Smoked Babyback Ribs

I’ve taken a lot of pictures of my food on the @steepshot app, which is a great way to easily upload photos to Steem. Usually, I don’t write much about them.

After this past 4th of July holiday, however, I thought I’d share some of my results.

I recently picked up a free Weber kettle style grill at a garage sale, and I’ve been playing around with using it to grill and smoke meat. Results have been overwhelmingly positive.

A delightful combo: brats and chicken breasts pair nicely

For the 4th, I wanted to smoke some babyback ribs. I’ve generally made ribs in the oven, which is actually fantastic when done right, but smoking them has been a long time goal.

For my dry rub, I used the Memphis Dust recipe from Amazing Ribs. It creates a nice bark, and it isn’t spicy (my kids don’t want a lot of heat). After applying the rub I foiled it and set it in the fridge for a few hours.

Ribs at minute zero

I have a bunch of maple kindling that my Dad gave me, so that’s what we’re using to smoke. You can see what I’m working with in the above photo: I have a hot zone at the far end of the grill, a couple planks of maple, and a cool zone where the ribs sit.

For the cool zone, I decided to see what adding a pan of apple cider vinegar would do. I occasionally added a little water to it. I’m not sure how much it helped but I do think it kept them temperature much lower than it might have been on the cool side, which is good.

Time plus 90 minutes

Here is a look at the bark forming on the ribs. I occasionally brushed a brown sugar/water mix on top of the ribs.

I added new wood as necessary, which kept a dense smoke inside. At this point, I was still at least 90 minutes away from them being done, but I didn’t know this, so I began to apply barbecue sauce. Next time I’ll know to wait longer. The main result was the barbecue sauce looked burned at the end (but didn’t taste burnt).

Time plus 3 hours, 30 minutes (plus 15 minutes resting off grill)

The result was very tasty. One problem I’ve had in the past is ribs falling off the bone too easily, which can happen if you cook them long enough or hot enough. In this case, they came off the bone with some resistance-enough to require teeth, but not so tough to require much effort.



Turn Your WordPress Blog Into a Cryptocurrency Machine

There are few times in life when you get the opportunity to get something for free.

This is one of those times.

Steem is a blockchain that allows instantaneous transfers between users-think Bitcoin, but with Twitter like “@” handles-and also acts as a blogging platform.

Yes, I know. You already have a blogging platform.

But is your blog earning you any money?

I had a Google blog 10 years ago, which showcased some restaurants in Yokosuka, Japan that I liked. It got a little bit of traffic, and my Google Ads earned me around $14.

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t pay out until you make $20. It costs time and money to transfer cash, so I’m not mad.

But you can do far better than that with the SteemPress app, which is available in the WordPress store (you have to have your own domain, not a “free” blog). When you get a Steem account, you’ll connect your posting key (a bit like a long, random password) to your blog, which will allow your WordPress articles to be automatically uploaded to the Steem blockchain. There are a few advantages to this:

  1. Your work is locked into the Steem blockchain forever, at no additional cost to you.
  2. If Steemians (those who use the Steem blockchain) like your articles, upvotes will turn into money. This is a little like Reddit karma, if you could use Reddit karma to turn into Bitcoin or buy stuff with.
  3. You tap into a new audience for your work.

I have used SteemPress for about 5 or 6 months, and I love it. I don’t get anything if you sign up for SteemPress-there is currently no referral program (nudge to @howo and @fredrikaa)-except the ability to share a great new (free!) product with others.

You can set up an account with Steem here. Participation on the platform will vastly increase your probability of success, as relationships with other Steemians is crucial to finding an audience and building a community. There is a lot going on in the Steem blockchain; too much to explain in one blog post.

I’m happy to help you if you have questions; just leave them in the comment box below. Let me know if you do sign up, as I’ll send some upvotes your way early on and help you on your early journey as a Steemian.


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steemmaker logo

Avoiding Fraud on the Blockchain

The promise of blockchain technology is entangled in a concept of freedom from central control of currencies and platforms. It’s unsurprising that Bitcoin emerged when it did, after the 2008 Crisis, when everyone watched as the nation’s savings and investments were eroded by risky Wall Street bets made with other peoples’ money. It turned out that when Wall Street traders realized it could make huge bets on the market, with the Fed ensuring a minimal downside (thank you Mr Greenspan), they did exactly that.

Bitcoin emerged in early 2009 as a solution removed from the control of Wall Street, a peer to peer cash system with no central authority to corrupt it.

Despite its usefulness in transporting money from person to person, I’m pessimistic Bitcoin will change much about human action. On the margins? Yes. Certainly, people’s lives have been changed by Bitcoin and blockchain tech in general.

But the problem Bitcoin tries to solve is a false one: centralization is not the core problem of economies. Human vice is.

Austrian economists blame the government. Progressives blame corporations. I think most people realize when they look at these two institutions, they’re often driven by the same things: Greed. Pride. Envy. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils[1]. One doesn’t need to be a Christian to read that line from St Paul’s letter to Timothy to realize they are true words.

But let’s be real: do we love Bitcoin because its adoption will make us rich? Do we think that cryptocurrencies are good because we have a lot of them, and will make a fortune if they succeed?

That thinking can cloud one’s judgement, and in many cases it can turn a bagholder into a cheerleader for a particular bad token. If you’ve spent any time in Telegram or other social media channels focused on ICOs or tokens, you’ll know what I mean.

Try not to confuse “we’re going to change the world!” with “we’re going to change my world, with your money![2]” As a rule of thumb, if somebody is publicly dishonest about the terms of a token sale, it’s time to move on to a project with integrity as its focus.

What’s your point, ProtegeAA?

My point is this: blockchains don’t detach us from our obligations to be good to other people, and there are plenty of bad actors in the space right now whose number one goal is to make money at (almost) any cost. Blockchains are cool tech, and as I pointed out above, they’ve made some people’s lives better. But blockchain is not a magic word that bestows goodness and utopia on the world, and we need to ensure we still act with integrity when we use and design them.

Anyway, end of mini rant. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


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[1] This line is often (mis)interpreted as “money is the root of all evil”, which is quite false. It’s an important distinction, because the vast majority of us need to earn a living, and that involves a paycheck that allows us to buy the goods our families need to live a healthy life.

[2] Holmes belongs in jail. Keep her in mind when evaluating founders: you can commit fraud and cheat for 8 or 9 years and walk away with a slap on the wrist.

A Better Return than ICOs!

I love estate sales and garage sales, where I’ve found everything from WWII era bayonets to rare German bookshelf speakers. Many of these items are BIFL purchases, made even better by the extreme savings found at the point of purchase.

So Saturday I went out and walked around our neighborhood, which had its annual garage sale. This weekend, I added two major items to my kitchen: an 80’s era General Electric Food Processor ($3), and this charcoal kettle grill (free!):

I’ve been using a gas grill for years, and waiting for exactly this sort of opportunity to come along. I threw a cedar plank my Dad gave me on the coals to add some smoke to this meal, and it did not disappoint! The whole family ate juicy, smoky chicken, brats, veggies and potatoes (they’re hiding in that foil on the right).

Summer is here…EOS and other tokens might be overpriced right now, but garage sales are certainly not…and your savings are tax free! The food processor and grill would have been about $200 retail.

What have you picked up in your adventures? Do non Americans do garage sales? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.


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Usury and Cryptocurrency

In some weird twist, my Usury article actually got a decent amount of traction on Steemmaker, as well as a thoughtful comment from Semiotic Animal about cryptocurrencies…and a few suggested links.

For anyone wanting to visit the rabbit hole and see what other Catholic bloggers have written on this, check here and here. Some of this gets into pretty serious inside baseball in Catholic moral theology, but I hope my non-Catholic readers will stick around for my discussion on cryptocurrencies that is a response to the above bloggers.

I don’t want to speak for Zippy Catholic or Semiotic Animal, but the former has written a lot about economics and has a dismal view of Bitcoin (although I’m not certain on his position of other cryptocurrencies and tokens) while the latter wrote to me in an email the following: “Cryptocurrencies that don’t terminate in or securitize some real property are essentially worthless and are related to the same financial anti-realism as usury.”

I’m interested in this line of thinking, as both writers share a respect for traditional, realist thinking beyond the casual buzz of oft repeated slogans and tribalism in the pro- or anti- bitcoin camps. The angle these two take when approaching cryptocurrency is rooted in a fundamentally different mindset than the modern one, and that makes their arguments interesting.

You should check them out before reading.

My Response to Semiotic Animal

SA’s comment, “Cryptocurrencies that don’t terminate in or securitize some real property are essentially worthless and are related to the same financial anti-realism as usury.” is a fair one. I think it is incorrect. Let’s compare two cryptocurrencies, one that meets his requirement for realism, and one that does not: Digix Gold Tokens, and Monero.

Digix Gold Tokens (DGX) each represent one gram of actual gold that is stored in a safe in Singapore. DGX tokens are digital bearer notes that can be traded on the Ethereum blockchain. DGX can be bought and sold, and if returned to Digix Global, can be turned in for the physical gold they represent. DGX tokens securitize real property, and it is doubtful either blogger would object to their existence and use.

On the other hand, Monero (XMR) does not securitize real property as DGX does. Holders of XMR have the ability to (anonymously) transfer XMR tokens to other accounts, just as Bitcoin holders can transfer BTC to other accounts. The utility of XMR is its anonymity; while price slippage can result in a change in value as compared to USD during transaction times, XMR does offer a service or good that is valuable: anonymous value exchange. This was Bitcoin’s original value proposition, which has diminished as new players have entered the market with more privacy and faster transaction times.

My understanding-and I’ll stand to correction if proven wrong-is that the idea that money began as gold and silver is an anthropological error made by many economists in the past century. As a somewhat hard money guy myself, who doesn’t love the fiat system the US uses (although it seems to be the best looking horse in the glue factory), I have believed this in the past. But there is more evidence showing that humans have used many items as means of exchange throughout history, including rocks as shared ledgers or even community scrip. These organic developments seem to not have involved fraud, but were a community driven way to ensure exchange of unlike goods was done fairly.

Gold and silver came later, and coinage was invented.

( I would contrast the above examples as innately different from the US government’s ditching the gold standard, which was not done for the good of the public and has greatly accelerated a usurious system.)

Bitcoin, Monero, and other “non real property” cryptocurrencies are essentially community driven scrip, done as open beta tests that anyone can take part in. The fact that there is massive speculation on their value does not detract from their utility, although I would argue that Bitcoin’s utility is dropping fast and cryptocurrencies that have more concrete uses, like Ethereum, will last much longer. I also find the “store of value” argument for Bitcoin ridiculous, as it will only have value if it is useful, which it generally isn’t (see r/btc for more reasons why).

To be continued…where I’ll explain why DAI is a real property

Disclaimer: I am long all of the above, except Bitcoin and DAI.


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Why We Need to Pay Attention to Usury

I chanced across a blog post on usury a couple weeks ago that is the best explanation I’ve ever read of it. It turns out, usury-a major sin for Catholics-is almost completely misunderstood by most people in the modern world.

If you have a bit of time, the original article is hard to beat. I’ll do my best to sum it up in under 1500 words.

Why Does Usury Matter?

This is a good place to start. It matters because something that has been denounced for centuries is worth investigating, even if one is not a follower of a particular group or faith. Ideas come and go, but those that are useful to a functioning society tend to stick around longer. Those who are interested in the rising inequality between the rich and the poor should also look into how usury may affect this. Finally, if usury is morally and materially detrimental to its victims, it is important to learn how to avoid being the victim of it.

What Usury Is Not

Let’s start here. I’ve seen usury defined incorrectly as “charging a high rate of interest” on loans. This is not usury, although it is often an unjust action. A used car salesman who sells a vehicle at a 40% interest rate is not being usurious, although such an act generally is greedy and deceptive. (There is a way that used car dealers can be usurious, but we’ll look at that later) These sorts of loans are often called “non-recourse”.

Defining Usury in Simple Terms

Usury is charging interest on lending that which is consumed in its use. Let’s break that down a little.

If I borrow money from a credit card company, I consume that money when I use it: I can’t pay for something and still have my money. On the other hand, if I take a loan out against a house, the house is not consumed in its use, and it is not usury for a bank or lender to charge interest.

A better way to say it is this: if a person fails to repay a loan, and the result is that the lender can seek repayment from the person himself, it is usurious. This is opposed to a home mortgage, for instance, where a bank would typically reclaim the home (which has not been consumed by the borrower).

The small (but important) difference is here: in the usurious case, a person is being loaned money itself. In the case of a non usurious loan, the person is co-owning an asset with another party, and paying a rent for the continued use of the asset. In the case of a conventional home loan, for instance, the home buyer begins with a 20% down payment, making them co-owners with the bank of their home (this is not how home ownership is explained by real estate agents!). The bank charges interest, which essentially is the price the buyers pay to be able to live in that house while they pay it off fully.

Both the home buyers and the bank have a mutual end goal: the sustaining of a capital asset. When collateral is involved, and recovery of the collateral will close the contract, the loan is probably not usurious.

But when a credit card company loans money to an individual, that money is consumed (generally towards consumer “goods”). These loans have no specific collateral, and debt collectors can go after a person’s future work…essentially putting them into debt slavery. This is one reason why lenders are so prevalent among military communities: they know they can seek action against borrowers who don’t repay and that the government will dock their pay until they are repaid in full (various laws have been written in recent years to combat this).

The Effects of Usury

This is most easily seen in an area where usury has touched a great deal of the population: student loans.

Yes, student loans are usurious. The insane rise in the cost of college is a direct result of decades of usurious loans, which have created money out of thin air (no collateral). Student loans cannot be dismissed in bankruptcy, and the lender can’t just take the collateral and close the contract. To be clear, from my understanding, they are only usurious if there is interest charged onto the payment, but even a small interest rate (1%) is usurious in this case.


Usury is the charging of interest on loans that are full recourse, where collateral does not exist that can be taken by the borrower to close the loan. It has serious effects on the economy and increases the gap between the rich and the poor, and it is understood by very few people. I may write more on this later this week, but in the meantime, curious readers should read St Thomas Aquinas’ careful treatment of usury from the Summa Theologiae, and also check out the original link I mentioned from Zippy Catholic, which has a lot of FAQ’s about this.

P.S. Platforms like Maker, Salt, and Lendroid offer non-recourse loans against your cryptocurrency. Another reason to be excited about the blockchain: it offers non usurious loan options!


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Avengers: Infinity War

Spoilers ahead.

Seriously, spoilers ahead! Go see the movie first, then come back and read (and comment) about it.

Infinity Gauntlet: The Comic

I was in sixth or seventh grade when the Infinity Gauntlet mini series came out. The story was amazing: Thanos, having collected six gems that give him access to the unlimited power of the six aspects of creation, kills off 1/3 of the universe’s population as a gift to Lady Death, a cosmic being representing all death in the universe. Meanwhile, Adam Warlock, Silver Surfer and Dr Strange work to assemble all the earth’s heroes in an (futile) attempt to wrestle the gauntlet from him.

They fail. Spectacularly. We see Wolverine’s adamantium claws turn into noodles, Cyclop’s head get encased in a block of an ultrahard mineral, and Captain America’s shield is disintegrated by a punch from Thanos. And it was all a ruse-an attempt to distract Thanos enough that Silver Surfer can swoop in and snag the Gauntlet.

He fails too. (Although What If #49 shows us how that would have played out)

Infinity War: The Film

The storyline of the movie is similar to the comic series. Thanos is collecting the Infinity Stones. In the movie, however, we find out his ambition to do so is to wipe out half the population of the universe, so that those left behind won’t have to deal with scarce resources…a problem that led his own homeworld, Titan, to ruin eons ago. He is a complex villain voiced marvelously by Josh Brolin.

The movie begins showing us how powerful Thanos is with the newly acquired Power Stone. He goes toe to toe with the Hulk, and wins by a wide margin. In a subtle nod to the comic, Hulk is transported and crashes through Dr Strange’s mansion, with the same comment Silver Surfer made in the comics: “Thanos is coming!”

Thanos has a lot of moving parts to deal with, however, so he sends his extremely capable minions to get the two gems held on earth (Time and Mind, held by Dr Strange and Vision respectively). This moves the plot forward and gives the good guys some time to gather together, while Thanos is off seeking the Soul and Reality Stones.

As expected, the film ends with Thanos collecting the last of the Stones and attaining unlimited power. This climaxes with him killing half the universe, including a healthy dose of your favorite heroes. It was a total blast sitting in a full theater and hearing the gasps of people as we watched beloved characters disintegrate.

Another spoiler: there’s no way Marvel killed them off for real. But we’re left with that impression, as well as wondering, “how will they kill Thanos and get the Gauntlet?”

We’ll just have to wait until next year to find out.

What did you like or dislike about it?



Making Money in Crypto (Without Technical Chops)

Have you wanted to make money in cryptocurrency but not had the technical background to do it? I’d like to write to you about some ways to make money that anyone can do.


Ok, obviously. Next!

Community Manager

Every ICO or startup has a social media or messenger presence that needs some moderation. This is often done by a part time helper in exchange for tokens. It’s a great way to get to know people, and you definitely don’t need a programmer to do it.

What you need:

Good communication skills

High availability

Basic knowledge of scams



Product Tester/Breaker

I’m making this job title up, because it is sort of what I do: try out various products and see how well they work. I tried Steem in August of 2016 and got 13 cents; because I was too busy I didn’t come back to the platform for another 10 months.

Things I Tried:

I’ve also used The Viral Exchange to earn some cryptocurrency for Tweeting (I don’t do this anymore) about various crypto. They used to pay out in the tokens of the platform exclusively, but now you usually get paid in TVE tokens, which I’m not interested in. YMMV, so take a look. Stratis was on here giving tokens for people to watch Youtube videos about the product, and I picked up 6 of them once I saw that each token was going for a couple bucks before the promotion ended. is an interesting site that pays users cryptocurrency for completing email tasks. This is definitely not for everyone, although some living in very poor areas may find it worthwhile. You can use my affiliate link and I’ll make a little Bitcoin, and then if you get your friends involved you’ll make some Bitcoin off of them, etc. It costs only your time, so if that is worth more than about $10/hour, skip for now (although you can still get a free email account to screen your emails if you want to do that).

Cryptocurrency Bounties

Bounties are rewards offered by ICOs for specific tasks done. These tasks vary from translating the whitepaper into a foreign language to finding bugs in the platform. There are a lot of non technical bounties to be earned. Psst, Steemians, some of the most lucrative bounties involve writing about an ICO. Make sure you aren’t breaking any laws (providing investment advice is a no no in the US unless you are credentialed), but sharing an ICO with your audience doesn’t need to be “BUY NOW and GET RICH!”. You can simply share what a new project is doing in the space. Only pick those projects that you can write honestly about-you don’t want a guilty conscience over a few bucks shilling a token you think is garbage.

The Bitcoin talk forum is worth signing up for as well. Many bounties include using autosignatures on your Bitcoin talk posts that help give them attention.

Attention is the currency Silicon Valley needs. They need you. Don’t forget that.

IRL (In Real Life) Community Manager

If you’re a fan of Meetups, why not begin holding a regular meetup in your area on something you love?

Start with free. Go from there as you expand.

Being the person who can introduce others who are all interested in the same topic is an important role to have. This can lead to serendipity and new opportunities that you don’t expect.

Go, Make Friends, Earn Money!

As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs to make some money in cryptocurrency right now, without knowing a lot about coding. If you’re young, consider learning to write code, but that doesn’t need to be your focus. As I’ve shown above, there are plenty of ways to make money in this space. Use what is most unique to you to build a niche that nobody else can fill.


Book Update and a Steemian Helps Out

I just published an edited and reformatted version of my book, Trading Cryptocurrencies: Ten Mistakes You Must Avoid. The result is an easier to navigate book, clearer writing, and some new information (including my SteemMaker page). The grand plan continues to unfold.

None of this would have been possible without fellow Steemian @mtnmeadowmomma, who did the painstaking work of reading and rereading my book, then adding suggestions and rewriting badly written sentences (and paragraphs). She did a great job, and if you’re looking at writing a book, you should ask her to help.

Once again, I’m amazed at how useful Steem is when used creatively. I’m currently working on my next book, which will focus on using the Steem blockchain (aimed at current non users, although hopefully it is comprehensive and helpful enough to be useful to you all as well) as a content creation platform par excellence. I’ve written one chapter on Steem Power so far, but due to some side gigs popping up (hooray!) I’ve had less time to focus on the book. It’s a dead heat race between the sloth and the turtle to see if I’ll finish my book before hard fork 20 gets published.


Cool Stuff

Steemian @creativecrypto is creating a magazine that will pay authors with upvotes worth around $1.40. This is one thing whales and dolphins (and even minnows who lease SP) can do to bring more value to Steem. I have some ideas rolling around in my head that are similar, but again, I lack the time to follow through with anything serious at the moment (and the added work every day is non negligible). Even so, you should head over there and see if you can contribute; it should be interesting to see if a paid model like this works over the long run…and if the price of Steem goes up, it should pay quite handsomely over time.


One More Thing

Thanks for all the comments. I read them all, and try to respond as much as I can. This is not a celebrity blog-this is a small group of online hobbyists who are somewhere between acquaintances and friends, who are trying to help one another figure out a completely new platform and make some money. I’ve really enjoyed those of you coming by and sharing your thoughts. My old model was to post less, but with more content; I’m going to push forward and post more “bloggy” articles like this when I have 15-20 minutes…although I’ll still be posting some good analysis of cryptocurrency. In fact, I’ve got some really good stuff coming up in the next few months about an upcoming token system that could revolutionize geolocation. Here’s a link to some of what I wrote for FOAM in 2017.


Check out my book for more information on cryptocurrency trading. Free for Amazon Unlimited readers!