Friday, December 1, 2017

Double Down on Bitcoin

Recently I was discussing Bitcoin's growth with some family members, each of whom have at least some vested interest in the cryptocurrency. It was pointed out that as of the date of the discussion, Bitcoin had doubled in value 5 times in a little over 2 years. The question was posed as to when (or if) it would double again. We each made our guesses and second guessed as well. We've yet to know who guessed best.

But I started wondering about how often Bitcoin actually has doubled. I didn't go back all the way to the first recorded price on an exchange, although that might be interesting to try. Instead I chose a date around the time I first heard of Bitcoin which was in September of 2012. I got my dates and prices from

On September 1st 2012, bitcoin was selling for 9.99.  By the time I actually bought some in April of 2013, it had doubled 3 times and was selling for more than $80. It continued to double 3 more times in 2013, passing $640 on Nov 18. Prices continued to rise that November, but fell off before crossing the $1280 hurdle. It took over 3 years before it doubled again on April 26, 2017. Since then it has doubled 3 more times when it crossed $10240 in November of 2017.

So that's 3 doubles between when I heard of Bitcoin and when I bought some, 3 more doubles from when I bought it through the end of that year, 3 years until it doubled again, and 3 more doubles from then until now. I've done some calculations based on my Bitcoin holdings and believe that I would be willing to cash it in if it doubles 3 more times.

Seems like something almost divine about the number 3. 😇

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Here's a report on our recent trip to Shanghai. This time only 3 weeks ex post facto.

Day 1 Nov 3
We always leave early for the airport. You never know if there will be unexpected traffic, trouble parking, or other unpreventable delays. Then there are also the preventable delays that sometimes happen anyway. We've experienced a few of those as well. This trip we arrived early with plenty of spare time. During the check in process, we had to show our China entry visas. That's when we discovered that one of the visas was affixed to an old passport that recently expired and was replaced. A visa attached to an old passport is still valid, but the old passport was at home, not with us. The agent said she could put us on the following day's flight, but we had hotel and tour deposits we would lose if we arrived a day late for our already short visit. For a few panicked minutes we debated if there was time to go back for the old passport and decided to try. I stayed at the airport while Janet drove home for the document. She shrewdly enlisted our grandson Austin to go to our house and find the passport, after which he drove it to a meeting point near the tollway exit. Janet made the turnaround and got back to the airport as fast as she safely could. She notified me when she was parked and the kind ticket agent began the check in process, completing it barely minutes before the cutoff. We made it through security and arrived at the gate halfway into boarding. We were relieved to be in our seats. The rest of the flight was uneventful but long.

We landed in Shanghai and got smoothly through immigration and customs. It was comforting to find our late checked bag made it to China with us. A Shangri-La hotel representative met us in the arrivals area and took us to the car. It was a very comfortable black sedan car. The ride to the hotel took about 45 minutes. We checked in to our room and found it had a nice view of the Oriental Pearl Tower. We went to the club lounge for drinks and dinner then returned to the room to turn in early.

Day 1 Pictures
(click for a larger view)
Room at the Shangri-La



Oriental Pearl Tower from hotel room window

Shanghai World Financial Center and Jin Mao Tower

Illuminated building from hotel window

Evening Pearl Tower from hotel

Snacks in the Horizon Club

Horizon Club

Horizon Club fruits

Day 2 Nov 5
We slept well in a comfortable bed. Around 6:45 we woke up and got ready to go to breakfast. Our table was by a window and had a nice view of the Bund. After breakfast we returned to our room until it was time to meet our tour guide in the lobby.

Our first tour stop was the Jing’an temple. It is an ancient Buddhist temple situated in the middle of a busy commercial district. The temple has 4 Buddhas, one on each of the 4 sides with a large courtyard in the center. Worshippers in the courtyard buy incense sticks and bow 3 times in each direction with the lit incense held between their palms. Then they toss the sticks into an incense burner.  We walked through the courtyard and then visited each of the Buddhas. Our guide Ruby told us the story of each of the Buddhas. We also saw the huge temple drum and bell.

Our driver picked us up near the temple and drove us to the old French Concession area. We walked around this neighborhood that once was occupied by affluent families in houses that had a stone rectangular arch at the entrance, known as stone gate houses. These houses eventually came to be occupied by multiple families that lived there in poor conditions. Now most of the stone gate houses are gone and the area has been redeveloped into a restaurant and shopping district.

Next we drove to the Bird and Flower market and walked the aisles between the many vendors of birds, flowers, fish, and most of all crickets. You can buy a large cricket in a jar to take home filling your house a peaceful(?) chirping sound. Of interest were the several cats that were perched at some of the vendor booths as if they were guarding the wares.

From the bird market we took a short walk through the Yuyuan Bazaar with many intersecting streets of shops and street food vendors and came to the entrance of the Yu Garden.

Yu Garden is a classic Chinese garden with water, plants, buildings, covered walkways, and rock formations. We walked all around the garden and enjoyed its beauty while our guide pointed out specific items of interest like the dragon wall and the jade stone rock.

After Yu Garden we walked through Shanghai Chinatown and did some shopping. Janet found a nice china teacup and I bought 2 hats. Our driver picked us up in Chinatown and took us to the Bund where we walked along the river promenade and had nice views of the old western style buildings on one side of the river and the futuristic skyscrapers across the river in Pudong. Then we got back in the car to ride to the other side of the river where we said goodbye to our driver near the Oriental Pearl Tower. Our guide took us on the short walk from there back to our hotel.

It was mid afternoon when we got back so we decided to head out on our own to see if we could visit the Pearl Tower observation floor. We found there was a 2 hour wait to visit the tower so instead we walked to the Shanghai World Financial Center building and visited the observation floors there. The SWFC building has a rectangular hole at the top, and the highest observation floor has a glass floor that looks down through the hole. We had some nice panoramic views of Shanghai and enjoyed the sunset from the top. After having a fun picture taken in a green screen booth, we made our way down and back to the hotel in time for drinks and dinner in the club lounge. We adjusted a little more to the time change and so were able to stay awake a bit longer.

Day 2 Pictures
Huangpu River and The Bund

Horizon Club

Breakfast fruits

Jing'An Temple

Jing'An Temple Court

Jing'An Temple

French Concession Area
French Concession Area

Flower and Bird Market

Live fish vendor. Can you find the cat?

Flower and bird market
Crickets in the flower and bird market

YuYuan Bazaar

YuYuan Bazaar

Yu Garden Entrance

Yu Garden

Dragon Wall in Yu Garden

Yu Garden

Shangri-La Hotel

Bund Promenade
Pudong Skyscrapers

Shanghai Disney Store

Left to right:
Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai Tower, Jin Mao Tower

View from top of Shanghai World Financial Center

Shanghai Chinatown, (or maybe just town?)

Oriental Pearl TV Tower

Day 3 Nov 6
I got up early (5:30) and showered while Janet made her chai tea. The day started out clear and we enjoyed watching the sunrise from our hotel window. We had breakfast in the club again at a nice window table, then returned to the room to get ready for the day's tour.

We met Ruby in the lobby and got into the car for the 1 hour ride to Zhujiajiao Watertown. Traffic wasn’t too bad but our driver was constantly weaving between the left and right lanes to pass slower traffic. We arrived at the Watertown and walked around with our guide Ruby. The watertown has a network of canals between groups of buildings with stone footbridges occasionally giving access to the opposite side. Ruby mentioned a few facts about the watertown history but mainly just guided us along the narrow streets bordered on both sides by shops. There were many shops offering food items ranging from something called Stinky Tofu, to what looked like smoked pigs feet. I sampled a crunchy rice snack that tasted like Rice Krispies. We did some shopping in the Watertown since that seemed to be the main purpose for being there other than taking pictures of the charming canals and buildings. After a couple of hours of walking around we returned to our car and driver and made the trip back to Shanghai. Traffic was heavier on the return trip and it took a little longer. We got dropped off at the hotel door this time and said goodbye to our driver Kola and guide Ruby. We stayed in the hotel room till a little after sunset, then walked to the ferry terminal a short way from the hotel. For 2 RMB (30¢) we rode a ferry to the other side of the river. We walked along the other side until we found the river cruise operator recommended by the concierge. We bought our tickets and stood in line waiting to board. There was a group of Chinese ladies in front of us and they asked if they could take pictures with Janet, so Janet posed for several photos and selfies with them.

We boarded the boat and grabbed a space along the railing on the top deck. We had a nice view of the Bund side  for the first half of the cruise and of the Pudong side on the return half. After the cruise we walked back to the ferry terminal and ferried back to the hotel side. Again a group of young Chinese girls wanted pictures with Janet. We walked back to the hotel and had dinner in the Yi Café.

Day 3 Pictures
Watertown Canal
Canal boat
Canal and buildings

Watertown buildings

Watertown bridge

Watertown bridge

Covered wooden bridge

Clever art

Our tour guide, Ruby

Watertown shopping street
Stone footbridge
Shanghai Tower from ferry

Huangpu river cruise: The Bund
River Cruise video: The Bund

River cruise illuminated buildings

River cruise: Pudong

River cruise: Our hotel - Shangri-La

River cruise boat

Janet's groupies

Day 4 Nov 7
We had breakfast in the Horizon club again. I tried the eggs Benedict. Janet's eggs were under cooked and they forgot to bring her crepes. Everything got corrected though. After breakfast we returned to the room to pack. We weren't leaving until 12:30 so there was plenty of time. About noon we checked out and had a hotel car drive us to the Shanghai Maglev Train station. The Maglev train is a high speed train that travels 300 km/h and gets to the airport in 8 minutes. It was an exciting ride. Walking through the airport we saw a child playing in front of a large augmented reality screen. After we checked our bags and got our boarding passes we went back to try it. We couldn't get it to work but another young boy came over and it worked for him.  We checked in for our flight and got through security with a couple of hiccups since we both forgot we had umbrellas in our carry on that were supposed to be removed for the X-ray. We went to the Star Alliance lounge to relax until boarding time then went to the gate. Take off occurred without delay even though it was foggy. It was another long flight home but our economy plus bulkhead seats allowed us adequate comfort.

Our impressions of Shanghai were that it is an interesting modern city with preserved references back to older times. We were happy to have booked a guided tour, but we felt comfortable enough there to strike out on our own. That was a contrast to our experience in Beijing. We did not experience the traffic problems of Beijing either. We feel like we experienced a fascinating fragment of what Shanghai has to offer and are glad we went. We would likely return if an opportune airfare presents itself.

Day 4 Pictures
Maglev train

Maglev Train

Airport augmented reality game

Airport augmented reality