Reverse Culture Shock and the Bitcoin Bitters

I was having a beer and watching the Giants’ game at McCarthy’s bar thinking how much I appreciate these small pleasures after being away in Africa for four years. Brandon Crawford walked up to the batter’s box and I was happy that some of the stars I remembered were still around. Then, I glanced away for a second and when I looked back, Crawford was taking off his shin guard and heading to first base.

I asked the patron on the next bar stool, “Hit by a pitch?”

“Nope”, he said, “intentional walk.”

“But he didn’t throw any pitches.”

       “That’s how they do it now.”

When you return to the U.S. after a long time away your expectation is that nothing has changed. It is like going to your 20-year high school reunion and expecting the head cheerleader to look the same as she did when you were 17. Those expectations are quickly dashed and suddenly, you see your home country with new optics.

Some changes are curious but comforting. Airport cops zipping around silently on their Segways or the parking meters that all take credit cards.

When I left we blamed every adverse event on global warming. Now, we blame everything on Donald Trump, including the effects of global warming. “Yet when it comes to extreme weather, Mr. Trump is complicit,” opined the Washington Post this week.

Some things that are ordinary to your friends and family seem strange, even incomprehensible – like the sign in the

picture nearby. “Let’s Lewis and Clark this thing.” What?

Note that one of our local social justice warriors vandalized the sign with the international prohibition symbol and the words, “Walk More”.

I stared at the sign in wonder. Since Lewis and Clark traveled a lot by canoe, that comment must be directed at canoeists. But, if I remember my history, Lewis & Clark also walked a lot.

Worried a bit about how I might appear. I looked around to see who might be watching, some crazy guy standing on the corner, taking a picture of a sign in a gas station. But then, San Francisco is replete with crazies doing weird things. No one would notice one more on a deserted section of Taraval Avenue.

But wait there is more

Some emails at work carry this tag line, “Gender pronouns: He/Him/His”. I had read that the populace was struggling with gender identity matters. I did not know there was a coincidental struggle with English grammar. It did seem a little insulting that John would have such a low opinion of my writing skills that I would make a mistake about what pronoun to use. But then, this was not directed to me personally, but rather, to the world or at least the world of John’s email recipients. Thinking it through, these are third person pronouns that I would not use to write back to John. I suppose he was helping me out if I was inclined to tell someone else a story about John.

Now, I’m wondering if I should add this to my email signature. Is it the polite thing to do to help my correspondents avoid a gender faux pas? Or, can I just append a piece of grammar advice to my emails as an indication that I am supportive but, perhaps, not well aligned culturally. So I shift to my signature block in mail and add, “The pronominal possessives hers, its, theirs, yours, and ours have no apostrophe.”

Finally, there is Bitcoin.

According to Tim Draper, “In five years, if you use fiat currency, they will laugh at you…there will be no reason to have fiat currencies.” Tim was forgetting, of course, that Bitcoin is the ultimate fiat currency in that its value is determined only by supply and demand. After all, government currencies do have a source of value in their taxing power. For example, the greenback has the commitment of the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. That “faith” is in turn supported by the taxing power on an $18.6 trillion GDP.

Bitcoin, however, does bring a couple key features essential for a certain segment of the market. It is completely anonymous and untraceable. If you are a drug cartel, an anonymous transfer of $50 million cash in $100 bills is difficult and dangerous. Sending the same amount with Bitcoin is child’s play.

Alas, the crypto world is a fascinating one. Stay tuned for more…after I attend the local “Crypto-night.”