The Virtual Currency Revolution and how to get free Bitcoins (and what that actually means)

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Monday, 02 January 2017.

For the past two months, I have been diligently clicking my time away, trying to get my hands on Bitcoins, with the hope, and promise, of getting Bitcoins for free.

Please note: Now there should be an immediate caution here, that even though you get “free Bitcoins”, you actually only get the smallest fraction of a Bitcoin for free for your efforts of clicking and view websites. You also have to first gather a minimum amount, which differs from each website, before you can withdraw them to your Bitcoin wallet.

You might have heard of this mysterious internet phenomenon called Bitcoins, and its various cryptocurrency counterparts, and have seen how it has gained a very strong value against the dollar over the last few years (at the time of writing is was $1005 for 1 Bitcoin). The appeal in Bitcoins that is not regulated by any central government or authority, and can be owned and traded anonymously. The only time that you would need to pay taxes on your Bitcoins is when you exchange it for you local currency into your bank account and then it is up to you to declare any profit made through your investment. The value of Bitcoins, however, remain volatile and can go up or down quite quickly but I have no actual idea how its value is determined.

Now, this might sound like a dream offer, getting free Bitcoins for viewing websites for a short amount of time or visiting an advert invested website that allows you to claim new Bitcoins after a set amount of time, which are called faucet sites, and the fact is that you do get paid in Bitcoins, but you get paid fraction of a Bitcoin, called Satoshis.

A Satoshi is the smallest fraction of a Bitcoin that can currently be sent: 0.00000001 BTC, that is, a hundredth of a millionth BTC. In the future, however, the protocol may be updated to allow further subdivisions, should they be needed.

In general, for each website you visit, at a pay per click site, or the amount of time you wait between claiming your free Bitcoins, at a faucet site), which is between 5 minutes to 60 minutes, you can get around 100 to 800 Satoshis. Now, if you do the math then you will see it will actually take you years before have 1 complete Bitcoin. This should however not stop you from getting your hand on this valuable commodity as there are ways to increase your Bitcoins in terms of interest in savings account or investments (which a lot of time turns out to be a scam so be warned).

Even if you only have a small amount of Satoshis you can still use that to do purchases at many online stores, including Shopify, Steam and a whole range of online and offline companies. Visit https://99bitcoins.com/who-accepts-bitcoins-payment-companies-stores-take-bitcoins/ for a more comprehensive list.)

Now, this could be seen as a complete waste of time, as you could be using this time to do something else constructive, or it could be seen as an investment (over a long time), or a means to do immediate purchases. If done right, it could work out if you get into a pattern of claiming free Bitcoins, which does not interfere too much with daily life. If done wrong, then it will be a waste of time and you can better spend it elsewhere.

To date, after two months of finding the best sites to get free Bitcoins, I have made about half a Bitcoin cent, that is 0,005 BTC. That alone will show you how long it will take to actually get one whole Bitcoin. I will probably not continue with this pursuit of the Coin much longer, or rather cut down on my daily claiming as it does take up a lot of my time, which I could be using elsewhere to make more money, or to learn something new and increase my skills, or spend that time writing or making music, the things I enjoy doing.

At the end of the post is a list of the better, if not best, Bitcoin Faucets and PPC (Pay Per Click) sites where you can claim free Bitcoins. I have used all of them and they have paid out without any issues. Each link has an ID pointing to my account and if you sign up then you become an affiliate of mine, which gives me bonuses each time you claim, so you help me out in that way.

Check it out, even if just to satisfy your curiosity.

Digital, or virtual, currency is definitely the future of the global economy. Sooner or later we will be using, if not Bitcoin, but an equivalent. Galactic Credits has a nice ring to it.

Starr

p.s. You will need a Bitcoin Wallet to store your newly acquired Bitcoins. Here are three popular online wallets:

Free Bitcoin faucets and PPC sites:

The last four sites in the list above work together in a network, adding your claims to a combined pool, resulting in much higher withdraws.

Life, Time, and The Future

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Sunday, 01 January 2017.

It’s been a while.

Since my last blog entry, I went back to Japan again, during late November and early December, and spent a most wonderful 3 weeks in Tokyo and Beppu. Throughout the time leading up to that trip, I had been constantly busy, either with work or with travelling around the Western Cape province of South Africa, but mostly I was busy with work, all the while being on an adventure with my girl.

Earlier in the year, I left my job of 13 years and embarked on a 3-month journey through Japan, a country which I always wanted to visit but never thought I really would be able to. I had co-founded the company but felt it was time for me to move on and to explore the many other parts of life that was out there. I was fortunate enough to have enough money saved for the trip, and for the few months that followed that but, eventually, I would have to start working again, the dread of any traveller.

Again, I am fortunate enough to be in a profession that allows me to work remotely, that of a programmer, and I have been freelancing ever since I left the company. Although being a freelancer is great, giving you freedom of movement and compensation at a higher rate, you end up having to do all the admin, always being on the lookout for the next job, and then, when all is done, to get your clients to actually pay you.

I was also very fortunate to meet a wonderful girl in Japan, due to many factors, which I would call destiny. But destiny holds many twists and turns and during our last trip to Japan, after she joined me in South Africa for 3 months, we decided that it would be better for her to remain in Japan while I returned to South Africa to secure more work and to devise our plans for the future. It was really hard for me to leave her behind but I did so with the hope and determination that we will be together again.

What I discovered during the last year was that most of the plans that we make do not work out exactly as we planned, or they often do not work out at all. It is then easy for us to get despondent and depressed and not to plan anything or care for anything anymore, but without hope, without plans for a good future, what is the point and our reason for living?

Therefore, I will not stop hoping, dreaming and planning ahead because plans do often work out and dreams do sometimes come true, and we never know if the next time will be that time when it happens if we do not try again this time.

May you continue, too, on your quest and do not grow weary when you get defeated but stand up, have faith in love, trust in God, and move on forward into the future, into the future with your head high and your dreams true.

Starr

There And Back Again

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Saturday, 10 September 2016.

How do you go back to your normal way of life, your everyday and ordinary, after having had an adventure that is completely out of the ordinary, such as I had in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan?

I know that many people have had the experience of travelling to another country, especially to a far-off country, and lived there, for however a short while, in a place that is different to their own. Some have travelled to multiple countries, and this even before they reached their 20s. Perhaps my experience is a bit different to others’ because my opportunity to travel, to a distant country, only came when I was 34. (The only other country that I had previously been to, besides my own, was Mozambique, for a two-week holiday, which is the northeastern neighbour of South Africa.)

I can now actually relate to how Bilbo Baggins must have felt, in Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, and for that fact Frodo Baggins too, when he returned to the Shire after having been on a journey of extraordinary proportions. An adventure that defined their lives. Every part of the journey was unknown to them and both were changed in fundamental ways, although who they were, their beliefs and character, and what they were able to do, their skills, ways, and abilities, played a great part in the success of the journey.

Stepping out of what is thought of as your fate, the cards that you have been dealt in life, your daily routine, and in my case for a period of four months, can have a dramatic and life-changing  effect on someone. Many have said that to travel changes your perspective on things, it changes how you see the world because suddenly the massive scale of the world, and its many unique places and cultures, becomes real in your life and you feel that you really are part of the greater story of mankind. You get exposed to new ways of life, languages and customs, which are sometimes completely unfamiliar to you, even though you may have seen and heard them countless times before in movies or on the internet, experiencing something in the physical can in no way be replaced by the virtual. The same goes for the spiritual, and this pertains to our earthly  stay, the spiritual and physical go hand in hand, you cannot have the one without the other, while in our bodies we remain.

So, what now you ask?

My extraordinary journey has come to an end. Like Bilbo, I have been there and, now, I am back again.

Is it back to the ordinary for me?

Before I left for Japan, I had the increasing need to change something in my life, my work situation, and what I did each day, my routine so to say. It felt as if I was walking around in circles, instead of moving forward, towards to a certain point or goal. This was especially the case with how I felt about my job. I therefore, made sure that my previous routine, or the direction that I was moving in in my life, came to an end as my journey to Japan started. Although, the past never truly leaves us and certain things do not end that easily, for the roots of some things, old things, go deep and it takes a while before it can be fully removed.

The whole trip was liberating in many ways, having left my job of 13 years, at the company that I co-founded. I felt a great sense of freedom in letting go of it, which was at times a great joy and at other times a great burden. I also ended the contract at the apartment I was renting. Having packed and stored my meager collection of worldly possessions at my parents’ house, which I was thankful for, I was truly leaving everything behind. Apart for my family back home, and my friends too, I could have stayed in Japan without anything else holding me back, except for not having a residency visa of course.

My next mission is, or was, to get into a working mindset again, which I have now attained. Four months of not working can take its toll on you, both financially and also in finding the motivation to sit down in one spot for a few hours a day and to work on other people’s wants and needs, and  in many cases fixing their problems, and not just laze around or travel in search of new things and places  each day. This will be followed by getting a more permanent dwelling while securing contracts and making business connections, and then, once my work setup is functional and flowing, I can travel to any country and settle there for a while, whilst still continuing with my work, accompanied by my lovely girlfriend Mai. Apart from all of that, I still have new music to release, a book to publish and a novel to complete.

Life has many choices, there are many roads to take, which one we choose is up to us, best we get on the right one unless we find regret in the end. There are countless things to keep us busy on the way, and as you can see in my case there are many, now how can anyone ever be bored?

That is the plan. That is the dream. I now have a goal. I know I have the means. With God’s help, and if it is in His will for me, I can do all these things.

Time waits for no one. So best to get at it, right away!

– Starr

Japan – At Journey’s End

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Wednesday, 22 June 2016.

Three days into my hike along the Nakasendo Way, from Kyoto to Tokyo, by way of the Shiga, Gifu, Nagano, and Saitama prefectures, the journey ended. The reasons for this sudden ending of my trek was manifold, with various factors all aiding in the decision to change my course and travel in another direction, back to a place I had visited before, back to Beppu. But before that happened…

But before that happened, the time had finally come for me to start my much-anticipated 17-day hike through forests and ancient post-towns, over mountains and busy highways, along the road once known as the Nakasendo Way, used during the 17th and 18th century Edo period. On the day of my planned departure, my preparation for the hike was still not to my liking and so I decided to stay in Kyoto for a day, arriving there from Kobe, to finalise my hiking plans and settle a few last minute details. With the help of the friendly staff at my guesthouse in Kyoto, Gojo Guesthouse, I shipped my laptop to Tokyo, to lessen the heavy load I was carrying around on my back. My backpack, however, was still too heavy, for a hike of around 530 kilometers, even after I removed a few more items, but it would have to do because everything else in my bag I still needed after the hike was over. And so, the reasons for my change in plans were manifold…

Firstly, following the Nakasendo was not that easy. Finding a map of the entire route proved difficult, especially one in English, and I ended up not finding one. Even the ever-helpful Internet did not help much in my search for a map. One website that did help was nakasendoway.com. On the website, I could at least find a map showing the general route, with descriptions of each area and their historical significance. This website would have been more than adequate if I had a constant internet connection, but I did not and instead had to print out the overview map and the zoomed out maps of each of the seven sections covered on the website. Due to these factors, I would say I roughly followed the Nakasendo Way, not always knowing if I was actually still on the route.

Secondly, my bag was just too heavy. This was mainly due to the fact that I was carrying the same backpack that I had been using for my three-month stay in Japan, and there was just too much unnecessary clothing for a hike of this kind. My plan was to walk about 32 kilometers a day, and with a pack as heavy as mine, it would be near impossible to keep up such a high level of walking. During the hike, I was drained each night, my muscles stiff and tired, especially my right leg which had been broken and damaged in a motorcycle accident a few years earlier, and I barely made my needed quota of travelling per day.

This brings me to another point, which comes up in third place, accommodation was not easy to find. In case I needed to sleep outside, I purchased a waterproof sleeping bag in Kobe, because of June being the rainy season in Japan, and boy does it rain, but finding a decent place to pitch down for the night was not that forthcoming. This was a mistake on my side, for not doing adequate planning on the hike beforehand, not researching what the weather would be like. I thought it would be easy to wing it on the way, but not so, it would only be possible if I had more time and less of a daily distance to cover. I ended sleeping in Internet Clubs, once or twice, which was not that bad at all, although a little cramped, it was dry and had free drinks, ice cream, a charge point for my phone, and much-needed internet access, to orientate myself and plot the next day’s hike.

Lastly, doing the route by bicycle would have been a better idea for me, especially on the route that I followed, which was mostly along highways. At the end of day one, I tried buying a cheap “old women’s” bike but, for an unknown reason, I could not complete the deal, mostly due to the lack of me understanding any Japanese, apart from very basic words and phrases.

So with a decent map, or a constant internet connection, a lighter backpack, and/or a bicycle, this hike would, not only have been successful but also, have been much more enjoyable, although I still enjoyed the challenge of walking and seeing the every day, lesser-travelled, parts of Japan. Doing the hike in April or May would be a major plus point for anyone thinking of hiking along the Nakasendo because the weather would be better suited for such a trek.

Oh, I forgot to mention another, rather important, journey-defining reason for changing my plans mid-point and returning to Beppu instead. The reason is clear, it was a girl, Mai, the girl I met in Beppu a month earlier. I have spent the last nine days in Beppu, visiting my girl, and it has been the best decision I could have made. In the future I may, or may not, get another opportunity to hike the Nakasendo again, and if not then the short time I had doing the hike was good enough for me, and the rest of the time I spent in Japan by far makes up for it in many ways, but love and a deeper connection with another is what lasts, it is eternal, when you make the choice and choose to believe, in love, in life, in experiencing it together, with another, as one.

In a few days I will leave for Tokyo, where my journey started, and there I will spend my last four days in Japan. I cannot fully express in words what this trip has meant to me and how much I am changed and inspired by it, my future works will surely be marked and influenced by it, but what I can say is that I am blessed to be alive, and to have been alive in Japan and I thank God for this gift, with my utmost I give praise, and though this journey will come to an end, a new journey has already begun.

Starr

Japan – Good Friends Along The Way

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Sunday, 05 June 2016.

Leaving Hiroshima was not easy.

For one, its tragic past was an ever-present reminder of the frailty of life and the regrettable folly of man. Yet the city, as with all of the cities I have encountered in Japan, holds a festive mood and a mutual joy of coming together with others, with progress, sustenance, and renewal being a common theme amongst them all.

For another, I had to leave Mai’s side, the girl I met in Beppu, which I so quickly, and effortlessly, became accustomed to. This is not common for me, I do not easily express my affection, in a physical manner, to someone who I am attracted to. Our interactions were natural and unforced, enjoying each others’ company and mutual embrace as if we were long-time friends. But alas, we had to part ways again. I am, however, ever-hopeful of the future and do not take lightly our encountered, and know I shall see her again.

As with the other places I have visited in Japan, I have made many good friends along the way, even though we only met for a short time, and I still keep in contact with some of them, because connections like these, of the heart and the mind, I truly cherish.

My plans had changed slightly in Hiroshima, staying an extra two days, for very good reasons, which means I will only be staying in Kobe for one day instead of two. Apart from that, I am still following my original route and plan, although my hike along the Nakasendo Way is still not adequately planned, for good reasons again I can assure you. Apart from my lack of planning, there is another concern I have about my upcoming trek to Tokyo and that is my back. I have been doing some exercise as I have been travelling, mostly pushups and Capoeira sequences, but in Hiroshima, even before that, I did not warm up properly and now the muscles in my back are in some serious pain, whenever I move my back in a certain way. I also think my heavy backpack that may have played a large part in this. Some rest and a few good stretching sessions will hopefully do the trick before I set off on my most epic of hikes.

And so, I have four days to spend in the Kansai region, first in northern Kyoto, at Amanohashidate, and then one day in Kyoto and one in Kobe. In Kobe, I want to try some Kobe Beef, if it is not too overwhelmingly expensive, and, if I do so, I am sure to write about it in my next post.

Until then.

Starr

Japan – Honshu to Shikoku to Kyushu to Honshu, and Other Observations In-between – Part 1

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Sunday, 29 May 2016.

It is a rainy Sunday morning, in Nagasaki, and I am on a bus, warm and dry, heading to Fukuoka, my final stopover on the island of Kyushu. In three days time, I will once again be back in Honshu, the biggest of the four main islands of Japan, where another infamous city, Hiroshima, awaits me.

But I am getting ahead of myself. It has been a while since I last wrote about my travels through Japan. As you can imagine, I have been busy travelling, of course, which takes up a lot of time. But as I travel, I make notes about my experiences and observations, with the hope of compiling them into a letter format, when the journey affords me a moment’s pause, and which you are witnessing the creation of as we speak.

My cycling trip from Onomichi, in Honshu, to Shikoku, the smallest of the four main islands, was a wonderful experience, taking me about 6 hours to cover the 75kms from one end to the other. The bridges across each of the small islands along the way are a unique and magnificent sight to behold. The cycling is not at all strenuous, with the only difficult parts being the steeper climbs up to the bridges.

Arriving in Matsuyama, in the Ehime prefecture of Shikoku, I stayed at a well-run guesthouse, called Sen Guesthouse, in the famous Dogo Spa area. Exploring the castle and surrounding area, and a music festival later, I departed Shikoku again, taking a ferry to the bigger island of Kyushu, and to the city of Beppu.

In Beppu, I met a girl. She was the first person I saw at the guesthouse and, being too early for me to check-in, I settled down in the lounge area and had my lunch. We had a brief chat, as she too was busy in the kitchen making something to eat. She mentioned that she worked there. Later we would talk some more, and even later, the following day, we ended up cycling together in search of a beach nearby, it was at sunset, followed by dinner, a visit to an onsen, and a midnight stroll along the empty arcades and streets of Beppu.

Beppu is an onsen paradise and is well known for this across Japan. It is possibly the place with the cheapest onsen that you can get, with some staying open 24 hours a day. Back at the guesthouse, I listened to an account by two Frenchmen who had hiked up a nearby mountain and found a “wild” onsen. It is literally a hot water pool that you can enjoy for free, and by yourself if you are lucky enough to be the only person who ventured out into the mountains that day.

As is the nature of travelling, I had to leave again. I left Beppu wondering what there may have been for me and the girl I had met if I had stayed for just a bit longer. But some questions, most of them, only find their answer later on in the story.

The less touristy, lesser travelled, prefecture of Miyazaki was my next waypoint. The accommodation I had booked was in the small town of Aoshima and, to my serendipitous surprise, I discovered it to be surf town. I really enjoyed, and was grateful for, being back in the ocean and riding some waves again, even if it was only on a flimsy bodyboard made for children with no flippers to help me on. After two days I moved further south, to Kagoshima.

Kagoshima, in southern Kyushu, is the popular gateway to Okinawa and the famed island of Yakushima, with its towering ancient forests and serene beauty, which was the inspiration behind the forests in Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke. Unfortunately, my plans, and the time I had set out for each leg of my journey, did not allow me to visit either of these islands, but I did get a chance to explore the much closer island of Sakurajima, one of the most active volcanos in the world.

I then took a ferry north to Amakusa island, which forms part of the Kumamoto prefecture. Amakusa is a laid-back city and not that much frequented by tourists, but has a fascinating history of Western influence, a famed and tragic Edo-period rebellion and the survival of Christians, under extreme persecution, who were later to be known as the Hidden Christians.

Nagasaki then came into my sight, by way of another ferry ride. My time spent there was both joyous and sad. Joyous because of the beauty of the city, nestled in-between the green mountains and large bay, ending in a port, which I did not expect of this city at all. I had actually no idea what to expect from Nagasaki but enjoyed my stay there. Sad because of what the people of the city had gone through during World War 2. Reading first-hand accounts of that wretched day, feeling their confusion and fear, seeing the photos and videos of the mass destructions of life, and standing at the hypocentre of where the bomb was dropped, left me feeling acutely empathic to the people of Nagasaki as they walked on by. To say the least, it was an emotional day.

And so my tour of Japan continues. What lays ahead only time, and the road tread, will reveal. And surely God in His infinite grace, mercy, and love is with me wherever the road may take me.

– Starr

p.s. In case you were wondering, as I am sure you have, I have been keeping in contact with the girl I met in Beppu and will be seeing her later today in Fukuoka. 🙂

Japan – A Familiar Place, Temples Abound, A Brief Stop and A Town By The Inland Sea

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Wednesday, 11 May 2016.

Back in Nara, the deer did indeed bite and also kick, which I happened to witness as a small boy was kicked to the ground as he was trying to feed a twig to a deer. I rushed over as the deer rose on its hind legs and kicked the boy right in the chest, him crying, and picked him up, carrying him over to his startled father. The boy was not hurt but the shock must have been enough to shatter his view on the cuteness of deer. Poor kid, I hope he turns out alright when grows up.

Following Nara, I spent four days in Osaka. On two of those days, I explored the city by bike and, during my explorations, I sensed a similarity to the city and that of my home city of Cape Town. The familiarity was there in the curve of the streets, the western influence in architecture and the laid-back attitude of its townsmen.

Kyoto, to the north of Osaka, was next on my route. Famous temples are found scattered around this former capital of Japan, with an old district of the Geisha, close to where I stayed, amidst narrow streets of ancient origin and street vendors and shops selling their local delicacies and souvenirs. I only had two days in Kyoto and could not fully appreciate the city and its past, although the Fushimi Inari Shrine with its multitude of torii gates winding up along the mountain was quite a sensory and historical experience, but I would be back in a few weeks time to discover more this renowned capital of old.

The esteemed castle city of Himeji quickly followed Kyoto, but only spending a day there I could only explore the magnificent castle itself before having to leave again the next day. Okayama was spent in a similar way, arriving there by local train, along with a fellow traveller, a Frenchman, who I had met in Himeji, and explored the renowned black castle, the only such coloured castle in all of Japan, before heading off again the next day on my journey towards the south of Japan.

The coastal town of Onomichi is my next stop, again only for a day, wherefrom I will cycle along the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido highway, connected by many small islands, to the smallest of the four main islands of Japan called Shikoku. I especially looked forward to this part of my journey, and besides it having rained for the last three days, the weather should be clear and I will have a sunny and rainless day of cycling across the Inland Sea of Japan.

– Starr