New Milestone: 500 Follows!

fireworks1The good people that run WordPress have just informed me that this humble blog o’ mine has reached an important milestone. As of 3:00 AM this morning (Pacific Daylight Time) I received my 500th follow! Combined with followers from Facebook, Yahoo, and Twitter, that brings the grand total to 2,091!

I’m especially happy about this because for some time now, I’ve had trouble breaking the 2050 mark. It seemed that with every new follower, I would lose one, and that’s never nice. Sounds greedy, I know. But it seems that the more people you have willing to listen to you, the more concerned you are about keeping that following.

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Naturally, I want to thank all those people who have signed on to follow Storiesbywilliams. This past March marked its third anniversary, and for those who have chosen to stick with me over the past few years, I am especially thankful. The support and encouragement I have received since deciding to go public with my writing have made quite the difference.

Not only has it helped me to bring my written work to publication by giving it the feedback and constructive criticism it needed, it has been the difference between toiling in anonymity and making meaningful connections with people. This is why I began writing in the first place, and knowing that there is a receptive public makes all the difference.

Here’s to three years more and (fingers crossed) another 500 followers! And to those I’ve been following myself, I hope I have managed to make a similar contribution to your work. None of us is alone on this journey and we all need to know that we are doing matters to others. May it lead us all to somewhere joyous, fruitful and (God willing) profitable as well!

The Future of Currency: Bitcoin Hitting the Streets

bitcoinFor those familiar with digital currencies, the name Bitcoin ought to ring a bell. Developed back in 2009, this “cryptocurrency” – i.e. it uses cryptography to control the creation and transfer of money – was created as a form of online payment for products and services. Since that time, it has become the subject of scrutiny, legislative bans, volatile pricing, and a hailed as a hardinger of the coming age of “distributed currency”.

Unlike precious metals or more traditional forms of currency, which hold value because they are backed by a country or are used to manufacture goods, Bitcoin is only buoyed by market demand. There are only 12.3 million virtual Bitcoins in circulation and those “coins” are traded through a Peer-to-Peer computer network, much as people used to share music files.

bitcoin1What’s especially interesting is the fact that the creator of this new form of currency remains unknown. It is assumed that it originated with a programer from Japan, due to the fact that its first mention came in a 2008 paper published under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto”. It became operational roughly a year later with the release of the first open source Bitcoin client and the issuance of the first physical bitcoin.

And in an interesting and personally-relevant development, it now seems that a Bitcoin ATM is coming to my old hometown of Ottawa. In this respect, the nation’s capitol is joining other major cities around the globe as municipalities that dispense the crypto currency, in spite of the fact that it is still not recognized by any national banking institutions, or financial regulating bodies.

future_money_bitcoinWhat’s more, the publicly-traded cryptocurrency has seen its stock go through repeated highs and lows over the past few years, being subject to both bubbles and price drops as countries like India and China prohibited its use. But with these machines hitting the streets, a trend which began back in November with the distribution of Robocoin ATMs, there is speculation that the digital currency might just be here to stay.

Part of the appeal of cryptocurrencies is that they allow for anonymity, hence why bitcoin has been linked to a number of illegal activities, such as on the shuttered drug marketplace Silk Road. And because its value is strictly tied to speculators, and not backed by any tangible measure or authority, speculators are able to ratchet up demand and push the stock value higher.

future_money2But Bitcoin is also starting to be accepted as a mainstream form of payment for U.S.-centric sites like OkCupid and WordPress. And back in October of 2013, China’s web giant Baidu accounced that it would start accepting Bitcoin payments for a firewall security service it sells. And though the Chinese government put the brakes on Bitcoin exchanges by December, the number of mainstream institutions opening up its coffers to it is growing.

These include Richard Branson’s private space tourism company Virgin Galactic, the Sacramento Kings, the e-commerce giant Paypal, and Overstock.com, a major online retailer. And popular use is also growing, as evidenced by the visualization below which shows downloads of bitcoin client software since 2008, broken down by different operating systems.

bitcoin_globalWhat the graphic shows is quite indicative. All over the world, particularly in developed countries and areas of economic growth – the Eastern US, Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, Australia and Southeast Asia – the Bitcoin software is being downloaded and used to oversee online exchanges in good and services.

And ultimately, those who believe in the service and choose to invest in it are doing so based on the promise that it will someday streamline monetary transactions and free the world from the financial manipulation of big government and big banks, breakdown the financial walls between nations, and remake the worldwide economy. In short, it will breakdown centralized economies and allow a “distributed economy” to takes its place.

bitcoin_popmapAdmittedly, the service is still flawed in a number of respects. For example, people who chose to collect bitcoins in the past were dissuaded from spending them since their value kept going up. The problem is, if economic incentives encourage people to hoard their bitcoins rather than spend them, the currency will never fulfill its role as the future of money.

Another problem is the one arising from the currency’s “deflationary nature”. Because the system was designed to allow the creation of only a finite number of bitcoins, there will come a point where, as demand rises, the value of the currency will only go up (making the price of goods and services fall, hence the term deflation). And that could lead to hoarding on an even larger scale.

bitcoin-atm-flagshipBut according to many economists who have closely followed the progress of the digital money, Bitcoin’s recent ups and downs are to be expected from a currency so young, and one that is just now attracting major attention from the mainstream population. The bottom could fall out of the market, but the currency could just as easily stabilize and reach a point where its value is consistent enough that people no longer hoard the stuff.

So at this point, its difficult to say what the future will hold for the new miracle money known as Bitcoin. But when it comes to cryptocurrencies in general, time seems to be on their side. Ever since the Internet Revolution took off, the possibilities for creating a new, de-centralized world order – research, development, politics and business are open and inclusive in ways like never before – has been emerging.

Sources: ottawacitizen.com, wired.com, fastcoexist.com, bbc.co.uk, uxblog.idvsolutions.com

Happy 2nd Anniversary, Stories by Williams!

happy-anniversaryI got a friendly little notification this morning. As it turns out, it was two years, twenty four months, and one-hundred and four weeks ago that I started this blog and began sharing my writing and inane thoughts to the general public. My apologies public, but we’ll get to your grievances later. Right now, I want to put those two years into a perspective using a few numbers I gathered.

As the song from Rent says “Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes… how do you measure, measure a year?” Well, up that to two years and you’ve got one-million, fifty-one thousand, two-hundred minutes, and the following numbers, according to my latest stats check. In the past two years I’ve managed to gather:

  • 238,972 hits
  • 8,778 likes
  • 4,461 comments
  • 977 posts
  • And most importantly of all, 1,945 followers!

I have to say, those are some nice numbers and they make me smile! And so does the prospect of doing this for the foreseeable future. There’s still a moment that I feel I’m building towards, some kind of climax this site and what I want to accomplish with it hasn’t quite met yet. Don’t know what that is yet, but I’ll keep you posted!

In the meantime, I’m pretty happy with how this site has worked out for me. People always start writing with a purpose, and they take all that public once they’ve decided they want to share it. As for me, I guess I just wanted to say something relevant that mattered to people, and to know that the message was received. Thanks for being on the receiving end folks!  And please feel free to keep tuning in! The show’s just getting started…

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200th Follower!

Yaaaay! I just got a nudge from the moderators that I’ve just picked up my 200th follower here on wordpress. I’m honored and would like to thank you to all the good folks who’ve chosen to take time out of their busy day to listen to all of my inane thoughts. And I would like to especially thank Stewarty, who just happened to be the one to get me to this milestone. Were it not for all of you, I’d have no one to share all my thoughts with… and then I’d probably go nuts! Cheers and best of luck to everyone 🙂

Storiesbywilliams Nominated for a VBA!

Woohoo! VBA! VBA! That’s Versatile Blogger Award for those who don’t know. Up until the other day, I was one such person. However, since receiving a nomination from my good friend and fellow writer, Jamie A Hughes (follow her at The Tousled Apostle) I’ve have since been made aware…

I suppose I should pay closer attention to my Inbox. After looking up the VBA’s and seeing the email they sent out to all their WordPress bloggers, I realized, I’ve seen this somewhere before… Sure as shooting, it was my Inbox! Apparently, to cap off the year, I was given a congratulatory pat on the back for my site from the good people who run this place. At first, I just took it to be a “good job and thanks for signing on with us!” kind of thing, but apparently we all have the option to nominate our friends and respected colleagues for their work as well. Nice idea…

So, in addition to saying thank you to The Tousled Apostle, let me also nominate her for her splendiferous work on her site! And, in conjunction with VBA rules, I also have a list of 14 other people I’d like to nominate as well. These are all people I’ve started following since my site went up and who I feel have made contributions worthy of recognition and the descriptor “versatile”. Here they are:

1. The Tousled Apostle – The site of my friend and literary colleague Jamie A Hughes. In addition to her thoughts on religion, spirituality, life, education, and of course, her writing. In addition to being a wife, mother, Christian and teacher, she’s also a fine writer, let me tell you! Her story Reclamation (a title we have in common) had me seeing the South and tasting honey… all from the comfort of my couch!

2. Lindsay goes to Hollywood – The personal blog of Lindsay Ellis, otherwise known as “The Nostalgia Chick” to her many internet followers. For years, I’ve enjoyed her insightful comments on movies, pop culture and film in general. Here, she get’s more up close and personal, relating her thoughts on the industry, the internet and whatever else comes her way.

3. Fabulous Realms – The official site of Ash Silverlock, known as Fabulous Realms. Dedicated to fantasy, folklore, myth and culture, Ash explores the world of Tolkien, Sterlin, Gaiman and of course provides links to his own fine writing. Combining a historians ability to research with a grand sense of wonder for the unexplored and mystical, this site is sure to please the most discerning reader of fantasy fiction!

4. Mijo Sport – The official website of Mijo Fitness, run by Michelle and Jonathon Carpenter, both of whom happen to be Taekwon-Do instructors of mine. They also specialize in personal training, cross-training and fitness education. If you’re interested in martial arts, fitness theory, getting in shape, or training for an upcoming event, these are the people to talk to!

5. A Writers Blog (c) Lara Dunning – The personal site of Lara Dunning; writer, blogger, mother, wife, coastal dweller, and big-time fan of flash fiction! It’s always nice to have a veteran in your corner, and when I also found out she lived in the Pacific Northwest; well, that just iced the cake! And naturally, one can find plenty of examples of her fiction here, which include adult fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, paranormal and even kids lit. Enjoy!

6. Down the Rabbit Hole – The website of prolific writer, reviewer, wife and mother, Jessica Brown. Like me, she suffers from a rare strain of ADD that affects writers. It causes them to produce at an alarming rate, but always several things at a time! Actually, she seems far more productive than me, for in addition to writing several works at a time, she also provides writer’s with assistance, such as ghostwriting, proof editing, feedback and reviews. Wow… and she’s a mother of four!

7. Deidre Alexander’s Blog – Official site of fiction writer Deidre Alexander, a zany, witty, and pretty (lets not deny it!) writer of contemporary YA and adult fiction who delights in goddesses, immortals, zombies and the paranormal. Her unique (and sometimes odd) take on the natural and supernatural are sure to please, enlighten and amuse all at once. Yep, this one’s got it all!

8. Sandy Ibrahim: Hitgirl’s Blog – Boxer, mother, and fitness guru. Sandy Ibrahim, a fellow Victorian and founder of Capital City Boxing and Hit to Fit functional fitness program. Initially trained as a competitive swimmer, she has since become a professional trainer, boxer, and fitness instructor with multiple qualifications. I’m tempting to look her up and get some training in for the New Year. I LOOOOVE boxing!

9. First Draft – Site of writer, teacher, senior editor, publisher and entrepreneur Kathy Rhodes. This woman has seriously done it all when it comes to the literary world! In addition to working for a fiction/non-fiction publisher – Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal (www.asouthernjournal.com) – she also founded her own company (TurnStyle Writing, Editing & Publishing), offers classes on creative writing to aspiring writers and has written several published works and an essay that was featured in The Best Creative Nonfiction Vol. 3 (W.W. Norton, 2009) and singled out for a review in The New Yorker. Wow… I seriously need to ask her how she does it!

10. The Valentine Yeti – The personal website of Neil Foster. Teacher, IT man, world traveler, cross-genre writer and possessor of enough sardonic wit to bring down an actual Yeti. Currently in Taiwan, but determined to find his way to the British Isles once more. Good luck Yeti!

11. JJ Brown Author – The site of writer JJ Brown, a native of the Catskills, highly well-read and highly educated, and a geneticist by education (no joke). Already she has penned a full-length novel and collection of short stories, and writes articles on medical education and research. Smart, and kind of humbling too…

12. Laura ≈ LME – Webpage of Laura LME, poet, published author, radio host/producer, spoken word recording artist and founder of ≈Verses In Motion≈, a body dedicated to promoting poetry and social awareness. In short, she’s a versatile artist, hence why I recommend her for this award!

13. Cynthia Robertson -The website of Cynthia Robertson, writer, newspaper columnist, and founder of the Arizona Novel Writers’ Workshop. In short, this group is responsible for helping writers polish their works, so in addition to being published, she helps others get there as well. Paying it forward! Good job, Cynthia!

14. Talinorfali – The website of fellow writer and Canuck Talin Orfali, an Armenian-Canadian who writes for her community, church, and who believes that “words can move mountains”. I certainly agree!

15. The Compleat Tsuribito – A lovely blog that I began following about a year ago when I came across his review for Sri Lankan food and drink. In addition to travel and cuisines, Tsuribito is dedicated to the fine art of fishing, photography and Japanese culture. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for some tips on seafood cuisine!

And, also in accordance with the rules of VBA, I shall now tell seven things about myself to my nominator! So, Jamie, consider yourself forewarned…

1. I like beer!

2. I like spicy food!

3. I enjoy classic science fiction.

4. I can’t stand words like persnickety or artificial compound words like ginornous or chilaxing.

5. I think boy bands are the lamest thing to ever grace our planet. Not too crazy about girl groups either…

6. When I write something, I constantly worry it won’t measure up. Often I can make myself finish something and stand by it, but my inner critic is just too powerful to silence completely!

7. I hate editing and promoting. The post-creative process just seems so tedious to me…

All done! Good luck to you and all others who’ve been nominated!