Reimagining computer science at the university

I’ve really been enjoying this last semester at school. My life has been in a place where I can devote a lot of time to it, and since I’m only part-time, it allows me time to do some deep work and get into the flow. I’m still undecided about my plans for after graduation, but I’ve been thinking about opportunities in academia. An email last week promised a free masters program as part of a Teacher in Residency program, and I signed up for a seminar. My brain was filled with daydreams of teaching computer science courses. Turns out the program was for primary school educators, so I passed, but now, another type of opportunity has sprung up that has got me thinking.

One of the science departments sent out a request for a developer. They’re using MatLab, but they are lacking the programming skills to do some task and put out the call to hire someone to develop a GUI wrapper for them. I plan on responding later, although I’m pretty sure the pay won’t be anything to get excited about. However, it did get me thinking about the larger problem, of intra-department requests like this, and about a potential use case.

GitCoin was the first thing that immediately came to mind. GitCoin is a bounty system that allows funders to place Ethereum rewards on certain GitHub issues. Devs can claim an issue, send a pull request and get payment after the issue is closed. I did one for the TensorTrade project, and getting that reward was very exciting. I was getting paid to code!

Perhaps a similar system could be built on top of a university’s GitLab system. GitCoin has a number of repositories in their GitHub, but I’m not aware if the core site functionality is all there. Departments, having placed their source code in a repository, can create their own issues, fund them, where they’ll be placed in the bounty feed.

One of the primary benefits of GitCoin, of course, is that the payments are implemented via Ethereum. Given the UX difficulties of managing MetaMask or something similar, it may still be too early for widespread adoption of such a system, but it does open the door for some sort of university token, perhaps tied to course credits or something.

Thinking back a bit to the conversations around The Future Is Faster Than You Think, I’m reminded that one of the biggest opportunities in the next few years will be around the education system. Perhaps there’s opportunity around using GitLab as a replacement for Blackboard? For all it’s strengths, I’ve never heard anything good about it from Professors, and it’s editing system is complete garbage. My university’s computer science department currently maintains a set of class materials that exist outside of Blackboard, made up of HTML pages for each course that get cloned each semester and torn down as students rotate out. I can envision a system, where the course materials are made available via repo, cloned for each semester as GitLab pages, and students complete their course work by forking the course repo and submittting pull requests back to the central repo. Build pipelines could be used to test student code, and students would be encouraged to refine the course materials themselves, correcting typos or clarifying materials.

There is one potential downside, however. Classes that still rely on traditional testing, where the student is not given access to all information, may have some problems with this model. One of my programming courses depended on the student to submit code which would be graded by the professors unit tests, which were kept secret. I don’t have a solution to this problem exactly, but for classes where the information doesn’t need to be kept secret, this could be an awesome solution. There are already potential workarounds to this information-hiding problem, as well. Private repos, and class groups could be used to deal with these concerns. A group of projects could be used to represent various modules of a course, and forks of the master repos could be made available after quizzes or tests.

This could be a very exciting development in how computer science education operates. I have a meeting with a professor tomorrow for a special project that I’ll be helping with, and hope to introduce this idea and see if it has traction.

Academic excellence

One of the two classes that I’m currently taking, this last semester before graduation, is on “computer procedures”, but a more accurate term is “numerical analysis”. We’ve spent most of the term working on implementing matrices and performing various algorithms like Gaussian reduction and Jacobian iteration in C++. My professor, who is a few years away from retirement, spent most of his career writing C code for aero and thermodynamic implementations, doing finite difference approximations of differential linear equations.

One of the problems with the course is that there are no supplementary materials for the class. It’s all lecture. I spend a good deal of time in class asking qualifying questions, and trying to figure out what he’s doing — and why — from Wikipedia articles. He’s wondered aloud about the number of people that drop the course each semester, and I’ve told him that it probably has something to do with the lack of supporting materials for the class.

It is no doubt one of the hardest courses I’ve taken, as it builds on years of calculus, linear algebra, and several programming courses. Not for the faint of heart. The math for this particular section is hard enough, and the professor just skips over much of the background of where the equations that we’re being given. He goes straight to the provisioning of the stencils that we need to build the matrixes. This follows the model that he’s been used to, where a scientist will give him some boundary equation problems and just ask him to solve them.

For me though, I demand more of a total understanding as to what’s going on, and have been driven slightly insane trying to understand the relationship between these first and second order differentials and these matrices that we’re coming up with. Another problem that I’ve had is that his code demonstrations in class are very dirty; just one long procedural main() function that is hard to read and even harder to understand what’s going on.

To deal with this latter problem, I was able to get him to upload his code functions to a public directory, and I’ve been refactoring it, pulling out functions here and there to make it more concise. I also implemented unit tests to validate my work and make it easier to refactor. But I ran into a real big problem trying to make up work for a few days that I was out, related to LU decomposition of a matrix. Trying to find public sources to figure out exactly what form he wanted us to use turned into a bit of a nightmare.

My refactoring eventually ran up to the limits of my understanding and ability to use C++. Our professor, old pro that he is, demonstrated all of his algorithms using naked C-style double-pointer arrays, which is not for the faint of heart. I took a crack at making these naked arrays into class members, but then ran into initialization and memory errors. So, I looked elsewhere, for other libraries that could shed some light on what I was trying to do. Unfortunately, the ones that I found either relied on FORTRAN to do the dirty work, or used arcane template methods with keywords that I had never seen and did not understand.

So, I turned to the most authoritative source I could, and picked up a copy of Bjarne Stroustrup’s The C++ Programming Language, and started on page one of this nearly 1400-page tome by the creator of the language. I spent many sleepless hours pouring over this work last month, finally taking a break because of a deadline in another course.

We’ve spent the last few sessions in a review of sorts, preparing for a midterm that awaits us following Spring Break next week. I’ve been attempting to nail down our professor about what we should expect on the exam, and he’s been very forthcoming. Still, it’s one thing to nod my head at what he does in class and convince myself that I understand, but a recent example on partial differentials showed me that I was ill prepared.

Now I’m not sure why exactly I decided to pick up a copy of Donald Knuth’s Art of Computer Programming. Self-punishment, I supposed. Knuth’s volumes are widely considered one of the most important tomes in modern computer science, and also as one of the most difficult and demanding works in the field. I spent several hours over the last weekend reading, or more accurately, skimming through its first chapters, trying to get a handle on the basics.

During his introduction, he noted how his LaTeX typesetting language had enabled the work to advance. Having source code up where multiple contributors could add to it, tweaking the formulas and figures in a way that had not been possible when the work was first released. It must have lodged in my brain, cause I was woken up in the middle of the night by one of the kids, and as I lay there in the space between waking and sleeping. I remembered this article by someone who does their class notes in LaTex. When I woke up, it was clear what I had to do.

So I spent most of the day copying down my class notes into Overleaf, an online LaTeX editor, going back and forth with various Wikipedia pages, trying to translate my notes and various Wikipedia articles into LaTeX. I’m really looking forward to going over it with the Professor on Wednesday. I’m hoping to put the source code up on our University’s GitLab server and setup a pipeline to compile the .tex files into PDF.

Overflow Hell at the Sanders Rally

Bernie Sanders came to town yesterday. As our state is a Super Tuesday one, he held three rallies across it. I was part of the 2016 team and had a great experience when he came by last time, and wanted to help out this time around, so I signed up for a volunteer. My wife got us an overnight babysitter, and we headed out to the event to help with the show.

I was shocked at the sheer number of people who were there to volunteer. I had expected maybe a dozen people, but it was closer to 50. The staff rattled off jobs and picked from those with their hands up, but we were in no hurry to sign up for anything. The temperature had dropped into the forties with a brisk wind, an I had underdressed, with only a sport coat, so there was no way I was working outside. After a second round of walking us around I finally raised my hand to work the overflow room.

In 2016, they had held the rally at a local sports area, and had 3000-3500 at the event, mostly all on the floor. This year’s event was held at the stadium of a local university, that seemed like it had less capacity. I was told that it had room for three thousand on the floor, and staff said they weren’t expecting to need the overflow room. They were wrong.

Volunteering at an event like this is almost like having a backstage pass at a rock concert. And dressing up like I did gave me an air of authority as well. (Being an clean cut white guy helps also…) We were told that “the Senator” would address people in the overflow room, and I figured it would be easier to get close to Bernie in the smaller room than pushing through the crowd in the main room. They had a podium setup, and a projector connected to a laptop. I wanted to make myself useful, so I tried to make sure that we would have access to a live stream in the room. The first problem is that I couldn’t find one. I communicated it to staff, and was told that “someone was going to handle it.”

The overflow room was a secondary gym, just two full size basketball courts, with a capacity of a thousand. They main room began to fill and we were called too our stations; our job was simply to count people coming in to the room. They started sending people our way and that’s when the nature of the job became clear: people were disappointed.

Getting to the event for us had been somewhat of a chore. We go there almost three hours before the start time, and there was already a line of cars to get on the university campus. I checked my map and found a lot that was in the opposite direction of the road to the building we were supposed to go to, and was able to cut ahead so we could park and walk the short distance to where we were supposed to be. We had to walk to the far side of the building, and I was fighting off the chill the for about five minutes. People who were waiting for the event, regular attendees, were outside for an hour or more.

So imagine, you’ve been stuck in traffic, waiting in line for an hour or more, freezing your ass off at 6:30 in the evening, you finally get into the rally to see your favorite presidential candidate, expecting to be among the thousands of like-minded folks, and instead, are stuck in a gymnasium with a few hundred. It must have felt like going to see your favorite arena rock band and getting the local dive bar cover band instead. People were let down.

We had been told that Sanders would speak before the overflow crowd, which seemed to temper some people, but others were straight up indignant. Several men acted like the whole thing was beneath them. Another, and older woman, caught me in the hallway, crying about the situation, asking me why they weren’t told to show up sooner, and that she was unable to stand for long, and it was cold, and so on. All I could do was listen and offer her a chair, but there was nothing I could say to make it okay for her. Looking back, I suppose I could have tried to let her through into the capacity room, but frankly, I was kind of indifferent that she hadn’t anticipated there being a huge crowd at a Sanders rally.

We had told people in the overflow that Sanders would stop in the room, but as the event started we were told that it was starting to look unlikely due to the Senator’s flight plans. By this point, the bands had finished and the warm up speakers had started, and there wasn’t a feed in the main room. Someone had put a livestream up, but the only sound was on the projector cart, which had a pair of desktop computer speakers on it. There was a PA in the room, but the board for it was on the opposite side of the room. People were getting very antsy. I was apparent that whoever’s job it had been to manage the overflow room had failed completely, and I had already brought my concerns to staff several times.

So, I did the only thing I could think of and grabbed the microphone for the room, turned it on, and held it up to the desktop speakers. It sounded like shit, but between that and the close captions on the video feed, people could actually hear the speeches. So I stood there for close to half an hour holding this mic, watching the livestream of the event going on the other side of the room, with 500 or so people who had been relegated to overflow hell.

My view from the bacck of the overflow room.

Eventually, the word from staff on the chances of Sanders coming through the room was not likely, so I handed the mic off to someone else and made my way in to the main room. I found my wife in the back. Caught the last few minutes of the Senator’s speech. He seemed tired. When he was done, I tried to bring my wife back to overflow in case he actually came through, but she wanted to leave. So off we went.

I don’t know if he made it to the overflow room.

Being a Technologist

Or, “Where’s my flying car?”

The Recode/Decode pod had this great interview with Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, authors of the book The Future is Faster Than You Think. I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a futurist, and the concept of accelerating technological change has been on my mind for a long time. FutureShock might have been the first foray into the subject for me, and I followed that up with several books by Ray Kurzweil, including The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity is Near. The years have given me some skepticism that we’ll see the type of changes that Kurzweil envisions, but 2040 does seem like a long ways of from here. Given just what we’ve seen in the past couple of decades, I’m am certain that we are going to see a continuing rapid transformation.

Diamandis is a colleague of Kurweil, they both are co-founders of Singularity University, which aims to help business leaders understand the changes that are on the horizon. The confluence of new technologies are enabling things that were just not possible a decade ago: robotics, genomics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, blockchain. Having an understanding about these trends is a huge competitive advantage.

Diamandis and Kotler were both on Impact Theory as well, and the host asked them what technology they are most interested in seeing, and the answer was flying cars. They’re pretty confident that we’ll be seeing autonomous flying vehicles hit the market in the next two to four years, and it reminded me of a thesis I heard from ARK Investment’s Cathie Wood a while back. She’s betting that it will soon be cheaper, based on cost per mile, to take a flying taxi than it will be to own a vehicle. She gets into a discussion about utilization rates, how personal automobiles are in the single digits as they sit in our driveways. Autonomous cars will be more like eighty percent.

Considering this bull case for the flying car market, I did some research to see what companies were on the forefront of this tech, and, more importantly, which ones were available as publicly traded companies. I was unable to find many pure plays, as most companies making progress in the space are either startups or subdivisions of other larger companies. The list that have are all the companies I could find that are currently available on the public equities markets.

  • Ashton Martin
  • Amazon
  • Audi
  • BA
  • Borg Warner
  • Delphi
  • Airbus
  • EHang
  • Gelly
  • Hyundai
  • Lear
  • Moog
  • Porche
  • Rolls Royce
  • Toyota
  • Tesla

Besides the larger firms like Tesla, Toyota and Boeing, there are also some smaller car companies like Rolls Royce and Ashton Martin making plays in the space. Chinese car manufacturer Geely has also acquired startup Terrafugia, which seems to be a leader in the space, and has also invested in Volocopter. I also added two parts suppliers to this list, including Borg Warner and Y. The firm that I’ve chosen to dip my foot into, however, is EHang, a Chinese drone manufacturer.

This is a straight gamble play on my part, but I’m only taking a two percent stake of my portfolio, and will be averaging in daily over the next 90 days. The stock has only been trading since December, bewtteen eight and fourteen dollars.

I’m also opening a position in additive manufacturing firm XOne, based purely off the fact that they are on the ARK Invest Autonomous Tech fund, and that their current price and chart fit my personal preference as well. So starting today, I’ll be adding these two stocks to my value averaging program, along with Lending Club and MTLS, another 3D printing firm.

During the interview with Kara Swisher, Clayton M. Christensen’s name came up. Clayton, who passed away recently, is the author of The Innovators Dilemma, a book that has been mentioned by so many leaders over the years. I went to the library to pick up a copy, but found that I had unintentionally picked up a copy of the sequel, The Innovators Solution. Thankfully, copies of the former are easily found online, so I downloaded a copy to my iPad and started reading it last night. Once I finish these two, I plan on getting on to The Future is Faster Than You Think, after I read the two books written by x and y before that, Blank and Blank.

Bitcoin vs. Coronavirus

It’s no secret that I am a huge bitcoin bull. For all my worries about risk and capital management with my financial investments, both equities and cryptocurrencies, I have thrown caution to the wind as far as bitcoin is concerned. I’d say that roughly two thirds of my total net worth is invested in either bitcoin or GBTC right now. Most of that is held directly in BTC in a hard wallet, and the rest via GBTC in my IRA.

About two months ago I started implementing a value averaging protocol to purchase GBTC. Each Monday, I would gauge the value of my GBTC holdings against a predetermined value, one-twentieth total capital times the number of weeks, and then place a buy or sell order, depending on whether I was above or below the target. The total capital that I planned for this deployment was about a third of my entire portfolio. I had set stops on several of my larger positions to gain cash, many of which triggered during the general market dip in 2019.

For the first fifteen weeks it was straight buy orders. I calculated the price that would trigger my max sell order, and on week eighteen, during the January run up, it triggered. Then the following week, I had a sell order. The last two weeks, as the price oscilated around the $10,000 mark, I was right on target, and didn’t have to place any large orders. During these few weeks, doubt began to creep and I found myself questioning the plan.

What if this was the start of the bull run to $50,000 or higher? Why would I sell? I questioned whether to break the plan and re-enter, or go even further and allocate even more than I had planned originally. I was able to squash this FOMO, and held firm. I had taken some profits, my position was up, and I would have at least another month to buy back in, as my profit taking had decreased my cost basis below my original target.

Weekly chart over the course of value averaging. Blue arrows indicate sell orders. Overall cost basis for period is 9.77/share.

And good thing I did. Effects of the Coronavirus caused a selloff in the markets, and bitcoin has fallen with it, about fifteen percent. I’m still holding to the plan, and will wait until Monday to buy back in. Patience, patience.

Also, I continue to accumulate BTC on a weekly basis, although on a much smaller scale. I’ve written a Python script to purchase a small amount through Gemini and transfer it to my hardware wallet. I’ve got one address for myself, and one for each of my children. The script alternates between them each week, placing buy orders and sending the proceeds to each of our addresses.

I plan on sharing this script via a Git gist or something shortly. It’s part of a larger trade planning library that I’m working on, and I’ve got to triple check that I’m not disclosing anything that shouldn’t be made public. I’ll do the same with the GBTC value averaging results, but that will be more difficult to scrub.

Firms I’m thinking about applying to

A recent Medium post on 2020 IPOs got me thinking about places that I’d like to work. Part of me has no desire to go back to work for a large company, I did four years with a Fortune 500 company, and while it was good for a while, the environment became toxic and I wound up self-destructing util they fired me. I haven’t had the best track record with any jobs up until my present position, to be honest. The place I’m at now isn’t ideal, but I guess I’d rather be a big fish in a small pond, so to say.

Now while I have no desire to go work for a retailer, or an exploitative company like Instacart, if I was to go back to work at a large firm and trade my freedom for a hefty package, these are some of the ones I would be interested in.

GitLab

One of the first companies on the list was GitLab. I’ve been a fan of theirs and have been using them over GitHub for the past few months. My university has an internal instance, and I’ve been using it a lot, figuring out how to use their CI/CD pipelines. They apparently have a culture of radical transparency, and have all of their guidebooks up online. Their interview and selection critiera are there, along with job responsibilities and performance metrics. Based on the compensation calculator, it looks like even a basic support position would be a step up from where I’m at today. It seems really appealing.

Stripe

Stripe has been doing very well in the payments space. They’ve got no plans to go public, but have a crazy valuation. They’ve got a lot of remote technical opportunities that could be interesting. On the downside, they recently discontinued support for Bitcoin payments, although the CEO remains optimistic about cryptocurrency in general.

Square

Not on the IPO since they went public in 2016. (Man did I miss that one…) Another payments company with several remote positions, as well as jobs in Atlanta, Denver, and Austin. Several front-end positions that I could qualify for, even with my limited experience. And the Cash App does Bitcoin, so it seems like it may be a good fit.

Asana

I used to be an advocate for Asana, but stopped using their software in favor of Basecamp. I originally skipped over them in consideration but just took a look at their job board. Nothing remote. I have no desire to move to San Fransisco, but if I wanted to move the family to Iceland it might be worth considering. I like how they have their values listed on their job postings, as well as this Day in the Life featuring one of their engineers.

Robinhood

I’m not a customer — get IRAs already! — but have been following them for some time and respect the efforts they’re doing to make investing more accessible. Fractional shares investing is a really good idea. And they offer crypto trading as well. No remote jobs available, but Denver is starting to sound like a good place to live. Go Broncos!

TDAmeritrade

Not on the original list, but I’m adding it here after hearing Junayna Tuteja, TD’s Head of Digital Assets and DLT on the On The Brink podcast. She makes it seem like a really great place to work. A quick look at their job board, however doesn’t match anything crypto-related. There’s a couple contract positions in Omaha and New Jersey, not two places I have any interest in moving to.

I have always been a ham

I had been playing guitar for a few years, a fact which was known around my high school during my junior year. I was mildly famous at school having impersonated Ross Perot during a mock presidential debate which aired on the school’s morning video announcements, and my Wayne’s World Garth costume for Halloween was a hit as well. But it was my lead performance in Death of a Salesman that brought me to the attention of our schools drama and chorus teacher, who approached me about putting together an ensemble of guitar players to accompany the chorus during a presentation of carols during the schools winter dance, called the Holly Ball.

“After we’re done with our performances, you and the others will have a chance to do a few songs of your own,” she told me, and of course I jumped at the opportunity. Word soon got round to all my friends and we soon had more than enough players. The plan was to have several of us accompany the chorus with our acoustic guitars, then plug in and rock out for a few heavier songs. I remember there was a bit of fighting over what those songs would be, as several people, myself included, wanted to be the front man for their fave songs. In the end, I believe we settled on Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Sprit, sung by a friend of mine, and also Today by Smashing Pumpkins, which was a fave of several others on the team. We chose Fire, by Jimi Hendrix, cause it was a classic that allowed several of us to show off our playing ability.

So we had several rehearsals the week or two before the show to work out the set, then we had the show. It was in the school’s cafeteria, with a small stage setup near the entrance; half of the tables had been cleared for a small dance floor. I don’t recall it being a big dance, but there were a few dozen people there in addition to my band mates and members of the chorus. I don’t remember much about that night, but I imagine that I was mostly focused getting through the choral numbers so that my boys and I could get to it.

Now I’ve never had the best stage presence when playing guitar, I tend to close my eyes, whether it’s from nervousness or concentration, but one memory that has stuck with me since that night was looking up during the guitar solo in Fire and seeing the crowd dancing. It was a brief moment of pure joy, seeing classmates losing themselves and tearing up the dancefloor while I busted out the music. Looking back at everything I did, music-wise, I think that was probably one of the greatest moments I ever had. And while it may sound sad to admit, I think it’s probably just a factor of nostalgia, childhood, and the familiarity I had with everyone involved.

I just happened to think about this memory when I was meditating earlier today, and time-traveled to that moment up on stage. I couldn’t help smiling.

More economic and political news

The big news today seems to be a three percent pullback in the stock market due to Coronavirus fears, or the threat of a Sanders presidency, depending on who you ask. I wrote yesterday that Trump’s obsession with a health economy leading up to the election was leading forcing the Fed to inject liquidity into the markets, and that efforts were likely to fail at some point and lead us into a recession. What goes up, as they say… I also noted that the Coronavirus might be a big monkey wrench that throws us into global recession sooner than later. And while I haven’t bought face masks for my family yet, I am thinking about it.

$250,000 BTC?

This interview with Bitcoin bull Tim Draper was really interesting. The first two minutes are slow cause he just keeps repeating that the market’s are “frothy”, but then he gets into talking about bitcoin for several minutes. At one point he repeats his $250,000 price target for 2024, and is asked how much of his net worth is in crypto and he refuses to answer.

His point about the credit card fees versus Bitcoin is well-made also, as well as his arguments about banks in general. He throws out OpenNode as an example. Taking a quick look at it, they charge less than one percent per transaction, and even process the first $10,000 free of charge. They also have plugins for Shopify and WooCommerce. Neat!

Social Democracy vs. Unfettered Capitalism

I’ve been using Basecamp for several months lately, and have been using it with several clients lately. One of the founders, Jason Fried, has been on the Peter Attia pod a couple times since he started and I really appreciated the approach they take to running a business, work-life balance, and success. It really seemed like a breath of fresh air and a really healthy outlook.

A little over a year ago I participated in my first startup competition, and Angel investor Jason Calacanis was one of the keynotes. Afterward I got a bit caught up in the prospects and started listening to his The Week In Startups pod, but quickly burned out on it due to the number of episodes they put out and some general antipathy to the culture in general. So when I saw Fried’s co-founder, David Heinemeier Hasson, was a guest on TWIS, I added it to my feed and listened to it earlier today. I was not expecting what I heard.

Hasson is from Denmark, and the conversation quickly went to discussion about how America can “get to Denmark”, this is, providing citizens with basic services like healthcare and education for free. And Hasson is a pretty strong advocate for social democracy, and a fierce critic of exploitative capitalism, especially gig economy firms like Uber, of which Calacanis is an early-stage investor in. This was a really interesting conversation, and one that I will be sharing quite a bit with people in the run up to the Democratic primary here next week.

President Bernie Sanders

So yesterday was the Nevada caucus, which Bernie Sanders won, solidifying his status as front runner for the Democratic nomination. And the pundit class is losing their shit. Between Chris Matthews’s fears about guillotines in Time Square and James Harville’s recent comments, it’s clear that the masks are off for the Democratic elites.

Sanders is clearly benefiting from Democratic moderates being unable to coalese around a favorite, and are splitting the vote between Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Bloomberg. It’s clear that they clear any kind of real systemic change, and some of them are wondering out loud whether they’d be better off with another four years of Trump than they would a President Sanders.

My take on the political reality in the United States has been influenced by this 2016 post, The Three Party System.

There are three major political forces in contemporary politics in developed countries: tribalism, neoliberalism and leftism. Until recently, the party system involved competition between different versions of neoliberalism. Since the Global Financial Crisis, neoliberals have remained in power almost everywhere, but can no longer command the electoral support needed to marginalise both tribalists and leftists at the same time. So, we are seeing the emergence of a three-party system, which is inherently unstable because of the Condorcet problem and for other reasons.

The Three Party System, by John Quiggan

To be a Sanders supporter at this point in time must feel similar to what Trump supporters felt during the 2016 GOP nomination, although Sanders is well ahead of where Trump was at this point in the process due to the fact that hes been at it for so much longer. Still, it is exciting to watch everyone losing their minds in real time. Obviously, we’re a ways away from Sanders locking the nomination, and there is a lot that the Democratic Party leadership can do to try and screw Sanders over, but we’re looking at a pivitol moment in American history, as a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist is leading the fray.

Bloomberg/Klobuchar?

Elizabeth Warren’s evisceration of Bloomberg at last week’s debate was all anyone talked about for days after. It’s a bit early to tell if Bloomberg is done, but he still has a lot of money left in his war chest. The parallels between Bloomberg and Trump are just too much for me, but on the plus side, nothing has been better for Bernie’s anti-plutocrat message than an actual billionaire trying to buy his way into the Democratic nomination.

I’m not sure where I first picked this theory up, but it may be that Bloomberg’s campaign is just a giant money-laundering operation for the eventual (moderate) nominee. My understanding of Federal campaign finance laws may or may not be accurate, but my working theory right now is that Bloomberg will be rolling over his remaining campaign funds to whoever the moderate’s choice turns out to be when he does. My guess is Klobuchar. He rolls over a couple hundred million to her directly, bypassing the $5400 contribution limit and allowing her to use the funds directly instead of going through a super pac.

Biden’s support among African Americans

Sanders has a clear majority of support among Latinos and and most young people, but there is one demographic where Biden is still holding: older African American voters. Much of this is likely due to the connection to Obama. Also, the Cold War connotations of socialism still have much negative influence on older populations. This, combined with Bernie’s reluctance to talk about racial issues in anything other than class terms, has likely hurt his support among this demographic, and is one of the major challenges that needs to be overcome.

Sanders support clear among the youth

There is a clear plurality of support for Sanders among young people, many of whom have higher opinions of Socialism than Capitalism. Given the economic conditions of the past forty years, it’s not hard to see why. This dichotomy between the younger working class and the Boomer elite that has been in charge of the neoliberal power structure for the past decades is the source of much of the friction that we’re seeing today. Also, the younger generations have long recognized the threat of climate change and are willing to enact a Green New Deal to combat it, and this scares the hell out of the establishment.

Given the clear support for Sanders among these younger people, the question now becomes whether Democratic power brokers are willing to let the youth decide this election, or whether they’re going to try to eliminate a Sanders nomination via a brokered convention.

The end of the Democratic Party?

It’s clear that the GOP is now the party of Trump. Some long-time moderate Republicans have fled, changing their affiliations to independent, or even Democratic. What will happen after a Sanders nomination? Will we see a similar exodus of billionaire-friendly plutocrats flee? Will it spark a Randian-style capital flight?

The better question I think is what will happen if the neocons put their hand on the scale against Sanders, or even if there’s the appearance of interference. I can only imagine the ruckus that will happen. No doubt it will make the 1968 convention look tame. The widespread disillusionment among Sanders supporters in the general election would be significant. Of course it depends on who the alternative nominee is. Bloomberg would be a non-starter for most, including myself. Warren or Klobuchar might actually be the compromise choice that their campaigns are making them out to be. Not that I think there’s room for compromise at this state of late Capitalism.

Will elites crash the economy to spite Sanders?

I’ve seen lots of chatter in the finance space about irregularities in the repo markets, as well as additional quantitative easing by the Feds. It seems that there’s a lot of money being pumped into the system, most of which is going into the markets. This has continued the stock market’s rise in the face of other tepid economic indicators. Trump has been obsessed with keeping up these appearances, as a successful economic outlook is most critical to his success this November. However, with interest rates at such a low point and a good number of masters of finance warning about an impending crash, the ability of the Fed and central banks to keep the show going is questionable. A recession is likely, the question not if but rather when and how bad.

There are signs that the Coronovirus may be a black swan event that may already be precipitating this slowdown. Last week Apple announced that they were not going to hit production targets because of factory closures in Asia, and it is likely that other supply chains are going to be affected if the disease continues to spread. This could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back and starts a new global recession.

A pullback before November would be disastrous for Trump, whoever is president in 2021 will have to pay the piper in some form or another. A Sanders presidency could have to deal with the threat of Capitalist rebellion. As Sanders begins enacting his reforms to decrease wealth inequality, those with wealth fill fight tooth and nail to stop him. Any economic slowdown, rather than being recognized as the result of four decades of neoliberal economic policies, will be blamed on Sanders socialism.

On the bright side

Jacobin magazine had an issue some time back called A True Story of the Future, looking back from the near future at how Sanders not only won the presidency, but managed to transform the country by instituting Medicare For All and a Green New Deal. Realistically, it talked about the fact that the real challenge for Sanders would be after he won, as the ruling class of wealthy elites will do everything they can to undermine a President Sanders and prevent his agenda from destroying the status quo. The authors of the Jacobin piece take a look at steps Sanders and his supporters can take to make sure that the movement keeps going and that we get what we’re fighting for.

Five things to do after college

Today I was supposed to be attending a bootcamp on the R programming language. I don’t really have much interest in R, per se, but need one credit hour to fulfil my computer science degree requirements. Python wasn’t being offered. The course was cancelled due to “lack of interest,” so now I’m left wondering what to do to fulfil that last credit. I sent a couple of emails last night inquiring whether I could run my own bootcamp on blockchain technology, as I’ve run several meetups and could easily spend a day or two talking about it.

That got me thinking about plans to hold a Mid-Atlantic Crypto Conference that had been shelved for the past year. The idea was first brought to me by BCause founder, Tom Flake over a year ago. BCause has since been forced to liquidate, and I haven’t talked to Tom since the news hit. I’ve been to several cryptocons, one in Pennsylvania, and another hosted at Virginia Commonwealth University, so I think I would have the resources to throw something together. Throwing it together in sixty days before graduation would be quite the challenge, though.

I’ve also been thinking about my post-graduation plans:

Work for a crypto exchange: blockchain and computer science are probably my two favorite things to do, this would make the most sense for me. I’ve been in the space long enough that it’s time to make a career out of it, and the money should easily be six figures. I worry about the time committment needed to go and work for someone like a Coinbase or Gemini, though. And the competition would be fierce. A more likely, and less financially lucrative opportunity would be to go work for one of the smaller, niche exchanges, like Safe.Trade, for example. Or…

Start my own crypto exchange: This would be very risky, and likely require a lot of time. There’s some open source exchange software out on Github; I’ve already been planning to take a look at it and see if it can be used with Cryptonote coins like the planned Pennycoin fork. What kind of income would that generate during the next bull run? And what kind of headaches would that entail? I can imagine.

Get my masters: I could just keep taking classes. I love learning, but I’m not sure this makes financial sense, to keep taking on debt and keep taking classes for another four years (part time). I had joked about doing this just to delay repayment on my student loans, but I’m not really interested with any of the programs that are offered at my current university, and the prospect of transferring somewhere else doesn’t appeal to me right now.

Go work for a development firm: I’ve already been presented with one job opportunity via a recruiting agency, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find something, even if it’s a short-term contract. Doing so would mean cutting ties with my current job entirely, and although I’m pretty much done with the MSP model, and IT support in general, I don’t think I want to abandon the guy I’ve been working for the last seven years. I’d rather do…

Freelance development: This would be the dream, wouldn’t it? Pick up a few projects, knock out a few Django prototypes and voila! This could be very lucrative if done right, finding jobs could be hit or miss. I could pickup work through the local startup and coder meetups, pickup some OSS rewards on GitCoin. Wouldn’t even have to quit my day job, really. This really seems the most appealing to me, as far as the status quo goes, but is it just me being lazy?