Take the Bit(coin)

My company has started an initiative to get us to learn about Bitcoin.  I’d always been somewhat interested, mostly because I remembered the concept of mining them which seemed like some sort of magic.  I’m not going to get into mining them here for a couple reasons, 1) From what little research I read, you need a lot of horsepower, and even then need to be part of a group of fellow miners for it to begin to be worth while, and 2) I really don’t understand it.

What I will do is try and give you a little walk through of what I did, what I learned, and the mistakes I made.

First of all, research.  Learn about Bitcoins, wallets, exchanges, private keys, block chains, etc.  At least to some degree.  Our companies site has some great starters for you here: OddsShark: Bitcoin have a look, and note the other related links on the right.  Full disclosure, our company is an affiliate site for online sportsbooks, and some of the info is geared in that manner, but the information is valid in all regards.

Of course, me not being the most patient person, totally disregarded my own advice, and after a perfunctory read (er… skim) I googled Bitcoin wallets and read pros and cons of a few and went to work.  And totally wasted a couple days.


screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-5-06-06-pmAfter looking at a few wallets, it appeared to me that one called Armory had what I wanted.  To be honest, I mainly used this info from bitcoin.org, and some screenshots of the interface.  The vulnerable environment note you see is basically telling you (when you hover over it) that wallets held on your computer can be subject to malware.  Same is true of any software you store on your computer.  You CAN get hardware wallets, but I have no clue about them.

Now setting up a wallet is full of warnings, and instructions.  Read them, you’ll need pass keys/phrases. These are important, if you lose them, you have no way to recover your wallet if you lose access some how.  Think of them as your id, without them the bank will just kick your sorry ass to the curb.


So I downloaded it, ran it, determined how to receive bitcoins, and sent the link off internally.  Another part of the initiative was learning how to buy bitcoins, so again with some limited research (Do as I say, not as I do) I figured out that I needed to use an exchange, similar to how you’d exchange currency at the airport.  There are exchange rates, and fees. I did some googling again, looking for recommendations for exhanges in Canada, or dealing in Canada at least, and found QuickBT. Are they any good? Well they seemed to be to me, I gave them an address from my wallet, worked out the exchange rates to get about $20 dollars worth and submitted.  I had to provide my cell number for verification, and had to call back a fully automated number to validate and activate my account, but in about 30 minutes had notification my transaction was processed. The emails say any future purchases should be nearly instantaneous, so we’ll see on that front, but have no reason to doubt them.


Then came the waiting… and waiting… and…. Armory says it’s not online? Why isn’t online, my computer is online?  So researching that I find that Armory requires you to have a local bitcoin blockchain client. My limited understanding of this, is that it’s a registry/database of bitcoin transactions, the good news is, you don’t need to know all there is to know, anymore than you do about how banks transfer money to each other, but if you choose to, again, the info is out there (I feel like I’m on the X-Files).  So I download, Bit Core QT (I think that was the name), which by the way has its own wallet, so now I have two.

But a wallet is kinda meaningless in a way, your “money” is associated with keys, not the wallet itself.  You can import and sweep your keys into a new wallet, and as you’ll see that can be important.

So I start the app, and restart armory and see that I am now online! Yay! But still not showing the coins I bought …. hmm… so I look at bitcore and see its status… downloading blocks from 3 years 42 weeks ago.  WTH?  Friday at about 6PM – Ok, I’ve got good bandwidth, this shouldn’t be bad.

Tick tock, tick tock….

So Sunday morning, its finished! Yay, now I should have my “money”! So I start armory again, and it scans databases, for about an hour… then… nothing.  There is a bar on the screen saying it will scan transactions, that never happens… I wait 30 minutes… an hour, all the while googling for info and options.  Nothing.  So I wonder if I’m screwed, and look for how to import to a new wallet.

Keys and Wallets and Sweeping, Oh My!

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-5-40-05-pmDuring that process I find that your “money” is associated with keys, not the wallet.  Googling a bit more, I find that you can export your keys from Armory (and I assume others).  Doing a bit more research, I decide upon using Electrum as a new wallet (3 now! woohoo!) mainly because it has 2 factor authentication with my google authenticator.  I get it installed and set up no problem, and decide to try and import my keys.

Now there are 2 options here, and the terminology is a bit muddled to me.  One is to sweep your keys.  This allows you to essentially bring the keys from your old wallet into your new.  I tried that option, and for whatever reason, I could never seem to get the “next” button to become enabled.  Probably an ID10T error, but oh well! So I tried the next option which is an import.  The difference is that, at least in Electrum, you import them to a new wallet.

That said, I gave that a try and waited and it never worked.  Just seemed to hang.  Maybe because I tried all 3 at once.  So then I tried one, and it never seemed to work at all.  I forget what info it gave me, apologies for that, but read up and it seemed that it would only import keys with confirmed transactions.  Moore googling, and was able to find a site called Block Explorer that allowed me to check my keys. Low and behold it showed one as having the Bitcoins I bought – Whew!

Trying Electrum again, creating a new wallet, and just using that key, poof! I have it! My little over $20 is there! But now I have another wallet (4 in case you lost count).  Deciding I’m gonna abandon the Armory and Bit Core ones (I assume just delete the app and app data), I still have two in Electrum.  Not ideal, for me at least, so easy solution? I send all my coins from one wallet to a key in my new wallet, and poof, in a couple seconds it shows up.

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-6-22-45-pmIt is unconfirmed at first, not sure the inner workings, but something like blockchains being created every 10 minutes with new transactions, and once that happens it’ll be confirmed.  Details be damned, all I know for sure is that approximately 5-10 minutes later, the status changed, and I now have the confirmed “money” in my main Electrum wallet.

Now, if you got through all that, I’m sure you can read a bit more, get more information, and save yourself the troubles I had.  Good luck!


City Planning, Reviews and Transparency

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know what goes on in the cities planning department.  But that right there is part of the problem.  Some of this info should be known, reviewed, and available easily to see. And perhaps it is, but the HRM website is not exactly user friendly in my opinion.  Yes its hard with so many departments, and I don’t have better options.

The snow issues of last winter are still fresh in our minds, and we still see foibles and inconsistencies, at least from my and I’m sure the public’s perspective.

I’m not on council, nor am I running, but if I were, here are things I would like answers to, and I think we should have them publicly available no matter what. Some relate to each other, some don’t. And in no particular order….

  1. When do we start regular maintenance for different things? ie: road repainting, patching, parks and rec?
  2. Who, how often, and when are plans for regular maintenance reviewed.
  3. How are priorities set? Is downtown residential patching more important than heavy shopping areas like Bayer’s Lake? Same with line painting.
  4. What data is used to determine this.  historical? how often is it collected, updated?
  5. What is the infrastructure plan? Do we have multi-year plans? if so why, a few years ago, was beford hiway near old ultramar paved, then torn up for water, then torn up for gas, rather than doing the latter two first?
  6. Do we have an infrastructure bank? Do developers contribute? Should we allow developers to build developments for profit that add to our infrastructure woes without contributing to a pool to improve it?
  7. Should we allow development at all in some areas till we can make it sustainable infrastructure wise?
  8. Do we have a growth plan?
  9. Why do we interrupt daily traffic in non-residential areas when we could do work in off-peak hours.  If contracted, why, who reviews.  Are the cost savings worth the downsides?
  10. Why, oh why, do we allow paving and patching in cold weather? I would need to see empirical proof that this is a valid plan, as having seen it first hand, asphalt sticks to tar better when both surfaces are hot. Cold ground will also expand, and heave destroying work done during cold weather faster than if in summer.
  11. This is an over generalization, but it is a common perception in the HRM public….Why is it so hard to actually make a decision? Are people afraid? Lets stop referring to committees over and over, and do things.

I’m not looking for personal response here, I just think that council should be aware that these criticisms are out there (not necessarily of council either, but of the whole shebang).  Lets get together and make this city truly work rather than continue to feel like were bogged down in bureaucracy and “heritage”.

Old and Decrepit

Da Bike

Da Bike

Well that’s not news really, I’ve been decrepit for a while, and old since I was young!

I’ve never been “in shape” I guess, but I was when I was younger fit.  While I couldn’t keep up with Eric Cooper in the woods, I could make my way in there! And I used to like to run and in high school ran 10k without even noticing it. Camping and hunting and fishing helped too.

But a sedentary lifestyle catches up with you. I’ve not gotten any bigger in nearly 20 years, but I’ve not gotten smaller either, and get winded going up and down stairs.

However, I cannot even force myself to go to the gym, I just find it too boring and not enjoyable, and I need to enjoy things or I won’t do them, period. I used to like to play ball hockey, and softball, and curling, all of them badly! But I did enjoy them, but somewhere along the line, my knees started acting up and any kind of “impact” to them makes them pop and swell.

I have always liked riding bike though, not as a means to get anywhere, but just for the ride.  The feel of the wind in my lack of hair, just something feels “free” about it, I assume the motor cycle riders feel the same.  But I have to be honest, being a small town boy, the thought of riding in the city has and does scare the bejesus out of me.

That said, I wanted to do something, and something I’ll enjoy.  So with the aid of our company, having just reinstated a fitness allowance, I purchased a decent bike.  Did a fair bit of research, and rather than just going and getting a Walmart or Canadian Tire thing (not that there is likely anything wrong with those either, but still need to know what model actually “fits” you) I asked for advice at a local bike shop.

Buying local is always nice too, and they took the time to explain features, types, etc to me.  In the end I bought a Giant Cypress LX model.  Was on sale, not the cheapest thing in the world, but not that much more expensive than a department store model either.

Its a hybrid road/trail model, built for comfort, with lots of cushioning for these old man bones and joints.  Not as light (or expensive!) as a road model, but lighter than a heavy duty mountain bike. And I’m in no means in shape enough to tackle off road or non groomed trails anyway!

I got it last Thursday, and am taking it slow.  I don’t need any heart attacks! Doing loops of my cul-de-sac to start.  That’s got some uphill, some down, nothing too steep, but it is steep enough that I have to work a little.  I started with a 1k ride, and that was manageable. Have gotten that up to about 2.5k now, or 6 loops of the cul-de-sac.  The neighbours probably think I’m crazy!

I can feel the legs burn a little, and the shoulders and legs are a little sore, but a good kind.  And its still fun, even after all these years. Am worrying less about the city ride, and looking forward to the time I can tackle a groomed trail, and perhaps the huge hill I live on 🙂

Hoping to be able to ride to and from work by end of summer, but I can’t say if that’s realistic or not.  Getting there (to new office) I can do now! Getting back, up Moir’s Mill Road (steep hill) not so much!  May be a bit of a stretch to think of riding up that hill in my first year at all to be honest, but we’ll see.  I think tho even before that, I’ll be able to throw a rack on the car and ride somewhere for a decent distance.

Main goal is to be able to get some better cardio, to be able to breathe better.  Weight loss may come too, but even if it doesn’t, it should be a “better” weight.

Don’t really expect many to read this, but I did want to babble somewhere, and this will be a good place and way for me to keep track of my progress.

An Open Letter to Halifax

I can’t help but notice that the level of hubris, disdain and general apathy in this city seems to grow on a daily basis.  Don’t we all wan’t a better, safer, politer city? Its time we all took action.  it doesn’t have to be hard.  Try to do something easy today, and every day, and think of others first.

Some examples:

  • Return your shopping cart to the corral. And actually stack them.
  • Use the garbage can.
  • If you make a mistake in traffic, go with it, and turn around, don’t endanger others and yourself to cut across the lane. You won’t lose more than a couple minutes, of which you’d be at a light anyway.
  • Save handicapped spaces for those that really need them.
  • If a cashier opens, let the person who waited longest go there, don’t take off from the end of the line.  They waited longer than you.
  • When you are leave a building, move aside from the doorway that others have to use.

Its really simple folks, lets start acting like we want to be treated, and stop acting as if the world is ours alone.

Sport and Politics

There was a time when I was idealistic about sports, and it being non political.  It seems now that it is more politics than sport.  We have governing bodies with lobby groups, we have bribery, cut throat back room deals, and all in the pursuit of the mighty dollar.

The current controversy is over the new Russian anti-gay laws, which while I read, I cannot claim I truly understand all their implications, and the fact that the next winter Olympics are due to be held in Sochi, Russia (the fact that Sochi is sub-tropical, and was awarded winter games is another controversy entirely).

Lots of prominent people are saying to boycott the games, or to stage them elsewhere.  The second option I can support somewhat, the first, I feel is up to the individual athlete, because really who does a boycott hurt but the athlete?  What I really want is to still be an idealist, and have the Olympics where there were awarded, keep politics out of it.  They should be a thing ono their own, with their own police, a UN task force maybe?

I know, I know, I’m reaching.  Just seems very frustrating that so many of these events get caught up in the turmoil of politics.  I do not support the law in question, nor do I support any law that discriminates against anyone, but I wish there were away to separate the politics from the games.

Feeling more and more like its time to scrap them altogether, because they are just used as a tool, not as a celebration anymore.

The Essence of Spirtuality

First off, for those that know me, this is unlike anything I’ve ever written about before, or probably again.  But I also tend to write, or rant, about whats on my mind, so here it is.

I am by no means religious, I have personal values, beliefs and ideas that don’t necessarily involve a formal god entity. However, I also don’t consider myself an atheist.  I believe there is something, not a being per se, but something, whether its a group mind, the force, or pan-dimensional mice that created Earth to determine the ultimate question of life, the universe, everything (they know the answer is 42 of course, they just are unsure of the question).

I do have religous friends, those with deep faith, and I am happy for them.  I am glad they found something that works for them, and respect that immensely.  In return I ask my readers, if there are any :), to respect that what I have found works for me.  Trying to sell me is going to have the opposite effect.

A couple articles this week made me feel a need to write though about spirituality, first off Mr. Rex Murphy wrote an article about atheists demanding a chaplain in the armed forces, and about how many were so vocal in their atheism.  Mr. Murphy raises some valid points, and some I agree with.  One though I take a little umbrage with is saying that atheists can’t be spiritual.  Apologies to Mr. Murphy if I’ve misunderstood his article of course, but that was my take on it.

The second article was linked by my old friend Mr. Harry Tucker, a man I consider to have deep faith, while also being a fellow geek…. the two aren’t mutually exclusive! The article itself was from CNN about “Why millennials are leaving the church”.  This article hit some nails on the head for me, and relates to how I feel.

I grew up in rural Newfoundland, and like most kids of that time went to church with my parents. The church leaders of that time back home had definite ideas on what a minister should preach, and what he shouldn’t, so generally the ministers we had preached hellfire and brimstone.  Yet my religious studies in school taught of a man who preached love and tolerance. The two didn’t go together for me, and I never really find a home there.

Nowadays the big debate seems to be about the LBGT community, and church’s attitudes to them.  Again, I see bodies who call themselves christian acting with hate and intolerance, rather than love and tolerance, and feel somewhere things have lost their way.

I know all individuals aren’t like that, many are tolerant, and understanding, but too many are not, and as the article says, people are leaving the church for those reasons.

Back to atheism and spirituality, again my position is that they aren’t mutually exclusive.  Some would define me as an atheist, and maybe I am in the strict definition.  But I do feel I have feelings of spirituality, even if my definition varies.  Do I need a chaplain? No probably not, at least not in the normal definition of the term, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a desire to discuss my feelings, my spirit if you will with someone else.

I saw a quote a note by Morgan Freeman about Black History month, saying the way to get rid of racism is to stop talking about it.  I’ve said Canada is less racist for that very reason.  I also remember Pinball Clemons saying something similar.  We see people as people first, not as a color.  Well its time to stop seeing them as a label of any sort.  Look at them as your family, and live by the Golden Rule, and I think you will find your own spirituality.

I hope you find peace, happiness and fulfillment in whatever religion or lack thereof that works for you.

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