CoinAlts Chicago: Fireside Chat w Sam McIngvale of Coinbase Custody

A few weeks ago at the CoinAlts conference in Chicago, I did a fireside chat with Sam McIngvale, CEO of Coinbase Custody.  CoinAlts is a conference focused mostly on the institutional infrastructure around crypto assets -- legal, accounting, custody, etc.  So we started out talking about the evolving role of custody in the crypto markets, and also talked generally about what we're excited about in the next few years.  It was a lot of fun.  Here it is:


Getting the chills

One of the greatest things Frannie and I have in common is that we get the chills from music -- typically at the exact same time, triggered by the same musical... something.

For me it starts  at the back of my neck, and if it's really good, it spreads all over my back, head, and chest -- if it's really really good I end up with tears in my eyes.  I get it the most from vocal solos and tight harmonies, in particular R&B, gospel, and certain musicals. 

It'll happen and the two of us will look at each other and be like, wow.   

Apparently this is not just a random thing, but there is actually a lot of science to it.  I never really looked into it until today, but it even has a name: Frission, or more colloquially, a "skin orgasm".  Here is a good overview of the phenomenon, and here is a ton of assembled academic research on it.  There is even a subreddit devoted to it.

I experienced it this morning on my train ride into NYC, and of course immediately thought to blog about it and include a clip that attempted to communicate it.   As I read more about, a few things stood out: first, not everyone experiences it -- estimates vary but somewhere around half of people feel some sort of frission response that can include chills, welling throat, tears, etc.  Second, the experience is not just about music but also about meaning -- often times particularly sad passages cause the experience (eliciting a deep-seated survival instinct), so it often requires at least some conscious or sub-conscious attention to lyrics. And third: musical context matters -- it is often the result of a musical build-up over the course of a song, and an isolated passage on its own might not have the same effect.

Given all that as setup, here is the one that got me today.  The closing number from The Greatest Showman (which happens to be my daughter's favorite album right now, so is playing constantly in our house).  The part from 3:18 to the end is the kicker, but it's probably best to start from the beginning to get the whole build.

Best with good headphones, loud.  Curious to know if others get it too.  Enjoy!


Why Casual & Natural Is So Awesome

Last week I was playing ping pong with Zander and the topic of conversation (naturally) turned to canal skating in Ottawa. You see, in Ottawa during the wintertime, the city’s canals freeze over and they turn into  temporary frozen streets.  As you can see above, Ottawans turn to using them for their daily activities, like taking their kids to school.  Imagine taking your kids to school on ice skates! I was saying that I thought this was so cool, and Zander accused me of “being a hipster who just likes things that are different”. While I do like things that are different and interesting, this is not an ironic interest in canadian urban ice skating.  What I love so much about this is that it’s doing a fun activity in a totally natural and non-contrived context.  For example:

  • Hockey in a skating rink: contrived.  Hockey on a pond: awesome.  Skating to work: unbelievable.

  • “Going for a bike ride”: lame.  Riding your bike to run errands and get around town: awesome.

  • Taking a boat ride: ok.  Riding a boat to get somewhere (like the Fire Island water taxi, or the “buses” in Venice): amazing.  Driving your own boat to get to work: rockstar (and that doesn’t at all require a fancy boat).

  • I am sure there are lots of others that I’m not thinking of right now.  If I were a gun owner, I’d probably feel the same way about shooting on a gun range vs. hunting in the wild (or packing heat).

There is something about doing an activity in the normal course of your day, and in its natural environment, that makes it so much better.  And there is something about completely fabricated environments that can feel so lame or even sad (and also high pressure because of the dedicated focus).  I suppose I can tie this back to my preference for mixed-use urban environments, vs. more separated, dedicated-use contrived ones. It’s possible to say that finding and doing such things has been a lifelong interest for me — though I’ve never really articulated it directly.  Maybe it’s some kind of yearning for authenticity, maybe it’s about freedom vs. constraints & control. Anyway, I think I am onto something here and will be on the lookout for other examples. // photo from


Fighting for change: why and how

Happy MLK Day everyone. I just spent the last half hour reading MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  To be totally honest, I don’t think I’ve ever read it in its entirety before.  It is incredibly powerful and moving.  I encourage anyone reading this to take some time with it today. I pulled a few quotes here. King’s letter makes the case — in exceedingly eloquent and persuasive terms — for nonviolent direct action in the face of injustice.  And discusses the historical precedent and moral imperative for distinguishing between just and unjust laws (including a framework for drawing that distinction), and for disobeying unjust laws.  It hammers home the point that we can’t blindly accept “the law” if we don’t take into account the context in which it was created or the morality and justice of the ends it seeks. Part of the beauty of it is the guided tour of the history of changemaking, conflict and progress that Dr. King takes us on — all the way from Socrates, to the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution, to the Holocaust, to of course the Civil Rights movement.  It’s kind of incredible the extent to which we have to learn and re-learn the dynamics of societal norms and the process by which we arrive at and live under the rule of law.   At the heart of the letter is tension between a moderate “take it slow” approach (embodied at the time by the white southern church, whose leaders the letter was addressed to) and more extreme “force change now” approach (embodied at the time by Elijah Muhammed’s Muslim movement).  King’s articulation of the rationale for a measured and pure — yet intentionally impatient — nonviolent approach is incredibly thoughtful and reasoned. It’s part inspiration and part how-to for anyone working to create positive change in the face of resistance from the status quo. I can’t equate the civil rights movement with the digital rights movement, and I won’t do that here.  But that is the corner of the activism world that I sit in, so it’s the lens that I’m reading this through.  And I can’t help but think about the passing of Aaron Swartz, and the path he charted in the pursuit of social justice, as I read Dr. King’s words.  So many of the conversations I’ve been having this past week have revolved around this question of how we view and respond to acts of civil disobedience. More importantly, I want to use today to reflect on both the (incredible yet entirely incomplete) progress that we’ve been able achieve as a nation since 1963 when this letter was written, and the profound and powerful moral foundation for change that Dr. King’s letter provides.


Le Burger Dog

This post has been a long time coming. This weekend, we hosted a BBQ at our house as part of the Summer of Internet Freedom.  Internet Freedom is nice and all, but really, it was just an excuse to fire up a batch of burger dogs. What's a burger dog? I'm glad you asked. A burger dog is delicious snack that solves two critical problems: 1) Burgers are too big.  Especially at BBQs with lots of delicious food, burgers should be snacks, not meals.  And 2) you should only have to buy one kind of bun, really.  And since hot dogs will never fit on a hamburger bun, there you have it. So, a burger dog is a small hamburger made to fit in a hot dog bun.  It's really quite good.  Here's how you do it: 1) Make the patties.   Start with a small handful, roll it roughly to the shape of a hot dog, and then flatten it out by slapping it gently with your fingers and shaping the edges.  As a guide, a properly sized burger dog, pre-cooked, should take up the width of your first three fingers, and extend from the your fingertips down to the inside of your palm.  Pre-cooked, a burger dog is maybe 1/5 of a pound (my 3 lbs of ground beef produced 15 burger dogs).

2) Grill it. Since burger dogs are relatively thin, you don't need to grill them for very long.  Over a medium-high heat, I grill for several minutes, without flipping, until the juices start to come through the top.  Then, a single flip.  Then, grill for a few more minutes, adding 1/2 slice of american cheese (or a whole slice, cut in half and then staggered lengthwise, if you're feeling cheesy) at the end.

3) Deck it out. The most important topping for a burger dog is a sandwich-sliced kosher pickle.  They (magically) happen to be exactly the length of a hot dog bun.  I also prepare tomatoes and onions -- half-cut, then sliced thinly.  This one has everything:

4) Enjoy. So delicious!  And since they're small, you can totally have two!  Our hand model is none other than Jake Shapiro, proprietor of Public Radio Exchange (and fellow lover of Internet Freedom).

That's it!  Burger Dogs FTW!


The Internet Defense League

Today marks the launch of the Internet Defense League, an effort led by Fight for the Future to build permanent infrastructure for defending the internet. The idea is simple: build a loose, permanent coalition of individuas, companies and websites that stand at the ready to react to threats to the internet.  How exactly this works is up to you -- there are a number of ways to participate in the league, including (as I've done) inserting some JS into your site that will light up at certain times when the net is under threat.  I've also got a snazzy new badge in my sidebar that fills me with pride every time I look at it. The past six months has been all about: "how does the internet advocacy movement evolve post-SOPA?".  I see the creation of the defense league as a big, exciting and awesome part of that.

Member of The Internet Defense League

I remember back in the fall, during the building of anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign, FFTF made one of the most creative and effective advocacy moves I've ever seen: they offered ways for any website owner to "black out" their logo in protest of the bills.  Tons of websites took this up, which helped the meme of the campaign spread laterally, quickly. I distinctly remember setting up my "stop censorship" logo and then feeling an immediate sense of kinship with others on the web who did the same.  This is like a bigger and better version of that. I can say clearly and with pride that I'm part of the global force that will work to defend the internet, in whatever ways I can.  That feels good to say. Tonight, as part of the launch, "cat signals" will light up the sky around the world.  I'll be co-hosting the NYC party on the roof at OpenPlans, along w/ Alexis Ohanian of Reddit.  There are still free tickets available, so RSVP here if you want to come.  I can't wait to help flip the switch.  



We spent this weekend in Cape Cod w/ Frannie's family -- her family has been renting the same small cottage by the beach in Truro for 35 years or so, and we spend a lot of time out there in the summer. This year, our old friend Tati introduced perhaps the greatest beach innovation ever.  The Waboba.  For those who have yet to experience it, a Waboba is a ball that bounces on water.  The ball is made of gel, and is wrapped in wetsuit-like material.It's amazing -- so fun in so many ways.  We played in a small tidepool, close together.  We played in the ocean, skipping the ball, long distance, up, over and across the waves.  It seems silly to write a blog post about a beach ball, but this is really something special. Just check out a Youtube search for Waboba to see how people are using it (and how many people are filming it).  We had the Waboba Extreme, which sets you back $8.99 .  If you're spending time in the water this summer, I highly recommend doing it w/ a Waboba.


Transportation Networks aka Bike Share is Awesome

An amazing thing happened yesterday. I was on my way into Boston to get coffee with Jason Schultz -- from my house, I had ridden my bike the 2 minute ride to the Green Line T, taken it downtown, and had just gotten off at Hynes Convention Center.  From there, it was to be about a 10 minute walk to Render, in the South End.  No big deal -- a 10 minute walk is fine with me.  But just then, I looked up and saw this out of the corner of my eye:

So I swiped my credit card, punched a few buttons, and one minute later I was riding off down Mass Ave.  I found Render, and lo and behold, there was another bike share rack on that very corner.  So I slid the bike into the rack and that was that.  Total cost: $0 (the first 30 minutes is free in Boston's system).  Total awesomeness: very high. There are so many great things about this -- the one I like the best, I think, is how spur-of-the-moment it was -- and completely seamless into my trip.  Sure; saving eight minutes on a ten minute walk isn't life changing.  But this really does have the potential of expanding your access to the city dramatically -- next time, I'll be willing to meet up at a place that would have been a 20 minute walk, but instead is a 5 minute bike ride. Like bike lanes, bike share is infrastructure that falls into the chicken-or-egg category -- you need to have it to get people to bike more, but it's hard to justify building it when there's not demonstrable demand.  But yesterday's experience tells me that Boston has done a really good job building dense, convenient, usable bike infrastructure downtown, and I hope it continues.  It's really dramatic how it changes the way you use the city.