Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Artificial Intelligence, 2021: Towhead of Cottonwoods

Photo Credit: Ryan Mollnow, USFWS Mountain-Prairie 2004. Derivative: cropped by dkp. License CC-by 2.0

This is just a layman's observation. I think Facebook's forays into the weaselly world of artificial intelligence is more advanced than Duckduckgo's. I was reading Huckleberry Finn and was reminded to wonder why a blond is called a "towhead."  Cottonwoods were mentioned, and I began to think of local (North Georgia) scrub brush, to envision something similar. Would a white towhead be like a field of sandy dropgrass? a stand of white-flowered jasmine bushes? flowering pears? a thicket of katawba trees, maybe? So I searched "cottonwood trees." Oddly, the trees were not white at all. They ranged from a soft, bushy green to a brilliant yellow-orange color. The term "towhead" brought up beaucoups of little blond boys. I couldn't quite make the connection, going by the trees I had seen; strawberry blonds, maybe, or little redheads. But white-blond children? Why the metaphor? 

It took quite a few more searches (and several articles perused) for more clues, that finally provided me something of an answer. With the last set of terms, the image search result gave up a set of pictures showing full-blown cottonwoods going to seed. Finally, the fuzzy, white "summer snow" I sought: 

*cottonwood trees
*river towhead
*towhead with cottonwoods 
*cottonwood trees in seasons
*cottonwood trees in all stages
*cottonwood trees white 
*cottonwood trees full blown seed
*cottonwood poplar thicket summer fuzz white
*ohio summer snow cottonwood seed

I haven't tried Google, but I know that Facebook would have categorized my thoughts immediately. One mention of the word "towhead," and I would see memes of blond kids, ads pushing Mark Twain books, pictures of islands, documentaries about riverboats, and travel ads for Missouri and Mississippi River destinations. Facebook reads my mind.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Kraken: My Second Success (But Still, Confused)

Kraken's platform is confusing to one who has no experience with markets and trading and whatnot. Even so, newbie that I am, I managed two successful trades and a withdrawal, though not without some hitches.

I described my confusion about conversion amounts in an earlier post. In spite of my fill-in-the-blanks-and-hope-you-are-right trading technique, my first trade ended in a lovely green 'success' button and a small, as expected, balance of USD in my account. Now I wanted to withdraw that money.

I probably could have withdrawn the US dollars straight into the appropriate account, but I had a vague notion that I couldn't withdraw fiat currency. I think it used to be that way on Kraken. Anyway, I initiated a second trade, this time turning dollars to Lumens. I know, 'a sucker is born...'

I entered an 'average' for my XLM buy price and entered the entire balance of my USD as my limit. The order sat around for a while. I was surprised, since I had allowed a little leeway in the buy price, and I knew people had received some XLM for free. But of course, my small amounts weren't good bait, so the order never filled.

Then a red button popped up: 'cancelled.' I was only slightly puzzled, and figured I had offered too little or failed to include a fee. But then, further puzzling, my USD balance was now at zero, and the appropriate XLM balance had popped up in its place. To me, that looked like a successful trade, so why the little red 'cancelled' button?

I thought I would attempt a withdrawal. It kept popping up that I must verify to keep trading in fiat. I thought I already had verified, but certainly I was within the limits of my account's trade allowance, and besides, I wasn't trying to withdraw fiat. But, revisiting the 'cancelled' button, I thought perhaps my funds were in the Twilight Zone, visible as a balance, but not spendable. Who knows why?

Before chatting up Support, I went to Google. One riddle was soon solved. If a trader fails to take into account the fees and maxes out their available funding, Kraken 'cancels' the trade, but fulfills it 'as much as possible' (minus the fee). Fair enough. It worked for me.

As for why I couldn't withdraw my balance, it turns out (I think) I had tried too soon. I went back and initiated a withdrawal. This time it worked, but not without more hitches.

Several irritating things occurred. First, it wasn't obvious that I needed to enter a walket code. I don't remember a prompt, and assumed it would be on the next screen. Then I noticed a link (was it there before?), so I entered the info for my existing XLM wallet on another exchange and saved that in Kraken. Another hitch, Kraken wouldn't let me send to that wallet without verifying the wallet via an email link. This I did, but of course, it interrupted the transaction. Meanwhile, Kraken timed out. I had to log back in by entering my username, password and 2fa, all of which meant toggling some windows on android (highly stressful--I always manage to close at least one window by accident).

Back on Kraken, the annoying pop-up that I must verify!,verify! my ID in order to withdraw fiat just kept interfering. As I understood it, I was already verified well beyond the amount I was transferring, and again, I wasn't withdrawing fiat, so I just X-ed out the pop-up every time.

But having logged back in, I found that my saved wallet info was now available for selection via a drop-down toggle. I selected it, and after reviewing the transaction, I sent it. It showed up as pending or initiated or whatever.

Then I went to my wallet on tge other exchange and checked a time or two. Within about two minutes, my Lumens showed up in my wallet.

Kraken's fees were very low! It seems well worth the effort to learn to use Kraken, but they do have some dabgerous options. They allow trading on margin and putting up collateral (trading on borrowed amounts), so I'm not sure I need to be messing around on Kraken without a lot more learning. And my math skills obviously need honing. Why one platform lets you enter your total balance and the next one makes you guess at, and subtract, a fee is beyond me. For that reason, some of my wallets are nicely empty (as I managed to transfer the entire balance as desired), while others have these insane fractions of pennies left in them.

But... for what it's worth, I collected my silly little amount of BSV, exchanged it on Kraken, and sent it back as 'Lumens' to an existing wallet on another exchange. (One could choose to send to a paper wallet or some other wallet, of course). My Lumens can be exchanged at any time for fiat or cryptocurrency.

Overall, it was a positive learning experience. I lost more in the exchange than absolutely necessary, out of my own ignorance about fees and storage.

If Lumens hangs around for awhile, it will be nice. Stable value, low fees, and fast transfer. Of course, I've only tried Lumens on Blockchain, Coinbase, and Kraken. I couldn't find a way to store it on Jaxx, so it must not be supported. I can't remember what I would need to do to store it on a paper wallet (if that's possible). That would require a refresher course on my part.

It's a shame about Coinbase's tablecloth trick with the Lumens referral. I know a few folks who might risk playing crypto, given the intro bonuses and low fees.

Kraken Confusion

I accomplished my first tiny trade on Kraken. I managed to convert my tiny portion of Bitcoin SV to USD, but not without some confusion.

Kraken gave three choices for conversion: BSV to Euro, BSV to USD, and BSV to XBT.
My first choice was to convert to Bitcoin (XBT). But Kraken makes you fill in three blanks: how much BSV you want to sell, how much you'll sell it for, and how much of the selected currency you expect to get.

Well, I filled in the first two blanks, and the third blank--the expected amount of XBT--came to about 14. I wish! I would love to have fourteen Bitcoins! I knew I had done something wrong. So, to check myself, I changed the dropdown to choose the BSV to USD trade. The result seemed feasible. It showed a small amount of USD, as expected. So I toggled back to BSV/XBT. Again, many bitcoins.

I was afraid to trade. Obviously, I wasn't understanding something. I toggled back to USD. It looked right. I had no idea what kind of fees to expect, so I chose to sell the BSV for a little less than the projected low-end price, kind of a built-in fee, I figured. It must have worked, for shortly thereafter, my ledger showed zero BSV and a little bit of USD.

I still don't understand the BSV/XBT conversion, and why the expected Bitcoin didn't show as .0001 or something. Maybe my amounts were so ridiculously low, the ticker didn't know what to do with it. Trading on Kraken was confusing, and for me, I suspect it always will be. I'm certainly not confident about trading, but after my first (and only?) trade, my ledger seems okay and I did feel a little thrill to know that I must have done something right.

Adventures in Lumens

So, I got an email from Blockchain with a request to verify my identity and get free Lumens, whatever they are. Sure, why not? I'll sell you my ID. So I logged into Blockchain and uploaded my credentials. I got my Lumens. It was legit. I transferred some of it right away to see how it worked. It worked well--transferred lightning fast.

Then I converted  it to USD. That worked, too. It was real money. Coinbase and Blockchain snagged their fees, of course. They weren't too bad. I decided to buy a bit of Lumens, convert some of it to Ripple. That worked, too. Now I can say I have Ripple and I have Lumens. So what if these things are worthless air, virtual coin? I haven't spent much on my experiment. So far, it's bubblegum money, small amounts, worth a gamble. Something to play with. More fees than profit.

When I went into Coinbase, I had an invitation to learn about Lumens and earn more Lumens by inviting friends. I took the challenge. Therein came the first downside. My own lessons worked fine. But my referral link for my niece led her to a seeming dud. She watched the videos, but got no quizzes. She did not get her money. I was unhappy, seeing how I had twisted her arm to try Lumens. So I told my sister to just ignore the referral link I sent to her. Bummer.

Did I do something wrong by getting Lumens from both Blockchain and Coinbase? Did I miss some obscure small print in Coinbase's T and C? I don't know.

I really loved how quickly the Lumens transferred, loved that you could transfer small amounts of it, loved that it could be converted to USD or other coin with no problem, and I loved that the value apparently remains stable. I did not love the bait-and-switch perpetrated by Coinbase.

I'm particularly disappointed that it finally seemed possible to hold a token, get other people excited about it, transfer small amounts of it, and generally play around with it a bit. I had high hopes of getting my friends to play crypto with me instead of warning me to stay away from the dark side of the web as they always do. And why am I so desperate to make cryptocurrency a social thing, anyhow? Wasn't my big gripe about FarmTown the social aspect of the game? That you had to shamelessly beg and bully your friends to send a tree or a sheep? And now I'm begging them to try cryptocurrency.

Well, I mistakenly thought I would reward my niece with Lumens, but instead, my niece is irritated that I wasted her time. And I'm frustrated that I still have nobody in this hemisphere willing to trade tiny amounts of coin. I'm sitting here with a pocketful of Lumens that seem to have great potential (as fast-traveling cash, not a get-rich-quick scheme); but my Lumens have no place to go...

If this is how they expect to promote universal adoption of crypto... it's not working. They're not there yet.

Keeping Current with Crypto

Ever since the crypto thing fell back to sane levels and calmed down a bit, I quit checking my accounts daily (okay, I confess, hourly) and started checking occasionally.

When I logged into Bitsane and imediately transferred out my miniscule amounts of coin, they kind of freaked out and put a hold on everything until I could answer a few security questions.

I very sheepishly explained ro the very human and understanding customer-service rep that I had finally gotten verified on Coinbase, and had almost forgotten my Bitsane stash, and was a little afraid I would forget how to do this whole crypto thing. Yes, I had opened this Bitsane account and funded it--but I had slept since then.

I had no trouble re-verifying on Bitsane, they quickly released the hold, and I moved my small amounts.

I try to go into my accounts regularly now, just to remind myself how it all works.