My first month on Steemit.com: my account is worth more than $260!

My first month on Steemit.com: my account is worth more than $260!
JISHOU, HUNAN — Last month, I wrote that I had signed up for an account on Steemit.com, a new blogging/discussion platform that rewards writers and commenters with tokens called Steem Power and Steem Dollars (SBD). These in turn can be exchanged for regular money (US dollars, for example) or for other kinds of cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. Well, after a month, my Steemit wallet is now worth about $263. Not super impressive, but still more than I have earned from this blog during its decade-long existence. I really need to talk to HR about my pay. Steemit users earn whenever readers upvote (aka “like”) their content. Some prolific authors, such as Chinese travel writer sweetsssj, earn hundreds of dollars for each post. My biggest reward so far has been much more modest: just shy of $35. But Steemit users also are paid “curation rewards” — for reposting others’ content. The amount of the reward depends on the original post’s value and on the reposter’s Steem Power. Essentially, Steem Power is a measure of a user’s influence on the platform. More Steem Power means more curation rewards. So, you can earn money by posting, commenting and reposting (re-steeming). Here’s my tally ...

A birthday surprise — because it’s not my birthday

A birthday surprise -- because it's not my birthday
JISHOU, HUNAN — On Friday I told my freshmen that I would not be returning to teach them English in the fall. By way of explanation, I said I was now 61, one year over the mandatory “retirement” age for foreign teachers here. Well, I guess some of my students took that to mean I had just had a birthday, so two of them today went to a DIY cake shop and made me a small birthday cake (photo above). My birthday is in January, but no matter! They were showing their affection and care for me, so I just went along with it. Charissa and Jackie (pictured below) arrived after dinner with the cake, candles, paper plates and forks. They sang “Happy Birthday,” I made a wish, and blew out the candles. Though the decoration was a bit over the top, the cake tasted great, and it was a very nice surprise. The freshmen are now in some kind of special classes — I suspect a test run of some computer-based learning system. So, my last classes with them were a week ago. I’m an evaluator of their progress in the special classes, so I still will see them ...

Big news: some bad, some good 1

Big news: some bad, some good
JISHOU, HUNAN — I’ve been quiet here for the last two weeks, because I have been very, very busy, and not just for the usual end-of-the-term onslaught of activities. I learned on June 2 that I had “aged out” of my job here in Hunan, and would need to leave China no later than June 30. That’s the bad news — a forced separation from this place and the people I’ve grown to love. While I can still visit, I can no longer teach in Jishou on a work visa, because in April Hunan province enacted a new rule — 60 is the maximum age for a work visa. I’m now 61. Now for the good news. Within a few days of posting my resume on Dave’s ESL Café I was offered a job at the Henan University of Technology in Zhengzhou. There, the maximum age is 64 (I asked several times to be sure), so conceivably I can work there another three years if I like — or as long as the province or the city doesn’t abruptly change the rules to screw over the foreigners again. In fact, several English language schools in China sent me offers, but ...

Astrophotography: Moon and Venus, Jan. 31, 2017

Astrophotography: Moon and Venus, Jan. 31, 2017
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN — OK, I’m not really in Japan now, but I was when I took the picture. I’m just now trying to curate the hundreds of photos I took during my month in Japan, and thought I’d share this. It’s not super-sharp, because I had no tripod and tried to brace the camera against a window frame to steady it. The Chinese tune, “The Moon Represents My Heart,” (月亮代表我的心 Yuèliàng Dàibiǎo Wǒ de Xīn) most famously sung by Teresa Teng (邓丽君 Dèng Lìjūn) has been playing in my head lately. So, for me at least, a picture of the Moon seems suitable for the occasion. Camera geek details: Nikon D3300, Tamron 70-300 mm zoom lens @ 135 mm, f/4 1/500 sec, ISO 12,800. Teresa Teng was from Taiwan, and became one of the first non-mainland singers to become very popular in China. Nearly everyone in China knows this song, especially those who came of age during the Opening Up of the 1970s. Sadly, she died young from asthma complications at age 42. Now, for your listening pleasure, Miss Teng. (Scroll down past the photo.)

Bitcoin, Litecoin withdrawals resume at Chinese exchanges — woo hoo!

Bitcoin, Litecoin withdrawals resume at Chinese exchanges -- woo hoo!
JISHOU, HUNAN — After five months of shutdowns, Chinese cryptocurrency exchanges have resumed Bitcoin and Litecoin withdrawals, meaning I could finally move the coins I’ve had at Huobi.com since February to my other wallets. Chinese regulators forced BTCChina, Huobi and OKCoin to halt the withdrawals (but not Chinese yuan withdrawals) in January, pending “investigations.” Basically, it boiled down to the government telling the exchanges to tighten ship, monitor who was moving money through the exchanges, and add policies to limit margin trading and end fee-less trades. Resumption of Bitcoin and Litecoin withdrawals comes a week after the three exchanges announced they would offer trading May 31 in Ethereum and Ethereum Classic — two of the hottest tokens in the markets. Interest in Ethereum has picked up in China, as I’ve mentioned before here. Makes me wonder if the exchanges did some bargaining with the national regulators to allow the new trading platforms in exchange (pardon the pun) for complying with the new rules. In any event, Bitcoin prices rose today over $2,400, perhaps in response to the Chinese exchanges regaining full integration with the world markets. The other two were also trading strongly today.

Another fascinating infographic: the explosion of Bitcoin and the altcoins 2

If you’ve read my blog, you know I’ve been involved with Bitcoin and its progeny since 2013. This month, the cryptocurrency markets have exploded, though there was a market correction a few days ago. To get a handle on what all this means, check this inforgraphic from the Visual Capitalist. Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist If you’re interested in getting started with Bitcoin, Litecoin or Ethereum, you can open an account at Coinbase using my referral link here. We each get $10 in Bitcoin free if you spend more than $100. With Coinbase, you link your bank account, so you can buy and sell those three cryptocurrencies with US dollars. There is also the option to link a credit card, so you can receive the coins instantly, rather than waiting a few days for the ACH withdrawal to clear. I’ve been debating whether to post a tutorial on how to mine, buy, sell and trade Bitcoin and the altcoins, but have hesitated because so many other bloggers have already done the same. Let me know if you want the Wheat-dogg version.

Fascinating graphic: the rapid growth of rapid transit in China and Taiwan

Fascinating graphic: the rapid growth of rapid transit in China and Taiwan
Peter Dovak, a graphic designer with a penchant for depicting rapid transit systems, has created this amazing animated GIF showing the expansion of subways in China and Taiwan from 1990. And they are still expanding. Changsha alone has opened only two of the five subway lines planned. Jshou, on the other hand, must struggle along with taxis and buses.

Got my first Steemit.com payments today!

Got my first Steemit.com payments today!
JISHOU, HUNAN — Last week, I announced I had signed up with the new social media platform, Steemit. Today, seven days later, I got my first payments for the posts I made: about $30. This is really quite remarkable, because after several years of maintaining this blog, I have barely made $50 from Google AdSense and affiliate marketing. I have deliberately avoiding loading the blog with ads, because I find ad-heavy websites really annoying, especially as some advertisers use some very aggressive tricks to hijack readers’ attention away from your content. Steemit has given “liking” a post — “upvoting” in Steemit terms — a monetary reward. The minimum reward is 1 cent, but upvotes from longtime users of the platform have more weight, and pay higher rewards. Rewards are paid out every seven days. Here are my very first payments. The Steemit economy is a bit arcane. There are two kinds of rewards: Steem Power and Steem Dollars. The first gives your upvotes and reposts (resteems) weight; more Steem Power translates into more influence and into payment for curating others’ posts. The second is a kind of cryptocurrency, which can be saved in your wallet or traded for other currencies ...

I am now on Steemit!

I am now on Steemit!
JISHOU, HUNAN — In my ever continuing pursuit to leave no blogstone unturned on the Intertubes, I have just signed up with Steemit.com, the hot new blogging platform. Steemit is unique in that it rides on top of a blockchain and allows bloggers to earn money (Steem Power and Steem Dollars) based on that blockchain. Steem tokens can be exchanged for US dollars, Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, or left to accumulate on Steemit to earn interest or to loan out. A blockchain is a distributed ledger — pioneered by Bitcoin — upon which developers can build a variety of online services. As I am still learning the ropes there, I’m going to let this video below do the explaining of how it all works. My username at Steemit.com is @wheatdogg (naturally). For now, I will probably cross-post my WordPress blogs there, but some content I write for each venue will be specific to that venue. In other words, you’ll have to follow me at both places. The video:

Chinese regulators may finally permit Bitcoin, Litecoin withdrawals

Chinese regulators may finally permit Bitcoin, Litecoin withdrawals
JISHOU, HUNAN — Word has it that the People’s Bank of China — China’s central bank — will finally allow exchanges to allow users to once again withdraw Bitcoin and Litecoin, possibly next month. Such withdrawals were halted in January as regulators examined the business practices of China’s major cryptocurrency exchanges. The supposed rationale was to limit fraud and criminal activity, but the basic reason was to stem a possible means of capital flight. The ban did not affect withdrawals to Chinese bank accounts, however. It applied specifically only to Bitcoin and Litecoin, the gold and silver of the cryptocurrencies. Other crypto-coins, like Ether and Zcash, were not included in the ban, as I later discovered. Anyway, as I’ve blogged earlier, the freeze on withdrawals closed off the principal method I used to transfer my monthly pay (in Chinese yuan) to my US bank account (in dollars). Bitcoin enabled me to move money quickly and cheaply. But since January, I’ve had to be more creative in transfers. A larger result of the withdrawal ban was to depress the market price of Bitcoin in China, sometimes by as much as $200, compared to the prices at foreign exchanges like Coinbase or ...

Loose change found in a sticky note on a wall

Loose change found in a sticky note on a wall
JISHOU, HUNAN — Last month I reported I had found “loose change” in a hard drive backup, but regretted losing the password to free some of it from captivity. I found the password today, and in the nick of time, too. What I had found in a backup were the wallet files for two cryptocurrencies I had bought in 2014, then eventually forgot about. One of the files held about $2.50 of Namecoin, while the other (at the time) held about $8 of PeerCoin. Trouble was, the PeerCoin wallet was encrypted with a passphrase I had long since forgotten. After wracking my brain for a few days and trying different possible passphrases, I gave up on the project, assuming those $8 would be forever out of my reach. Then today I learned PeerCoin’s value had shot up from 80 cents to $2, making my tiny holding worth $20. Once again, I attempted to guess the long lost passphrase, to no avail. Just before I had classes this afternoon, I went over to my desk to fetch something and noticed one of the sticky notes on the wall behind my computer screen had curled up enough to hide the note written ...

Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum — oh my!

Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum -- oh my!
JISHOU, HUNAN — It may seem like this blog is swinging toward the intensely techie, but bear with me. I’m your surrogate in the ever-changing financial technology (fintech) landscape. Government regulators required China’s Bitcoin exchanges to halt Bitcoin and Litecoin withdrawals back in January, and that situation still remains. But, when one door closes, another opens, as the saying goes. It turns out Bitcoin and Litecoin are not the only cryptocurrencies being traded in China. Yunbi.com is a Hangzhou-based exchange specializing in Ethereum, Zcash, Bitshares, and several other cryptocoins, as well as Bitcoin. I only learned about it a week ago, as it is relatively new. Curiously, government regulators have basically ignored Ethereum, which at this writing has the second-largest trading volume worldwide after Bitcoin, and just about every other token besides Bitcoin and Litecoin. Not that I’m complaining. Once I realized Yunbi would allow withdrawals of not-Bitcoins to recipients outside the exchange, I applied for an account. Yunbi required me to submit photos of my passport, bank card, and a selfie of me holding them, and within two days, I had opened an account there. While I may not be able to send funds outside China with Bitcoin or ...
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