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Big boats and Bitcoin boggle me

Keeping up with new technology is a full-time job. Lee Hart hopes there’s no test

Imagine my excitement the other day when I saw China had just launched another of the world’s largest container ships.

All I could think about was how much great merchandise this boat could carry to my nearest Canadian Tire Store. So much good stuff — much of it I probably need.

But then I read further and this ship at the outset is only intended to carry cargo on the Yangtze River in China. But it is impressive. The Cosco KHI231 is 400 metres long, with a deck larger than four soccer fields (in case you haven’t played soccer lately each field is round 100 metres long and 75 metres wide).

And this container ship can carry up to 20,000 twenty-foot long containers. It also has a helicopter landing pad.

I believe the Cosco ship is powered by diesel fuel. It is just slightly larger than the first electric cargo shipped that was launched in China in late 2017. Powered by 1,000 lithium-ion batteries, the Maersk Line ship can carry up to 2,200 tons of cargo. Its top travel speed is eight m.p.h. and it can travel about 50 miles on one full battery charge. It takes about two hours to recharge the batteries — about the same amount of time it takes to unload the ship.

It was interesting to note in the article, this electric ship was built on the premise it posed “no threat to the environment.” However the article also noted it takes a great deal of power from the Chinese electric grid to recharge the batteries and the grid is largely supplied by power generated by fossil fuels.

The other irony is that although the ship is designed to carry containers with all sorts of consumer goods, at the outset it was being used to ship coal up and down the Pearl River… oh well, one day those green revolution features will kick in.

I shouldn’t be surprised when I read about this high level of Chinese shipping technology, but I have to admit often when I hear about China, the first image that comes to mind are peasants with water buffalos wading through water to plant rice paddies. I believe that is still how much of rice in China is produced. Obviously there is a large disconnect in technological adoption among the different industries.

Baffled by Bitcoin

And speaking of technology and disconnects — am I the only one left on the planet not using or investing in Bitcoin?

There are many things I don’t understand, but I really have a hard time getting my head around the concept of and need for Bitcoin, which falls into a fairly new monetary class known as crypto-currency.

It is some type of digital currency. Apparently people can buy and sell things using Bitcoin or several other so-called currencies. If Wikipedia is correct they say there are about 700 named crypto-currencies.

Bitcoin just happens to have the largest “capitalizations” of the crypto-currencies with about $11 billion behind it. On some level it is real. If you went on the market you could buy one Bitcoin share for about CDN$14,000 (at the time of this writing). Share values had dropped a bit. It was at one time worth about $20,000.

That’s great. Doesn’t matter. I just checked my wallet and I don’t have $14,000 for a share.

I have read a bit about what Bitcoin (or crypto currency) is, but I still don’t understand why it is needed. It’s digital, it is virtual money — I am sure the wise U.S. president would describe it as “fake money.”

To me it is very much like what country singer George Strait sang about — “ocean-front property in Arizona.” It’s something of high value that really isn’t there.

I thought I was doing good getting my head around using my debit card. Isn’t that virtual money? I know far too often when I look at my bank balance it is virtually zero!

I know there was a time when for every paper dollar printed in Canada there was one dollar worth of actual, physical gold in the Canadian Mint. For any history buffs in the crowd who have never been to the community of Carp, Ontario, just outside Ottawa, you will find a 100,000 square foot underground bunker, built during the Diefenbaker government era — late 1950s early 1960s — to protect the Canadian government during the Cold War. In that bunker is a vault built to hold Canada’s gold in the event of a Russian nuclear attack. It was an actual, physical room designed to hold the gold that backed up the Canadian economy.

I believe the days have passed when there is actual gold to back up every dollar. That ended somewhere around the time it began costing $1 billion to buy a hotdog stand.

Anyway, Bitcoin is one of those great, new, high value, important pieces of technology that I don’t understand. Probably it is a wonderful thing, but in this rapidly changing era when few people ask me what I think before they do something, I have to admit I am more in tune with those farmers using water buffalo to grow rice, than I am with the Bitcoin/crypto-currency banking system.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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