Underpinnings of a Secular, yet Religious Cryptocurrency

In the first season of the TV show “Silicon Valley”, we met a character named Peter Gregory who is a venture capitalist able to generate millions by speculating on the relationship between cicadas and sesame seeds.  Peter Gregory is widely considered to be based on either Paul Graham, Peter Thiel, or both.  Both of these real life venture capitalists speak in quite unique ways that at first seem a bit confusing.  And interestingly enough  both Thiel and Graham promote two very similar lines of thought:

What idea do you hold that you hesitant to share with your peers? – Graham

Tell me something that is true that very few people agree with you on. – Thiel

They posit, that it is these ideas that can at times be the most fruitful, important, and that we all keep such things tucked away in our heads.

Well I am going to risk telling my idea here for all to read, because while it is a bit risky, if you example the video below, I think you will find that it makes sense.

I don’t particularly believe in any supernatural thing, yet I believe that religion is important, complicated, and wildly misunderstood.  It is inextricably linked to our culture, true life experience, or gestalt.  I believe this so strongly that I promote a secular view of religion.

Being in information technology and having studied humanities and the philosophy of religion also informs how I see these ideas.  It is why I am a secular blockchain/cryptocurrency evangelist.  I believe that we should start allowing some organizations to claim church-hood along with existing religious organizations.  I see great benefit in using a common opened ledger.  Rather than spending too much energy convincing you of the merits of this argument, I would encourage you to listen to the words of a complicated thinker who very much reminds me of Peter Gregory, Paul Graham, or Peter Thiel.  As a systems architect, I see everything as a system and I see a way to bring great transparency and accountability into one’s civic experience, regardless of his or her belief, or lack of belief.

Charles Taylor has been involved in politics, economics, and philosophy. In his ponderous tome “A Secular Age” he promotes a worldview were I see myself right alongside people who call themselves traditionally religious.  Although he doesn’t mention it in the speech below, his “Immanent Frame” offers more than enough intellectual fire-power to fill in the blanks needed anchor a universal, indisputable sort of secular religious currency.  This works for both the religious and the secular and allows us a common order, a shared record, and even a common way to respond to a national crisis in a fast and indisputable way.

And if you still are curious about how these puzzle pieces fit together, I strongly recommend getting a copy of “Gardens of Democracy”.  Taylor’s arguments very much remind me of a “Garden Brain” where society is to be tended to grow in a healthy and prosperous way:

Thoughts about DevOps

I have had quite a few DevOps interviews lately, and it is just about to come off of my resume completely. I think that I genuinely confuse people, because I have a security patent from IBM, I seem to make little dashboard widgets, I talk in very abstract ways about agile thinking (functional scripting no less) but have not been a paid ‘developer’, but rather an Operations Person. Actually making code run consistently and streamlining processes, migrating from one solutions to the next, and then downloading, installing, and supporting all the fancy packages that you guys need has just always seemed more important to me. When I first started at IBM, there was so much work to do that was fulfilling that didn’t necessarily involve writing code.

I bring your legacy solutions directly to the door of Amazon and roll forward with a reasonable plan to get your entire infrastructure ported over to it, shut down your servers and pack them up to ship away, but I am not a developer. I am IT infrastructure, and if your team if of a certain size, then you really need a couple of guys like me. I live in the shell and code or learn new stuff like docker or aws because I enjoy it, but I really think that your dream Linux Admin/DBA/aws/Java coder is much rarer than you might imagine.

So maybe there are two very different sorts of DevOps people that need to be working together, like we always have.


Exploring BlueMix

I just got a trial BlueMix account from IBM.  I will begin to play with it.  I like to map out such efforts in a special shell solution which I call sbshell.  Generally, I iterate between the shell and editor to begin to create a functional library.  In many cases, shell will not be part of the final solution, but it gives me a good place to start and allows me to quickly turn incidents and problems into working prototypes.


john@purple:/var/www/html$ sb.init
Reload web...
Reload site5...
Reload web...
Reload svg...
> sb.vi bluemix  

This creates an initial set of bash library files named ‘bluemix’, the first is local to my user, and the second is global. Both libraries are sourced into the environment after each save. I will then create a bluemix function that will run successfully, but will just ssh into my remote instance by default. In it I will store everything that I know about bluemix and begin to add functionality. It is like a scratchpad that becomes a launchpad.


-() { return; }
---() { return; }

bluemix() {

--- bluemix
  - Image ID:c3432649-385b-4b7a-909d-80ba79d5e84b
  - flavor ID:1
ssh linux1@

The build just finished a new instance that I created, so I grabbed a bit of information that might be useful later and set up my ssh keys.

john@purple:~/.ssh$ bluemix
Last login: Wed Jul 19 14:48:00 2017 from
Welcome to LinuxONE Community Cloud!

This server is for authorized users only. All activity is logged and monitored. 
Individuals using this server must abide to the Terms and Conditions listed here: 
Your access will be revoked for any non-compliance.
[linux1@bleugren ~]$ 

So now I have a pretty basic Jailshell to begin working from and some rough documentation of what I did. If come back and structure the
lines that start with ‘-‘ a bit better, then I can overload the – function to act in certain ways, the following line could be caused to execute a curl against the api, if I were to be allowed access to imageId. What is nice is that I don’t have to fully define that functionality right now.

- bluemix.imageId c3432649-385b-4b7a-909d-80ba79d5e84b

This way of thinking and coding is to supplement work in other languages, such as Nodejs or python and make Enterprise level connections which can be, for instance, scripted in conjunction with an ansible hostlist.

Enterprise DevOps (like System Administration) is often done it tiny burst between meetings or incidents, and I may work on something one day and not look at it again for two weeks.  These conventions may seem trivial, but over time I am able to keep track of many different projects.

[ note: I recommend getting a free trial of bluemix, it was easy to configure and get to a point where docker was installed and available. ]


Functional Scripting tricks

As I code and work more and more in this field of Information Technology that is now begin called DevOps, I begin to develop certain tricks that I form into a style.

Here are a few to play with:

- () { return; }

Now you can use the ‘-‘ at the beginning of a line as way
to leave comments. You should probably use this for structured comments that you might want to grab via reflection.

color() {
# The next line is functionally a comment too.
- alp color white red green blue
# If you overload the '-' function, then
# the color comment will become a function call
 if [ -n $1 ]; then
     case $1 in
       white)  FG='00m' ;;
       red)    FG='31m' ;;
       green)  FG='32m' ;; 
       blue)   FG='34m' ;;
      printf "\033[$FG";

You can experiment around with what symbols you can overload in this way. So far, I found:

, . - + @

In what my structured comment line, I begin with the word ‘alp’. I will now define what ‘alp’ does.

# alp creates a function for each option defined
alp ()
- alp $1 $2
echo "$1.$2() { $1 $2; }" > $T
source $T
rm $T
alp color red
alp color blue
alp color white
alp color green

Now you have four new functions, one for each color.

declare -f color.red
color.red ()
    color red

So this is how I play with bash. It is very similar to how one might approach golang, python, or other functional languages.

Dealing with the “Silicon Valley” tabs versus spaces argument

The whole issue, of tabs versus spaces, which was dealt with on “Silicon Valley” last week, is easily resolved. No need to lose your super-genius girlfriend. In the show, she is shown hitting the space bar over and over when she could just hit tab a few times.

Of course the issue is that tabs can be interpreted visually in very different ways. Microsoft Word seems to want you to reset your tab stops for each line, or some other foolishness that I can’t quite wrap my brain around.

The answer is that you can use whatever you want, and can use .vimrc to change tabs to spaces if necessary. Since I am not working on the Linux Kernel, and often work with YAML, I have expandtab and tabstop set to 2. This allows me to nest loops with 2 spaces and never create a YAML file with tabs (which throws an error).

set tabstop=2 softtabstop=0 expandtab shiftwidth=2
— from .vimrc


Realtime OOP PHP SVG coding

Today I am devoted a bit of time to object oriented laser cutter controls. Although the 3d printer is wildly useful, I find that the things that I can create with it are simply too small and too fragile. The laser cutter, on the other hand, allows me to create large and stable objects. By creating jigsaw pieces, large boxes can be made. The pathing is tricky because the width of the laser must to taken into account. Each segment must be moved slightly in various directions in order to create a tight fit.


Above is the finished product, ready to go to the Dallas Makerspace for test cutting.  I will only cut the green line, because it takes into account the width of the laser.  Below is a screen capture which shows how I work.  I run with a 5 second page refresh so that I can keep my fingers working on the code instead of mousing over to my browser.  Below is a snipped from the heat of the battle.  I just hardcoded in my path, as you see that I wasn’t quite finished defining my polygon below.   Next I will need a better separation of data and code, but I had to just get a prototype up and running first.  This way I know what is possible and reasonable and can now refactor in more flexibility.

Screenshot from 2016-05-30 11:13:12




Now I see the next calculation that I need to make. The male and female pieces fit snugly together, but now I need to adjust the side lengths and how deep the joining sections go. One problem solved, and on to the next.

Minecraft circle creator

I am spending some time revisiting and documenting some of my favorite php solutions.  They are all very light-weight and flexible.  This first one is a minecraft circle generator. You are supposed to pull up a circle size and then use it as a template in minecraft.  As you build levels upon levels, you will create large domes.


Here is an example of just starting out on the side of a hill.


The law is like a programming language

Programing languages are made up of little functions, one might pop up a box that says: “Do you really want to quit?” and will have little “Yes” or “No” buttons. You really would imagine that this would lead the program to end, but depending on how the function is written, it might not necessarily do that. It might assume that the programmer is going to make the thing end some other way. In fact, it could be made to fire up the printer. That would be really strange, but it could easily be done.

Now imagine that the total body of laws is like a computer language and that the little piece of the program (function) that asks if you want to quit is like a new piece of legislation. It could be used in unexpected, and even nonsensical, ways if judged and lawyers concluded that it could. Imagine if some law accidentally gave a legal advantage to people who periodically blew a bugle when publicly speaking. Thousands of bugles would be sold and used, no questions asked.

So if we can begin to see the law as amoral (neither moral or immoral), then we can best make use of it. This is especially true for laws regarding religion. As the conservative Supreme Court and state governments roll out more laws protecting religious freedom, expect more and more groups making odd claims to being religious. The problem is that if they build their case correctly, like a computer program that acts strange but doesn’t crash, then they “will” legally be religious. Strange days are sure to come.