Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Escaping the crypto-world: links for you

During the recent months, I spent a lot of time with the cryptocurrencies – studying what they are technologically, economically, as well as sociologically, how the people feel, why they believe what they believe, and so on.

Tony was very kind and brought me to the crypto-world as a practical person, not just a theorist, by his generous donation denominated in the Bitcoin. About one-half of that donation quickly evaporated by random conversions and depreciation of Bitcoin Cash at some moment etc., it's a wild world. I converted one-half of the rest to the Czech currency and played with the remaining half – unfortunately, it was in the tetherized dollar during the recent big growth of the Bitcoin price.

On Sunday and Monday, I ordered some transactions at Bittrex and the value of the assets went from USDT $730 to $950 or so. I felt those transactions were almost safe and one could earn 30% a day by such trading. However, Tuesday was way more boring and the exchange rates failed to oscillate sufficiently predictably etc. How many of you have acted as daily traders – i.e. how many of you have pushed a price or exchange rate in a direction but it just refused to go there much of the time and for hours? ;-) Most of the time, it's a random walk and a zero-sum game for all day traders. The big price manipulators could have an easier job when making profits but I am actually not sure that even they can do so easily. I tried to reverse engineers some algorithms that some trading machines were using at Bittrex. They seem to be optimized to fooling the people to join a trend when it's already too late.

But hours ago, Bittrex (the Bitcoin exchange located in Seattle where you can trade almost all the crypto-stuff) told me that my account wasn't really verified so I couldn't withdraw any funds. I believe it was possible to withdraw small amounts every day without such a verification just a month ago. Within half an hour, I gave them all my personal data, pictures of my IDs, selfies etc., so my account became verified and "enhanced". But I was sufficiently shaken by the possibility that something changes quickly and everything is lost that I decided that evacuation is the right thing to do, as soon as possible, for this practical reason as well as all the other reasons I have discussed.

So I hope to be basically freed of all cryptocoins in several days. And because of the hassle, I removed the Bitcoin donation button from the sidebar.

My strategy to convert those cryptocoins to the real money went through AnyCoinDirect.EU which is, assuming that the money arrives, an excellent website at least for all the Europeans. You create an account over there and you may order a transfer or your BTC or a dozen of other currencies either to your PayPal, or to your European Euro-denominated account using the fast pan-European SEPA transfer. You need your PayPal e-mail or the IBAN, respectively.

Once you click how much Bitcoin etc. you want to send and where, you're told the Bitcoin address and the "amount due". You send a Bitcoin payment, the AnyCoinDirect website notices that the payment is waiting in the Bitcoin mempool (queue) and after the first appropriate block is mined, the confirmation is complete (if your transaction fee is high enough so that you don't have to wait much longer). Within days, the money should arrive via the SEPA payment. I hope that this last stage will work, too. (Update: The money was on my Czech ČSOB EUR-denominated account 36 hours after the Bitcoin payment.) The website should be able to do the opposite thing as well – buy cryptocurrencies for the real money – but I don't want to test that.

For those who are interested, here are some URLs from my bookmarks:
  • LocalBitcoins.com, a Bitcoin exchange where I wasn't able to trade directly – you need to find physical people with Bitcoins around you and they often require 10% fees!
  • Coinbase.com, the world's largest Bitcoin exchange. I have an account there but haven't used it much
  • BitTrex, a Bitcoin exchange in Seattle that trades everything and uses the tetherized dollar as the reference currency for the adult trades. The Bitcoin is the main units for hundreds of cryptocoins you may trade. That's where I did almost everything
  • Kraken, an exchange. I created an account but did nothing with it

  • CoinMarketCap.com – lists over 1000+ cryptocurrencies by market capitalization or other criteria, shows graphs of prices and price ratios, URLs of explorers of transactions, and lots of other information

  • BlockChain.info, an explorer of Bitcoin transactions. The main page shows you the recent blocks
  • Unconfirmed transactions on that website
  • A Bitcoin address, an example of an account with incoming transactions and their verifications – everyone who knows your Bitcoin address may monitor what you're getting (that's not very confidential let alone crypto)

  • AnyCoinDirect.eu, the operational wormhole connecting the cryptoworld with the real world of the money. SEPA and PayPal transfers

Some technical data:
  • Fork.lol – recent hash rates comparing Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash i.e. how many miners are working on either
  • BitInfoCharts.com – lots of detailed data about the status of BTC and other cryptocurrencies
  • BitCoinFees.earn.com – structure of transactions waiting to be confirmed, according to the price per byte (which reduces the waiting times for confirmation)
  • Bitcoin Mempool – historical charts showing how many transactions were stuck in the queue at various moments (it's still close to 100,000 now)

  • CME futures, the announcement at the CME website. At the bottom, you may see the real-time and daily BTC price that the futures will be based upon. The futures should start in mid December
  • Bitmex rectum – Twitter announcements of positions that were just closed through margin calls on a not too well-known exchange that apparently allows you to go long and short already
The bookmark folder is more extensive but some of the favorites are too special or personal or similar to those above etc.

So I want to dump it on you because these things were distracting me from research and I just found the whole thing crazy and borderline criminal. In this sense, I think that the exchanges' collection of the users' personal data is adequate but it's a treatment I normally want to avoid. I prefer banking institutions where the bankers treat you very politely because you're a source of their business. The Bitcoin exchanges and this whole system doesn't seem to be like that, it looks like an ultimate communist dystopia to me.

The core of the community is a bunch of manipulated fanatical financially illiterate teenage trolls and the usage of such volatile, legally questionable things may only make sense for people who do something that isn't quite legal. But those aren't my only problems. At the very personal level, I am just shocked that someone could think that this volatile, borderline criminal, impersonal world is better than the world of classical banks with solid stable money and bankers, including personal bankers, who are just behaving professionally and even nicely towards you. The people who would use the Bitcoin dystopia over the classical commercial capitalist banks with personal bankers and coffee, special events where clients taste expensive Caribbean rum, and lots of other things simply seem to belong to a different species. I can't imagine what sort of insane anti-capitalist hostility is driving the people to suggest that their replacements for banks and/or capitalism represents an improvement. They're just lunatics.

There are perhaps some aspects of the crypto-payments etc. that I could find good in the real financial world. But most of them are no good. And even the things that are good should be supervised by some banks – that are checked that they don't rob the clients in any obvious way and that has some real people you may talk to and who are responsible for their services. The whole crypto-economy wants to make such things impossible. I say a big No. Also, just today, a group of banks launched The Clearing House that allows payments among the banks in real time, within a minute. It's obviously better than the waiting for confirmations for half an hour or hours, and sometimes days, isn't it? The Bitcoin and pals are solutions to a fun problem in recreational mathematics but the solution isn't practical in most ways. Nakamoto created a currency as a "proof of the concept". The idea that this very first idea that demonstrated the concept should become an important currency just sounds utterly idiotic to me because it's so obviously deeply flawed in most practical respects.

I can imagine that Tony has some emotional attachment to this stuff – because he has already earned some money (the money I persuaded him to monetize) and believes that he has made some additional ones – and when I couldn't be bribed or trained to be a lover of the Bitcoin, he may feel hurt. Sorry for that, Tony. I think that at the human psychological level, it's similar as if I really hope that someone will understand and like something deep about theoretical physics but he or she simply doesn't.

Bonus: Luke has pointed out that Dilbert's creator Scott Adams became the face of some ICO crypto-token project much like Paris Hilton before him. As far as I understand, their roles are completely equivalent. You can see that Adams' readers are unusually intelligent and well-informed and lots of comments over there would not only get my approval but they're brilliant and sometimes informative for me, too.

A local poker tragedy

The British queen of poker Emma Fryer tragically died here in Pilsen a week ago. Along with her driver, she went to a huge poker tournament in Rozvadov, a town on the (West) German broader in the Westernmost corner of Czechia (at least during communism, it was the most important border crossing with West Germany). The tragedy occurred at this roundabout (Google Street View) in the Bory Industrial Area, near Makro (a mall for small business people). The driver's navigation didn't show the huge roundabout at all, it was fog, so the driver basically treated the roundabout as a straight road. The queen and the car were totally destroyed – see four pictures – but the driver survived and is expecting a trial. Most people around her say that it was a tragic accident. Unless someone was motivated to end the life of this VIP lady, of course. There are lots of lights that are constantly turned on – at least in the morning and during fogs, I hope. So it's strange.

My condolences.

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