About hendrixski

Father, entrepreneur, camper, runner, avid reader, Catholic, and settler of Catan.

On Politics

I’ve been meaning to write a lot about how I feel about the current political climate. During the elections I was for Hillary Clinton and not so much against Donald Trump. Usually my preference is for supporting things over opposing things, I’m a positive person in that way, you know? Now it’s after the elections, and the political climate is a bit unsettling to someone with my background.

I’m a political refugee, that’s how I came to the USA. My parents were part of a movement that overthrew an oppressive regime and eventually restored democracy in Poland. At a price: we had to leave behind family and friends and flee to a new country where everything was alien to us. Learning from their example, this heroic achievement was simply not worth it. Governments come and go, and their churn simply eats the hopes and dreams of those who stand in its careening path. My hopes and dreams are not political; my hopes and dreams are to build a family, build a career, build the future of technology, and to live happily in what I’ve built. Why then, would I put myself in the path of this government?

Ultimately, I do believe that we are stronger together, and that America is great because America does good. Hopefully we will continue to be. I believe that I can stand up for these things in my daily life without getting tangled up in a political sphere. Others can stand in opposition, others can #resist. I think such protest is an important thing for the proper function of democracy. It’s not a place for me anymore.

 

Election Season

Now is the time that the general population starts paying attention to politics. We have two very interesting candidates who have been thoroughly destroyed by the media. 2 months from now on November 4th we take an annoying but important journey to our polling booths. So if you haven’t taken a look at the policy positions of each one then please look now, and if you aren’t registered to vote then for the love of cute kittens, please register now.

Outsiders

How’s this sound?

“I don’t trust those establishment doctors. They’re all corrupt, pill-prescribing, pricks. I want to choose a doctor who is an outsider. Somebody who’s never been a doctor before because they will bring fresh new ideas to the practice.”

Sounds insane right? If somebody told you the above statement you would recommend that they see a psychiatrist… and not an outsider psychiatrist, but a professional one with time-tested proven techniques for treating whatever mental illness fueled the above statement.

How come then, do we hear basically that sentence every day in political news? Think about the value of professionals before voting for an “outsider” political candidate.

Goodbye Bitcoin Community.

 

Bitcoin excites me. The way I see it: Bitcoin is the first ever way of transferring value on the web that is native to the internet. Other online money services like PayPal, or Google Wallet, are third parties whom you borrow credit from and they will eventually settle your payments in the old, slow, non-internet system. Bitcoin, by comparison, is money that’s already in the web and your transaction is settled by you when you make a purchase. Wow. Not only that, but this money is open source, border-less, pseudonymous, and distributed… just like the internet itself. While bitcoin excites me, its proponents do not.

Some in the bitcoin community are a bit turn off, more so than other early adopter communities. Now, I understand that new technologies have to get a core userbase of sometimes extravagant and sometimes unsavory people to get the project ready to cross the chasm and achieve mass adoption. I get it, really I do. I’ve been an early adopter on so many new technologies. I’ve been using Linux since university over a decade ago and I was able to work with the neckbeards and held my nose at LUG’s before Linux started to run AWS and Android. I was using Git for years before my company, my favorite FOSS projects, and any of my private clients switched to it, then I taught bunches of new users about git. I’ve been driving an electric car for years and am used to fighting for timeslots around car-chargers with other long-haired hippies. I’ve been dealing with the early adopter crowd for a long time. Early adopter communities can be rough.Trust me, I get it. But holy hell is the bitcoin community a piece of work. Let me tell you how.

Early adopters must be idealists in order to put up with the shortcomings of a new technology: people who can tell themselves “it suck now, but I’ll use to to create a better future”. I’m an idealist too, so I can relate to early adopter communities. The early adopters of the bitcoin community have a very peculiar idealism though. Bitcoin’s early adopters sometimes believe that a systemic banking collapse is imminent and that this digital gold will be the only unit of value to survive. Bitcoins early adopters sometimes revile the centralization which comes with corporate services as being some kind of evil force that must be raged against viciously. Bitcoins early adopters include people with religious beliefs that bitcoins must never be spent but only be “hodled”. Bitcoins early adopters sometimes have a fixation about price, where most every piece of news gets filtered through the lens of market movement. Bitcoins early adopters are sometimes so ridiculous in their “to the moon” mentality that they are easy fodder for trolls (and outright bullies) who publicly congregate in a forum called buttcoin. Bitcoin early adopters are much much much more unhinged than other early adopter communities I’ve seen before. This leads me to worry about the future of the technology. But wait there’s more.

A toxic community is not such a bad thing in and of itself. A community that self-immolates is another matter. Some bitcoiners try to silence those whose ideological view of bitcoin is different from theirs. This is blasted as “censorship”. For example, there’s a technical debate about ways to scale bitcoin and the number of proposed solutions explored is still small. But already some people are entrenched in one way or another so they try to remove proponents of one method from the conversation, or remove one company from a listing because that company agrees with one method not another. Even though that company (coinbase) is fricken awesome. Another example is companies like FoldApp and Purse.io which are on the edge of opening up something awesome. They’re growing towards online exchanges where you can buy goods at a discount through an intermediary (something which is only enabled through an internet-native currency) but frequently the community response to the mere mention of their early efforts is cries and wails of fraud and money laundry. Apparently the only proper way to use Bitcoin is to spend it on drugs on the dark web, or something. These, and more, are self-destructive habits of the community that repeat themselves ad nauseam.

If the way that you think about a new technology is influenced by the petty anti-patterns I described above then you may not realize the full potential of the thing that you’re trying to explore. As you can tell: I love bitcoin and I think it’s the coolest thing since gold. I want to dive deeper into bitcoin and I want to bring new people into bitcoin and explore the ways in which the onboarding experience is being improved. But in order to do that I will stay far away from the bitcoin community. Furthermore, I will keep any people whom I introduce to bitcoin as far away from the community. It’s been fun everybody. But this is goodbye.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

 

Merry Christmas,

I wish all the best for you and your loved ones this holiday season, and that your hopes and dreams come true in the new year. May I ask, what is your new years resolution?

Last year I made a resolution to better stay in touch with good friends. It’s been so much fun catching up with long lost schoolmates,fraternity brothers, coworkers, and buddies. I’m gonna try to keep it up. I found that the biggest obstacle to deep connections is the shallow connections one has on Facebook, or on forums like Reddit. It’s an obstacle to other kinds of happiness in life too. So this year my new years resolution is to wean myself off of a kind of internet addiction that keeps me chasing the next update, next meme, etc. Instead of surface-level stuff I hope to get lots more depth through conversations (chat or phone), books, and reflection, in the new year.

What’s your new years resolution?

In defense of geeky hobbies

Nerds are cool.

Except people think of nerds as those people who watch specific popular TV shows and play video games. In other words, those who are consumers of a certain kind mass media. That’s not me. What am I?

I’m the kind of nerd who picks up new things before they become cool. Who plays with new things on the web when they’re at the early adopter phase. Some of them take off and become huge, like Linux or Facebook. I was into Facebook back when people made fun of you for using it, even though today you’re made fun of if you don’t use it. I was told Linux had no future, even though imagine running a web server on something other than Linux today. Some of the new tech that I try doesn’t take off: like Foursquare, Google+, or five-fingered shoes. Some new tech probably won’t take off like Mailvelope (anew email encryption tool that I love). Some of them are just on the verge of hitting mass adoption like electric cars and bitcoin (those which are on that cusp are the most exciting). My hobby is chasing the future and when I see the future before anybody else does then I’m filled with nerd bliss. In other words I’m less a “nerd” and more a “new technology hipster”.

It’s difficult to find acceptance for ones hobbies, this one in particular. People tease you for it whether they are close to you or whether they are strangers. New trends that you become very excited about are panned by others and people judge your newly-discovered-treasures in ways that cause you grief. Sometimes you’re hard on yourself too. For example, I myself think that my hobby of chasing the future is socially awkward. I focus on all the times people dismiss it or tease me for it, while discounting all the times that people come to me with questions and thank me for introducing them to things like password managers, or 20% savings by using bitcoin, or electric cars. I am my harshest critic. Sometimes even other early adopters are difficult because what excites them about the technology is not what excites you about it so they try to discredit your motives for the new tech while pushing their own. Staying on the cutting edge of tech is hard work, is mentally challenging, and is often thankless and lonely.

All hobbies are lame if you really think about it. Each hobby can be dismissed in a derogatory way. Devoting mental energy to what some celebrity wore and who they slept with. Watching a bunch of guys chase a ball around a field while yelling at your TV. Collecting small square stickers that are usually thrown away with envelopes by the few geriatrics who still use snailmail. etc. etc. When you look at it that way then nerdy hobbies are on par with any other hobby. And everybody needs a hobby.

So if you’re reading this, feel proud of whatever nerdy hobby you have. Whether it’s playing Dungeons and Dragons, or whether it’s building progressively better bitcoin mining rigs. It’s important to have such outlets. Don’t listen to the naysayers, don’t be hard on yourself for it, and don’t give up!

The greater heroes principle.

I’m not super concerned about the government listening to my phone calls, reading my emails, and tracking which sites I visit. I don’t lose sleep over these things being done to me.

I am however EXTREMELY concerned about the government listening to phone calls of the next Martin Luther King Jr., reading the emails of the next Thomas Jefferson, and tracking the browsing habits of the next underground railroad. These brave souls were all enemies of their governments, they hid people and information from the long arm of the law, but they were right and the government was wrong. With modern technology, the government is able to obliterate such people. It’s them I’m concerned about. Edward Snowden said it best.

History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews.
But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana?
Where would we be today if the government, enjoying powers of perfect surveillance and enforcement, had — entirely within the law — rounded up, imprisoned, and shamed all of these lawbreakers?
Ultimately, if people lose their willingness to recognize that there are times in our history when legality becomes distinct from morality, we aren’t just ceding control of our rights to government, but our agency in determing our futures.

The next Oskar Schindler may not have a chance to save lives, the next Mark Felt may never don the nickname Deepthroat and expose government corruption. Why? Because the technological abilities of surveillance today are scary. It is the job of us, the citizens, to preserve the abilities of extraordinarily brave men and women to stand up to injustice.

Not only must we hold our politicians to account for illegal unwarranted bulk surveillance. We must make popular the channels through which such hero’s can communicate. Today, the next Nelson Mandela does exist: they are journalists, whistleblowers, and community organizers. Increasingly they have to hide their communications using encryption. If the only people using encryption are the people who should be targets of government surveillance then it makes these important contributors to our society stand out like a sore thumb. Our job as citizens to help the next Lech Walesa organize Solidarity while hiding among a giant crowd of people using encryption. You and I, all of us, should use encryption regularly in our communication so that the people who need it most, are not unfairly branded for using it. Who knows, maybe that next Alexander Hamilton is you?