Jachin's Blog


I've had my eye on OpenBazaar for quite a while now and at the start of April of this year (2016) it went live.

You should check it out, but a short summary would be that it's a distributed on-line marketplace. It uses bitcoin for it's currency. Anyone can join the network and sell their products on-line for free. The software is free, setting up a shop is free, accepting payments are free. All you need is an Internet connection and a computer.

To run a shop (not just be a shopper) you'd probably want your shop available all the time, and that will require running OpenBazaar on server. However hosting a shop would be very inexpensive. I've already seen hosting companies offering OpenBazaar hosting packages. I'm sure OpenBazaar hosting will be commoditized and very easy to setup very soon (if it isn't already).

I was chomping at the bit to try out OpenBazaar, so I figured I should buy something. There wasn't a whole lot of sale right when it launched, so my options were limited. I wanted something physical, costing more then $10 but less then $50. Eventually I settled on a 1 ounce silver bar.

I'm afraid I probably over paid. With shipping I paid 0.06178382 BTC ($28.11). At the time I'm writing this, silver is worth about $17.46 an ounce. I'm sure if I had ordered more, the shipping would have been a lot smaller percentage. This is actually the first time I've bought precious metals in something other then jewelry form. Maybe it's normal to pay that much of premium for this sort of thing.

Aside from feeling like the price was a little high, the whole process could not have been smoother. Shortly after I placed my order I got a confirmation from the seller that my order had been received and shipped. A few days later, the silver bar showed up in my mailbox.

The way OpenBazaar is setup now, you can tell they are targeting people who'd be selling on Etsy or maybe eBay or Craigslist. There's a 'search' feature that looks like it has potential but I'm not sure what would happen if someone hooked up an e-commerce system with 10,000 products. I don't know how people would find what they were looking for.

If you want to just browse what's for sale without having to download the software, there's a site called BazaarBay that works pretty well.

Here's my page on OpenBazaar. It probably won't work because I'm not running the software most of the time. My next OpenBazaar project will be to setup a server. Then, maybe, try selling something.

OpenBazaar still feels a little buggy and slow, but some of that might just be the distributed nature of it. One thing I haven't been able to get to work, even after ...


First off while, I was writing this article, I had Robot Parade by They Might be Giants stuck in my head the whole time.

I've been reading a lot of economists deriding a higher minimum wage and they've got me a bit riled up (here's a very small selection).

Where I live in Minneapolis there is an annual May Day Parade. After the parade they have a free speech section. Every year I've watched the parade the group Fight for $15 has marched.

All this has got me to thinking, there should be some sort of response to all this minimum wage non-sense. How about a robot parade?

A bunch of people could dress up like robots and hold traditional demonstration signs. There's probably some good visual jokes in unpacking "how would a 'handmade' protest sign look if a robot made it?".

The signs could contain slogans like:

  • Robots in support of a $15 wage for human workers
  • Make low skill human work illegal.
  • More work for robots! Less work for humans!
  • Make human labor unfordable.

Technically there would still be time to do it this year, but I suspect this topic will still be relevant this time next year.

I am probably the wrong person to try to organize something like this but I might shop the idea around a little, maybe someone else will take it up.


At this point I've bought lots of things on-line with Bitcoin, but I have not been able to buy anything locally (in Minneapolis MN) until now. I was surprised to find one of my "go to" Thai restaurants Krungthep got a new (to me) website, that accepts Bitcoin.

It looks like they use Menufy and it looks like there are several restaurants in the area I can also order from using Bitcoin.

The whole experience was great. The Menufy interface was super slick and made ordering easy. Paying with Bitcoin was also super easy. 20 minutes later the delivery guy brought delicious Thai food to our door.

The one 'question' I have left is that I think they are only accepting Bitcoin for on-line, takeout/delivery orders. I'm guessing Menufy is making the experience for restaurant owners so seamless they don't have to know or care what Bitcoin is.

Hopefully the next thing I'll get to try soon is to an actual store/restaurant that accepts Bitcoin for in person (POS) transactions.


How to Setup a Soundboard

This article will show you how to map a set of sound effects (I'll show you how to do 10) to keyboard shortcuts that will be ready any time you need a rim shot, or sad horns or whatever else.

You need to be running OS X. I've set this up on a 10.10 and 10.11. I do not know how far back into older versions of OS X this will work (or how far forward).

tl;dr We are going to use Automator to make some Services that know how to play 1 sound each and then assign those services keyboard shortcuts. You can download a set of sample sound and the services from the SimpleSoundboardForMac repo on GitHub.

Step 1 - Get Some Sounds

Obviously there is a lot of room here for personalization, but here are some classic choices.

You probably want pretty short sounds because stopping them will be difficult.

You need to save your files in /Users/<your username>/Music/SoundBoard. Like a lot of these instructions you can change this path but you'll need to make sure you change it everywhere it's referenced.

The sound files should all be named using the following pattern. <number>-<description>.<extension>. For instance a sad trombone sound effect could be name like so 1-sad-trombones.mp3.

The numbers should go from 0-9. You can feel free to leave some out. If you want to swap out some sounds just rename the file so the number is gone from the front of the file name, and put the number in the new sound effects file name. Old: sad-trombones.mp3 New: 1-crickets.wav.

The following file extension will work:

  • mp3
  • mp4
  • wav
  • aiff
  • aac

Step 2 - Build the Services

Start up Automator. Make a new "Service" that accepts no input and can run in any Application.

Add a "Run Shell Script" action to it. The script can be /bin/bash and it should be as follows:

find ~/Music/SoundBoard -maxdepth 1 -type f \( -name "1-*mp3" -o -name "1-*wav" -o -name "1-*aiff" -o -name "1-*mp4" -o -name "1-*aac" \) -exec afplay {} >/dev/null 2>&1 \; &
Automator window.

Save the service as Sound Board 1 in /Users/<your username>/Library/Services.

Test it out by going to the services menu and running it.

Step 3 - Setup the Keyboard Shortcuts

Go to "System Preferences..." -> "Keyboard" -> "Shortcuts" (tab) -> "Services" (from the list on the left) then scroll all the way to the bottom and you should find "Sound Board 1". Double click on the faded out "none" and punch in your keyboard shortcut. For sound #1 I recommend using "⌥⇧⌘1". It seems like a shortcut other programs aren't using.

Automator menu.

Try it out, once it's setup hit the keyboard shortcut, you should hear the sound effect.

Keyboard system preference pane.

Step 4 - Repeat

Now that we have it working for '1', we need to set it up for ...


The bad news is I only read 17 books in 2015. However I feel pretty good about that because I read all 10 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, which are all massive. All 10 averaged well over 40 hours a piece. It's kinda scary to think I spent so much time listening to those books. Recording them must have been a massive undertaking.

The Malazan books were good books, an absolutely massive world with lots of interesting stuff going on, however I may have over done it. At the end I felt like I had been put through a lot, given it a lot of my time and the end just didn't quite satisfy as much as I had hopped. Maybe I'll feel differently about it in a few years. Mostly I blame my self. If I had stretched it out a little bit longer, read some more different kinds of books in the gaps (like what would have happened if I read them as they were published), I suspect I would have enjoyed the experience a lot more and would be raving about how good they were right now.

There are more books in the same "world", I'm sure I'll read those sooner or later.

Anyway, I spent too much time with those books not to mention them, now for the 'best books' which I happened to read in 2015.


History: The Last Battle - The Classic History of the Battle for Berlin by Cornelius Ryan. This is laid out like a novel and it reads like one. The most "page turn-y" history book I have ever read. Plus I was in Berlin for a few days this summer and that added a lot of context for the book that made it all the more interesting to read.

Theology: Celebration of Discipline - The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster. A classic I had never read before but I imagine I will read again some day. The book was a nice combination of encouraging and challenging. It's given me a lot to think about, it's already changed my perspective and it hopefully turns into some substantiative changes in my life.

Politics: The Three Languages of Politics by Arnold Kling. I bought this book a while ago after hearing a great interview with the author on EconTalk. Calling it a "book" is a little generous, maybe more of a pamphlet. It's great though, and serves as a great introduction to it's subject. If you have been bothered by un-constructive and uncivil political discourse you should read this book. You can read in a single sitting and it will give you valuable insights into how and why so many political discussions feel like people are just talking past each other. At the very least I'd recommend listening to the interview on EconTalk.

Autobiography: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - A Memoir of Life in Death ...


After 8+ years of faithful-ish service I'm ditching WordPress for the great static site generator Pelican, written in my very favorite language, Python.

If you're a "feed subscriber" sort of a person, you will probably need to updated/re-subscribe to this site, I think the feed's URL is different now.

The migration has been rocky and still is not done yet. If you are reading this shortly after I've published it, and you were to go back through my archives you would find a lot of broken images. Hopefully those will be fixed soon.

The inspiration for this move came when, while looking back at some of my old blog entries I discovered that some mean bot had gotten into my site's database and had tried to hide spam links in my blog posts.

I've setup lots of WordPress site's over the years and I always try to update regularly because WordPress is a huge target for this sort of SPAM-ing. I thought I was staying on top of things, but apparently not. I still don't know exactly when it happened, probably some time in the past year.

After cleaning things up I had a chat with a former Coworker Dez (we worked at Clockwork together). He's started his own company doing many things including "managed WordPress hosting". He shared a bunch of his best practices with me, and after thinking about what it would take to do it right, I concluded (not for the first time) that there are very good reasons people pay Dez for the work he does and what he knows and I should go a simpler route.

I had a great experience setting up Pelican for the Zombie Translator blog and I wasn't doing anything with my site that a statically generated site couldn't handle any way, so Pelican seemed the obvious choice.

I started the process of converting my content from the WordPress database to reStructuredText (still on going) and started picking out a theme.

After looking for a while I decided I wanted a Material look. I found one theme that was close to what I was thinking: pelican-material. It was in French though, so I forked it and translated the templates over to English.

However after working with pelican-material for a while I didn't much care for CSS/Javascript library it used: Materialize. It was not a "bad" library, but among other things it seems to be lacking an easy way to change up colors easily.

Then I found Material Design Lite right from that the horses mouth it self, The Google. I converted the theme to use Material Design Lite, added some features pelican-material did not have, and gave it a new name: thomomys.

In case you're wondering where I came up with that name, I used another half baked project of mine, Randomium.

Soon I hope to add thomomys to the Pelican theme library, but I need ...


Getting this together happened a little later this year. Lots going on, but as always I enjoyed putting this together and after listening to a bunch of not so great Christmas music we managed to a CDs worth that was pretty good.

If you need more good Christmas music here are the links to past playlists. (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010). 6 years of these, my my how the time does fly.

Merry Christmas!

  1. We Need a Little Christmas - Sufjan Stevens - Silver & Gold
  2. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Sleeping At Last - Christmas Collection 2015
  3. Must Be Santa - Bob Dylan - Christmas In the Heart
  4. O Holy Night (feat. Jeff Johnson and Jourdan Johnson) - Folk Angel - Comfort & Joy - Christmas Songs Vol. 3
  5. Good King Wenceslas - Tori Amos - Midwinter Graces
  6. Winter Wonderland - Kate Havnevik - The Hotel Café Presents: Winter Songs
  7. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas - A Great Big World - I'll Be Home For Christmas
  8. Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee (feat. Julie Lee) - Sandra McCracken - Psalms
  9. Hang A String Of Lights - Great Lake Swimmers - Isn't This World Enough?? A Nettwerk Christmas
  10. Mvmt I, "Rejoice! Rejoice!" - The Oh Hellos - The Oh Hellos' Family Christmas Album
  11. You Make the Cold Disappear - Amy Stroup - You Make The Cold Disappear
  12. Go Tell It on the Mountains - We Three Kings - The 12 Songs of Christmas
  13. Blue Christmas - Bright Eyes - A Christmas Album
  14. The First Noel - Emmylou Harris - Gift Wrapped 3 - A Holiday Smörgåsbord
  15. Blood Oranges In The Snow - Over The Rhine - Blood Oranges In The Snow
  16. Angels We Have Heard On High - Future of Forestry - Advent Christmas EP Volume 2
  17. Surviving Christmas - Sondre Lerche & Jherek Bischoff - Surviving Christmas
  18. Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! (Silent Night! Holy Night!) - Tori Amos - Midwinter Graces
  19. Mele Kalikimaka - Amy Stroup - You Make The Cold Disappear
  20. Christmas Island - Bob Dylan - Christmas In the Heart
  21. Auld Lang Syne - Buddy - The Hotel Café Presents: Winter Songs


For various reasons I'm not going to be able to "quit Facebook" any time in the foreseeable future.

However I've found something that works pretty well and has a future I'm much more excited about: Ello

Feature wise, it does not match Facebook, and probably won't have all the features I really want in a social network for at least a couple years.

However it has something else going for it, it's a public benefit corporation.

I've been thinking a lot about Ello in the past couple of weeks and I think it's fair to compare what they are doing to Wikipedia or Craigslist. If Ello can marshal just enough resources and users, with the goal of making the world a better place I think it will allows Ello to make fewer compromises and build a better experience that will ultimately attract a greater and greater share of users.

It's possible of course that social networking is too different from other web applications like Wikipeida and Craigslist. Maybe it's inherently more expensive. Maybe it is too expensive now, but someone day the future it won't be.

Maybe all the money Facebook and it's ilk have, will allow them to innovate so quickly no one will be able to create a compelling alternative. I doubt this though. I'm excited about Ello as it exists today and their ideas for the future. If Ello fails I think a similar non-profit-ish model will eventually succeed at becoming the dominate social networking platform.

If you're interested, here's how Ello describes what they are doing.

My personal plan is to become a Facebook lurker even more then I already am. If you've noticed I didn't wish you happy birthday on Facebook, don't be offended, it's not personal. Maybe every now and then I'll post a link to something I posted on Ello, just to remind people that's where I am.

Right now Ello is invite only but I have some invites, let me know if you want one.


It's been a few years since one of my personal projects has been ready for prime time, but the Como Barber Shop site finally is, at least, I hope it is, it's live at least.

Craig's Como Barber Shop has been my favorite place to get my hair cut for many years (it used to be Pete's Barber Shop, Pete's still there, but Craig is running the show now). I've always enjoyed going there but there's been one minor issue. They do not take reservations and they tend to be very busy (probably because they're so good at cutting hair). So sometimes I walk down there, and the wait is too long (of course I could always have just called, but I do not usually think of that, plus it's just not my style). I should point out, that waiting for a hair cut at the Como Barber shop is usually a pretty good time, I just don't always have the time.

This project began when, after waiting a while to get my hair cut, I finally got on the chair and I was chatting with Craig about what I do at Clockwork, which is just a couple of block's from the barber shop. He told me he had a plan for a web site to solve the problem of not knowing how long the wait was going to be. His idea was actually a pretty good; he was going to put together a phisical model that represented the shop and use a webcam to create an over head view of the shop and he could put that on a website. As people came in the shop he could put down checkers or chess pieces (or something like that) so someone could look at the website and see how busy the shop was. This is exactly what I wanted. I told Craig it was a good idea.

A few days later I was working on learning the Meteor framework and I realized I could make a site like Craig describe pretty easily and it would probably be a good learning exercise. Of course, I was just going to use basic shapes to represent the barber and waiting chairs. I figured I'd probably make a little bit of progress, learn a bit and then move on to something else with out ever really getting that close to finishing.

A couple free evenings later I had most of the site built and a much better understanding of meteor, bootstrap and meteor-kitchen (which is a great tool for getting a meteor project off the ground quickly). I thought about showing Craig right away, but I got distracted and kinda forgot about it. Eventually though, I went back for my next haircut. I told him about it and he was pretty excited. I warned him it was not going to look that great and was not done yet, but I was going ...


The number of titles of books I read this year seems a little light, 30 books in 2013, only 18 in 2014. Looking over the list though, I feel a little better about my reading last year, there were some big books on the list.

Non-Fiction Politics and Theology (always a dangerous combination): A Farewell to Mars - An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace by Brian Zahnd. One could criticize it for being cavalier at times, but it's covering a lot of ground in small book. It was much more then just an overview for me though, there were several new ideas, new metaphors and even some history that was new to me.

Fiction: The Storm Light Archives (series) by Brandon Sanderson. Only the first two books are out, I read them both, back to back, then pretty much when right into another series Sanderson finished called Mistborn. One of the longest audio book benders of 33 year life. I can not say these books changed my life but they were a lot of fun to read.

I'm looking forward to another year of reading.

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