The Latest #4

Newsletter - Mid-November 2021: Blockfi, Flying the Pitts S-2B, US-China Tensions

First aerobatic flight in the Pitts S-2B. Full video below!

Yes, the design of this newsletter is different. Cleaner, one might say. I switched my site over to the self-hosted Ghost platform which was a fun little diversion these last few days. Got to flex muscles I haven't used in a while: Lots of Linux server admin and such. Ghost is kind of like the open-source equivalent to Substack, but without all of the "PUBLISH ON SUBSTACK--DID YOU HEAR THAT OUR NAME IS SUBSTACK. SUBSTACK. SUBSTACK." branding. Ghost makes it easy to publish articles on a site and distro them to all the places you'd care to. Emailing to members is built right into the publishing system, which is pretty slick. Saves me a ton of time re-writing stuff in Mailchimp. Plus, I think it all looks pretty nice. Anyhow, not trying to shill, just proud of the new look.

Tech: Blockfi.

I've recently become a fan of The All The Hacks blog/podcast. This guy, Chris Hutchins, is power-nerd about luxury-maximization-for-less-or-no-money. Fiona and I liked episode #20, which is his no-fluff breakdown of essentially all of the low-hanging value fruit for credit cards and travel. Hutchins works at Wealthfront, of which I'm also a fan, and so he's pretty tuned into the Fintech space. He interviewed the CEO of Blockfi, which is essentially a company that provides super high-interest crypto checking accounts and also super high-interest crypto loans to...well, I'm not sure. More on that in a sec. The interview was good. You can tell that the guy, Zac Prince, is a crypto-optimist through and though and that he genuinely means well. The podcast gave me enough confidence to fund an account at Blockfi and it's actually been a great ride. At the time of this writing, they're offering 9% interest on "stablecoins" (cryptocurrencies with consistent values usually tied to the US Dollar). That's sort of unbelievable when you hear it for the first time, considering the cash I had in my USD savings account was earning a paltry 0.1%. Everyone I've spoken with about it usually has some line like "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." Well, I can see the interest I'm generating and I've also made a test withdrawal so as far as I can tell, it's legit. They're also based in the US and so it's harder to run away with people's money. Still, they're notably not FDIC-insured and there's definitely some risk. They have a big yellow banner on their site about all of the pending litigation brought against them in various US states. Lots of regulators want to regulate Blockfi like they're peddling securities and not cash. Despite that, I'm probably just going hold on until I have reason to believe this is a really bad idea. Still, I have lingering suspicions mostly about their lending operations that drive the high interest I'm enjoying. Who the hell is paying ~12-15% interest on a crypto loan when US Dollars are practically free money? The Fed, King Fiat, wants you to borrow and spend money like crazy right now to pull us out of the COVID economic nosedive. Liquidity is everywhere at essentially no cost. So...why? I haven't found a super compelling answer, but this page says it could be about taxes: "A crypto loan may make sense if someone holds a substantial amount of crypto and wants to liquidate it without having to sell and possibly pay taxes on it..." Also, there's no credit check for a Blockfi loan (you put up a lot of collateral instead is my understanding), so basically people with no other option could be the ones taking these loans. I don't love that idea. I worried for a while that maybe Blockfi and companies like them were funding Al Qaeda or foreign warlords, but I'm less certain because they have a pretty rigorous "Know Your Customer" flow prior to letting you deposit funds or take a loan. Anyhow, jury is still out (literally) on Blockfi, but the interest is terrific in the near-term.

Video Games: Doki Doki Literature Club

I think I'm pretty late to this one, but it was advertised to me as "up there with Resident Evil on horror game lists." My friend Nic played through the whole thing on Halloween and was clearly affected by it. I thought it was hilarious that this innocent-looking anime game featuring Japanese high school girls could be so terrifying, so I tried it too. Calling it a game is a little generous, it's more like a visual novel where you tab through a bunch of text. And I wouldn't call it "horror" exactly. Like there aren't any monsters or jumpy moments, but it gets under your skin. It made me remember the dark undercurrents of high school and how people and crushes could be so cruel.

Foreign Policy: US-China War

What Will Drive China to War?
A cold war is already under way. The question is whether Washington can deter Beijing from initiating a hot one.

Aviation: There's a Su-75 now?

Russia doesn’t seem sure the Su-75 Checkmate will be stealth
Earlier this year, Russia unveiled their forthcoming ‘stealth fighter,’ the single-engine Su-75 Checkmate, with bold claims about its expected performance and capabilities. Now, as the fighter is being displayed on foreign soil for the first time at this week’s Dubai Air Show, formal statements from…

Aviation: Swiss Air Force F-18 Hornet Demo...In the Alps (Courtesy of my Friend, Rob)

AXALP 2021 The Greatest AvGeek Show on Earth!! Spectacular Swiss AirForce Live Firing!!: AIR.TV
#AXALP #AXALP21 #LIVEFIRE #F18 THE GREATEST AVGEEK SHOW ON EARTH: SWITZERLAND’S AXALP LIVE-FIRE DEMO Axalp is, in my humble opinion, very likely the best air show on earth, although the Swiss Air Force will be quick to tell you that it’s not really an airshow, rather, it’s a live-fire training ex…

Random: Flesh-Eating Worms

America’s Never-Ending Battle Against Flesh-Eating Worms
Inside the U.S. and Panama’s long-running collaboration to rid an entire continent of a deadly disease

Good Things from YouTube

Me, flying the Pitts S-2B:

The most insane ski run I've ever seen (courtesy of my friend Rob):

Jurassic Park, but with a cat:

Parasitoid wasps. This is the article I read that led me to this video. It's about how Charles Darwin questioned his faith in god because of these things:

Stay healthy!

Nick