Friday, May 31, 2013

How I ended up writing about alpacas is explained here

It's due to the connection made between them and Bitcoin.

So how did this less-than-obvious pairing begin? The Grass Hill Alpacas farm in Haydenville, Massachusetts is owned by Jim and Nancy Forster. It was their son, David Forster, who convinced them to accept bitcoins. Forster, who calls himself a “self-taught economist,” claims the distinction of being the first merchant to sell a product for bitcoins. 
Read more in 

Alpacas: the unofficial mascot of bitcoin?

Jane Austen's influence on English language

A recent Guardian article on Jane Austen as the "queen of modern slang:" fits quite well with a piece I wrote a few months back about the influence of her work on the literature that followed -- as confirmed by big data in The Big Wow-Wow & a Bit of Ivory

The Guardian article informs us that
Oxford professor Charlotte Brewer told the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye that while Austen had a great influence on the first Oxford English Dictionary published in 1928, she is quoted 1,640 times in the most recent edition.Entries include 321 phrases from her 1815 novel Emma, which includes ‘dinner-party’ and  ‘brace yourself’. She also came up with ‘if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you 100 times’.
As the piece is very short, though, it adds in a piece of what it considers good news: an upcoming  BBC adaption of Death Comes to Pemberly. I don't usually like the modern writers' takes on the most popular couple of Pride and Prejudice. Someone picked out that book for me once, and I couldn't even bring myself to finish it. That's saying quite a bit. However, I have no objection to the Jane Austen stamps issued by the UK recently. They are little works of art in themselves.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Star Trek and the final frontier of currency

Yes, I did get paid to write about Star Trek, at least in terms of envisioning money in the future in works of science fiction. I also mention Star Wars and The Handmaid's Tale.

 Part of the geek appeal for Bitcoin users is that it is a real-life example of a concept often featured in science fiction or sci-fi-oriented computer games: an advanced, universally accepted form of currency.
Universally accepted forms of payments become essential in a society in which space travel enables humans – and other sentient beings – to hop from planet to planet inhabited by civilizations of all kinds. Read more in Is Bitcoin science fiction come to life?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Living the libertarian dream on the sea?

The #libertarian  connection of seasteaders and #bitcoin
Bitcoin represents more than a digital currency. For many adopters, it is a means of breaking free of government and financial institutions’ control over money.

The Seasteading Institute’s philosophy dovetails with the views Thiel espoused in an April 2009 essay for the Cato Institute, “The Education of a Liberatarian.” In that piece, he declares that libertarians must get beyond restrictive government systems by finding a place of their own:
“The critical question then becomes one of means, of how to escape not via politics but beyond it. Because there are no truly free places left in our world, I suspect that the mode for escape must involve some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country; and for this reason I have focused my efforts on new technologies that may create a new space for freedom.”
 Read more in Why do 'Seasteaders' Love Bitcoin? 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Data on drugs, dollars, & docs

One of the issues that Dan Ariely addressed in his book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, and in his 2009 blog, centered on the question of payments to doctors:
The real issue here is that people don’t understand how profound the problem of conflicts of interest really is, and how easy it is to buy people. Doctors on Pfizer’s payroll may think they’re not being influenced by the drug maker -- 'I can still be objective!' they’ll say -- but in reality, it’s very hard for us not to be swayed by money. Even minor amounts of it. Or gifts. Studies have found that doctors who receive free lunches or samples from pharmaceutical reps end up prescribing more of the company’s drugs afterwards.
Propublica launched Dollars for Docs. to publicize how much doctors are paid. At this point, its data encompasses more than $2 billion in payments that 15 major drug companies made to doctors in the period from 2009 for 2012.
Read more in Data on Drugs, Dollars & Doctors

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

OK, you got people's attention, but is it the kind you really want?

#marketing #stereotyping Well, if the goal was to get people talking, Samsung did succeed in that. But in the internet age we are learning that not all publicity is good publicity. BTW the vacuuming trick for the hair appeared in a video that showed how a dad made his daughter's pony tail.   It can do that, but it won't braid.

If you're longing for the good old days when bashing women was the way to go when using stereotyped marketing, just take a quick trip down memory lane with this collection of commercials.


For more on attention at all costs, see

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Winnowing the web

While advanced technology is what enables this kind of collaboration and capacity, Whaley’s model is decidedly low-tech: The printed page of the Talmud. In presentations to the Science Online Bay Area (SOBA) Innovations in Academic Publishing and Peer Review last fall, he showed how the Talmudic layout consists of the original text in the center surrounded by annotated commentary. This arrangement is paradigmatic "of a work where the dialog around the meaning and relevance of a passage creates the value for that passage in and of itself," Whalen said at the time.
read more in Winnowing the Web With Crowdsourced Annotation

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The evolution of money

We've come a long way from coins to bills to checks to plastic to online payments and digital wallets. The question now is:
Is society ready for bitcoin? My answer in 2000 words (as specified by the assignment) is at

Monday, May 6, 2013

Google contributes to the big data battle against human trafficking

When we think of slavery, we think of something that has been eradicated from modern civilization. But the fact remains that nearly 21 million people around the world are effectively enslaved.
Despite being illegal, human trafficking flourishes as a $32 billion industry that is abetted by sophisticated use of technology. The hope is that technology can also be used against the traffickers in the form of big data solutions. Read more in Fighting Human Trafficking With Big Data

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Collaboration as a winning strategy

We're used to thinking of competition as the key to lower prices. But in certain cases, cooperation leads to more efficient use of resources. That was the case for an Ohio hospital alliance that realized substantial savings just a few months after pooling resources. Read more in 

Collaboration & the Supply Chain