Kirk Creek Camping

Camping down south of Big Sur in Kirk Creek campground at the end of March.  Only got rained on one night!  Went kayaking at Moss Landing on the way back up, good times!

I needed a new graphics card and all I got were these lousy bitcoins!

I really did need a new graphics card, and for reasons that will become clear, that lent itself to learning about “bitcoins” which are monetary units of the bitcoin currency system:

“Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer currency. Peer-to-peer means that no central authority issues new money or tracks transactions. These tasks are managed collectively by the network.” — http://bitcoin.org

And beyond that it is cryptographically secure, math based (vs gold based) and anonymous.

Coins are produced in the system by being able to prove you have solved a math problem of particular difficultly.  For each proof of work  you demonstrate to the network you are rewarded with a set of amount of bitcoins (the reward for the proof of work diminishes over time so there will be a fixed amount of bitcoins in existence.)  To prevent someone from trying to blow through the whole problemspace the difficulty factor for the problems scale in relation to the total amount of computational power currently being used in the network to try and solve problems – this results in coins being handed out at a relatively fixed rate.  They have some intrinsic value because they require a certain amount of time an electricity to actually solve, and the people creating them wouldn’t want to trade them away for things with less value.

How does all this tie to my graphics card?  Currently high end graphics cards are by far the most efficient way to ‘mine’ bitcoins – they are the fastest at solving the problems used for proof of work in the system.  So when I’m not using my new graphics card for something graphic intensive – it works away trying to generate bitcoins.

All that probably made little enough sense, but if you are interested:

https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Introduction

Bitcoins can be exchanged for real money on numerous exchanges http://mtgox.com is probably the most used USD exchange.

At this point you might be thinking, hey I should buy some graphics cards and rake in the cash – well there are lots of costs to consider and someone already has a calculator to see if it is worth your time: http://bitcoinx.com/profit/index.php (don’t forget the more people mining coins, the higher the difficultly value goes up, which reduces your payout.)

Of course if you already have a nice card it might be profitable to run the client anyway, here is a breakdown of current card performance: https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Mining_hardware_comparison

How many people are mining coins over time? Again someone has already done the work of collecting the publicly available data:  http://bitcoin.sipa.be/

 

Spiral Knights

Threerings.net latest MMORPG is going live 4/4/2011 and looks to be great. Go to spiralknights.com to get playing. Free to play all features of the game, but basically time limited for the free users until you are good enough at the game where you can trade game currency for purchased currency. Good times, lots of unique stuff and game play.

Gopher Larder

I was digging a trench in our yard for the base of a retaining wall when I dug right into a gopher larder! That little guy had stored up a lot of nuts! The gopher is no longer with us – so it is, perhaps, not so terrible I dug up his food stash.

Rachel Diaz-Bastin Illustration Update

Rachel has a couple of her originals in the Zzyzx Gallery in L.A. which is pretty cool. Seems like a good match for her work. She also is selling prints on etsy which are pretty cool. (If you are looking to get a print you have more options with regard to matting and such by talking to her direct.) Not to mention a number of new illustrations have been done, which are lovely as always!

Cargo Bikes

I have sort of been considering getting a cargo bike once we move to fairfax, and in the process of looking my buddy pointed me to:
MADSEN Cargo Bikes

Which isn’t exactly what I’m looking for (can’t imagine getting it up the hill to the house) but it was pretty neat looking.

More excited about the 2009 Kona Ute.

Of course I’m going to have to ride the hill a few times on the roadbike just to see how feasible it is to even contemplate a cargo bike.

Rachel Diaz-Bastin, Nature Illustration

Rachel’s web site is finally up Rachel Diaz-Bastin, Nature Illustration and she has a few choice
illustrations up. Definitely some good stuff. She is currently taking some Scientific Illustration classes at UCSC which should be good. Though I
hear they swapped out one of the fancy instructors of the fulltime program for someone else who has been through the class but isn’t that great of a
teacher, definitely a bummer. Anyway if you need some illustrations you know where to go now. :)

Sequoia National Forest California Academy of Science Beetle Collecting

Over Memorial Day weekend I went camping down in Seqoia National Forest with Rachel and two of her co-workers, our goal was to find 4 different types of beetles
that haven’t been collected in 30+ years. Now, to be honest I was expecting some fairly typical car camping – lots of relaxing by the fire and taking naps and wondering around looking at nature. This was a bit different. First, we were in the national forest and not the national park. The national park is world renowned, all the big nature lovers tend to go the park, while the national forest is where all the locals go to live it up in the woods. I realize this is a massive generalization, but in our case the reality lived up to the myth. We were camped next to a large number of young redneck ‘dudes’ in the late teenager and up age range. Playing music, burning things and generally carrying on. The only decent thing about it was the campgrounds were fairly far apart and in this case there was a small ridge so we didn’t actually have to see any of them. However the first night we were there they were carrying on late into the night. Car alarm going off for 10+ minutes at 1am, varoius random hoots and hollers, etc. Luckily they seemed to have burned themselves out that night and were pretty quite the next night. We eventually found out that as part of the revelry they had chopped down several trees and carved up the picnic table with an axe. Lovely people, oye!

So apparently the way to go for collecting these beetles is you go to a collection site during the day, poke around for a while turning over rocks and bark and such (an putting them back in the same place after) to see if there are any beetles at all around. Then you come back after dark with lights and look around the ground for the beetles which are now out and about wondering around. We did that the first day at our campsite (about 5500′ elevation) and found quite a few of one type of beetle Meghan was looking for. That type of beetle looks identical to one of the others except under the microscope so we might have found 2 of the 4 at this point.

The next day we drove down to town (a ‘quaint’ place an hour+ away with 1000 people) then up another road to check some other sites. One was along the river which was was a nice place with great steps down into the river. Sadly the endless numbers of locals had managed to kind of trash the place, lots of garbage. We kept going up to another camp about half an hour up into the woods and had lunch. Walking around after saitiating ourselves we did see a couple of beetles, but also saw a couple of snakes. Some kind of racer snake and what we think was a Mountain King Snake. Pretty cool. We went back to town to get dinner and wait for dark.

Nothing in town was open at all, so we waited in the park next to the police station till five when the bar and nice restraunt in town were going to open. Super hot, but that was fine sitting in the shade playing cards. Well it was fine till a fairly crazy woman came over and started talking to us. Seemed fairly coherent but would just not shut up or take a hint. She just kept talking and talk, bizarre medical procedures, what was wrong with the local youth, various horror stories from the reservation (she was a good percentage native american) lots of catch phrases that were repeated over and over. We finally managed to say our goodbyes and leave, and she was still talking as we walked away. Crazy! Nice enough but not exactly the peaceful relaxing in the park we were expecting.
Dinner was OK, the bar had a few quality redneck locals talking it up, the bartender seemed a bit more worldly and relaxed. The food wasn’t super great, the pasta primavera was more like pasat with thick cream and cheese sauce with a couple veggies tossed in it. The service was super slow as a huge party showed up after we did and the wait staff was having a hard time keeping up. There was a couple of people having fancy dinner for prom which was cute. The best part of the night was either when we told the waitress we were camping in the woods and thought it would be fun to have a nice dinner (at which point she looked at us in horror) or later when we asked for a pen so we could sign the credit card statement and we were told not to steal it. Good times!
We made it back to the collection site and poked around for a while, finding a few beetles. Knowing we had a long drive ahead of us I was talking up the merits of leaving and everyone was getting ready to turn back toward the car when Rachel spotted one of the beetles we needed and hadn’t collected yet, excellent timing! The drive back took ages and various people were feeling car sick by the end of it, but it was great because of all the animals we saw. In the course of the night we saw a bobcat, three foxes, and various little rodent like things all on the road as we drove back.

Housing, Real Estate, Oh my

So today we bought a house! Well, given the nature of real estate that might be claiming a little much, but we did accept a counter offer to our offer and in theory 45 days from now on July 1rst we will be able to move in. The location is lovely, fairly close to downtown fairfax, very quiet, nice view, peaceful. The house was built in the 60s and is about 1300 sf on a 9200sf downslope lot at the end of road, down a private drive that is shared with the immediate neighbors. The place seems to be in great shape and has been modernized at some point with double pane windows and insulation and a lovely wood staircase with nice hardwood floors. It was sold a few years ago and passed all the inspections then so it seems unlikely that there is really much that could go wrong at this point. Very exciting!