Dear Fellow Alabamians, You Need to Realize What the World Thinks of You

I wrote this a few weeks ago. I tried to submit it to AL.com, but after no response and reading this article, I thought it was worth trying to spread on my own:HuntsvilleAL-USSpaceandRocketCenter.jpg

[photo credit]

I will be the first one to defend my home state until the bitter end – a state full of culture, hidden culinary gems, and some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

As a Huntsville native, I was lucky enough to grow up in an innovative environment – focused on fostering new technologies, with the added bonus of the wonder that comes with being the rocket city. Which begs the question – what happened? How could a state so focused on innovation and progress all of the sudden decide to take 5 steps back?

When I picked up and moved to Liechtenstein – the 6th smallest country in the world – back in August, I could have guessed that my nickname would have become “Alabama.” But, in light of my home state apparently feeling a need to give the rest of the world something to talk about, this has morphed into “Alabama” + a laundry list of questions.

The most notable of these questions being related to Kay Ivey signing off on the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban, and only escalating with the sign off on the chemical castration bill. Politics aside, these bills don’t just represent a gross violation of human rights, they represent a direct affront to our country’s values – not to mention the fact that they are flat out unconstitutional.

Purposefully challenging Roe? Cruel and Unusual punishment? – Really? Is Alabama deliberately trying to live the novel “Brave New World”? Depriving a woman of her right to choose whether or not to have a child she might not be able to afford binds her to an unwritten caste system, limiting her potential for upward mobility in a state already stricken by poverty. Then, there is chemical castration targeting men, presenting an instance where the government is permanently altering your body without your consent. Further, the movement towards legalization of marijuana amid all of this could be likened to the dystopian novel’s provision of soma to the masses – dope us up enough that we are too passive to understand the rights we are losing.

Based on your personal political convictions you might feel that the abortion ban was justified and that movement towards legalization of marijuana is abhorrent, or you might have the inverse opinion. But I would like to leave you with this:

Sometimes it takes stepping out of the bubble in order to realize what is actually happening inside the bubble. Question everything, accept nothing, only then can you live free from the restraints of accepted truths. Travel – become not only an Alabamian, but that Alabamian that is able to dispel the stereotypes and teach the rest of the world about all the things there are to love about home.

 

 

10 Years of Bitcoin: A Movement Towards Rebellion and the Discovery of Uncharted Potential

As human beings go, those of us who run in the Crypto and Blockchain spaces tend to run far off the beaten path. We are ultimately entrepreneurs, wanderers, and risk takers, trying to figure things out along the way.

Yesterday, on Halloween, the Bitcoin Whitepaper turned 10 years old. 10 years ago, I was 15 years old, suffering through high school which can easily be considered 4 of the worst years of my life. Much like 10 years ago I had no idea that I would end up in Europe, working in FinTech, 10 years ago we could not have even imagined how Bitcoin would change the world as we know it.

But, you know what the beauty of the situation is? It is just getting started. Just like my life adventure has just begun, we are still in the adolescent stages of a movement towards decentralization. Hell, Bitcoin isn’t even a teenager yet. I suppose for all you parents out there, that means that the trouble hasn’t even begun.

And by trouble, I mean both the good kind of rebellion and the growing pains. At this point, the landscape has changed and then changed again. What started with Bitcoin grew into a movement that gave us Ethereum, launching a culture of smart contracts and the ability to create your very own tokens based on ERC standards. These various innovations sparked other creations such as IOTA, or have led to certain leaders in the crypto space, such as aeternity, to creation of their very own blockchains. The point being, we have absolutely no idea what this technology is going to grow up to be.

Many people liken the blockchain and crypto spaces to the creation of the world wide web, which is definitely a good analogy; but, even more simply put, likening Bitcoin to a kid in the process of growing up also provides a great illustration. At this point, we all  know that Bitcoin is going to turn out to be a rebel of a teenager, but we can’t be so sure as to what shape this rebellion is going to take.

All we can know for certain, is just like those involved in the Blockchain and Crypto spaces, this technology is going to continue to evolve in a non-traditional manner, unlike anything we have ever seen. Even if just through the lens of price fluctuations, it is clear that Bitcoin is capable of many things including both success and failure, assertiveness and moments of weakness, as well as the receipt of both love and hate.

Much like the adolescent I was with a sparkle in her eye who never really fit the traditional mold, that was told at 11 or 12 years old that I was “too assertive to be in National Junior Honor Society,” even though I had the grades, Bitcoin is going to grow up to be something more than we could ever anticipate. Just like myself while growing up, Bitcoin is a dreamer, someone that can make the grades, but someone that society still doesn’t trust, seeing that they don’t fit the traditional mold.

If could say anything to Bitcoin, it you be this: Keep dreaming, keep fighting, and keep growing. When you “become so free that your very existence is an act of rebellion,” then there are no limits to what you can achieve. It is when we finally divorce ourselves from the restraints of accepted truths that we are able to see our true potential clearly and for the first time. Grow up to be the rebel, fight for the things you believe in,  and it will ultimately be you who has the last laugh.

 

Sources:

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Happens to be my favorite quote, which is a quote from Albert Camus.

The Music that Moves You: Building the Soundtrack of a Life.

As Aldous Huxley described it, “that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

Ultimately, Music enables us to describe the moments that words alone cannot capture. Memories of someone we thought we couldn’t breathe without, or the times that took our breath away.

Having moved once again in my life, this time to a different continent and potentially for an indefinite duration of time, I have once again come to appreciate the way that music provides solace in a way that nothing else can.

Whether the song you associate with most with your first time in Europe;

the song you remember blasting in your red bug when you first got your license;

the artist that got you through incessant bullying in high school;

the ballad, that at 17 years old, you couldn’t listen to without crying;

the music that captured your first semester of freedom in undergrad; or

the song that reminds you of the semester you spent in Italy.

Inevitably, music speaks in ways that words cannot. Much like a smell that you associate with a person or a place, music transports us back to places in our mind that made us who we are.

Memories lived at a beach side music festival experience;

the song that takes us back to incredibly transformative moments in life;

a flash back to that punk rock phase that remains our favorite karaoke song;

the memento serving as a reminder of the time we felt like we were broken in half; or

the song that has been on your personal top chart for years.

Inescapably, music makes us who we are.

Be it the song we don’t want to admit we adore;

the world-wide sensation serving as your home state’s claim to fame; or

the song you shamelessly claim as your own person anthem.

Music is part of our life blood. The sounds that fuel the very fiber of our being. The melodies that write the soundtrack of our lives. Whatever that soundtrack may be, I can only hope that the person it describes is unapologetic.

Now, all there is left to see is what music writes this chapter of my life.

(EDIT: And for those looking for the Blockchain/Crypto music shoutout…If only this were still true at the moment?)

Crypto, Blockchain, and International Adventures: Why the Best is Still Yet to Come

Crypto, Blockchain, and International Adventures: Why the Best is Still Yet to Come

The past week, give or take, has been filled with tons of adventures. Including, but not limited to: falling down a flight of stairs in Amsterdam, contracting a cold due to the Dutch weather, driving a manual transmission car all the way from Liechtenstein to Munich when I had no idea how to drive stick, and spending three truly memorable days in England, and finally starting my new job.

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Yours truly, prior to what I thought was certain death by way of Opel on the way to Munich.
Side note: Forgive the no makeup face.

All that being said, nothing compares to the truly inspiring things I learned about the future of the crypto currency and blockchain industries.

Following what can be viewed as the great rise and fall of Bitcoin, most critics seemingly view the “Crypto bubble” as having popped. After having spent some time in London around some truly talented and driven people, I can bring you the message that this is truly only the beginning.

Several people I have recently had the opportunity to meet have been in this space for quite some time, allowing them to spread their crypto wealth. This is being accomplished not only through the funding of new projects, but also through sharing of knowledge, ultimately leading to truly innovative projects within the crypto space.

While in the UK, I had the opportunity to attend an AlphaBit crypto meetup where I learned about new and exciting projects including TAP, an ICO that is focused on combining the power of crypto with a the pre-existing social construct of a plastic card in our wallet that we swipe for purchases. Other projects included Universal Protocol, a proxy platform, rumored to have acquired the support of a big four accounting firm.

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Years later, but still rocking Docs at networking events like back in my Students For Liberty days

 

From the modernization of how we view money to blockchain based breakthroughs that will undoubtedly change the legal landscape, there is no doubt in my mind that I chose an incredibly exciting and cutting edge industry.

All that being said, it is the other people that occupy the crypto space that make it all worth it. I might have only been in Europe for almost a month, but I am forever grateful for the opportunities I have had over the past few weeks to befriend people who share the similar convictions regarding the potential of these technologies to change the world. All of the moments these past few weeks undoubtedly fall into the category of memories I will cherish forever. The best part being, this is only the beginning!

Branded as Barbie? Liechtenstein National Day in Review

img_95454.jpgIt is not every day that you can say you made a Monarch laugh, making yesterday an incredible first Staatsfeiertag in the country that I am lucky enough to now call home. Apparently something got lost in translation leading his Serene Highness to believe that my name was Barbie. Once he started signing the book I realized the miscommunication and stated that my name was actually Alexis. Plenty of laughs ensued, the book was signed, and I now have one heck of a story. All in all, my first Liechtenstein National Day could be considered a smashing success.

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Growing up as an American, it is pretty much unimaginable that would have the opportunity to meet a previous Head of State, let alone the current Head of State. Thanks to some stellar organizations I have been a part of, I have had opportunities to be in close proximity to important American political figures such as the Attorney General, Justices of the United States Supreme Court, or sitting Senators. That being said, in the same room as Neil Gorsuch or Jeff Sessions is nothing in comparison to being able to have an actual conversation with an individual tasked with running a country. Thus, making this human element of accessibility one of the many things that makes this country so incredibly special.

Much like the Prince points out in his book The State in the Third Millennium, the United States political system suffers from the deficiency that politicians are focused on “buying votes,” accomplished by strong rhetoric putting forth empty promises, as opposed to actually keeping the citizens’ best interest at heart. But, as the Prince further points out, this is a deficiency of the system, not necessarily of the politicians taking part in the system. Therefore, in Liechtenstein, unlike in the States, even the Prince himself can be focused on making real changes for the benefit of his subjects as opposed to worrying about re-election.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of US politicians that want to ensure their constituents interests are taken into account. Anyone who has been involved with anything concerning Rand or Ron Paul can testify to this first hand, myself included. The difference becomes, Liechtenstein just presents an incredibly unique situation where you can have a conversation with the man in charge, as opposed to a conversation with one of many men or women representing a small part of the whole.

Long story short, yesterday was one for the books. Whether it was laughing with the Prince in the Rose Garden, watching the light show of national pride projected on the castle, or just having the opportunity to meet some of the locals, there is no doubt in my mind that August 15, 2018 will always have a special place in my heart. Here’s to a future full of more stories and adventures in this majestic country tucked away in the Alps.

10 First Thoughts After Moving Abroad

10 First Thoughts After Moving Abroad

1. Being a Native English Speaker is Both a Blessing & a Curse

  • The Blessing: Basically everywhere you go, someone speaks english.
  • The Curse: It makes it 10x harder to learn a different language
  • This brings me to point #2…

2. Full Immersion is the Best Way to REALLY Learn a Language

  • One of my favorite stories thus far: In the check out line at a store in Austria, two people somewhere around my age immediately started speaking perfect English, simply prompted by hearing my Dad and I speaking english. My Dad’s response: “You need to stay away from people like that.” Yes, yes I do, otherwise I would be downright impossible to learn German.
  • Contrast this with my neighbors who speak almost no English. Communication turns into a mixture of hand motions and noises where you instantly start picking up German words.
  • Long story short… opt for conversations where hand motions are required.

3. You May Think You are Packing Light…. You’re Not.

  • If I had a dollar (or a franc for that matter) for every time I told my dad, “I promise I am not high maintenance, I only packed the essentials!,” then I would be rich.
  • Moving to Vaduz I was faced with the challenge of packing business professional clothes, winter weather essentials, and some form of a casual wardrobe.
  • My advice: Stick to neutrals and avoid patterns, then you can avoid the problem of having more clothes than you have space for.

4. Uncle Sam Follows You Everywhere, Even as an Expat

  • You may think moving abroad means you are free from US bureaucracy. Wrong, wrong, and WRONG. 
  • Just try opening a foreign bank account, handing them a US passport, and the first words out of their mouth being “IRS,” “permission,” and “committee approval.”
  • Reason being, for those of you who didn’t know, the US government is one of the only governmental entities that taxes US Citizens living abroad if they make over a certain amount of money. So much for “Land of the Free.”

5. You Will Miss Your Car. Inversely, Never Take Public Transit for Granted.

  • Before arriving, my Dad swore up and down that we were not getting a rental car.
  • The plot thickens. Turns out we had to rent a car to get to IKEA, then my Dad ended up loving the “freedom” of having the car so much that we kept the car for an extra day.
  • In Europe you can get pretty much everywhere based on some combination of a bike, walking, bus, or train. But, having a car does make things infinitely more convenient, especially when you are an American who is used to it.

6. IKEA is Your Best Friend

  • Are you a person who likes feather pillows and duvets? Well, IKEA is the place for you. At home in the states, good pillows can cost an arm and a leg, where as at IKEA you can get a MASSIVE feather pillow for 19 CHF.
  • Thanks to this wonderful Swedish store I was able to purchase all the household essentials to transform my bed and the rest of my studio into my own cozy oasis.

7. Be Sure to Bring Things that Remind You of Home

  • Speaking of cozy home oasis, don’t forget to pack things that remind you of home.
  • In undergrad, I had hundreds of 4×6 pictures covering the walls of my dorm room. When I did a semester abroad in Italy, I failed to bring any photos with me and quickly realized this was a mistake.
  • Thus, moving to Liechtenstein, my non-negotiable items included:
    • Tons of photographs from home
    • A poster of my favorite beer from my favorite hometown brewery, stolen from my brother (thank you Ricky, I love you!)
    • A previously framed Mad Men Poster that adorned the wall of my house in Birmingham for the past 3 years
    • My t-shirt quilt made out of my undergrad t-shirts which was a graduation gift from my brother and his wife
  • Morale of the story, don’t underestimate how much these seemingly little things can help an international transition feel that much less intimidating.

8. Fiat Currency is a Royal Pain 

  • Liechtenstein borders Switzerland and Austria. Both Liechtenstein and Switzerland accept Swiss Francs, whereas Austria accepts Euros.
  • Furthermore, large bills are convenient for travel, but it is almost downright impossible to use any bill larger than a 50 for day-to-day spending.
  • Not to mention, most American credit cards are not contactless, meaning that not every machine will accept them. Us American’s may think that the chip cards are a big development, but living in Italy back in 2013 I had the same problem. Only back then, the problem was that none of my American cards had a chip.
  • That being said, this mess seems to prove to point that it would be that much easier to scan a QR code in order to pay in BTC, ETH, or LTC than it is trying to operate on the basis of fiat currency.

9. Make Sure to Observe Local Customs

  • In Liechtenstein, the customary greeting is “Hoi,” whereas the goodbye is “Ciao.” Contrast this with Austria, where you walk into a store and the greeting is “Grüß Gott.”
  • It is amazing how much observing these differences makes, and how a little bit of effort goes a long way with gaining the respect of the locals.

10. Absorb the Scenery and Live in the Moment

  • Why do you think I didn’t post on Instagram until yesterday, or write a blog post until now?
  • For one, this tiny country is so beautiful that I am at a loss for words.
  • On the other hand, it has been the special moments shared with my Dad at the start of this new adventure that have really made everything worthwhile.