Fincher's Follies

Yeah… just let someone else host it

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Angels & Demons  (Robert Langdon, #1)Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Definitely one of my favorites. While it is fiction, there is enough history described where it almost feels like you are learning something. I would love to read an analysis of the “history” in the book to discover how much was actually based in truth. It is an easy read and definitely the kind of book that I could really delve in and read for hours (not that that is every an option anymore, haha). I also love that Dan Brown uses lots of small chapters so it is easy to squeeze in short periods of reading and still get to decent stopping points.

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My Beautiful Munchkin

My Beautiful Munchkin

My Beautiful Munchkin

I don’t usually post mobile pics to my Flickr (I tend to reserve it for my photography), but we were too enamored with this photo not to post it. As usual, I got trigger happy and took a bunch of photos and this one turned out great. I think she looks like a little toddler model. ¡Que linda!

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal FarmAnimal Farm by George Orwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have read this before, but not since we started our reading list. I can’t imagine many people haven’t read this, so a thorough review seems silly, but it was a quick and enjoyable read. One thing to note (obviously depending on which version you have) is in regards to the introduction. In the version I have, the introduction basically gives away a huge amount of the plot! I might understand in a foreword, but I ended up skipping the second half of the introduction because it was so full of spoilers. Crazy! Anyway, it was an easy check mark on the reading list so I can read another leisure book.

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Idiot America by Charles P. Pierce

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the FreeIdiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by Charles P. Pierce

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Overall it was a fairly entertaining read. It turned out to be a little more about history than I had expected, so I had to think harder and read a little slower, but I made it through ok.

Given the title, I was expecting something a little more along the lines of Why People Believe Weird Things. I should have had a tip-off that the book was going to be pretty liberal-biased when the review on the cover says “A raucous rant against the armies of the right… Pierce is at his scathing, insightful best.” It had sections that seemed a little more balanced, but overall it was more of an attack on the right than an elucidation of the dumbing down of America.

This also reminded me of how weird the rating system for Goodreads is. You can give a book 1-5 stars. 3 stars would then mean that it is average, i.e. I would say it was “ok.” But for Goodreads, 3 stars means “I liked it.” How does that make sense? On a normal scale I would give it a 3, but since Goodreads is my book review aggregator, I’ll abide by their system. I thought it was “ok” so it gets 2 stars.

It was interesting, but anything with such a blatant bias, whether or not you agree with it, gets tedious after a while. The last 100 pages or so I was just reading to finish, not necessarily to enjoy. If it had been pared down, or another author had provided some balance, I think it would have greatly improved the experience.

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1)The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the reasons that I enjoyed this book is likely its ease of being read. Written in a storyteller style, and obviously aimed at a younger audience, in combination with its length made it easy for me to finish up with it fairly quickly. While I know it to have some religious undertones, it was still a kind of interesting little story.

And little story it was. I know it is part of a series, but there really wasn’t a whole lot of substance to it. This DID make it easy to read, but also felt like a bit rushed to get through the storyline with as little detail and development as possible. Overall, it provided a reasonably enjoyable few days of reading, but I look forward to delving into something with a little more substance.

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I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (Tucker Max, #1)I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you are the kind of person who tends to like jokes that a lot of people think are just wrong, you’ll probably love this book. There are definitely some hilarious (though vulgar) moments, but Tucker Max is definitely a total ass with little regard for other people. I had first discovered his stories from his website, and unfortunately, this book adds very little content. I haven’t checked the site in a while, but you can just as easily read a great majority of the stories there. Still, definitely some entertaining and totally mindless reading. It was a great followup to Great Expectations for sure, haha.

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great ExpectationsGreat Expectations by Charles Dickens

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I finally finished it! I started this about 16 months ago (apparently things were so easy with our 3 month old that I decided to get back into casual reading), and I finally finished it!

In general, I think I would have given it 2.5 or 3 stars, but the Goodreads definition of 3 stars is “I liked it,” and I wasn’t prepared to go that far. There were periods that I found pretty interesting, and there were sections that I was lucky to get through 2 pages before I was falling asleep. Overall, it wasn’t a bad read for a classic, but felt a bit long-winded at times. It also had a lot of text where people were speaking and had weird accents that made it extremely difficult for me to read.

So glad to have finally conquered another “classic” and ready to read something a bit more enjoyable!

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My foray into cryptocurrencies

BC_Logo_The other day I had skimmed  yet another article about Bitcoins when a buddy of mine sent me a message asking if I had ever done anything with them. I said I hadn’t, but soon started to get interested. I was more interested in the technical aspects than looking at it as an investment. I definitely didn’t want to buy any cryptocurrencies directly but was interested in mining. From what I’ve read, the basic gist of mining is that there are block chains that must be maintained for sustaining the currency. If you calculate the next block (a computationally complex task) you are rewarded with Bitcoins. This process is called  mining. Most of what I read indicated that, at least for Bitcoin, it isn’t really worth getting into mining unless you are going to seriously invest in a large mining rig. If you are are just running some things on your own computer, it is likely that every block you calculate has already been calculated by someone else. In this instance, you are not rewarded the coins. Additionally, people have made great strides to create hardware specifically for the task of Bitcoin mining. This has made it even more difficult for casual miners to get involved. One alternative is to use pools. As the name indicates, a group of users “pool” their resources to try to calculate blocks. There are different ways pools distribute, but the basic idea is that everyone works to calculate a block, and when it is calculated, the resulting bitcoins are distributed to the pool.  Depending on the distribution system, this can be a handy way for someone to get into mining that doesn’t have a lot of resources at hand.

Another avenue is to mine alternative cryptocurrencies (altcoins). There are a large number of other currencies similar to Bitcoin that have been created and new ones are constantly being announced. Some are very similar to Bitcoin. Others use different algorithms to make it more difficult to use specific mining hardware that is popular for other coins. As I started perusing them, I noticed Rubycoin. How can I pass that up!? :-) imgresI looked into solo mining, but decided to just start out with a pool. I can’t remember how much I looked around, but dedicatedpool is a site that has pools for various altcoins so I went with their Rubycoin pool. As I was just starting to play around, I kind of alternated between CPU mining with CPUminer and GPU mining with either cgminer (on the machine with an AMD graphics card) or Cudaminer (on the machine with an Nvidia graphics card). As I explored different currencies, I had to find nuances (after 3.7.2, cgminer no longer did GPU mining, sometimes I got a specific build for my OS or for a specific coin, etc.) Anyway, back to Rubycoins, it didn’t take me long before I was approaching 1000 Rubycoins. It might sound kind of impressive, but current market value says that is equal to about $1.43 haha. I’ve gone back and forth with this pool occasionally, but I still just thought it would be cool to have Rubycoins so I’ll probably hold on to those. Next I tried out a Litecoin pool, but I got impatient (probably because Rubycoins are currently easier to generate so I saw results much sooner). Litecoin is one of the most difficult (though valuable) of the altcoins, but seeing my balance just sit at 0 for so long got a little frustrating so I started to look around a bit more.

I went on a wallet downloading spree and was actually surprised that many of them wouldn’t sync. If you recall the blockchain I mentioned earlier, you have to sync with the blockchain to know the status of the currency. If you don’t know the status, you can’t mine or make transactions. Numerous wallets I downloaded wouldn’t even begin to sync (Windows seems most supported, followed by linux, then OSX is trailing), but I ended up with about 8-10 different wallets that did work. I haven’t done anything with most of them, but figured I would keep them on hand for the time being. By this point, I had only been playing around with my CPU and GPU for mining, but thought it might be interested to check out an ASIC miner (used for Bitcoin and those that use the same algorithm). An ASIC miner is an example of the specialized hardware I mentioned earlier. As an example, I can typically calculate about 230 khash/s with my GPU. This ASIC miner calculates 2.4 Ghash/s, or about 10x as many while using much less power than a GPU. I was able to find one on Amazon, and since I had become sufficiently interested, decided to keep a little better track of how things went (once I was sure everything was up and running properly). Obviously, one little miner is not going to be enough to do solo mining so I decided on BTC Guild as my mining pool. Here’s my first experiment. 81VWOnaiZ8L._SL1500_ Bitcoin mining with 1 Antminter U2 ASIC miner

2014-04-17 11:45 starting balance : 0.00023823
2014-04-21 11:45 ending balance : 0.00087594
Total time: 4 days
Total BTC generated: 0.00063771
At time of completion, 1 BTC = $499.80
Total amount of US dollars generated: ~0.32 or 32 cents
US Dollars generated per day: ~0.08
Cost of ASIC miner: $22.87
Assuming uninterrupted usage and stable bitcoin value, time to recoup costs: ~286 days


Obviously, that doesn’t exactly sound like a major profit generator. Assuming all things remain equal, I  could recoup costs in about 9 months. Afterwards, I would be making about 29 dollars a year. Due to the nature of how mining works, there isn’t a linear increase in output if you have more miners. If you think about the most extreme case, I could set up a bunch of mining rigs such that my computer power was 10x greater than what exists now. In that case, I would be much more likely to get a great majority of all the blocks. Likewise, if I have very little computing power, it is likely that every calculation I finish has already been done and I could never earn anything. Because of this, I decided to try out adding a couple more miners and see if my computer power is still so small that it appears linear or if I could actually see an appreciable difference in gains.

I ran into a couple of issues during testing of the additional miners, so I decided not to do a full test. I’ll still have them running so I may do a recap, but for now I’m not going to spend time on it. As I’ve mentioned, mining has varied degrees of difficulty. Right as I was trying to test using multiple miners, it appeared the difficulty either increased or the number of people in my pool increased causing my mining to be less productive. Obviously a long term test would be needed to really iron out some of these results. I also had some weird issues with running them on OSX. I can’t really overclock them, they run hotter than normal, and after a while they just cut out (could be related to the overheating). Hopefully, I didn’t damage them in the process of testing, but it is obvious that there is room for improvement when it comes to using these miners on OSX.

While I was doing these experiments, the same buddy I had talked to earlier mentioned a pool called Middlecoin. This pool does what is called “hopping.” Basically, the manager of the pool looks at what altcoin is most profitable to mine and diverts resources to it. When that coin becomes difficult, the resources are then diverted to a less difficult currency. People who are really into mining a specific currency kind of frown on this, but from a profitability standpoint, it does make sense. So the Middlecoin pool operator manages which currency is being mined, then converts it all to bitcoins. The only downside so far is that there isn’t much feedback. Since it doesn’t require registration, it doesn’t keep track of your different “workers” like many pools do. I have found this kind of handy, especially because I have been in and out of mining with Middlecoin, and since I haven’t kept track very well, it is hard for me to give an estimate about how much I am earning vs. the resources I am expending. While I usually have multiple things working with Middlecoin, I figured I would isolate a worker and use them for the profitability study later. logoI also was interested in seeing if there were any altcoins that might be worth mining solo. While it may not be as profitable, it seemed like a logical extension of my exploration. I referenced CoinWarz many times throughout this process, and I used it to find a coin that had a low difficulty.  I ended up deciding on GPUcoin. While they aren’t worth much, the difficulty was low enough that I figured I would at least have a decent chance of actually mining some coins. For this I used my primary graphics card, a GTX 760 which maintained a hash rate of approximately 117 khash/s (the algorithm used for GPUcoin makes this number about half of what you would expect if you were mining a scrypt-based altcoin, which most of them are). My block finding went as follows.

GPUcoin mining locally with GTX 760

2014-04-22 22:37 - Started mining
2014-04-23 2:42  - 4:05 hours of mining
2014-04-23 12:26 - 9:44 hours of mining
2014-04-23 19:36 - 7:10 hours of mining
2014-04-24 2:34 - 6:58 hours of mining
2014-04-24 3:27 - 0:53 hours of mining

I’m glad I left it running as long as I did because the last block I completed was a great example of how there really is an element of luck, along with varying difficulty levels, in the mining process. Obviously, this variance makes it a little difficult to calculate profitability, but here’s what I have (excluding power consumption)

Total mining time: 35 hours
Total coins generated: 120,000
Approximate GPUcoin value: $0.00000511
Total amount of US Dollars generated: $0.61
US Dollars generated per day: $0.42
Annual generation: $153.49


So that actually doesn’t sound too bad. It still assumes a non-fluctuating market value and a coarse estimate of rate generation. To actually know how that translates to the real world, I’d have to get some power consumption values. Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be good data on how pushing your hardware this hard can affect its life. Obviously, having something run full throttle makes it very hot and wears out the components faster, but I haven’t seen much about hard numbers. Annual generation is kind of silly to calculate if running the card that hard will likely make it die in 6 months. Also, it really doesn’t make sense to calculate profitability without incorporating electricity costs. If I decide to get into it further, I’ll do more rigorous testing, but since I just picked up a Kill-a-watt to measure energy usage, why not run a few numbers? I didn’t really want to spend a long time testing (and for the peak running I didn’t want to stress my computer too much) so I just did some short tests.

Computer running mostly idle (avg over 13 hours)
0.1294 kwh
Running both GPUs for one hour
0.37 - 0.1294 = 0.2406 kwh over idle
Running all 8 CPU cores for one hour
0.22 - 0.1294 = 0.0906 kwh over idle


Now to calculate costs fully, I would have to contact the City of Tallahassee. The rate listed on their site is $0.06682 per kwh, but if I back calculate from last month’s bill I get $0.1247 per kwh.  Since I don’t really know the reason for the discrepancy, I’ll look at both. I’ll also look at the difference over idle to see the effect of mining with my current computer vs. building a dedicated mining rig. Since it is a rough calculation, I’ll just assume 30 days per month.

Full usage
CoT rate
GPU: $17.80
CPU: $10.58
My calculated rate
GPU: $33.22
CPU: $19.75

Over idle usage
CoT rate
GPU: $11.58
CPU: $4.36
My calculated rate
GPU: $21.60
CPU: $8.13


Definitely enough of a difference that I would really want to ensure my rate before I knew what I was getting into.  So if I take these numbers along with the GPUcoin and middlecoin numbers, I can do a rough profitability calculation. Now I only used my primary GPU for generating GPUcoin, so the monetary generation is actually a little low, but the primary GPU accounts for 77% of the khash/s so I can adjust it accordingly.

Profitability for solo mining GPUcoin full cost
Calculated revenue per day: $0.545 
Calculated revenue per month: $16.36 
GPU + CoT rate profitability: -$1.44 
GPU + MyCalc rate profitability: -$16.86
Profitability for solo mining GPUcoin over idle
Calculated revenue per day: $0.545 
Calculated revenue per month: $16.36 
GPU + CoT rate profitability: $ 4.78
GPU + MyCalc rate profitability: -$5.24

Middlecoin estimates
Time from start to first payout: 10 days
Average hash rate: ~250 khash/s
Payout: 0.01080921 BTC = $5.00
Calculated revenue per month: $15.00
GPU + CoT rate profitability: -$2.80 (full) or $3.42 (over idle) 
GPU + MyCalc rate profitability: -$6.60 (full) or $6.87 (over idle)


Now we see why the electric rates in your area should really be incorporated if you are looking to get into any kind of mining. Obviously, this ignores the possibility of the coin increasing (or decreasing) in value. I was pretty surprised with the middlecoin numbers. I’m sure that there is the same disadvantage since I do not have a powerful miner, but I would have expected that hopping from coin to coin would have been more profitable that a single coin, especially when the single coin was done with solo mining. No matter what, even the most profitable prospect was pretty minor. While it isn’t profitable now, it may eek across the line depending on how much the usage would increase if I would to upgrade my second GPU to something more powerful. Also, there is the possibility that it turns into an investment (albeit a risky one) since the value of any of the cryptocurrencies can change quite a bit.  It also doesn’t look too good for a dedicated rig. Even if I could increase revenue around 5 fold and bring in $75 a month, it would be a pretty large initial investment that would take about a year to recoup and that’s without factoring in the additional power costs. No matter what, it doesn’t look like I’ll be mining myself into a millionaire just yet. ;-)

Currently, I’m getting my BTC Guild account high enough to request a payout, then I will probably focus on Multipool. It was apparently one of the first hopping pools and seems interesting to try out. One of the main things I like is that it accepts scrypt (altcoin algorithm better for things like CPUs and GPUs) as well as SHA256 (algorithm for coin like bitcoin, used by ASIC miners). So I can have one site to check to see how any miners I have are doing. I don’t know if it will be the most profitable, but I like the cohesiveness of the experience. I may still occasionally solo mine some GPUcoin or mine some more Rubycoin, but we’ll see how Multipool goes for the time being.

It has been an intriguing exploration thus far. The ASIC miners don’t really have much of a purpose other than mining, so I will definitely keep them going. It is interesting to be sure, but I don’t think I have confidence in the cryptocurrency market enough to really invest much money into pursuing it. One that I will definitely keep an eye on is Gridcoin. What sets them apart is that they are incorporating the BOINC protocol into their mining. BOINC is used for large distributed computing projects like Folding@home, a project to study protein folding. Instead of a researcher investing in computing hardware, they create a BOINC project. Then any user can install the interface on their computer and contribute to the calculations (often having it run whenever the screensaver is running or something like that). It is a kind of cool way to contribute to large, complex computational problems. I really like the idea of incorporating that into the cyrptocurrency, but they are just getting started. Currently, they don’t even have native wallets for anything but Windows and using wine (the program they recommend) I can get it running but can’t update the block chain (rendering it pretty much useless). I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on them as they progress, but until then it will likely stay a pretty small little side project. I have also been surprised at the number of places that claim to give away cryptocoins. The main one I’m keeping my eye on is Qoinpro. They claim to “deposit” a very small amount of bitcoin (and other coins) into your account daily. Then referring people is supposed to give you a multiplier. I haven’t received anything yet, but I haven’t found a reason not to try things like this yet. If you want to give it a try, use my referrral! :-) And if anyone is already into cryptocurrencies and wants to reward my oh-so-thorough write-up, below are all the currencies I have wallets for if you want to send some cryptocoins my way.

Bitcoin (BTC) - 1LiA2hkQ7aUuQHuGE9VtnpcGqf1ee1BwjF
Rubycoin (RBY) - Rs8TtxCyfS1QoYrdExPGP3Mc9akuUCJDx6
Digitalcoin (DCG) - DL13tcpiuP7Tx8Hes87FypGJgXVZsfFVT3
Quark (QRK) - QQQtNiLdSviVKXhVi8V8VBGSqHxumhNxaz
Peercoin (PPC) - PEcopdSQVSy547hQZXXzN8TntkoNFHT958
Fedoracoin (TiPS) - ER2nLBEcEDjqLNWRBJ5wnXqHND2jjJb4E5
Litecoin (LTC) - LgP8o7uic7bwgw6HcoFi6PhZFY95Sa6sMy
Betacoin (BET) - B73kCkoawsowwZhf1yoq16kBF7QduyEfDv
Teslacoin (TES) - 5jprXpFPQ81zFxHVvU6DhzMm4YJgcVERtd
Dogecoin (DOGE) - DBpWNr1D7m4SWqv4LFaHLjqsc1Fnp5pehP
Feathercoin (FTC) - 6tPguJ79aDvGcauRDNp1Q8cnajwPYdDpnJ

Golfing: Southwood 2014-03-22

Another golf post! Judging from my free time as of late, there may not be much else posted here for a bit. Anyhoo…

This round we actually played a game called Wolf (or possible Lone Wolf) to make things a little more interesting. Basically, the 4th person in the order is the “wolf” (the order rotates each hole). After each player hits, the wolf decides if they would like to team up with said player or pass. If they pass on all three, they are the “lone wolf” and are playing against everyone else. If they chose a teammate, then it is 2-on-2. There are 3 points to split per hole, so if there are teams, winner gets 1.5 points. If you go lone wolf and win, you get 3 points though if you lose, each of the other players get 1 point. Given my last few rounds, I was given a 2 stroke handicap per hole (1 on par 3) and Brian was given a 1 stroke. This evened out the playing field enough to keep things interesting. Since this was a more rigid ruleset, each player was limited to 1 mulligan per 9 holes (far less than I had utilized in past rounds).

I think I came in 3rd with regard to the Wolf, but overall I was pretty pleased with my performance. I only lost 2 balls, and I consider my score to be improved given the lack of mulligans. Here’s hoping I can keep getting out consistently now that Brian has moved and I can continue to improve!

Additional side note, I shot my first par since I have been getting back into playing. I hit a terrible first shot on a 17 (a par 3), but had a great chip that put me right next to the hole. Good stuff!

Front 9

Front 9

Back 8

Back 9

Golfing: Southwood 2014-02-08

I got back out on the golf course again, and I think it may have actually gone worse than last time! At this stage in my game, I should probably start keeping track of balls lost and mulligans because those stats are still the most relevant to how my game has been going. I definitely had plenty of both this time (though I spent a lot less time in sand traps), but I still managed to squeeze out some fun ;-) Hopefully I can get out to the range a few times before my next round and actually make an improvement! I actually was slightly better on the front nine, but I completely lost it on 12 and 18 of the back nine, which really killed me. Mayhaps I should also get some new balls since I have literally been knocking the color off the ones I have been playing recently ;-)

Front Nine

Front Nine

Back Nine

Back Nine