My Ideal Writing Tool 2: Electric Boogaloo

So a while ago I wrote a post bemoaning what I felt was a lack of writing tools that truly fit my workflow. However, I have recently found one that finally feels right to me. It is called Dendron and it has helped me immensely. It is a hierarchal note taking tool, that also allows easy linking to other notes and other content that you put into it. It has the ability to add metadata to the notes using something called Frontmatter. It is built on top of VS Code so it feels comfortable for me to hop into it to write, and perhaps most importantly it is built on a directory of local markdown files.

This last feature is increasingly important to me as I see a variety of cloud services shut down, or sunset old products. An open source note taking tool that works on widely accepted file types is built with longevity in mind, and for writing projects, and especially for research I want that long last ability.

Features I am still missing:

  • Better mobile editing experience: Because it is text files, I use Gitlab to track them, and so can edit and refer to them while on the go, but it does lose the ability to easily follow links
  • Automatic citation generation: I would love to write a script where I could add metadata to a file, and then when I link to it on ‘chapter’ documents, I would be able to automatically generate a citation
  • Automatic generation of ‘final’ products. Scrivener and other tools provide ways to take your text with all of your footnotes, and endnotes and everything and ‘finish’ it down to a variety of formats. This lacks that.

This tool has a bit of a learning curve, but despite that it was deeply integrated into my workflow within the space of a single day.

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$FEW Care About This

If there is one thing that crypto can regularly provide it is drama. Today, the controversy (or at least one of them) centers around a token called Few. The token seems to have started when Sam Ratnakar decided to invite a small number of influential people from cryptocurrency to work on an “Experiment”. Each would receive an equal proportion of the tokens and a small proportion would be reserved for liquidity.

Archive link just in case: https://web.archive.org/web/20200923022606/https://twitter.com/mrdotboson/status/1308538094463844352

Many members of the telegram who received the token seem to have an honest desire to build something. However, the Telegram was also quickly filled with ‘jokes’ about pumping and dumping the token.

Archive link: https://archive.li/x07W6
https://web.archive.org/web/20200923023443/https://twitter.com/bluekirbyfi/status/1308533204224110592

Now let’s give all of these people the benefit of the doubt and assume they were working honestly with the goal of building something important. Even still they are doing it in what seems to be an inexplicable manner.

Generally, tokens should be created in order to serve a purpose. You decide on a project, a protocol, something, that in order to function optimally requires a token. What happened instead here seems to be that the token was created, distributed to a list of people with influence in crypto, many of them started “jokingly” shilling it on Twitter, and there was still no reason for the token to exist.

My intuition, and I hope I am wrong, is that the earliest creators and shills of $FEW were not doing it entirely as a joke. I believe many of them were experiencing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and in order to rectify that feeling settled on creating their own token, airdropping it to a small group of influencers, and then “influencing”, so that they too could share in the mania.

Even if it was all a “joke”, where’s the punchline? Is it a meta point that most tokens are worthless? Is it a commentary on the large amounts of wealth that generally accrue to the earliest and most connected in crypto? Is it supposed to be a mockery of the “great team” method of crypto investing? None of those feel convincing to me, and I am left with a sadness about the state of cryptocurrency.

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Why Does Tether Deserve the Benefit of the Doubt?

I have been told that I am prone to seeing plots in the mundane, and in trying to make mountains out of molehills when it comes to Tether. I have been told that I do not give them the benefit of the doubt or try to find charitable explanations for their behaviors. I am left wondering, why does Tether deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Tether was founded in 2014, and was almost immediately owned and controlled by the same principals as Bitfinex. This was not fully brought to light until the Panama Papers were leaked and it was also mentioned in Bitfinex’s lawsuit against Wells Fargo. Does this level of transparency deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Tether originally claimed to be backed solely by the currency represented. So USDT would be backed solely by USD. However, early on they also advertised exchanging Bitcoin for Tether through Tether. This was also advertised as a way to get Tethers without going through Know Your Customer regulations and processes. Does that also deserve the benefit of the doubt? Coincidentally, Tether’s lawyer said in the recent NYAG case that part of their reserves were invested in Bitcoin. I’m sure that is nothing though.

Tether loaned 100’s of millions of dollars to another business well knowing that the funds that business was going to give in return were currently not able to be withdrawn. Does that deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Tether was once hacked for ~$30m. Their response was to never explain what happened and force a hard fork of the Omni protocol to freeze those tokens. Does that deserve the benefit of the doubt? Luckily for Tether the Omni devs added in the ability for them to freeze any Tether at will.

Tether was supposed to be regularly audited for transparency. They eventually released monthly attestations from an accounting firm in Taiwan, and then those stopped. Then they released a statement from an auditing firm, and then there was nothing for a long time, and then they released a statement from a law firm, and since then nothing.

Perhaps the reason they are having so much trouble getting audited is because they’re incompetent at record keeping. They admitted during the proceedings of the NYAG case that they commingled corporate and client funds. Furthermore, Tether has a transparency page that has been incorrect for months. They claim that they have $31,304,655.00 Tether on Omni. Let’s go to the blockchain quick and check their math: $354,645.00 + $3,100,000.00 + $30,950,000.00 + $940,000.00 + $2,039,980.00 = $37,384,625. So they are unable to even add, yet we are supposed to give them the benefit of the doubt?

A List of Facts about Jacob/Jakub Kostecki

The following is a list of (to the best of my knowledge) facts, presented neutrally (or as neutrally as possible) for you to draw your own conclusions.

This story begins with a crypto conference that was supposed to happen in Memphis called Massive Adoption. It was planned and orchestrated by Jacob Kostecki and failed. Due to insufficient funds the conference was cancelled. During this same time Jacob was fundraising in a drive he called SatsForStudents that collected crypto to fund activities for underprivileged students. With that context I now present you facts that you may or may not find interesting.

Jacob Kostecki has a warrant out for his arrest in Poland.

http://poszukiwania.policja.waw.pl/pz/scigani/52363,Jakub-Kostecki.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401212336/http%3A%2F%2Fposzukiwania.policja.waw.pl%2Fpz%2Fscigani%2F52363%2CJakub-Kostecki.html

Jacob Kostecki named a company that he used to collect payments for Massive Adoption, “Integrity Front LLC.” The company is now delinquent.

Jacob Kostecki has claimed to have been involved in real estate for the last 14 years.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401213145/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1236852084172943361?s=20

Jacob Kostecki formed a [presumably] real estate focused company called Off Market Today LLC in February 2020.

Jacob Kostecki created a new Twitter account to focus on real estate in February 2020.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401213808/https://twitter.com/jkostecki_rei

Many startups that have chosen to work with Jacob have felt cheated by him.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401213958/https://techcrunch.com/2016/12/19/a-strange-tale-of-central-european-startups-angry-investors-and-secret-ndas/

Jacob claims to have been in the US since mid 2014.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401214254/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1222560782275104768

Jacob claims to be a refugee granted asylum in 1984.
https://web.archive.org/web/20200401214510/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1198024140134866944

The tickets for Massive Adoption were often promised to include various valuable benefits including hotel rooms, and even at one point more crypto than the cost of the ticket.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401215013/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1171051000083312640

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401215157/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1151354740174774272

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401215332/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1147751290056765442

During this same period Jacob was fundraising for an initiative that he called SatsForStudents that was meant to help underprivileged kids.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401215534/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1179910481793798144

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401215743/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1171170587986792449

Jacob has failed to provide a complete accounting of where the SatsForStudents funds went and there is evidence that the funds went through mixers and to exchanges.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401215944/https://twitter.com/karbongod/status/1222607324826755074

Jacob has made a variety of comments suggesting that he may pursue legal action against critics.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401220130/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1245048953042653185

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401220359/https://twitter.com/BlkMoneyDotCom/status/1239250819284963340

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401220537/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1245048618488221697

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401220944/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1236863927159418880

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401221004/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1236858737656090627

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401221007/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1236855721460822017

Jacob Kostecki has insinuated that people pointing out problems makes it more difficult for him to do refunds, and some statements could be interpreted as him saying he may not refund or may delay refunds to people who point out problems.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401221447/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1239249297440292864

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401221616/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1238831456543059970

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401221742/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1238829665516584966

https://web.archive.org/web/20200314140956/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1238825952659951616

Jacob Kostecki has promised to update his website at massiveadoption.com.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200307014545/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1236102650053054464

Currently, the website is hosting a domain parking service.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401224535/http://massiveadoption.com/

Specifically this domain parking service: https://www.parkingcrew.com/

Parking services are a way for domain owners to profit from traffic to their domain.

Delays with refunds have been a continual pattern with regards to this conference. The conference was originally scheduled for November and then delayed. After that delay Jacob fell behind on refunds.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200401225410/https://twitter.com/jacobkostecki/status/1207688081404379137

Addendum 4/1/20: Jacob Kostecki claims to be a real estate wholesaler, and that real estate wholesalers make so much.

https://web.archive.org/web/20200402155130/https://twitter.com/jkostecki_rei/status/1244816747879780354

Addendum 5/8/20: Jacob Kostecki is currently being sued for his failure to provide timely refunds for Massive Adoption

https://web.archive.org/web/20200508180606/https://twitter.com/dcsilver/status/1258784263346020352

These are to the best of my ability fully accurate facts about Jacob Kostecki.

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My Ideal Writing Tool

I am often unduly tool obsessed when it comes to tasks, and am hesitant to change my tools once I have found one that I can manage.

I love photography, yet use a years old camera (partially because quality has not improved that much) in part because I enjoy knowing exactly how the thing will react to my input.

I have never found a writing tool that worked exactly how I wanted it to though. I find Google Docs occasional slowness exasperating, and Word’s ability to mess up references and footnotes frustrating. I love Scrivener most of the time, except that I find I struggle to keep all my research labeled appropriately and sorted intelligently.

Perhaps, I think as I write this that the problem lies not with the tools, but with the poor carpenter. Yet still since I love writing I will still describe my ideal tool in the vague hope that someone can point me towards it, or it will motivate me enough to build it myself.

Each project is structured in a directory. The application can display a variety of content, allowing it to be used as the basis for much of the research gathering process as well. Each file has the ability for a significant amount of metadata to be added, this will include the information necessary to automatically generate citations, but also can include links to other files, addresses, etc…. References inside the text will appear while editing as a hyperlink to the specified content, and when you go to ‘render’ the final document it will use the metadata to generate the citation in the form you request. If needed metadata is missing it will prompt you.

Reading what I just wrote it makes me think that this is something I could conceivably develop and maybe I will. Or perhaps I just need to re-do the Scrivener tutorials. Who knows. Maybe what I am describing is a Jupyter notebook writing mostly in Markdown with some conversion coolness at the very end. Either way I find the disconnect between research and writing difficult currently. I get excited for the research, but end up with chaotic half-references and memories. I get excited to write and cannot find the references I need.

Yes, I know LaTEX is a thing, and maybe I should just learn how to use it. Honestly, this will never be solved by a tool and eventually I will just need to accept that my habits are what need to change.

Weird Coincidences

Author’s Note: This was inspired by this old thread of mine.

Our world is full of happenings that seem to the untrained eye to be worrisome coincidences, but in reality they can easily be explained away.

Consider for example that both Stuart Hoegner (General Counsel for Bitfinex and Tether) and Brock Pierce (Founder of Tether) worked for Bitcoin Decentral a short-lived incubator in Canada. The honest truth is that the blockchain industry was small back then and there were only so many combinations of ways people could work together in an industry that small. Trying to make that into something more is deceptive and wrong. You can see the list yourself at the link I sent, this is where anyone who was anyone in crypto was choosing to associate themselves.

It makes total sense that the stablecoin founded by Brock Pierce would go to the lawyer that Brock Pierce had worked with. Why would that be shady? I mean sure they are not technically auditors but they can sign a letter better than any bank in the Bahamas. But speaking more seriously, these are the same lawyers who were associated with this casino. That’s just another coincidence though.

So yeah that same Sunlot from before. Pierce and Betts who worked together on this ended up founding the bank that would bank Tether when they were cutoff from almost every other option. To put this in a different light though it makes perfect sense. Crypto people are going to be more comfortable banking crypto people than most banks would be. They have a better understanding of the true risk profile.

So this one can be observed pretty easily here. But again from the perspective of Bitfinex this was just good business sense. Why disclose their ownership if it was likely to invite undue attention and perhaps even make it harder to maintain their always tenuous banking relations. It was the clear choice to announce it as a partnership instead.

So I think the reason that this hack is very rarely discussed outside of the Tether Truther circles is that they were able to force a hard fork of Omni which allowed them to freeze these funds and any others. Since the money was not actually lose it is easy for people to not care about. However, it is still quite odd that someone was able to get into the treasury like that.

So as we just discussed Tether can now freeze any Omni Tethers that they want (I am almost positive that they can on Ethereum too but it has been a while since I read their smart contract so don’t hold me to that) and they are supposed to track these frozen Tethers on their transparency page here. They should be listed under Quarantined Tethers on the Omni part. Now the problem is that there are more frozen Tethers than are listed here. Consider for example 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Now I am no accountant but I know that those numbers add up to more than Tether claims are quarantined. Weird coincidence.

So in order to understand this one you need the context of the second Bitfinex hack, where afterwards to help regain trust they promised a full financial and security audit of Bitfinex. They hired a security consultant who allegedly gave them the report, Bitfinex thought this firm could do a financial audit as well, they could not, and the security “audit” was always referred to as a report from here on out. The financial audit obviously never came. I mean they couldn’t even get an audit for Tether which was supposed to just be 1 dollar per token. This was many tokens, banks across a huge number of jurisdictions, plus they had just issued the BFX token and the RRT token further complicating the job. In hindsight it was a thing that never should have been promised.

So the audit for Tether was going to prove that they always had the money they claimed they did. The audit for EOS was supposed to come out and prove that they did not trade their own token during the sale. To explain, during the year long ICO of EOS wherein it traded on several exchanges there were accusations that the block.one team was selling tokens on exchanges and using the proceeds to buy more tokens which inflated their $4bn sale. They promised an audit to prove that this did not happen. As of writing it has not occurred.

I saved this one for last because for me it is the hardest one to wrap my head around. Raphael Nicolle was the founder of Bitfinex and he left the very same month that their hot wallet was drained. This hack was relatively forgotten because they covered the losses, but it was always odd to me that was the month that Raphael officially separated from Bitfinex. Complicating this picture is that Raphael claims on his Linkedin that he continued to do some programming for Bitfinex. This means he was still connected to Bitfinex, but in a much more easily minimized role. The other amusing wrinkle is that Raphael is a Ruby on Rails developer, which is important to remember because Bitfinex was based on the leaked Bitcoinica exchange code which was a Ruby on Rails site coded by an ambitious 16 year old.

So yeah our world is weird and there are so many crazy coincidences.

Analysis of December NYAG and Tether Filings

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice or financial advice or life advice or medical advice or romance advice. Especially not romance.

So this is more than a little bit delayed, but better late than never I figure. You can see the original threads that I am going to be reviewing for this analysis here: NYAG and here: Tether.

The fundamental tension between the NYAG has become less a dispute about facts and more frequently a dispute about service, jurisdiction, precedents, and language. Tether especially was much more creative in this filing than previous ones.

Let’s start by outlining the broad strokes of the NYAG argument. Their primary thrust seems to be that Tether’s claim of improper service is invalid, due to existing precedence and their failure to bring it up in an earlier motion. They also find themselves frustrated by the lack of documents that have been provided by the merry men of Digfinex.

Listen if I am going to be blunt I think all of this posturing around jurisdiction is a load of shit. The Block reported [paywalled] that it was relatively easy for a NY resident who was moderately comfortable with lying to get an account there. Now based on the New Yorkers I have seen on the national stage recently I have reason to believe at least some New York residents are comfortable lying. Also it appears that the requirements for Martin Act jurisdiction are relatively light and we also know that an accounting firm they hired, a PR firm they hired, were also in New York. Oh also they helped onboard a New York based trading outfit and loaned them Tethers. Now you can argue that the Martin Act provides too much jurisdiction, but if that is the thrust of your argument you’re going to struggle.

Now looking more in detail at the Tether response we see some excitement from their lawyers for once. One of their primary thrusts seems to be that they were improperly served, and thus everything from then is bunk. It really comes down to whether serving the outside counsel of Bitfinex who was communicating with NYAG was appropriate or not. I am not qualified to assess the law, but it seems to me that they are unlikely to win this service argument.

The second thrust of their argument is jurisdictional. Namely the New Yorkers we worked with either were technically international or we did not know they were New Yorkers. This argument would hold a little more impact if they did you know anything except asking a single question to determine if someone was from New York.

Then they try to argue that Tether is not a security or a commodity and thus not subject to Martin Act. This is their most creative argument, but it seems the reach of the Martin act will still bring them to heel here.

Overall, my assessment of these two responses together is that Tether and Bitfinex are in a pickle and are taking steps to lengthen the proceedings and win in the court of public opinion.

A Luddite Technologist

n.b.: This is more rant and less article. If you expect structure or coherence perhaps this will not be the experience you want tonight.

I believe I must have gotten dumber, for the machines seem to now be smarter. Before they had no ability to recommend, sort, tag, and partition. Now, they Just Work (TM). This simplicity and clarity allows for many to create, consume, and engage. However, I find myself frustrated beyond what can be considered reasonable.

Consider for example the brilliant product Apple Music. It seamlessly combines your existing library with a massive streaming library which allows you to have the best of both worlds. At some point it decided for some of my files that its version was better than my own and replaced it in my library. Now they were likely right! Their file was likely a higher bitrate and probably sounded better, but when you replace an explicit song with a clean one it can be jarring. Especially when the album is Eminem and half the words are gone. However, this was likely my fault as I probably selected the wrong option during setup, or perhaps my file was labeled “wrong.”

Have you ever tried to put a picture in a Word document? It goes exactly where you put it, but later you realize that you should have put it somewhere else. Be careful moving it or your entire document structure may go upside-down. There’s an easy way to fix it by changing the text wrapping of course.

I code for my day job and for fun. However, I will admit that I do not always use the appropriate PEP-8 formatting, however, we are in luck because my IDE has an autopep8 extension that takes care of it for me. Except for the day that it moved an import statement, created an import loop, and it took me hours to find and fix. But hey that was my fault, I should have known I was not following PEP-8 formatting with that import statement moved down like that.

I have found that Netflix gives me a new sense of urgency to watch the shows and movies that I love, because I always have a sense that they are short for this world. Weirdly enough many of them are on DVD right across the room and could be watched whenever.

For some reason this blog now struggles to hold my attention, while my Tweet volume has remained incredible. Luckily I hope I have learned from Shakespeare and kept my wit despite the brevity.

I carry around a slab of glass and metal that is more powerful than machines I once dreamed of owning. It keeps me informed of exactly what I have told it I want to be informed about. I find myself needing to shut it off.

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