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feelings of being stuck
hey. im posting this here because idk what else to do, and thought that someone out there could possibly help, or that my story could help someone avoid mistakes i've made i started playing poker professionally in mid 2017, and for a while it was pretty great. i started out grinding live 1-2 at a local casino while living at home, quickly spun up a roll, and eventually moved to one of the bigger 2-5 NL hubs in the u.s. my first month there was arguably the worst month of my life. my girlfriend of 4 years had just broken up with me, and that coincided with my biggest career downswing (almost 10k, probably had 55k at start of downswing). dealing with all of these external stressors was not easy for me. I have a history of depression, and all of these things lining up together threw me into one of the deepest holes i've been. there were days (prob less than 5) i spent 20+ hours in bed; only getting up to smoke some weed or find some shit food to eat. i took some steps to pull myself out of this zone. hired a therapist, regular exercise, attempting to eat healthier, self-help books, etc. all of this, and some run-good on the poker tables, had me back to a fully-functional (and arguably stronger) 2-5 grinder. i basically god-moded for the next 6 months or so. I prob made 45k with one or two 5-8k downswings thrown in along the way. I'd begun playing 1-2 on ignition (initially for practice/ studying, but then continued bc games were good my hourly there was comparable to my hourly grinding live 2-5) and consequently got my hands on some bitcoin. i was already somewhat familiar with what it was and was generally bullish (still am) so figured i'd hold on to a couple of the fuckers since the roll was so healthy and it seemed like a decent mid-long term investment. well, what fucking timing this turned out to be, as price soared from 4k to rougly 8k by end of may. it was around this time that i think my success began to go to my head a bit. i mean, not that i had done anything particularly grand, but i def had a somewhat constant euphoric buzz going on basically around the clock. I was 25, had over 100k nw, had investments that seemingly were going to be worth millions in the not-so distant future (/s), and worked my dream job in which i was able to get away with whatever the fuck i wanted. "Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta," was like my life theme song, playing wherever i went. is this kind of phenomenon experienced by other pros when upswinging? it's summer now, and the dreams of shipping a tournament are abundant. i create a ~15k package, and sell about a 1/3 of myself to maintain sanity in case things go poorly (net worth >100k at this point, abi mtt is probably 1100). my lease expires at my current spot, so i'm off to vegas to bluff johnny chan or something. ...or something indeed! i cashed just 1 out of probably 12 tournaments and broke even in cash. it felt not good, but I think i had/have a better understanding as to how big variance is (especially in mtts) relative to most, so I was pretty ok with this. not to mention, btc had topped at 14k, which def made dealing with the negative mtt variance a bit easier. the highlight of my wsop was day 1 of the main event (didnt initially plan on playing, but I was able to sell 75% and it'd been a dream of mine to play since i was a kid, so fuck it, ill take a shot). my table is a joke. it is unfathomable to me that these types of players both exist AND somehow have $10k to light on fire in a poker tournament. one of my table mates felt the need to heavily exemplify the lack of fucks he gave about this $10k. the dude showed up for the tournament pretty drunk (started at 10am, LOL). first, he has this weird interaction with the dealer where he sits down in seat 5 and dealer tells him he's in the wrong seat, and to move to 6. it takes the guy an abnormal amount of time to understand, but eventually he figures it out and moves over. ok, let's run it. few hands go by and the drunk guy scoops a small pot (probably less than 1k chips and we started with 50k). the seat next to him is unoccupied but there is a stack in front of the seat that is blinding out. as drunk guy scoops his pot, he "accidentally" scoops the chips next to him, in what appeared to either be an extremely slick (/s) attempt to find an early double, or an attempt at a bad joke. imo, it was most likely either a poorly timed joke or the dude was just so fucked up that he just didn't realize what he was doing, but we will never know for sure. either way, jack effel promptly dq'd the guy, which i think was absolutely too harsh. i still regret not jumping to this guy's defense, as i really doubt there were any truly ill intentions behind his actions. one more quick highlight from my day 1 : i mentioned my table being a dream, and it was, with the exception of one player. a former main event champ, joe mckeehen. i didn't know much about him prior to this except that he was a part of chance's Chip Leader Coaching team, which made me think he was prob a beast. and i was right... the guy undoubtedly had an edge on me (and ofc rest of table) and both played and carried himself extremely well. i played one hand vs him that was noteworthy, particularly because of what he said to me afterwords. cant remember exact sizing's so bear with me: joe opens hj 2.2x, button call, i call bb with td8h. flop: q67r. i check, joe cbet 1/3 pot, button fold, i call. turn: 4x (i think i could do some leading on this card since i improve to straights and 2p at higher frequency than joe, but who tf am i to just lead into the former champ??) i check, joe bets 2/3. i think x/c and x/r are both fine, but decide on x/r this time. sizing was something where i'd set myself up for 80-90% jam on the river if he called. joe takes a few seconds, and as he's picking up his cards to throw them into the muck, says something like, "i really don't believe you, but i'm not going to call you down. don't do that again, kid." what a thing to fkn say man, absolutely legendary. he folds. i think to myself, "i've bluffed the champ! call me mike mcd mother fkers." in all seriousness though, he obv did pick up on some sort of live read, but even with whatever that was, i think over-folding a high-variance, bluff-catching spot vs the only other competent player at the table makes a lot of sense given this is day 1 of the main event and our table is a complete and total joke. wp joe, and thank you for the story. a true legened, imo. anyway.. fast forward to day 3 of the main and i'm out a few hours before making the money. talk about maximum pain, man. i felt i'd basically avoided any real feelings of tilt/ disappointment prior to this despite a pretty brutal summer, but busting the main was a scratch on the surface of the negative emotions/ tilt i'd buried during the bad downswing i had after my initial move away from home. the roll is still healthy. the price of btc is falling, but my nw is still around 95k. even though i still have plenty of money and am well-rolled for the main game i want to play (1500 cap 5/t), i have this weird psychological block where it feels like i dont have enough. i think i began to feel this more so when i dipped below 100k. it's like my brain has this weird obsession or belief that i need to be over 100 to be complete (i know, sounds insane, but again, im curious if others experience this kinda thing?) somewhat dejected, i head back home to spend a few weeks with the family before i head out to boston to set up a new home-base. fast forward to now: i've been renting a room at an air bnb for a little over a month. i'm breakeven over my last 700 hours of live poker (about 175 of those are me losing ~15k at mtt's). i've played about 135 hours of 5-t since moving to boston and an stuck about 6k. pretty normal i think. btc price back down to 8k though, so that + life expenses has brought the networth down to about 85k (70k liquid). i know, i know... plenty of money, even for playing 5-t. but holy fuck man, it does not feel that way. i feel like i did a year and a half ago when i first moved to the 2-5 hub and was dealing with downswing + major breakup. it's quite difficult to even get out of bed and take a shower. forget getting my ass down to the casino and actually putting in some volume in the volatility-chamber. it simply doesnt feel possible. it feels especially risky. like i want to avoid even giving myself the chance to book another losing session because i know how much it'd hurt. do other pros deal with shit like this? if so, what kinds of techniques do you use to combat these feelings? is there a way i can trick my brain into thinking more rationally? idk how i feel about actually posting this shit. i'm pretty self-concision in general. i will say that writing this out has been therapeutic in some way, and i do feel a bit better. maybe tomorrow will try and do a low-volatility online session. going to try to get outside and get some sun while i still can today. enjoy the spew/ wsop main event weirdness
I'm an Identity Thief and I Want My Identity Back [Part 1]
Found this on a darkweb forum. It was posted only yesterday, and I thought you all might find it interesting. Fair warning, there's supposedly more to come, according to the comments on the forum, so this isn't an all inclusive post. I decided to paste it here in real time as it was posted instead of waiting until they were done putting it all online. From here on out, this is a direct copy-paste of the post, plus some formatting for Reddit.
I fucked up. Badly. My whole life has been a great, big fuckup, but this really takes the cake. I'll be dead soon, so it can't get much worse. My name is Michael Kay, also known as Neale Keaton. If you're running your little bots trying to find my name, it'll match this post. Hello, my little darkweb stalkers. I'm about to give you my version of events. I'm about to show you that you're being played like the gullible little basement dwellers you are. So sit down, go fullscreen, and read this through to the end. Because I think that by the end, you'll see things my way.
I'm an identity thief. Have been for four years. When I got out of the military, I couldn't adjust back to "normal" life. I got stuck in the same cycle that other vets do. No job, living on savings from my military income, and trying to kick my drinking habit. After almost a year, I came to a brutal conclusion that is the reality for many people in this economy: my identity wasn't worth shit. I was only a few months away from homelessness, had no prospects at a job, and was lacking in the social etiquette needed for dating. I was an only child of two only children. Grandparents were all dead, and my parents... well, I wanted nothing to do with them. They were the reason I joined the military and left home at 18. Again, my identity was shit. But, my drunk and sometimes high brain had a thought that kept repeating itself. What if I were someone else? Someone with a good background. Some work experience, proof that I was a good employee, maybe even a degree. In the military, I got to share a training ground temporarily with some of the boys heading into the Army Cyber Command. We got a few chances to swap stories, and they talked about the things they were learning. One guy was especially cocking about how "good" he was at navigating the darkweb. He regaled us with stories about finding illegal identities and firearms online before he even joined the military. He told us that the darkweb was full of everything you'd need, legal or illegal. With that memory in mind, that's who I turned to. In a move that further diminished my savings, I bought myself a nice identity off the darkweb. A driver's license, social security number, the works. It came with years of taxes being paid on-time, and some falsified work experience. If I paid extra, the people I bought it from would even pick up the phone when the prospective employer called and recommend me as a good employee. They had a fake website for the company and everything. They even told me that their services were geared towards people like myself. Those unfortunate enough to have a bad identity. People who just needed the leg up of a trustworthy social security number. And it worked. I followed their guidelines, and true to their word, I got a job. From my Bachelor's degree in Business Management, I landed a position as a store manager for a small retail chain. During the day, I went to work and pretended I knew what the hell was going on. At night, I got a couple of dated self-help books from the library so I could make it look like I knew what I was doing with all the spreadsheets, scheduling, profit and loss statements, and anything else I was given. I worked hard. I didn't sit on my ass and let my identity carry me. I worked to earn what I'd been given, and it was the only way I could live with what I'd done. I was told that the identity was from a child who had died at birth, yet the social security number had not been discarded. The people I bought it from had "raised" that social security number. They hacked into school databases and inserted their name and grades, and did everything they needed to make the kid look like he'd grown into the man I was. Or rather, the man whose shoes I would step into. That identity saved me. But good things can't last forever.
While the identity gave me a second chance, it didn't give me good money. The job was good enough to subsist on, but after a year and then two years, I found that I was unable to save anything. At the rate I was going, I'd be working until I was 65 years old and yet have nothing to show for it. Once your basic needs are met, higher needs come into play. I learned that while reading books about business. Books about how to understand your customers. Even if all their basic needs are met, people are never satisfied. We crave purpose. We crave something higher. Something better. All the time and always. No matter how high you go, you'll always find something more to want. The same psychology that has been plaguing humanity for thousands of years, affected me. I didn't want to be a store manager my entire life. But I also wasn't sure what I wanted. So, I explored. I read even more books. I'd never read that much in my life, but I was on a mission. I was searching for something, some kind of meaning. I'd been given a second chance, and I wanted to do something with it. But I had no idea what it was. My first wrong decision, which led me to where I am now, came during work. I was manning a register while one of my employees took a break, and a customer left their debit card behind. I didn't notice it until a few customers later, when one held it up and said "I think someone forgot this." I took it, stuck it in the bottom of the cash drawer, and thanked that customer. My employee returned, and I went back to my office to work on more spreadsheets. At the end of their shift, the employee, whose register I had taken over, brought me the card. I told him I'd take care of it, and took it for safekeeping. As I turned it around in my hand after he left, my brain started to run things over in my head. I had questions. What was to stop me from sliding this card through the card reader at a register, choosing to process it as a credit card, and withdrawing cash? Who would know? How would they trace me? The store didn't have cameras. We were in a good enough neighborhood that my superior had decided not to pay for them. So, in all seriousness, who would know? Nobody.
My plan was devised while sitting in the office. It was just past lunch and time for a couple more employees to take breaks. I walked over, card in my pocket, and told the cashier that it was their time for a break. They happily walked to the break room, and I slipped into their place. The other cashier and I worked through a couple more customers, then we had nothing to do. The store wasn't busy during this time. I told the other cashier to take some returned merchandise and enter it into the inventory computer in the back. They obeyed, and I had my chance. Swiftly, I moved to the other cashier's register and typed on their machine. I logged in under their name. They were new, and I had just barely trained them on the system. I only knew their password because it was literally "1234567". I'd seen them type it so many times that I had incidentally memorized it. Their login was the key to my plan. With their account open, I scanned a pack of gum and rang out the "customer." I slid the card through the card reader, punched in $100 in cash to withdraw, and waited for the approval. Ding. Approved. The cash drawer popped open, I extracted a couple tens, some fives, and a 20 before slamming it closed. I snatched the receipt, stuffed everything into my pocket, including the gum, and went back to my register. When the other cashier returned, I told them I needed a few minutes in my car. That's where I hid the gum, receipt, and cash. On my way back in, I used my shirt to wipe the card clean of any fingerprints. I dropped it by the curb on my way into the store, stomping on it a couple of times to make it look abused. Taking a deep breath, I walked back inside. Son of a bitch. It worked.
There was never and kickback from that experiment. The customer never came to the register asking about their card, and the card disappeared from the curb outside before the end of the day. I suspect that the customer found it there when they came back for their card. I'm willing to guess that the customer talked to their bank about the extra transaction. The bank probably refunded them and gave them a new card, and the police never showed up asking questions. At home, I burned the receipt and the gum pack. I burned the gum pack so the barcode could never be traced to me. Just in case. To celebrate, I used the cash to treat myself to a very expensive dinner that night. All the evidence was gone, and I was clear and free. And the thrill was exactly what I'd been searching for.
From there, I brainstormed and even researched better ways to accomplish what I wanted. My goals were two-fold: 1) Make a decent chunk of money. Generate enough to save for long-term goals and happiness. 2) Not harm the identities of those who I used. And, of course, not get fucking caught. Generally, I planned this out by attacking many targets for small amounts, maybe a hundred dollars or less. If I hit six to ten targets a month, that'd be anywhere from $600 to $1000 extra a month. Which was enough. There were a lot of technical details that I had to plan for. I couldn't keep using my store: it was too obvious and the police would be on me in a month easily. I also couldn't use the same city. Some debit cards wouldn't let you withdraw cash without a pin. I got lucky the first time. And, what if the customer didn't have $100 in their account? I had to look at contingencies for contingencies. I also had to set rules for myself. Don't use an ATM. Don't use cards in stores that have cameras. Stay with crowds and look for cameras outside each store, like in the parking lots. Don't deposit the cash you took into your own bank account. Don't put it in a safety deposit box either. All kinds of rules based on my research and contingency planning. I bought a pen-camera off of ebay which I used while going to the store. I used it to film the person in front of me obscurely. I always got in line behind a man, too. When they pulled their card out, they often held it around their chest, like they wanted people to see their card. Rarely did people try to obscure their pins. At home, I would pull the video from my camera for the day and hope that at least one card was legible enough that I could extract the card number, expiration date, and name. A lot of people like to stand in line with their card on the counter until it's their time to pay. Or they hold it over the card reader like it's a race and they're waiting for the gun to fire. It's ridiculously easy for someone like me to extract that info with a camera. I set up an account on the darkweb where I would submit the card information, and a shiny, newly printed debit or credit card would show up in the mail. They routed the envelope through a network of darkweb "MailMen" so the envelope never even used the actual postal service. I would scuff the card up a bit, validate the data on my own card reader that I purchased through another darkweb service, and queue it up for use. I had a queue system so the cards were never used in perfect order, and were used a few months after I had snatched their information. I was grabbing information in stores that had cameras, so I wanted there to be time between when I grabbed it and when I used it. Sometimes this meant that the card went out of service before I could use it. But I was collecting enough cards that it didn't matter. I had no way to know if the cards would work, so before going to pay, I would have a contact buy a song on an obscure site using the card. It was a site that didn't require the security code printed on the back of regular cards, since I didn't have those codes. My phone would buzz after the transaction went through or failed, and I'd know whose card was next to be used. I'd get in, pay, withdraw cash, take the receipt, then leave. After each money run, I'd burn all the evidence and hide my cash. I had a good contingency plan for if a cashier asked for my ID. It was too expensive to get an ID for every card I planned to use once. So, I had my acting always ready to go. "Can I see your ID?" "Crap, that's my boyfriend's card, he's out in the car. We're just getting cash to pay the neighborhood kid who takes care of our lawn." If the cashier asked me to go and get my "boyfriend", I'd leave the store and never come back. But they always bought the excuse. And apparently I play a gay guy pretty well. Who would've thought?
I know what you're probably thinking. "God damn, Michael, get to the important parts! Blah, blah blah!" I don't get to brag much about what I've done and how clever it was, so I'm taking my last opportunity before I'm probably shot. So fuck off. During all of this, where it went on for three months without so much as a hiccup, I was doing other research. I was making more money, but those needs came back again and I found myself needing more. How could I make money faster? I'd ask myself that all the time, and skim the darkweb for methods that would work for me. That's when I turned to credit card fraud of the mail-in card variety. A new formula for making money right this second began to form. I used a feature of the MailMan darkweb service to set up a mailing address that would forward all mail to me. Then, I went online and bought a few hundred sets of personal data that were probably hacked from some company's database. Using this personal data, I signed up for three to four credit cards for each person. With those cards, I bought things online that I already intended to purchase for myself. Once the items arrived, I paid off the balance on the credit cards with my hard-earned money using prepaid cards that I bought with cash. Then, after a month or two of using the card, I would withdraw $100 in cash at a store. And then I'd store the card in my hiding place, never to be used again. If anyone ever looked at their credit reports and saw the credit card, it would look suspicious and odd, but would only be a $100 balance. They would, hopefully, just pay it off, close the card, and stop caring. Besides, my use of the card boosted their credit score. I paid the bills and fees on time, and kept the card open as long as I could afford, paying the yearly premium out of my own pocket. It was my way of saying thanks that they'd never hear. You give me some money, I help you boost your credit score. A symbiotic relationship. I even thought I'd earned the title of "ethical credit card scammer." No one, especially not the police, would see it that way, but that's how I justified my actions to myself. My mistake came from not researching my "clients" before I used their identity and their card. That's what got me caught. But not by the police.
I'd gotten used to the current routine to the point where I could do it in my sleep. I was making good money, much better compared to before. I kept my job as a store manager, and it felt so much more fulfilling because I was making the money I needed overall, and had something to look forward to: the thrill of identity theft. After some cautious planning, I rented out a nice, two-story duplex in one of my "client's" names and credit score. I kept my payments on-time and was the perfect tenant. The duplex's owner only did a soft pull on this client's credit, so it wouldn't show up on their credit report. Regardless, I had a contact on the darkweb set up some monitoring for this identity online. He assured me that if anything went wacky with the credit that made it seem like the client was suspicious or investigating, I'd get a text. I wanted a heads up if I needed to ditch my place. One month. It only took one month for them to find me. In the digital world, you would think one month was a long time, but it was too short for me. Too unexpected. I was in bed, sleeping, when I heard the front door squeak open. My eyes shot open. A million fears and thoughts ran through my head. It didn't matter if it was just a thief or the FBI. Either way, the police would be involved, and I'd be caught. I rolled out of bed silently. Watching my half-open bedroom door, I grabbed my sheets and spread them tight across my bed. I wanted to make it look like no one was home. Snatching my wallet and keys from the bedside table, I dropped to the ground and rolled under my bed. The boxes I kept under the bed for storage hid me from view once I arranged them. Footsteps came up the stairs. I wished I'd thought to buy a gun. But buying a gun took heavy background checks, and I hadn't figured out how to bypass those yet. Heavy boots tried to sneak down the hall. I saw two of them, one behind the other. Both black and menacing. They moved like they had training, but not much. From the way the floor bent under each step, they were both probably heavy around the belly. The door opened as they entered the room. Upon seeing the empty bed, they paused, unsure of what to do next. One of them whispered, loud enough that I could hear. "Not home." "So we wait." I bit my lip and cursed internally. They were looking for me, whoever they were. Probably not cops: they wore jeans, not uniforms. They could be plainclothes, sure, but I just felt that they weren't cops. I heard the front door squeak again, but the two men were too busy whispering to notice. I wondered if the door was just open in the wind. My reply came in the form of a voice from the hall. "Evening, fellas. Hands where I can see them." Shit. A cop. This guy's feet moved gracefully under him. Definitely trained. Suddenly, the two men rushed the cop, and I watched him fall as they shoved their way past him. Through the dimness, I could see that it wasn't a cop at all. It was Jack, my neighbor across the street. He was ex-military, like me, though he'd been in the service a lot longer than I had. I heard the front door fly open and slam shut as the two would-be thieves left the house. Jack stayed on the ground, sighing. He probably figured that pursuit wasn't worth the trouble. I weighed my options before finally pushing boxes out of the way and crawling out from under the bed. Jack watched, surprised. "You were under there the whole time?" He asked. "They weren't here long, thanks to you." Jack eyed my perfectly made bed, then where I'd crawled from. "Smart tactic for hiding. I'll have to remember that one." "Thanks." We stood in the dark for a minute, feeling awkward for different reasons. "Listen..." I said. "I'm grateful that you came and chased these assholes out, but can we not call the police? They didn't take anything, I'm not hurt, and I really don't want to deal with the hassle." Jack chuckled. "I was about to ask you the same thing." I looked at him in confusion. He lifted his gun, pointing it at the ceiling and showing it to me. It was a 92FS Beretta. Sleek, shiny, and well oiled. "This girl here is illegal for me to have. I have a small rap sheet from before the military, but am still not allowed to own a gun of my own. So, I'm going to agree that we don't involve the cops." "It's beautiful," I said, trying not to gasp from relief. "She sure is," he grinned. "Jack, thank you," I said, extending my hand. "Any time," he said, shaking my hand.
I wondered for a few days about those thieves. There's no way they broke into my house by random chance. They were looking for me: they'd verbally confirmed that. So who were they? Why did they want me? I thought myself into dead end after dead end. There wasn't anything I could do until I had more information. And yet, I had no way to get more information. I was stuck in limbo until they tried again, if they truly were looking for me, or until I could stop double checking my locks at night.
One night, as I lay in bed reading a book as usual, my phone rang. The duplex had actually come with a cordless phone system, which was humorous considering our cell-phone dominated world. I answered it, not knowing who it was. "Hello?" "Hi, Neale. Listen, just wanted to give you a heads up. There's a weird car that's been parked outside my house for hours. People were lying down and taking a nap for a while, but perked up when you got home. Now they've got cameras aimed at your house. Don't come to the window and try to look, they'll see. I just wanted to call and tell you that before I go and talk to them." What the hell. Breaking in is one thing, but now surveillance? Who did they think I was? Unfortunately, that was the question I should have pursued long before things got worse. "Did you get their license plate?" I asked. "And their make and model." "Can I have it before you talk to them?" "Sure," Jack said. He gave me the info, and I told him I'd call him back in a bit. To his credit, Jack didn't even question what I was doing or why I wasn't freaking out and calling the cops. I connected to Tor and sought out a darkweb site that had a backdoor into my state's DMV registration database. Only one or two states have those backdoors, and mine is one of them. Lucky for me. I put in the license plate number and the results came back. I paid my $25 fee with the usual Bitcoin, and opened the word doc that came back. Registered to one Charles B. Matsworth. With an address across the state from me. The database backdoor didn't transmit images, so I couldn't compare their driver's license photo with the people in the car. I was either dealing with Charles himself, or a stolen vehicle. Helpful, but also potentially not. I hit up another darkweb site and searched for Charles. I paid my fee, then the results populated. Except there were no results. There were ALWAYS results, but this guy's name wasn't there. Which was impossible with this site. It passively picked up every name tossed around the internet and provided you with links to where it was mentioned. But there were no results. Which means someone was actively scrubbing this guy's name from the web. So, that's when I knew he was one of you, darkweb. I hit redial on my home phone and got Jack back on the line. It was just past 11pm. "Hey, Neale," he answered. "Hey," I said, resisting the urge to peer through the blinds. "I can't look, obviously, but have you seen anything else helpful about them?" Jack paused, probably looking out the window. "Passenger is a heavy smoker: there's a small pile of cigarette butts on his side and he's smoking one right now. They've got some Arby's wrappers on their front dash. Driver is using a telescopic lens on a pretty expensive camera. Canon, I think. Two coffee cups from a gas station in the cup holders. Car looks pretty new, just a little dust. If you took it through a car wash, it would probably shine. I'm guessing it's a new model." I listened to him observe them, spouting off anything that he thought might be useful. "Any of that help you out?" He asked. "Maybe," I said, trying to think what I should do. Scare them off and let them know I'm onto them? Let them sit there and spy, hoping they don't decide to physically enter? Leave out the back? My bedroom light was on, so they knew I was home. My shadow had probably played against it a few times tonight too. This was a situation I didn't have a contingency for. "You should come over to my house. Sneak out around back, walk a block over, and come in through my back door," Jack said. "We can spy on the spies." I considered it. Last time, we had scared off the thieves and not gotten any useful information. This was the most useful situation since that night. I should take advantage of it. "Okay, I'll do that," I said. I gave him my mobile phone number so he could use that instead of the home phone. I made my way to the back door and left, locking it behind me. Going straight back and over the back fence, I went to the next street over, then jogged three streets down to crawl through someone else's yard and into Jack's. He was waiting at the sliding glass door when I got there. "No movement, they're still staring at the house and talking occasionally." "Any idea what they're saying?" I asked, hopeful. "Nope." I walked into his living room, and found his setup. He had a pair of binoculars on a coffee table, and a few slats of his blinds were held open by paper clips. "Have a look," he said, waving me into the room. "Need some water?" "Yes, please," I said, picking up the binoculars. Through the blinds, I saw the two men in their car, both heads turned towards my house. It was exactly as Jack had described. The streetlight was far away, so I couldn't make out hair colors, but one had longer hair than the other. That was about all I could make out. Jack appeared beside me and set a glass of water on the table. "Recognize them?" He asked. "No," I muttered, setting down the binoculars. "You in some kind of trouble, Neale? Borrow money from the wrong guys? Or are these just private investigators from your ex-wife trying to track you down for child support?" Jack's tone was light and joking. He honestly didn't seem to give a shit what kind of trouble I was in. "Not that I know of," I said weakly, turning back to the window. "Maybe they're after the guy who lived there before me?" "Could be," Jack said, sitting on the couch. I turned back around to face him while he watched me with the slightest smile on his face. "Thank you, again, for helping me figure this out," I said. "I haven't had this much fun since my last tour. I haven't had any action since. This is exciting and refreshing, Jack. I'm happy to help." I nodded, taking a seat as well, but keeping the window within sight. "So, it's not money, it's not women. Is it drugs? No judgement from me, man." "No drugs either," I said, trying to do my own thought process. For half a second, I considered telling Jack about myself. Then I realized how asinine of an idea that was. He'd probably kick my ass for stealing. "I say we watch 'em. We won't learn anything by running out there and scaring them off. But maybe they'll do something that gives us an idea of what they're up to," Jack said. It was the same conclusion I'd come to, so I agreed. We watched them in silence for about an hour. I was perfectly okay not talking to Jack, and he seemed okay not talking to me. We took turns at the window, and if something interesting seemed to start happening, we'd wave the other one over to look. Nothing interesting happened until almost 1am. They both got out of their seats and exited the car. Each one stretched, then pulled pistols out of their belts. They examined their guns, cocked them, and made their way to my house, side by side. I waved Jack over, and he watched them try my front door, find it locked, then go around back. "I have an idea," Jack hissed, suddenly shoving something into my hand. His Beretta. "If they come out, open the front door and yell to me. If they start shooting, you shoot back. Give me cover to get back into the house." "What are you doing?!" I hissed back as he grabbed at the front door. "Getting some information!" He said before shutting the door. I watched him drop to a low crouch and crab-walk his way to their car, which was parked at the edge of his sidewalk. The passenger window was open from the smoker, so he leaned into the car and rustled around. I watched my house, heart beating sharply. I saw a shadow pass by my bedroom window. They would have found me not in bed by now. They could be leaving soon. I made my way to the front door and opened it a crack. "Jack!" I whispered. "They made it to my bedroom! Hurry up!" I shut the door, and ran back to the window, careful not to disturb the blinds. With the binoculars, I inspected my house. The figure was still by my window, and Jack was still rummaging through the car. The figure moved away from my window, and I dashed back to the door. "They're coming!" I called. Jack didn't waste time. He got up and bolted for the door. I shut the front door as he entered, and we both went to the window. The men came back around my house and got back into their car. I thought they would wait around until I came home, but the car started, and they drove away. We both watched the tail lights disappear. When they were gone, I turned back to Jack, who had dumped handfuls what he was carrying onto the coffee table. "Receipts," he said. "I didn't see any badges for policemen or private detectives. Car is registered to Charles B. Matsworth, but the address is blurred out on the papers." I blurted out half the address before I caught myself. Jack looked at me funny, but didn't ask. "I guess grabbing the receipts was useless," he chuckled. "I was gonna say we could plot the receipts on a map and try to figure out where they came from." "That's still a good idea," I said. "That address is for Charles, not necessarily where these guys came from." "Pretty sure these guys are criminal. Sure you don't want to hand this off to the police?" Jack asked. My heart skipped a beat, and I tried to sound nonchalant. "No, I don't want to get the police involved unless it's serious." Jack laughed out loud. "They pulled guns, then went into your house in the middle of the night. I'd say it's pretty serious, Neale." "Okay, okay, I'll level with you," I said. "I've done some stuff and still have an outstanding warrant. If I go to the cops, I'll be arrested." That was enough of the truth to be a convincing argument. Jack pondered that for a bit. "What'd you do?" He asked. "Unpaid speeding ticket," I said quickly with a shrug. "50 in a 35. That was a few months ago. If I go now, before paying the ticket, I'll probably get arrested." Jack nodded with a slight smile. "Okay, Neale. We'll investigate it ourselves until you get your ticket paid. Then we'll get the police involved." I swallowed hard. I didn't intend to ever get the police involved. So I had to resolve this fast.
Ethereum. Before I explain why, I need you to understand something. Bitcoin and Ethereum are at two completely different stages within their potential. They also do not share the exact same mission; therefore, you do have to understand their differences to form an opinion about which one has the biggest use. Before we look at the coins in detail, let's start with the potential ROI (100% = 2x Original Investment). Bitcoin’s current market cap is $193,165,354,468 in order for you to make 100% this number would need to double to just under $400 Billion. Ethereum’s current market cap is $44,715,990,083 , roughly 1/5th of Bitcoins. In order for you to make 100%, the price would need to increase to just under $90 Billion. - This is obviously more probable. This will not serve as the only variable in making a decision, we now need to break down their uses and differences. Bitcoin What is Bitcoin? A purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without the burdens of going through a financial institution. Digital signatures provide part of the solution, but the main benefits are lost if a trusted party is still required to prevent double-spending. We propose a solution to the double-spending problem using a peer-to-peer network. The network timestamps transactions by hashing them into an ongoing chain of hash-based proof-of-work, forming a record that cannot be changed without redoing the proof-of-work. The longest chain not only serves as proof of the sequence of events witnessed, but proof that it came from the largest pool of CPU power. As long as honest nodes control the most CPU power on the network, they can generate the longest chain and outpace any attackers. The network itself requires minimal structure. Messages are broadcasted on a best effort basis, and nodes can leave and rejoin the network at will, accepting the longest proof-of-work chain as proof of what happened while they were gone. Peer-to-Peer (P2P): is a technical way of saying computers (peers) that are connected together via the internet. Timestamps: are a sequence of characters that identify exactly when a certain event occurred, giving the exact time and date. Hashing: is the process of compacting large quantities of data into smaller fixed sizes. Proof-of-work: is the verification that the individual peer created the said hash Nodes: are computers that are connected to the blockchain Bitcoin is a first generation cryptocurrency, that was created in 2009 with the intention to become the currency of the internet. Its Applications Safe Haven Being that billions of people are under the control of a broke economy or volatile dictatorship, Bitcoin is beginning to become a medium in which people within underdeveloped countries feel as a more secure place to store their value. Remittances The current operation costs roughly $600B annually, all at the expense of separated families. Bitcoin can now serve as a tool that operates the exact same way and only costs 1/10th of the price. A transaction on the Bitcoin network also processes faster therefore giving the people a strong reason to make the switch. Currency Bitcoin is recognized as an asset, but can also be identified as an efficient currency in which people can buy and exchange with. With this being an application of Bitcoin, as the market continues to decrease in volatility, the use for Bitcoin will increase within businesses and everyday people that transact on a daily basis. These are just a few, but for the sake of answer length, let’s move onto some of the scalability issues with Bitcoin that hinder my decision of choosing Bitcoin over Ethereum. Bothering Issues with Bitcoin Energy A study from Digiconomist found that each transaction on the Bitcoin blockchain uses 236 KWh worth of electricity, this amount is enough to power 8 U.S households for an entire day. Scalability Energy consumption will hinder the scalability issues of Bitcoin, however the other issue that arises with POW mining is that with the increase in cost associated with mining BTC it is less economical to mine Bitcoin. This would limit the distributed nodes (miners) globally and allow a larger percentage of control to the dominant mining pools / farms. This would lead to a more centralized blockchain, where they can change the rules of BTC as they please. The supply of Bitcoin is finite, capped at 21 million. Eventually (currently predicted for 2140) Bitcoin's supply will run out. Once this happens, miners will no longer receive rewards for completing blocks but instead will be given fees. The fees will be drastically high in relative terms, and people will stop using the blockchain. Also, if miners decide that this is uneconomical for them to process the transactions and use their computing power elsewhere the speed of transactions for Bitcoin will drastically slow down, rendering one of the fundamental values of a Bitcoin (speed) useless. Blue chip Companies This is more so for all cryptocurrencies, but Bitcoin in particular. It’s not a matter of if but a matter of when a blue-chip company such as Facebook, Amazon or Google decides to implement their own cryptocurrency. Another possibility is a potential ‘world coin’ which global governments will all agree on using, this may seem unrealistic but it is definitely not impossible and many benefits would arise from having such a currency. Quantum Computing Bitcoin is said to be Quantum resistant, on the whitepaper it mentions that: ‘To compensate for increasing hardware speed and varying interest in running nodes over time, the proof-of-work difficulty is determined by a moving average targeting an average number of blocks per hour. If they're generated too fast, the difficulty increases.’ This may seem quantum resistant but it is important to understand that the difficulty is changed every 10 minutes and this is more than enough time for QC to mine all of Bitcoin’s remaining coins. Bitcoin Bubble The last point of this section is to recognize that the Bitcoin bubble could pop loud enough to crash the market. Due to a whole lot of hype, and even more speculative and uneducated buyers, Bitcoin could face a peak in which a simple spark Ethereum What is Ethereum? Ethereum is an open source platform with the mission to build and inspire next-generation decentralized applications. In other words, the applications being built on the Ethereum network would have no middle men. Users are able to interact safely with social and financial systems to transact peer to peer, therefore opening a new realm of opportunity within decentralized development on specifically the exchange of value. Like the Bitcoin network exchanges Bitcoin, applications within the Ethereum network would exchange ETHER. Therefore, making the Ethereum network have its own digital currency or, cryptocurrency that these decentralized applications would run on. On the Ethereum network, developers are able to build these decentralized applications simply, within this seemingly complicated new technology. Think of it as Shopify or Volusion, these are centralized networks in which users/developers can build e-commerce stores more efficiently and cost effectively. Ethereum is similar in this aspect, the network was essentially created to assist and fuel the growth of decentralized blockchain applications within its network. Smart Contracts Now, what Ethereum is based on, is a thing called “Smart Contracts” Developers are extremely excited about this tool, a smart contract is similar to how it sounds, it’s a digital contract that self-executes… Think of it as a virtual vending machine. A smart contract is a digital contract between two people in which the technology or tool handles the management, performance, enforcement and payment of the agreement. The smart contract has its own digital bank account of ETHER and settles once the product is received or the service is completed therefore greatly improving the efficiency of data tracking, payment processing and user friendliness of each decentralized application. Let’s dive into an example Music The first age of the internet brought quite a bit of disruption to the music industry… Idk if you knew, but if you we’re a songwriter 25 years ago and produced a hit song that got a million singles you would acquire royalties of up to $50,000. Now if you were to produce a hit song that gets a million streams you don’t get $50,000, you get $45… Enough to cover the first round at the bar. In result, musicians are now finding other ways to produce revenue with their music. One being the utilization of a blockchain ecosystem like Ethereum. Music applications are now being built for musicians to reclaim their content, smart contracts are being implemented into the music itself, therefore the music protects the intellectual property rights of the artist. You want to listen to the song? It’s free… or maybe a few micro pennies to download. You want to put the song in your video or movie? Make it your ringtone? These each cost a different price and presented at the point of purchase would be its underlying IP rights for the use of that piece of music. Musicians are absolutely hyped about this because now, the song becomes a business. It’s out there on this platform marketing itself, protecting the rights of the author and because the song has a payment system; in the sense of a bank account, all of the money then flows back to the artist, and they control the industry rather than these powerful intermediaries. This concept could apply not only to just songwriters but any creator of content, from art, to inventions, to scientific discoveries or the work from independent journalists. There are endless industries in which people do not gain fair compensation in which the underlying technology of Ethereum could benefit in a big way. Other examples: · A smart contract can be created to pay a worker for every hour they work, they log their hours on the blockchain and then after verification the funds are instantly transferred to them · Buying goods internationally can be tracked and verified – reducing fraud. · Property buying can be facilitated through the contract · Every industry that has a contract in place will be able to use the blockchain of Ethereum It is also worth noting that Ethereum is also a lot quicker than Bitcoin, average block time being 15 seconds for Ethereum opposed to 10 minutes for Bitcoin. Personally, I am invested into both. If I HAD to choose, like I said it would be Ethereum simply because of where it is now in comparison to its potential as well as its very transparent, direct, opportunistic mission towards the hosting of decentralized blockchain applications.
EDIT!!! Giveaway is OVER. Thank you all so much for your great feedback. I had a ton of fun talking to and getting suggestions from everyone. Really awesome! I have 100,000 dogecoin left. Since the CONTROLS seem to be the biggest issue people are having, I have a proposal. The other 100k will go to whoever writes up the best idea how to make the controls as fun and intuitive as possible! I -REALLY- want to focus on this aspect to make it so everyone enjoys the game and there aren't any mechanic-related pain points. Hey /dogecoin! I come bearing gifts! I have 1,000,675 Dogecoin loaded into my tipbot account ready to have some fun with to celebrate the launch of my new mobile game, ASCIID Here's how it works: I have a new game JUST LAUNCHED TODAY for iPhone and Android and am looking for feedback, and what better way to do it than a giveaway :) So, I'm asking you all to let me know what you think of the game - in exchange you get doge! On top of that, we'll do a little contest to make it interesting as well as some other ways to earn prizes. First off, the contest! Check out the game (it's free!) and play it. Take a screenshot of your highest score and post it here. When this post is 8 hours old (8pm PST), the contest is over and the prizes go out. CONTEST PRIZES
250,000 - first place
100,000 - second place
50,000 - third place
Note: buying extra lives is cheating - be honest, shibes! Everyone starts with 10 continues they're free to use for the contest. If multiple people end up beating all 50 levels in New Game mode, then the top score will carry over to New Game + mode (there are infinite randomly generated levels in the New Game + mode which is unlocked when you beat the campaign). Ok, so that's 400k Doge for the contest.. what about the other 600k? I'm glad I asked! There are plenty of other ways to get some doge without having to even play the game. OTHER GIVEAWAYS
50,000 - the most creative/fun/funny/interesting/weird story that has something to do with the game. You don't even have to play the game to come up with something! Just watch the trailer or read the description and go nuts.
50,000 - the best picture relating to the game! I don't care if you hand-draw it or do it in MSPaint. The game is comprised of ASCII art making up the environment and characters, so artistic talent isn't required :P. Again, be creative and have fun!
Both of these giveaways will be handed out when the Contest is over. SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE!
up to 10,000 per constructive feedback/criticism. This can be about the website, the trailer, the game - anything! If it's something you like, why? If it's something that sucks, how could I make it better? Just don't say "cool game" or "this sucks" as that doesn't help me make it better. This goes until I've spent the 500k!
Note: I'm not referring to App Store reviews, although if you want to rate/review it, that's great! If I have Doge leftover at the end of the contest after all of the prizes have gone out, FREE FOR ALL. Random double tips and more! ALL 1,000,000 MUST GO! Where to Download Website: http://AsciidGame.com/ iOS Download Android Download Youtube Trailer CONTEST STARTS NOW! Ready.... set.... go! Contest Entries Score:
fix the low res icons like "continue, quit, restart"
use the same word for "lives" and "continues" since they're the same thing. done
disable leaderboard / achievement icons if player isn't signed in to game center done
support Windows Phone (this is in the works)
if you die on the same frame you go through a door you start the next level dead.
EDIT!!! Giveaway is OVER. Thank you all so much for your great feedback. I had a ton of fun talking to and getting suggestions from everyone. Really awesome! I have 100,000 dogecoin left. Since the CONTROLS seem to be the biggest issue people are having, I have a proposal. The other 100k will go to whoever writes up the best idea how to make the controls as fun and intuitive as possible! I -REALLY- want to focus on this aspect to make it so everyone enjoys the game and there aren't any mechanic-related pain points.
The New Crypto Order & Escaping Financial Repression
The Vigilante’s View It is our first issue in months that bitcoin hasn’t hit an all-time high! And it’s the last issue of the year. And what a year for cryptos it was. To put it in perspective, bitcoin could fall 90% from current levels and it will still have outperformed stocks, bonds and real estate in 2017. Bitcoin started 2017 at $960.79. At the time of this writing it is near $13,000 for a gain of 1,250% in 2017. And, bitcoin was actually one of the worst performing cryptocurrencies in our TDV portfolio in 2017! Ethereum (ETH) started 2017 at $8. It has since hit over $800 for a nice 10,000% gain in 2017. That’s pretty good, but not as good as Dash which started the year at $11.19 and recently hit $1,600 for a nearly 15,000% gain. I hope many of you have participated in these amazing gains! If not, or you are new, don’t worry there will be plenty more opportunities in the years ahead. It won’t all be just home runs though… in fact, some of the cryptos that have performed so well to date may go down dramatically or collapse completely in the coming years. I’ll point out further below why Lightning Network is not the answer to Bitcoin Core’s slow speeds and high costs. And, I’ll look ahead to 2018 and how we could already be looking beyond blockchains. Yes, things are moving so fast that blockchain just became known to your average person this year… and could be nearly extinct by next year. That’s why it is important to stick with us here at TDV to navigate these choppy free market waters! New Years Reflection On The Evolution Of Consensus Protocols Sooner or later crypto will humble you by its greatness. Its vastness is accompanied by a madness that is breathtaking, because you quickly realize that there is no stopping crypto from taking over the world. The moment you think you have everything figured out, is the moment the market will surprise you. We are for the first time living and witnessing the birth of the first worldwide free market. Throughout this rampage of innovation, we all are implicitly aiming for the best means of harnessing consensus. As we leave this bountiful 2017 and aim at 2018, it is important for us to meditate and appreciate the progress we have made in transforming the world through the decentralization of consensus. It is also important to reflect on the changes in consensus building we have partaken in and those yet to come. Consensus is the agreement that states “this is what has occurred, and this is what hasn’t happened.” Throughout the vastness of history, we humans have only really had access to centralized means for consensus building. In the centralized world, consensus has been determined by banks, states, and all kinds of central planners. As our readers know, any centralized party can misuse their power, and their consensus ruling can become unfair. In spite of this, many individuals still praise the effectiveness of consensus building of centralized systems. People from antiquity have had no other option but to trust these central planners. These systems of control have created still-water markets where only a few are allowed to compete. This lack of competition resulted in what we now can objectively view as slow innovation. For many, centralized consensus building is preferred under the pretense of security and comfort. Unfortunately, these same individuals are in for a whole lot of discomfort now that the world is innovating on top of the first decentralized consensus building technology, the blockchain. Everything that has occurred since the inception of bitcoin has shocked central planners because for the first time in history they are lost; they no longer hold power. We now vote with our money. We choose what we find best as different technologies compete for our money. What we are witnessing when we see the volatility in crypto is nothing more than natural human motion through price. The innovation and volatility of the crypto market may seem unorthodox to some, because it is. For the first time in history we are in a true free market. The true free market connects you to everybody and for this reason alone the market shouldn’t surprise us for feeling “crazy.” Volatility is a sign of your connection to a market that is alive. Radical innovation is a sign of a market that is in its infancy still discovering itself. In juxtaposing centralized consensus building with decentralized consensus building, I cannot keep myself from remembering some wise biblical words; “ And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.” – Luke 5:37 The centralized legacy financial system is akin to old wineskins bursting to shreds by the new wine of crypto. Decentralized consensus building has no need for central planners. For example, think about how ludicrous it would be for someone to ask government for regulation after not liking something about crypto. Sorry, there is no central planner to protect you; even the mathematical protocols built for us to trust are now competing against one another for our money. These new mathematical protocols will keep competing against one another as they provide us with new options in decentralizing consensus. As we look unto 2018, it is important that we as investors begin to critically engage and analyze “blockchain-free cryptocurrencies.” HASHGRAPHS, TANGLES AND DAGS Blockchain-free cryptocurrencies are technologies composed of distributed databases that use different tools to achieve the same objectives as blockchains. The top contenders in the realm of blockchain-free cryptos are DAGs (Directed Acyclic Graphs) such as Swirlds’ Hashgraph, ByteBall’s DAG, and IOTA’s Tangle. These blockchain-free cryptos are also categorized as belonging to the 3 rd generation of cryptocurrencies. These technologies promise to be faster, cheaper, and more efficient than blockchain cryptocurrencies. Blockchains were the first means of creating decentralized consensus throughout the world. In the blockchain, the majority of 51% determine the consensus. The limits of blockchains stem from their inherent nature, whereupon every single node/participant needs to know all of the information that has occurred throughout the whole blockchain economy of a given coin. This opens up blockchains to issues akin to the ones we have been exposed to in regards to Bitcoin’s scaling. It is important to make a clear distinction in the language used between blockchains and blockchain-freecryptocurrencies. When we speak about blockchains it is more proper to speak about its transactionconsensus as “decentralized”, whereas with blockchain-free cryptocurrencies it is best if we refer to transaction consensus as “distributed.” Swirlds’ Hashgraph incorporates a radical and different approach to distributing consensus. Swirlds claims that their new approach will solve scaling and security issues found on blockchains. They use a protocol called “Gossip about Gossip.” Gossip refers to how computers communicate with one another in sending information. In comparison to the Blockchain, imagine that instead of all of the nodes receiving all of the transactions categorized in the past ten minutes, that only a few nodes shared their transaction history with other nodes near them. The Hashgraph team explains this as “calling any random node and telling that node everything you know that it does not know.” That is, in Hashgraph we would be gossiping about the information we are gossiping; i.e., sending to others throughout the network for consensus. Using this gossiped information builds the Hashgraph. Consensus is created by means of depending on the gossips/rumors that come to you and you pass along to other nodes. Hashgraph also has periodic rounds which review the circulating gossips/rumors. Hashgraph is capable of 250,000+ Transactions Per Second (TPS), compared to Bitcoin currently only allowing for 7 TPS. It is also 50,000 times faster than Bitcoin. There is no mention of a coin on their white paper. At this moment there is no Hashgraph ICO, beware of scams claiming that there is. There is however a growing interest in the project along with a surge of app development. IOTAs DAG is known as the Tangle. Contrary to Hashgraph, IOTA does have its own coin known as MIOTA, currently trading around the $3 mark. There are only 2,779,530,283 MIOTA in existence. The Tangle was also created to help alleviate the pains experienced with Blockchain scaling. IOTAs Tangle creates consensus on a regional level; basically neighbors looking at what other neighbors are doing. As the tangle of neighbors grows with more participants the security of the system increases, along with the speed of confirmation times. IOTA has currently been criticized for its still lengthy confirmation times and its current levels of centralization via their Coordinators. This centralization is due to the fact that at this moment in time the main team works as watchtower to oversee how Tangle network grows so that it does not suffer from attacks. Consensus is reached within IOTA by means of having each node confirm two transactions before that same node is able to send a given transaction. This leads to the mantra of “the more people use IOTA, the more transactions get referenced and confirmed.” This creates an environment where transactional scaling has no limits. IOTA has no transaction fees and upon reaching high adoption the transactions ought to be very fast. Another promising aspect about IOTA is that it has an integrated quantum-resistant algorithm, the Winternitz One-Time Signature Scheme, that would protect IOTA against an attack of future quantum computers. This without a doubt provides IOTA with much better protection against an adversary with a quantum computer when compared to Bitcoin. ByteBall is IOTA’s most direct competitor. They both possess the same transaction speed of 100+ TPS, they both have their own respective cryptocurrencies, and they both have transparent transactions. ByteBall’s token is the ByteBall Bytes (GBYTE), with a supply of 1,000,000; currently trading at around $700. ByteBall aims to service the market with tamper proof storage for all types of data. ByteBall’s DAG also provides an escrow like system called “conditional payments;” which allows for conditional clauses before settling transactions. Like IOTA, ByteBall is also designed to scale its transaction size to meet the needs of a global demand. ByteBall provides access to integrated bots for transactions which includes the capacity for prediction markets, P2P betting, P2P payments in chat, and P2P insurance. ByteBall’s initial coin distribution is still being awarded to BTC and Bytes holders according to the proportional amounts of BTC or Bytes that are held per wallet. IOTA, ByteBall and Hashgraph are technologies that provide us with more than enough reasons to be hopeful for 2018. In terms of the crypto market, you don’t learn it once. You have to relearn it every day because its development is so infant. If you are new to crypto and feel lost at all know that you are not alone. These technologies are constantly evolving with new competitive options in the market. As the technologies grow the ease for adoption is set to grow alongside innovation. We are all new to this world and we are all as much in shock of its ingenuity as the next newbie. Crypto is mesmerizing not just for its volatility which is a clear indication of how connected we are now to one another, but also because of the social revolution that it represents. We are experiencing the multidirectional growth of humanity via the free market. Meanwhile Bitcoin Is Turning Into Shitcoin It is with a great degree of sadness that I see bitcoin is on the cusp of destroying itself. Bitcoin Core, anyway. Bitcoin Cash may be the winner from all of this once all is said and done. Whether by design or by accident, bitcoin has become slow and expensive. Many people point out that IF the market were to upgrade to Segwit that all would be fine. I’ll explain further below why many market participants have no incentive to upgrade to Segwit… meaning that the implementation of Segwit has been a massively risky guess that so far has not worked. Others say that the Lightning Network (LN) will save bitcoin. I’ll point out below why that will not happen. Lightning Networks And The Future Of Bitcoin Core If you’ve been following bitcoin for any length of time, you’re probably aware of the significant dispute over how to scale the network. The basic problem is that although bitcoin could be used at one time to buy, say, a cup of coffee, the number of transactions being recorded on the network bid up the price per transaction so much that actually sending BTC cost more than the cup of coffee itself. Indeed, analysis showed that there were many Bitcoin addresses that had such small BTC holdings that the address itself couldn’t be used to transfer it to a different address. These are referred to as “unspendable addresses.” In the ensuing debate, the “big blockers” wanted to increase the size of each block in the chain in order to allow for greater transaction capacity. The “small blockers” wanted to reduce the size of each transaction using a technique called Segregated Witness (SegWit) and keep the blocks in the chain limited to 1MB. SegWit reduces the amount of data in each transaction by around 40-50%, resulting in an increased capacity from 7 transactions per second to perhaps 15. The software engineers who currently control the Bitcoin Core code repository have stated that what Bitcoin needs is “off-chain transactions.” To do this, they have created something called Lightning Networks (LN), based on an software invention called the “two-way peg.” Put simply, the two-way peg involves creating an escrow address in Bitcoin where each party puts some bitcoin into the account, and then outside the blockchain, they exchange hypothetical Bitcoin transactions that either of them can publish on Bitcoin’s blockchain in order to pull their current agreed-upon balance out of the escrow address. Most layman explanations of how this works describe the protocol as each party putting in an equal amount of Bitcoin into the escrow. If you and I want to start transacting off-chain, so we can have a fast, cheap payment system, we each put some Bitcoin in a multi-party address. I put in 1 BTC and you put in 1 BTC, and then we can exchange what are essentially cryptographic contracts that either of us can reveal on the bitcoin blockchain in order to exit our agreement and get our bitcoin funds. Fortunately, it turns out that the video’s examples don’t tell the whole story. It’s possible for the escrow account to be asymmetric. See:. That is, one party can put in 1 BTC, while the other party puts in, say, 0.0001 BTC. (Core developer and forthcoming Anarchapulco speaker Jimmy Song tells us that there are game theoretic reasons why you don’t want the counterparty to have ZERO stake.) Great! It makes sense for Starbucks to participate with their customers in Lightning Networks because when their customers open an LN channel (basically a gift card) with them for $100, they only have to put in $1 worth of Bitcoin. Each time the customer transacts on the Lightning Network, Starbucks gets an updated hypothetical transaction that they can use to cash out that gift card and collect their bitcoin. The elephant in the room is: transaction fees. In order to establish the escrow address and thereby open the LN channel, each party has to send some amount of bitcoin to the address. And in order to cash out and get the bitcoin settlement, one party also has to initiate a transaction on the bitcoin blockchain. And to even add funds to the channel, one party has to pay a transaction fee. Right now fees on the bitcoin blockchain vary widely and are extremely volatile. For a 1-hour confirmation transaction, the recommended fee from one wallet might be $12 US, while on another it’s $21 US. For a priority transaction of 10-20 minutes, it can range from $22-30 US. Transactions fees are based on the number of bytes in the transaction, so if both parties support SegWit (remember that?) then the fee comes down by 40-50%. So it’s between $6 and $10 US for a one hour transaction and between $11-15 for a 15 minute transaction. (SegWit transactions are prioritized by the network to some degree, so actual times may be faster) But no matter what, both the customer and the merchant have to spend $6 each to establish that they will have a relationship and either of them has to spend $6 in order to settle out and get their bitcoin. Further, if the customer wants to “top off” their virtual gift card, that transaction costs another $6. And because it adds an address to the merchant’s eventual settlement, their cost to get their Bitcoin goes up every time that happens, so now it might cost them $9 to get their bitcoin. Since these LN channels are essentially digital gift cards, I looked up what the cost is to retailers to sell acustomer a gift card. The merchant processor Square offers such gift cards on their retailer site. Their best price is $0.90 per card. So the best case is that Lightning Networks are 600% more expensive than physical gift cards to distribute, since the merchant has to put a transaction into the escrow address. Further, the customer is effectively buying the gift card for an additional $6, instead of just putting up the dollar amount that goes on the card. But it gets worse. If you get a gift card from Square, they process the payments on the card and periodically deposit cash into your bank account for a percentage fee. If you use the Lightning Network, you can only access your Bitcoin by cancelling the agreement with the customer. In other words, you have to invalidate their current gift card and force them to spend $6 on a new one! And it costs you $6 to collect your funds and another $6 to sell the new gift card! I’m sure many of you have worked in retail. And you can understand how this would be financially infeasible. The cost of acquiring a new customer, and the amount of value that customer would have to stake just to do business with that one merchant, would be enormous to make any financial sense. From time immemorial, when transaction costs rise, we see the creation of middlemen. Merchants who can’t afford to establish direct channels with their customers will have to turn to middlemen, who will open LN channels for them. Instead of directly backing and cashing out their digital gift cards, they will establish relationships with entities that consolidate transactions, much like Square or Visa would do today. Starbucks corporate or individual locations might spend a few USD on opening a payment channel with the middleman, and then once a month spend 6 USD to cash out their revenues in order to cover accounts payable. In the meantime, the middleman also has to offer the ability to open LN channels for consumers. This still happens at a fixed initial cost, much like the annual fee for a credit card in the US. They would continue to require minimum balances, and would offer access to a network of merchants, exactly like Visa and MasterCard today. This process requires a tremendous amount of capital because although the middleman does not have to stake Bitcoin in the consumer’s escrow account, he does have to stake it in the merchant’s account. In other words, if the Lightning Network middleman wants to do business with Starbucks to the tune of $100,000/month, he needs $100,000 of bitcoin to lock into an escrow address. And that has to happen for every merchant. Because every month (or so) the merchants have to cash out of their bitcoin to fiat in order to pay for their cost of goods and make payroll. Even if their vendors and employees are paid in bitcoin and they have LN channels open with them, someone somewhere will want to convert to fiat, and trigger a closing channel creating a cascading settlement effect that eventually arrives at the middleman. Oh, and it triggers lots of bitcoin transactions that cost lots of fees. Did I mention that each step in the channel is expecting a percentage of the value of the channel when it’s settled? This will come up again later. Again, if you’ve worked in the retail business, you should be able to see how infeasible this would be. You have to buy inventory and you have to sell it to customers and every part that makes the transaction more expensive is eating away at your margins. Further, if you’re the middleman and Starbucks closes out a channel with a $100,000 stake where they take $95,000 of the bitcoin, how do you re-open the channel? You need another $95,000 in capital. You have revenue, of course, from the consumer side of your business. Maybe you have 950 consumers that just finished off their $100 digital gift cards. So now you can cash them out to bitcoin for just $5700 in transaction fees, and lose 5.7% on the deal. In order to make money in that kind of scenario, you have to charge LN transaction fees. And because your loss is 5.7%, you need to charge in the range of 9% to settle Lightning Network transactions. Also, you just closed out 950 customers who now have to spend $5700 to become your customer again while you have to spend $5700 to re-acquire them as customers. So maybe you need to charge more like 12%. If you approached Starbucks and said “you can accept Bitcoin for your customers and we just need 12% of the transaction,” what are the odds that they would say yes? Even Visa only has the balls to suggest 3%, and they have thousands and thousands of times as many consumers as bitcoin. The entire mission of bitcoin was to be faster, cheaper and better than banks, while eliminating centralized control of the currency. If the currency part of Bitcoin is driven by “off-chain transactions” while bitcoin itself remains expensive and slow, then these off-chain transactions will become the territory of centralized parties who have access to enormous amounts of capital and can charge customers exorbitant rates. We know them today as banks. Even for banks, we have to consider what it means to tie up $100,000/month for a merchant account. That only makes sense if the exchange rate of bitcoin grows faster than the cost of retaining Bitcoin inventory. It costs nothing to store Bitcoin, but it costs a lot to acquire it. At the very least the $6 per transaction to buy it, plus the shift in its value against fiat that’s based on interest rates. As a result, it only makes sense to become a Lightning Network middleman if your store of value (bitcoin) appreciates at greater than the cost of acquiring it (interest rate of fiat.) And while interest rates are very low, that’s not a high bar to set. But to beat it, Bitcoin’s exchange rate to fiat has to outpace the best rate available to the middleman by a factor exceeding the opportunity cost of other uses of that capital. Whatever that rate is, for bitcoin, the only reason the exchange rate changes is new entry of capital into the “price” of bitcoin. For that to work, bitcoin’s “price” must continue to rise faster than the cost of capital for holding it. So far this has happened, but it’s a market gamble for it to continue. Since it happens because of new capital entering into the bitcoin network and thus increasing the market cap, this results in Bitcoin Core becoming the very thing that its detractors accuse it of: a Ponzi scheme. The cost of transacting in Bitcoin becomes derived from the cost of holding bitcoin and becomes derived from the cost of entering bitcoin. Every middleman has to place a bet on the direction of bitcoin in a given period. And in theory, if they think the trend is against Bitcoin, then they’ll cash out and shut down all the payment channels that they transact. If they bought bitcoin at $15,000, and they see it dropping to $13,000 — they’ll probably cash out their merchant channels and limit their risk of a further drop. The consumer side doesn’t matter so much because their exposure is only 1%, but the merchant side is where they had to stake everything. If you’re wondering why this information is not widely known, it’s because most bitcoin proponents don’t transact in bitcoin on a regular basis. They may be HODLing, but they aren’t doing business in bitcoin. Through Anarchapulco, TDV does frequent and substantial business in bitcoin, and we’ve paid fees over $150 in order to consolidate ticket sale transactions into single addresses that can be redeemed for fiat to purchase stage equipment for the conference. For Bitcoin to be successful at a merchant level via Lightning Networks, we will have to see blockchain transactions become dramatically cheaper. If they return to the sub-$1 range, we might have a chance with centralized middlemen, but only with a massive stabilization of volatility. If they return to $0.10, we might have a chance with direct channels. Otherwise, Lightning Networks can’t save bitcoin as a means of everyday transaction. And since that takes away its utility, it might very well take away the basis of its value and bitcoin could find itself truly being a tulip bubble. One final note: there are a some parties for whom all these transactions are dramatically cheaper. That is the cryptocurrency exchanges. Because they are the entry and exit points for bitcoin-to-fiat, they can eliminate a layer of transaction costs and thus offer much more competitive rates — as long as you keep your bitcoin in their vaults instead of securing it yourselves. Sending it out of their control lessens their competitive advantage against other means of storage. It comes as no surprise, then, that they are the least advanced in implementing the SegWit technology that would improve transaction costs and speed. If you buy bitcoin on Poloniex, it works better for them if it’s expensive for you to move that coin to your Trezor. In fact, an exchange offering Lightning Network channels to merchants could potentially do the following… 1) Stake bitcoins in channels with merchants. These coins may or may not be funds that are held by their customers. There is no way to know. 2) Offer customers “debit card” accounts for those merchants that are backed by the Lightning network 3) Establish middle addresses for the customer accounts and the merchant addresses on the Lightning Network. 4) Choose to ignore double-spends between the customer accounts and the merchant addresses, because they don’t actually have to stake the customer side. They can just pretend to since they control the customer’s keys. 5) Inflate their bitcoin holdings up to the stake from the merchants, since the customers will almost never cash out in practice. In other words, Lightning Networks allow exchanges a clear path to repeating Mtgox; lie to the consumer about their balance while keeping things clean with the merchant. In other words, establish a fractional reserve approach to bitcoin. So, to summarize, Bitcoin Core decided increasing the blocksize from 1mb to 2-8mb was “too risky” and decided to create Segwit instead which the market has not adopted. When asked when bitcoin will be faster and less expensive to transfer most Bitcoin Core adherents say the Lightning Network will fix the problems. But, as I’ve just shown, the LN makes no sense for merchants to use and will likely result in banks taking over LN nodes and making BTC similar to Visa and Mastercard but more expensive. And, will likely result in exchanges becoming like banks of today and having fractional reserve systems which makes bitcoin not much better than the banking system of today. Or, people can switch to Bitcoin Cash, which just increased the blocksize and has much faster transaction times at a fraction of the cost. I’ve begun to sell some of my bitcoin holdings because of what is going on. I’ve increased my Bitcoin Cash holdings and also increased my holdings of Dash, Monero, Litecoin and our latest recommendation, Zcash. Other News & Crypto Tidbits When bitcoin surpassed $17,600 in December it surpassed the total value of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR) currency. Meanwhile, Alexei Kireyev of the IMF put out his working paper, “ The Macroeconomics of De-Cashing ,” where he advises abolishing cash without having the public aware of the process. Countries such as Russia are considering creating a cryptocurrency backed by oil to get around the US dollar and the US dollar banking system. Venezuela is as well although we highly doubt it will be structured properly or function well given the communist government’s track record of destroying two fiat currencies in the last decade. To say that the US dollar is being attacked on every level is not an understatement. Cryptocurrencies threaten the entire monetary and financial system while oil producing countries look to move away from the US dollar to their own oil backed cryptocurrency. And all this as bitcoin surpassed the value of the IMF’s SDR in December and in 2017 the US dollar had its largest drop versus other currencies since 2003. And cryptocurrency exchanges have begun to surpass even the NASDAQ and NYSE in terms of revenue. Bittrex, as one example, had $3 billion in volume on just one day in December. At a 0.5% fee per trade that equaled $15m in revenue in just one day. If that were to continue for 365 days it would mean $5.4 billion in annual revenue which is more than the NASDAQ or NYSE made this year. Conclusion I never would have guessed how high the cryptocurrencies went this year. My price target for bitcoin in 2017 was $3,500! That was made in late 2016 when bitcoin was near $700 and many people said I was crazy. Things are speeding up much faster than even I could have imagined. And it is much more than just making money. These technologies, like cryptocurrencies, blockchains and beyond connect us in a more profound way than Facebook would ever be able to. We are now beginning to be connected in ways we never even thought of; and to some degree still do not understand. These connections within this completely free market are deep and meaningful. This is sincerely beautiful because we are constantly presented with an ever growing buffet of competing protocols selling us their best efforts in providing harmony within the world. What all of these decentralized and distributed consensus building technologies have in common is that they connect us to the world and to each other. Where we are going we don’t need foolish and trite Facebook’s emojis. As we close a successful 2017 we look with optimism towards a much more prosperous 2018. The Powers That Shouldn’t Be (TPTSB) can’t stop us. As we move forward note how much crypto will teach you about ourselves and the world. In a radical free market making our own bets will continue to be a process of self discovery. Crypto will show us the contours of our fears, the contours of our greed, and will constantly challenge us to do our best with the knowledge we have. Remember, randomness and innovation are proper to the happenstance nature of a true digital free market. Happy New Year fellow freedom lovers! And, as always, thank you for subscribing! Jeff Berwick
Agustín Carstens, General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS, the central bank of central banks) on Cryptocurrencies today
I'd like to hear your thoughts on his lecture held today at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. Read the full transcript here or via pdf link. https://www.bis.org/speeches/sp180206.pdf 1/10 Money in the digital age: what role for central banks? Lecture by Agustín Carstens General Manager, Bank for International Settlements House of Finance, Goethe University Frankfurt, 6 February 2018 Introduction Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for that kind introduction, Jens. I am very happy to be here at this prestigious university and to be part of this impressive lecture series sponsored by Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe (SAFE), the Center for Financial Studies (CFS) and the Deutsche Bundesbank. I would also like to thank Professor Brigitte Haar for being such a generous host today. It is an honour to discuss money at an event organised by the Bundesbank, which has been a beacon of stability since its foundation some 60 years ago. As Jens can attest, being a central banker is a fascinating job. In fact, it is a privilege. During the last decade it has been anything but quiet in the central banking world. We have been confronted with extraordinary circumstances that have required extraordinary policy responses. In such an environment, it has been of the utmost importance to share experiences and lessons learnt among central banks, creating a body of knowledge that will be there for the future. One of the reasons that central bank Governors from all over the world gather in Basel every two months is precisely to discuss issues at the front and centre of the policy debate. Following the Great Financial Crisis, many hours have been spent discussing the design and implications of, for example, unconventional monetary policies such as quantitative easing and negative interest rates. Lately, we have seen a bit of a shift, to issues at the very heart of central banking. This shift is driven by developments at the cutting edge of technology. While it has been bubbling under the surface for years, the meteoric rise of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has led us to revisit some fundamental questions that touch on the origin and raison d’être for central banks: • What is money? • What constitutes good money, and where do cryptocurrencies fit in? • And, finally, what role should central banks play? The thrust of my lecture will be that, at the end of the day, money is an indispensable social convention backed by an accountable institution within the State that enjoys public trust. Many things have served as money, but experience suggests that something widely accepted, reliably provided and stable in its command over goods and services works best. Experience has also shown that to be credible, money requires institutional backup, which is best provided by a central bank. While central banks’ actions and services will evolve with technological developments, the rise of cryptocurrencies only highlights the important role central banks have played, and continue to play, as stewards of public trust. Private digital tokens posing as currencies, such as bitcoin and other crypto-assets that have mushroomed of late, must not endanger this trust in the fundamental value and nature of money. What is money? “What is money?” is obviously a key question for any central banker, and one on which economists have spent much ink. The answer depends on how deep and philosophical one wants to be. Being at a university, especially one named after Goethe, I think I can err on the side of being philosophical. Conventional wisdom tells you that “money is what money does”.1 That is, money is a unit of account, a means of payment and a store of value. But telling you what something does does not really tell you what it is. And it certainly does not tell you why we need or have money, how it comes about and what the preconditions are for it to exist. In terms of the “need” for money, you may learn that money is a way to get around the general lack of double coincidence of wants. That is, it is rare that I have what you want and you have what I want at the same time. As barter is definitely not an efficient way of organising an economy, money is demanded as a tool to facilitate exchange. What about the other side of the coin, so to speak? How does money come about? Again, conventional wisdom may tell you that central banks provide money, ie cash (coins and notes), and commercial banks supply deposits. But this answer is often not fully satisfactory, as it does not tell why and how banks should be the one to “create” money. If you venture into more substantive analyses on monetary economics, things get more complex. One theory, which proposes that “money is memory”, amounts to arguing that a “superledger” can facilitate exchange just like money. This argument says a ledger is a way of keeping track of not only who has what but also who owes, and is owed, what. I will come back to this later. Moving beyond this line of thought, other scholarly and historical analyses provide answers that are more philosophical. These often amount to “money is a convention” – one party accepts it as payment in the expectation that others will also do so.2 Money is an IOU, but a special one because everyone in the economy trusts that it will be accepted by others in exchange for goods and services. One might say money is a “we all owe you”. Many things have served as money in this way. Figure 1 gives some examples: Yap stones, gold coins, cigarettes in war times, $100,000 bills, wissel (Wechsel), ie bills of exchange or bearer notes, such as those issued by the Bank of Amsterdam in the first half of the 17th century. It includes an example from my own country, Aztec hoe (or axe) money, a form of (unstamped) money made of copper used in central Mexico and parts of Central America. 1 See J Hicks, Critical essays in monetary theory, 1979. 2 See D Lewis, Convention: a philosophical study, 1969. Common to most of these examples is that the nominal value of the items that have served at one time as money is unrelated to their intrinsic value. Indeed, as we know very well in the case of fiat money, the intrinsic value of most of its representations is zero. History shows that money as a convention needs to have a basis of trust, supported by some form of institutional arrangement.3 As Curzio Giannini puts it: “The evolution of monetary institutions appears to be above all the fruit of a continuous dialogue between economic and political spheres, with each taking turns to create monetary innovations … and to safeguard the common interest against abuse stemming from partisan interests.”4 Money can come in different institutional forms and colours. How to organise them? The paper by Bech and Garratt in last September’s BIS Quarterly Review presented the money flower as a way of organising monies in today’s environment.5 It acknowledges that money can take on rather different forms and be supplied in various ways. The money flower Allow me to explain, noting that we do not sell seeds to this money flower! 3 Fiat means “by law“. So, in principle, it should be said that money exists by convention or by law. But if trust in money does not prevail, the legal mandate that conveys value to money becomes meaningless. 4 C Giannini, The age of central banks, 2011. 5 M Bech and R Garratt, “Central bank cryptocurrencies”, BIS Quarterly Review, September 2017, pp 55–70. The money flower highlights four key properties on the supply side of money: the issuer, the form, the degree of accessibility and the transfer mechanism. • The issuer can be either the central bank or “other”. “Other” includes nobody, that is, a particular type of money that is not the liability of anyone. • In terms of the form it takes, money is either electronic or physical. • Accessibility refers to how widely the type of money is available. It can either be wide or limited. • Transfer mechanism can either be a central intermediary or peer-to-peer, meaning transactions occur directly between the payer and the payee without the need for a central intermediary. Let us look at where some common types of money fit into the flower, starting with cash (or bank notes) as we know it today. Cash is issued by the central bank, is not electronic, is available to everyone and is peer-to-peer. I do not need a trusted third party such as Jens to help me pay each of you 10 euros. Let us try another one: bank deposits. They are not the liability of the central bank, mostly electronic, and in most countries available to most people, but clearly not peer-to-peer. Transferring resources from a bank deposit requires the involvement of at least your own bank, perhaps the central bank and the recipient’s bank. Think here not only of commercial bank deposits but also bills, eg non-interest bearing (bearer) certificates, issued privately, as in the case of the Bank of Amsterdam mentioned earlier. Local or regional currencies are the ones that can be spent in a particular geographical location at participating organisations. They tend to be physical. The túmin, for example, was a local currency circulating (illegally) for some time around 2010 exclusively in the Mexican municipality of Espinal. What does digitalisation mean for the flower? Digitalisation is nothing new: financial services and most forms of money have been largely digital for many years. Much of the ongoing transformation is just adding a mobile version for many services, which means that the device becomes a virtual extension of the institution. As such, there is not a new model. The money flower then also easily accommodates these forms. That is also the case for the digital, account-based forms of money that central banks traditionally have made available to commercial banks and, in some instances, to certain other financial or public institutions (ie bank reserves). It would also be the case if the central bank were to issue digital money to the wider public for general purposes. Each central bank will have to make its own decision on whether issuing digital money is desirable, after considering factors such as the structure of the financial system and underlying preferences for privacy. The central bank community is actively analysing this issue. A potentially important and leapfrogging digital-related development, however, is distributed ledger technology (DLT), the basis for Bitcoin. Many think DLT could transform financial service provision, maybe first wholesale, then possibly retail. For example, it could enhance settlement efficiency involving securities and derivatives transactions. A few central banks have conducted experiments in this area, for example the Bank of Canada, the Bundesbank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Bank of England.6 Yet doubts remain regarding the maturity of DLT and the size of associated efficiency gains relative to existing technologies. Moreover, their robustness, including to cyber-risk, is still to be fully understood and ascertained. Still, there are potential benefits, and I expect that central banks will remain engaged on this topic.7 For now, DLT is largely used to “create” bitcoin and other digital currencies. Such cryptocurrencies can be placed easily in the money flower. Nobody issues them, they are not physical and they are peer-to-peer. But beyond that, how should one think about them? What constitutes good money? Just because we are able to find a place for bitcoin in our money flower does not mean we should consider it as “good” money. As I mentioned before, trust is the fundamental tenet that underpins credible currencies, and this trust has to be earned and supported. There are many lessons from history and institutional economics on the earning of trust that we can use as we move further into digitalisation.8 Over the ages, many forms of private money have come and gone. It is fair to say that the same has happened with various experiments with public money (that is, money issued by a public entity that is not the central bank). While some lasted longer than others, most have invariably given way to some form of central bank money. The main reason for their disappearance is that the “incentives to cheat” are simply too high. Let me give three historical examples: one in Germany, another in the United States and the last one in Mexico. In Germany, the Thirty Years War (1618–48), involving small German states of the Holy Roman Empire and neighbouring regional powers, was associated with one of the most severe economic crises ever recorded, with rampant hyperinflation – just as happened three centuries later during the Weimar Republic – and the breakdown of trade and economic activity. The crisis became known as the Kipper- und Wipperzeit (the clipping and culling times), after the practice of clipping coins (shaving metal from their circumference) and sorting good coins from bad. This morning, we are launching a BIS Working Paper, by Professor Isabel Schnabel and BIS Economic Adviser Hyun Song Shin, which further details and explains this experience, as background to my speech. 6 See Bech and Garratt, op cit. 7 See Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures, Distributed ledger technology in payment, clearing and settlement: an analytical framework, February 2017. 8 See D North, Institutions, institutional change and economic performance, 1990. While episodes of currency debasement have occurred throughout history, this one stands out for two reasons. First is the severity of the crisis and its rapid regional spread. Debasement proceeded at such a pace that public authorities quickly lost control of the downward spiral. Second is how the debasement was brought under control. This occurred through standardisation of wholesale payments by public deposit banks, for example the Bank of Hamburg and the Bank of Amsterdam. These were in many ways examples of the precursors of modern central banks. As the working paper argues, monetary order could be brought to an otherwise chaotic situation by providing reliable payment means through precursors to central bank money, which at the end means the use of a credible institutional arrangement. In the period in the United States known as the Free Banking Era, from 1837 to 1863, many banks sprang up that issued currency with no oversight of any kind by the federal government.10 These so-called free bank notes did not work very well as a medium of exchange. Given that there were so many banks of varying reputations issuing notes, they sold at different prices in different places, making transactions quite complicated. And as supervision was largely absent, banks had limited restraint in issuing notes and did not back them up sufficiently with specie (gold or silver), thereby debasing their values. This era of “wildcat banking” ended up being a long and costly period of banking instability in the history of the US, with banking panics and major disruptions to economic activity. It was, after some further hiccups, followed by the establishment of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. Let me present a final example, from Mexican monetary history. A little known fact is that Mexico had the first series of hyperinflations at the beginning of the 20th century. My country had a revolution from 1910 to 1921, in which no central government existed in an effective way, with many factions fighting and disputing different territories. A winning faction would arrive in a territory, print its own money and make void previously issued cash. So different bills issued by different factions coexisted, leading to chaos and hyperinflation. To give you an idea of the disorder, in 2015 four trunks full of bills were returned to Mexico after having been appropriated by the US Navy in 1914, when the US occupied the port city of Veracruz. In the trunks, the Bank of Mexico discovered dozens of types of bills that the central bank had not even known existed.11 At the end of the conflict, a new constitution was drafted, having as a central article one which gave the Bank of Mexico the appropriate institutional framework, designating it the exclusive issuer of currency in the country. Once this was in place, hyperinflation ceased, illustrating the importance of controlling fiscal dominance (which tends to be the result of the abuse of publicly issued money). Based on these experiences, most observers, and I suspect all of you here, would agree that laissez-faire is not a good approach in banking or in the issuance of money. Indeed, the paradigm of strict bank regulation and supervision and central banks overseeing the financial and monetary system that has emerged over the last century or so has proven to be the most effective way to avoid the instability and high economic costs associated with the proliferation of private and public monies. 9 I Schnabel and H S Shin, “Money and trust: lessons from the 1620s for money in the digital age”, BIS Working Papers, no 698, February 2018. 10 See G Dwyer, “Wildcat banking, banking panics, and free banking in the United States”, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Economic Review, vol 81, nos 3–6, 1996; A Rolnick and W Weber, “New evidence of the free banking era”, The American Economic Review, vol 73, no 5, December 1983, pp 1080–91; and C Calomiris, “Banking crises yesterday and today”, Financial History Review, vol 17, no 1, 2010, pp 3–12. 11 See Bank of Mexico, “La SRE entregó al Banco de México un acervo de billetes de la época del porfiriato”, press release, 1 June 2015, www.banxico.org.mx/informacion-para-la-prensa/comunicados/billetes-y-monedas/billetes/%7B3A41E6F8-FBD8-2FA7-DA0B-66FCCE46430A%7D.pdf. The unhappy experience with private forms of money raises deep questions about whether the proliferation of cryptocurrencies is desirable or sustainable. Even if the supply of one type of cryptocurrency is limited, the mushrooming of so many of them means that the total supply of all forms of cryptocurrency is unlimited. Added to this is the practice of “forking”, where an offshoot of an existing cryptocurrency can be conjured up from thin air. Given the experience with currency debasement that has peppered history, the proliferation of such private monies should give everyone pause for thought. I will return to this shortly. We have learned over the centuries that money as a social institution requires a solution to the problem of a lack of trust.12 The central banks that often emerged in the wake of the private and public money collapses may not have looked like the ones we have today, but they all had some institutional backing. The forms of this backing for their issuance of money have differed over time and by country.13 Commodity money has often been the start. History shows that gold and other precious metals stored in the vault with governance (and physical) safeguards can provide some assurance. Commodity money is not the only or necessarily sufficient mechanism. Often it also required a city-, state- or nation-provided charter, as with the emergence of giro banks in many European countries. Later, the willingness of central banks to convert money for gold at a fixed price (the gold standard) was the mechanism. Currency boards, where local money is issued one-to-one with changes in foreign currency holdings, can also work to provide credibility. The tried, trusted and resilient modern way to provide confidence in public money is the independent central bank. This means legal safeguards and agreed goals, ie clear monetary policy objectives, operational, instrument and administrative independence, together with democratic accountability to ensure broad-based political support and legitimacy. While not fully immune from the temptation to cheat, central banks as an institution are hard to beat in terms of safeguarding society’s economic and political interest in a stable currency. Where do cryptocurrencies fit in? One could argue that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies’ attractiveness lies in an intelligent application of DLT. DLT provides a method to broadcast transactions publicly and pseudonymously in a way that achieves in principle ledger immutability.14 Who would have thought that having people guessing solutions to what was described to me by a techie as the mathematical equivalent of mega-sudokus would be a way to generate consensus among strangers around the world through a proof of work? Does it thus provide a novel solution to the problem of how to generate trust among people who do not know each other? If DLT provides the potential for a superledger, could bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies then substitute for some forms of money?15 We do not have the full answers, but at this time the answer, also in the light of historical experiences, is probably a sound no, for many reasons. In fact, we are seeing the type of cracks and cheating that brought down other private currencies starting to appear in the House of Bitcoin. As an institution, Bitcoin has some obvious flaws. 12 See M King, “The institutions of monetary policy”, speech at the American Economic Association Annual Meeting, San Diego, 4 January 2004. 13 See Giannini, op cit. 14 See Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures, op cit. 15 See N Kocherlakota, “Money is memory”, Journal of Economic Theory, vol 81, pp 232–51, 1998. In fact, he shows in a very stark setting that having a costless means to record the memory of all economic actors, both present and past, can do as much as money, and sometimes more. Conversely, money effectively functions as memory by providing an observable record of past transactions – that is, agents can tell whether a potential trader is running a current deficit or surplus with society by looking at the money balances that trader is carrying. The finding, however, is theoretical and not robust to slight changes in assumptions, including the risk of loss of data. Debasement. As I mentioned, we may be seeing the modern-day equivalent of clipping and culling. In Bitcoin, these take the form of forks, a type of spin-off in which developers clone Bitcoin’s software, release it with a new name and a new coin, after possibly adding a few new features or tinkering with the algorithms’ parameters. Often, the objective is to capitalise on the public’s familiarity with Bitcoin to make some serious money, at least virtually. Last year alone, 19 Bitcoin forks came out, including Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin Gold and Bitcoin Diamond. Forks can fork again, and many more could happen. After all, it just takes a bunch of smart programmers and a catchy name. As in the past, these modern-day clippings dilute the value of existing ones, to the extent such cryptocurrencies have any economic value at all. Trust. As the saying goes, trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair. Historical experiences suggest that these “assets” are probably not sustainable as money. Cryptocurrencies are not the liability of any individual or institution, or backed by any authority. Governance weaknesses, such as the concentration of their ownership, could make them even less trustworthy. Indeed, to use them often means resorting to an intermediary (for example, the bitcoin exchanges) to which one has to trust one’s money. More generally, they piggyback on the same institutional infrastructure that serves the overall financial system and on the trust that it provides. This reflects their challenge to establish their own trust in the face of cyber-attacks, loss of customers’ funds, limits on transferring funds and inadequate market integrity. Inefficiency. Novel technology is not the same as better technology or better economics. That is clearly the case with Bitcoin: while perhaps intended as an alternative payment system with no government involvement, it has become a combination of a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster. The volatility of bitcoin renders it a poor means of payment and a crazy way to store value. Very few people use it for payments or as a unit of account. In fact, at a major cryptocurrency conference the registration fee could not be paid with bitcoins because it was too costly and slow: only conventional money was accepted. To the extent they are used, bitcoins and their cousins seem more attractive to those who want to make transactions in the black or illegal economy, rather than everyday transactions. In a way, this should not be surprising, since individuals who massively evade taxes or launder money are the ones who are willing to live with cryptocurrencies’ extreme price volatility. In practice, central bank experiments show that DLT-based systems are very expensive to run and slower and much less efficient to operate than conventional payment and settlement systems. The electricity used in the process of mining bitcoins is staggering, estimated to be equal to the amount Singapore uses every day in electricity,16 making them socially wasteful and environmentally bad. Therefore, the current fascination with these cryptocurrencies seems to have more to do with a speculative mania than any use as a form of electronic payment, except for illegal activities. Accordingly, authorities are edging closer and closer to clamping down to contain the risks related to cryptocurrencies. There is a strong case for policy intervention. As now noted by many securities markets and regulatory and supervisory agencies, these assets can raise concerns related to consumer and investor protection. Appropriate authorities have a duty to educate and protect investors and consumers, and need to be prepared to act. Moreover, there are concerns related to tax evasion, money laundering and criminal finance. Authorities should welcome innovation. But they have a duty to make sure technological advances are not used to legitimise profits from illegal activities. 16 See Digiconomist, “Bitcoin energy consumption index”, digiconomist.net/bitcoin-energy-consumption. What role for the central bank? Central banks, acting by themselves and/or in coordination with other financial authorities like bank regulators and supervisors, ministries of finance, tax agencies and financial intelligence units, may also need to act, given their roles in providing money services and safeguarding money’s real value. Working with commercial banks, authorities have a part to play in policing the digital frontier. Commercial banks are on the front line since they are the ones settling trades, providing real liquidity, keeping exchanges going and interacting with customers. It is alarming that some banks have advertised “bitcoin ATMs” where you can buy and sell bitcoins. Authorities need to ensure commercial banks do not facilitate unscrupulous behaviours. Central banks need to safeguard payment systems. To date, Bitcoin is not functional as a means of payment, but it relies on the oxygen provided by the connection to standard means of payments and trading apps that link users to conventional bank accounts. If the only “business case” is use for illicit or illegal transactions, central banks cannot allow such tokens to rely on much of the same institutional infrastructure that serves the overall financial system and freeload on the trust that it provides. Authorities should apply the principle that the Basel Process has adhered to for years: to provide a level playing field to all participants in financial markets (banks and non-banks alike), while at the same time fostering innovative, secure and competitive markets. In this context, this means, among other things, ensuring that the same high standards that money transfer and payment service providers have to meet are also met by Bitcoin-type exchanges. It also means ensuring that legitimate banking and payment services are only offered to those exchanges and products that meet these high standards. Financial authorities may also have a case to intervene to ensure financial stability. To date, many judge that, given cryptocurrencies’ small size and limited interconnectedness, concerns about them do not rise to a systemic level. But if authorities do not act pre-emptively, cryptocurrencies could become more interconnected with the main financial system and become a threat to financial stability. Most importantly, the meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies should not make us forget the important role central banks play as stewards of public trust. Private digital tokens masquerading as currencies must not subvert this trust. As history has shown, there simply is no substitute. Still, central banks are embracing new technologies as appropriate. Many new developments can help. For example, fintech and “techfin” – which refers to established technology platforms venturing into financial services. These are changing financial service provision in many countries, most clearly in payments, and especially in some emerging market economies (for example, China and Kenya). While they introduce the possibility of non-bank financial institutions introducing money-type instruments, which raises a familiar set of regulatory questions, they do present scope for many gains. Conclusion In conclusion, while cryptocurrencies may pretend to be currencies, they fail the basic textbook definitions. Most would agree that they do not function as a unit of account. Their volatile valuations make them unsafe to rely on as a common means of payment and a stable store of value. They also defy lessons from theory and experiences. Most importantly, given their many fragilities, cryptocurrencies are unlikely to satisfy the requirement of trust to make them sustainable forms of money. While new technologies have the potential to improve our lives, this is not invariably the case. Thus, central banks must be prepared to intervene if needed. After all, cryptocurrencies piggyback on the institutional infrastructure that serves the wider financial system, gaining a semblance of legitimacy from their links to it. This clearly falls under central banks’ area of responsibility. The buck stops here. But the buck also starts here. Credible money will continue to arise from central bank decisions, taken in the light of day and in the public interest. In particular, central banks and financial authorities should pay special attention to two aspects. First, to the ties linking cryptocurrencies to real currencies, to ensure that the relationship is not parasitic. And second, to the level playing field principle. This means “same risk, same regulation”. And no exceptions allowed.
What is FLO? FLO is a cryptocurrency that introduces a worldwide public record for storing information. FLO coins are needed to pay for storage capacity, and coins are issued to reward participants for their work to secure and distribute information. FLO is used to send payments and store data. This encourages building applications because anyone has the ability to write data into FLO. How does FLO work? FLO is a network similar to bitcoin where the open ledger is secured by miners competing to find proof-of-work. FLO has its own ledger, called the FLO blockchain, that can be thought of as a digital public space for storing information.
40 second block generation allows for fast confirmations, but not too fast to cause problems with network synchronisation.
No pre-mine, super-blocks or zero-blocks at the start.
Quick difficulty adjustment should limit insta-mining in the first hours after launch.
A floData can be added to any coin transaction. This can be used to attach a simple message or reference to a transaction, or for any other purpose decided by the coin receiver and sender. floData is currently limited to 1040 characters. Both the GUI and RPC interface have been extended to implement this feature.* The floData field can be seen under the "Transactions" tab when you double click on a a transaction ("Transaction information"). Also available from the terminal by doing "listtransactions".
Note that floData is stored in the block-chain and are therefore public. If you want to send private information in your floData you should encrypt the message using a method agreed upon by the sender and receiver.
floData has minimal impact on the size of the block chain due to small size (relative to the size of a block in the chain) and the fact that it does not take up any extra space when not used in a transaction. Transaction costs (calculated on transaction size) also offset the impact of slightly larger transactions when floData is included.
Block target spacing: 40 seconds Difficulty retargets every blocks Block reward: 100 FLO, halving every 800,000 blocks (about 1 year) Maximum coins: 160 million FLONetwork port: 7312RPC port: 7313
https://youtu.be/-r3s9-Qq5B8 LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 003 - Dodge Tank, Steele Alchemist, Gun Meister Online You can watch and listen to the show if you visit us at: https://litrpgpodcast.com/litrpg-audiobook-podcast-003 Dodge Tank: Crystal Shards Online Series, Book 1 (00:16) Score: 8.5 out of 10 https://amzn.to/2KaQ2qO Steele Alchemist A LitRPG Series (10:06) Score: 4 out of 10 https://amzn.to/2LLgrA5 Gun Meister Online: Adult and Uncensored (17:37) Score: 7.5 out of 10 https://amzn.to/2LN9L4K “Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with:” --------------- “Next is …” Dodge Tank Crystal Shards Online Series, Book 1 Author: Rick Scott Narrator(s): Eric Michael Summerer Audiobook Length: 10 hrs and 18 mins This book needs a theme song. Given an existing one, I would pick the Cowboy Bebop theme as it is as frantic and frenetic as this book, and sounds great. Everything about this book is tinged with anime, just look at the cover, take away the title and you might think that was a Toonami program. Ryan could be about to throw down with Inuyasha or Naruto. The internal fighting feels the same way, and I am not saying this in a negative way. Anime either works really well, or it fizzles out spectacularly. This book works. But it shouldn't. I don't do spoilers, but nothing I am going to say won't be revealed in less than five minutes into the book. This book lays on the old LITRPG tropes like it was making a sandwich. Ryan/Reese, the protagonist, lives in poverty and only his gaming keeps the family in food and shelter, but just barely. Trope #2 is the sick relative. Ryan's mother is dying of cancer. Trope #3, the player suffers from a physical ailment. Ryan has a gimpy leg, and this limits what he can do in both the real world and the virtual one. Trope #4 is the cute and supportive love interest. Ryan just so happens to work in the mines every day with a sexy mama, but he's too focused on bringing home the bread to cook some bacon. Trope #5, he has to win against the big boss to save his family. There are a few more, but you get the point. Yeah, Rick Scott almost made me put the book down, because I've seen all of these things a hundred times by this point. The book also has a few other things that I hate going for it. The first being game currency doubling as real world currency. I see it all the time, and in every book that I read with that as plot device I think that the writer is out of touch. Yes, Bitcoins are real, and there are several other types of Cryptocurrency, but I will say this, no matter how much gold I ever earned in WOW it never translated into my bank accepting that as honest to God dough. I really wish it had, but no. No. The other flaw, and one I particularly loathe, and will not later forgive, is the super leveling that happens. Ryan literally levels roughly 100 times in a matter of days (if you count all the previous classes he had to take before getting to Ninja); and he does this mostly as a solo player. Now I totally get that this is a plot device to get him where he needs to be, but the game would be pretty boring if it took you no time to Max level. I get where he was going, but he could have done the same thing with lower levels. The part that really peeved me about this is that several characters explicitly say that they cannot and will not help him power level, and then he does it anyway. So, I have just listed a boatload of issues I had with this book, and yet you look at the Stars above and think I am being inconsistent. Well, let me just say that while the tropes are the tropes you forgive each one a little at a time. Ryan is trying to become a dodge tank, that is a person who accrues aggro, but doesn't get hit. He has a few devastating attacks, but the ninja class is designed to gradually wear an opponent down. The book, for me at least, took off when Ryan fought Bathsheba the giant cat. Up until that point the wheels were spinning but had no traction. After that point the car had hit the ground running and was hauling arse like it was on fire. Each trope got resolved or managed to actually have a purpose that fit well into the story as things moved forward. Best of all, the book derails the plans it laid out so carefully and takes you into new territory. Into a land that you were not expecting, but want to see more of. Now I will warn you that this book does, in fact, end on a MAJOR cliffhanger, so beware if you can't handle not knowing what comes next, and what is coming is like something out of the Matrix. I liked the concept and thought that even with the power leveling Ryan ends the book too weak for the place he is at, and that he needs to start leveling quickly. Eric Michael Summerer does a really nice job on the narration. There were one or two word snafus, but nothing that was unforgiveable. I enjoyed listening to him, and anticipate his tackling the next book soon. Sound quality was good, and he played each character with emotion and presence. While it took me a little while to get into this book it sank its claws into me, and has yet to let me go. I cannot wait to see what happens next. You won't either, so don't delay, become a dodge tank fan. Final Score: 8.5 with points shaved for the power leveling, and the make you want more ending. Final Score: Based on a scale of 1-10. With 1 being horrible, 5 being average, and 10 being perfect. ------------ “Next is…” Steele Alchemist A LitRPG Series Author: Deck Davis Narrator(s): Kevin Gisi Audiobook Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins Last week I reviewed Deck Davis's book, the Arcane Survivalist, and now I find myself doing the same for his other book. I wish I had read this book first, because I wouldn't have struggled so much to listen to the next one. Arcane Survivalist really left a bad taste in my mouth, and if I hadn't gotten these two books together I would have stopped after Survivalist. This book has a few more story issues than Survivalist, but the narration saves it. If I had to place a wager, I'd put money down that this was Davis' first novel. You can see him making the effort, and he does steer his way through the choppy waters, but he has some holes in his boat when he is done. If this is a first effort, it isn't bad. Not great, but not bad. I guess after reading Blademage Beastmaster, I have higher expectations. The problems I have here, aside from the story fluctuations is that this also becomes one long giant penis joke. Not funny ones at that. Also, the MC, Steele, is rude. I mean if someone in need of my help spoke to me like that they would go away empty handed. No one would ever just walk up to someone and start acting that way. Not unless they wanted socked in the jaw. I will say this, which is funny, I hated the title Blademage Beastmaster, but enjoyed the book. I loved the titles Arcane Survivlalist and Steele Alchemist, but did not enjoy them so much. Again, Davis can come up with some catchy titles. And my issues with these books may just be that they weren't polished, but were overwhelmed by potty humor and unlikeable characters. I'd like to think he is improving. With Alchemist I will say that Gisi almost manages to save the story. There is emotion and tension, and this is read as if it came from a person rather than a tree as in Arcane Survivalist. He manages to make this book bearable. At no point did I pray for it to end like I did Survivalist, and I didn't switch out to another book just to keep my head on straight, and I credit that to Kevin, whose narration was like some aloe vera on a sun burn. I won't say stay away from this book, it does have some redeeming qualities, and the narration takes it a long way. You might enjoy it, I just hope the bathroom humor gets erased or severely curtailed from here on out, because it really isn't funny. Final Score 4 out of 10, only because the narration really elevated this piece. ------------- “Next is…” Gun Meister Online: Adult and Uncensored Author: Noah Barnett Narrator(s): Annie Ellicott, Justin Thomas James, Jeff Hays Audiobook Length: 14 hrs and 13 mins I have to admit to have been waiting to listen to this book since it first came out. I'd heard a ton of positive things about it, and the premise seemed pretty cool. I was doubly excited that we got the Adult and Uncensored version as well. I don't see a need to tone things down, and in the day and age when Harem lit is popular and even MSE goes graphic I think it is fine to go grown up. After all, this is a book about people playing a game in which headshots are a common thing. I still would have liked to have heard the mature cut! I can't imagine what we are missing!! Next, how can I not comment on the narration? Barnett was a wise man, and went through Soundbooth Theater, and in this case got not one, but three narrators! Annie Ellicott, Justin Thomas James, and the ever amazing Jeff Hays all work their butts off, and bring you some of the best vocal readings I have ever heard! This book is like a reverse image of their usual work, as Hays generally reads the bulk of the story and Ellicott backs him up with the female voices. Here, however, Annie gets her gun, and takes the lead. Jeff does most of the male voices, and James locks and loads in as backup on one other voice. This is the triple threat of narration right here. Jeff is far and away my favorite narrator. I never fail to mention that, and Annie is coming up on my list as well. James does a great job, I just haven't heard enough of him to really dole out the praise he assuredly deserves. Hopefuly he'll solo a book and I can tell you just how incredible I know him to be. As it stands, the work he does is awesome. Anyhow, this combination is like alternating mortar shells and napalm on your ears. They won't know what hit them. Annie really pushes the story forward, and Jeff makes you believe he is the Meister we all want to be. I love hearing this talanted troupe working together, it really brings more to the table than your standard fare. Have I even mentioned Barnett's writing yet? Nope? Well, I should have. As a fledgling author this cat has really got it together. He knows how to pace a plot, and build tension. He adds humor in where it is needed ("I surrender"), and he doesn't hold back on the big story. There is a lot more going on here than a guy rotating in and out of death duel gun matches. He is also pretty creative with his gaming system. The players don't build up, but their weapons do. Their weapons are sentient, and require some love to keep them happy and tied to their owners. This is a creative world, and a unique game. He really has the ammo necessary to write a Gunventure like this. I like that it takes time for the protagonist to go from being a doofus to being a leader of men. The ragtag group that he ends up with are all interesting characters, and I found it humorous that out of all the people in the game there is at least one powder loading dude keeping things real with the old timey gun. I could totally see my father carrying a flintlock into the game, and using the tag of Hawkeye. The action scenes are not Michael Bay stupid, but more of the Die Hard first and second movie type. The big fights are brutal and fun, all three of them, and I must say that I was glad to have so much content. Anything over 7 or 8 hours of run time is a blessing. You want to know the best way I can tell you to get this book and read it? The simple fact that I really want a sequel ASAP. This book blows you off of your arse, and makes you peek around corners as you listen. You will feel the bullets zip by, and feel the shrapnel of ricochet's spatter your face. You will fall in love with Elva (sorry, audio book so not sure about the spelling), and wish you could just "holster" her one time. This is a frantic and frenetic story that locks and loads you in and never lets you up. You will be pinned down by cover fire, and have no chance of backup coming to save you. Only thing is, you won't want rescued. You will want to join in the fun, and deal out your own grievous head wounds. Final Score 7.5 for missing the target at the end needing about 2 hours trimmed off. This podcast is sponsored by Soundbooth Theater, makers of great audiobooks. http://www.soundbooththeater.com/ https://www.facebook.com/SoundBoothTheate You can follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/litrpgpodcast/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/LitRPGPodcast YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3-eBvpm-g7IkjfVktObGAA Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/geekbytespodcast Our Webpage: www.litrpgpodcast.com Other LitRPG facebook pages https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPGGroup/ https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPG.books https://www.facebook.com/groups/LitRPGsociety/ If you enjoy the podcast and want to support us you can also find all the other ways to support the podcast at www.litrpgpodcast.com/support
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