3.90 (90%)
Heroes of Might & Magic™ VS$5.95 (50%)
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimS$10.00 (50%)
Europa Universalis IV Extreme EditionS$11.25 (75%)
Galactic Civilizations IIIS$13.26 (66%)

Though, looking at the discounts, it's difficult to justify buying games through Steam when there isn't a sale going on. Total War: Warhammer can wait, I suppose, for when it gets discounted from its current US$59.99. I've got to admit that I'm coming around to Steam's distribution model for its convenience, although recurring subscriptions such as Creative Cloud still have me wary, mostly due to the very real possibility of being held hostage on the platform as fees get jacked up; let's see how Microsoft's perpetual Windows 10 OS-as-a-service methodology works out, then.

Now, just where do I find the time to delve in... (fair disclosure: my lifetime Dota 2 hours stand at 1145 currently, with Civilization V at 391 "only" - that was quite the surprise)

Commencement Day

That took some time, but yay
[N.B. Pity the bouquet bear...]

Not Forgetting, Independence Day!

[N.B. Yes, you've heard it in the Milo video]

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Next: Here To Stay

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The Third H.L. Ham AGM
Story Of A Bit
Meditations On Value
Bitcoins In Them Thar Hills
What It Is (Part One)

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