Bitcoin is back! But for how long?

Have you seen the price of Bitcoin lately? Since hitting its low in April, Bitcoin is up 80%. As Bitcoin’s popularity continues to grow, more and more companies are accepting Bitcoin as a form of currency. Companies including eBay, Paypal,, Tesla, and as of six days ago, the world’s largest satellite-TV provider, Dish Network are accepting Bitcoin. As more companies and countries recognize Bitcoin as an official form of currency, it may be likely that we will see Bitcoin’s popularity, and value, continue to increase.


Disclosure: Invest at Bitcoin at your own risk. Bitcoin’s price has been volatile and may continue to be volatile due to potential government regulations and other challenges. As quickly as Bitcoin goes up, it can (and has) gone down. Back in February 2014, Bitcoin crashed 80% in seconds. 

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Valentine’s Day: a $18.6 billion holiday

Teddy bears, chocolates, jewelry, and flowers – who would have guessed that these items would make up the majority of an $18.6 billion Valentine’s Day holiday? Valentine’s Day, whose origins are shrouded in mystery, is one of the most lucrative holidays in the year for retailers with more than $4 billion being spent on jewelry alone. Men will be responsible for approximately $12 billion of this, as they average twice as much as women shopping for this holiday.

“It’s a holiday with a lot of cash. It’s a lot of sales,” says Ron Friedman, who leads Marcum Consulting’s retail business. “Although, it’s pretty short-lived. The flowers die, the candy gets eaten up, and the lingerie gets destroyed in a couple minutes.”

Check out the infographics below to learn about consumer spending for Valentine’s Day including more details on how, where, and from whom money was spent for the holiday of love.

Valentine's Day, chocolate, flowers, jewelry, business

Credit: David Lada and Bob Mansfield, Forbes Staff; Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, IBIS and

candy, Flowers, Holidays, jewelry, Love, valentine's day, Money

Sources: SmartMoney | About Flowers | Greeting Card | NRF | Information provided by:


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From where did the dollar sign ($) originate?

Since the origin of the dollar is well documented and understood, one might expect the origin of the dollar sign would also be known. However, this is far from the case and over time, only more theories have been hypothesized. Unfortunately, each theory raises as much speculation as theories about UFOs or BigFoot.

 From “U.S.”

A popular theory referred to by the character Owen Kellogg in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” is that the dollar sign started off as a monogram of ‘US’, used on money bags issed by the United States Mint. Placing the U and the S on top of one another and removing the bottom curve of the U creates the historical double stroke dollar sign.

Origin of the US dollar sign, US currency

Superimposing the ‘U’ over the ‘S’ is a third theory.

The Spanish Peso

One of the more widely accepted theories is that the sign owes its origin to the Spanish peso. The peso was the first globally accepted currency and legal tender in the US until 1857. The abbreviation for peso was in the form of a large “P”, and the plural included a small “s” above it and to its right. In theory, this was simplified by retaining the upward stroke of the “P” and superimposing the “S” over it.

Origin of the US dollar sign, US currency, Spanish peso

The symbol for the spanish peso is one theory.

If the peso abbreviation is correct, then why is the dollar sign sometimes written with two vertical strokes? The accepted explanation has to do the use of the “Pillars of Hercules” which were engraved on one side of the Spanish peso. The pillars engraved on one side of the coin with the phrase Non Plus ultra meaning “nothing further beyond” (indicating all the land in the world had been discovered) written in a scroll that wrapped around the pillars. But when Christopher Columbus came to America, the engraving was changed to Plus Ultra meaning “further beyond”. Over time, instead of writing out peso or dollar, Americans created a symbol was made from the design on the coins that eventually turned into the dollar sign.

Origin of the US dollar sign, US currency, Spanish Peso

The design found on the spanish peso is another.


From The Word “Dollar” and the Dollar Sign $

The Portuguese Cifrão Theory

Even though Arabic numbers are used all over the world today, there are still differences in the way in which numbers are represented in different countries. In the English-speaking world a period is used to separate integral numbers from decimal fractions whereas in continental Europe the comma is used instead of the decimal point and either a period or a space is used for thousands and other groups of three digits. In the past the Spanish used a symbol called the calderon to separate the thousands, and the Portuguese used one called the cifrão. As the cifrão was also used to separate numeral expressions of different denominations and it consisted of the letter s with two vertical lines it has been suggested that it gave rise to the dollar symbol. (Über die Herkunft des Dollarzeichens, Christian Weyers, Zeitschrift für Semiotik, vol 13, no. 3-4, 1992).

The Hand Counted Paper Theory

The management of Em Letterpress, a firm based in New Bedford, Massachusetts, pointed out in May 2008 that the dollar sign is used in marking hand counted sheets of paper, e.g. 7$ would indicate seven sheets. Em Letterpress suggested that the most likely reason for that would be that a hastily scrawled ‘S’ would too closely resemble a numeral 5, so ‘SH’ was used, abbreviated over time to an imposed SH, and then the H’s crossbar eliminated resulting in the $ symbol but with a double vertical stroke. Paper money being counted in sheets could have used same symbol.

The Slavery Theory

There have been claims that the dollar symbol, $, is derived from the words for “slave” and “nail” in Spanish (or in Latin, according to one version of this theory that posits an earlier date for the invention of the symbol). The shackles worn by slaves could be locked by a nail which was passed through the rings or loops at the ends of the shackle and bent while it was still hot and malleable. The Spanish for slave is esclavo and for “nail” isclavo. Therefore the “S” with a nail, $, or S-clavo = esclavo or slave.

Slaves constituted a store of wealth and as a result the abbreviation for slaves that slave-owners used in their account books came to represent money.

This seems like the kind of explanation that would be popular with conspiracy theorists. It does not seem to be very popular in printed sources, at least not in English language ones, but I (Roy Davies) have seen it on the Internet and was also told it by someone who said he had heard it from a Latin-American economist and an American history professor.


There are still a handful of theories as to the origin of the dollar sign, but no conclusive evidence that confirms one theory over the other. Although the mystery continues, check out more theories about the origin of the dollar sign here:

The Word “Dollar” and the Dollar Sign $

Dollar Sign



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U.S. debt-to-GDP hits a 6-year low

While the U.S. national debt* continues to grow, there is another debt that has been reduced quite significantly: private-held (household) and corporate debt. According to FRED, America’s indebtedness has hit a 6-year low to 3.29x GDP.

Much of the debt that is disappearing rather rapidly originated during the collapse of the housing market, which caused this whole mess to begin with. The reduction of this debt shows that the economy showing resilient signs of improvement from the bottom-up. Let’s look at some charts:

Household Credit Market Debt/Outstanding/GDP:

U.S. household debt, private debt

Non-financial corporate debt/GDP:

Non-financial corporate debt/GDP

Financial sector debt/GDP:

Financial sector debt/GDP


*The U.S. national debt is the sum of all outstanding debt owed by the U.S. government. 2/3  is public debt, which is owed to the people, businesses and foreign governments who bought Treasury bills, notes, and bonds. This also includes debt held by individuals, corporations, the Federal Reserve System, and foreign/state/local governments. The rest is owed by the government to itself, and his held as Government Account securities. Most is owed to Social Security.

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Corporate profit at an all-time high, wages at an all-time low

The direction and philosophy of our policies is creating a few million nobles, and over 300 million serfs; the gap between the poor and the rich is growing exponentially. Looking at the charts below, it’s clear we shouldn’t be in a recession. Companies are sitting on record profits and not reinvesting it into their own people or the economy. Not every company is guilty, but those that aren’t are the exception, not the rule.

1. Corporate profit margins just hit an all-time high. Companies are making more per dollar of sales than they ever have before. Looks like the stimulus package worked.

2. Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low. One reason companies are so profitable is that they’re paying employees less than they ever have as a share of GDP. And that, in turn, is one reason the economy is so weak: Those “wages” are other companies’ revenue as the best way to stimulate the economy is to have a high volume of people spend money, not give tax breaks to the rich.

3. Fewer Americans are working than at any time in the past three decades. With the advancement of technology this trend inevitable. From warehouses that automatically ship packages, to advancements in everyday software that reduce a company’s reliance on workers, companies are hiring less which is another factor that increases their profitability.

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99 problems, and the banks are the biggest 1.

Protests have been occurring from corner to corner of Greece and Spain over austerity measures, and similar – yet less “violent” – protests have also been raging in America for over a year through the “99% movement.” All these people from different continents, cultures, and walks of life have one big problem and that is the banks.

The banks are what brought down the US economy to its knees, and this is the same for countries across the globe. Let’s put the indiscriminate spending that banks’ are guilty of on the shelf for a moment; the problem that people are have is that nothing is being done to prevent this from happening again. “Bailouts” are being provided, but the banks take all the money, and leave pennies for those hurting the most, and that’s the people. The banks do not reinvest in the economy, but instead pay off their debts. In the $500 billion Greece has received only $20 billion has been pumped back into the economy while creditors and banks have taken the remaining $480 billion to pay back creditors. How is this supposed to help out the economy? It doesn’t.

While critics defame the protesters around the world, accusing them of looking for handouts or not finding jobs – the truth is these people are doing the rest of us a big favor; they are stepping up to the thugs that think they are “too big to fail.”

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Why is U.S. money green?

  • The U.S. first starting printing currency in the mid 1800’s to help fund the civil war.
  • Since the technology for photographs was available at that time, currency had to be colored so it wouldn’t be counterfeited.
  • The U.S. government discovered a green dye that was hard to remove.
    • The dye was first added on the back of bills, and bills became known as “greenbacks”
  • In the 20th century, green dye was still the color of choice because it was inexpensive and was resistant to chemical and physical changes.
  • Today, U.S. currency has evolved to include additional colors and technology to help fight against counterfeit currency.
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Ex-Google exec to spend millions on iPhones for employees

That had to hurt. Marissa Mayer, the former Google executive and their 20th employee chose to give her new staff at Yahoo! iPhones instead of Google’s Android devices. As of June 2012, Yahoo! had 12,500 employees.

This wouldn’t have been as shocking if Mayer weren’t a 13-yr veteran of Google and hadn’t held key roles in Google Search, Google Images, Google News, Google Maps, Google Books, Google Product Search, Google Toolbar, iGoogle and Gmail. But with Android still in the process of being a unified platform like iOS, her decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Mayer herself uses an iPhone and according to Apple research, 25% of Android users were considering iPhones when Android platform first launched, and the #1 reason why they chose Android over the iPhone was to stay with current phone provider. Doesn’t speak well of Android.

Let’s be clear

1. Mayer could have probably saved the company millions by choosing Android devices, or even gotten them for free. But her decision to move iPhones is rational as Yahoo! and Google are to a certain degree, competitors.

2. The iPhone is a great decision. Approximately 80% of all iPhone users are on the latest iOS, compared to 4% of Android users. There may be more Android users out there, but not with the latest software.

3. Don’t expect Mayer to run a totalitarian regime. If some employees want to use Android devices, they will not be fired from the company. The strategy here is to get the company focused on a single platform, or in other words, a single direction. Over the last five years, Yahoo! has been a pulled in more directions than lions feasting on their kill.

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Sitting is Killing You – Mentally and Physically

You will want to read this standing up.

If you have a sedentary job or lifestyle, it is ruthlessly sucking away your vitality and unfortunately, the harm is both physical and mental.

As epidemiologist Steven Blair put it, “those sitting more were substantially more likely to die”.

Blair, a professor of public health at the University of South Carolina who has spent 40 years investigating physical activity headed a study that observed the risk of death from heart disease for adult men. He calculated how much time the men spent sitting — in their cars, at their desks, in front of the TV.

How bad is sitting? The short answer: really bad. As in increasing your susceptibility to certain types of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity in addition to lowering your life expectancy kind of bad. Apologies for the pain I’ve caused as you are likely reading this sitting.

According to a 2011 study involving “Magic Underwear“, which recorded every physical movement of case study participants, their “muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse” while seated. In other words, calorie-burning rate drops 33% immediately to about one per minute, and insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, which increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes as does the risk of being obese. Enzymes responsible for “vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream,” plummet, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall. After just one day of being sedentary, participants had a 40% reduction in ability to uptake glucose.

Other studies suggest a link between inactivity and decreased productivity/depression for adults and kids. Children who are less sedentary have been found to have better academic scores and higher self-esteem and adults who walk more are more likely to have a better memory.

So what can you do to better your health, even if you have a job that requires you to sit? Subscribe on Facebook and Twitter to be the first to know when Part 2 of “Sitting is Killing You” is available.



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