Saturday, 14 September 2013

9th Circuit Taketh Away in an Amended Opinion

We posted about the Ninth Circuit's post-Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision in Wang v. Chinese Daily News here.   This was an overtime class action involving newspaper employees. The Court of Appeals in the earlier opinion remanded the case to the district court for reconsideration of its class certification decision after Wal-Mart v. Dukes.

The plaintiffs apparently sought a rehearing. The Court issued an amended opinion instead.  The Court softened some of its language in the first opinion.  For example, it removed this line, quoted from its own precedent, addressing the plaintiffs' burden of proof on a motion for class certification:
Plaintiffs must show “significant proof that [CDN] operated under a general policy of [violating California labor laws].” Ellis, 657 F.3d at 983 (quoting Wal-Mart, 131 S. Ct. at 2553 (alteration omitted)).

The Court in the first opinion foreclosed class certification for injunctive relief Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 23(b)(2)

Further, it appears that none of the named plaintiffs has standing to pursue injunctive relief on behalf of the class, as none of them is a current CDN employee. See Wang, 623 F.3d at 756. We therefore reverse the district court’s class certification under Rule 23(b)(2).

In the new opinion, the Court opened the door to injunctive relief:

It appears that none of the named  plaintiffs has standing to pursue injunctive relief on behalf of the class, as none of them is a current CDN employee. See Wang, 623 F.3d at 756. However, because the Rule 23(b)(2) class was certified by the district court while they were current employees, the class certification with respect to injunctive relief may survive if there are identifiable class members who are still employed by CDN.

The Court's new opinion also deletes the section of the prior opinion called "Damages."  In the first opinion the Court wrote this, which could have been helpful to defense lawyers in class action cases:
in Wal-Mart, the Supreme Court disapproved what it called “Trial by Formula,” wherein damages are determined for a sample set of class members and then applied by extrapolation to the rest of the class “without further individualized proceedings.” Wal-Mart, 131 S. Ct. at 2561. Employers are “entitled to individualized determinations of each employee’s eligibility” for monetary relief. Id. at 2560. Employers are also entitled to litigate any individual affirmative defenses they may have to class members’ claims. Id. at 2561. 
Poof. That language is gone from the amended opinion. The Court mentions in the new opinion that it expresses no opinion regarding damages.
The case is Wang v. Chinese Daily News and the amended opinion is here

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

paris is always a good idea.


Nowhere is more magical than Paris. 

Although I visited Paris in November of 2009, I felt great sense of confidence and excitement entering Paris for a second time. Equipped with four additional years of french floating around in my mind, as well as a year's worth of knowledge from an AP Art History course, I couldn't wait to explore and immerse myself in the culture.

I split my time between exploring the city with Marie, and visiting museums with my parents. During my time with Marie, we communicated in a mix of French and English (occasionally Franglish). Without question, I saw a huge improvement in my communication and listening skills; I even picked up on some trendy french slang! 

Because I spent 10 days in Paris, I was fortunate to see a great a lot of the city. Some of my favorite places included Place de la Vosges (a lively spot for local Parisians), L'île Saint Louis (the smaller and more quaint of the two islands located in the Seine), Rue du Faubourg Sain Honoré (one of the very fashionable streets lined with ateliers and haute couture) and Musée Marmotton (a gem of a museum that holds a great deal of Monet's works). Other favorite memories include trips on the Metro, tea service at Laduree and relaxing in gardens near Notre Dame. 

These photos were taken outside of Le Musée D'Orsay, my favorite museum. I actually visited twice; once with Marie, and once with my mom. On both occasions, I served as their personal tour guide. I really love art, so elaborating on the symbolism of Millet's The Wheat Gatherers or Van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gatchet was a lot of fun.

Not surprisingly, I planned out this outfit months before I left for Paris. The combination of a light silk summer dress and a colorful denim jacket turned out just right; I felt comfortable yet stylish while exploring the city on a humid summer day.



notes on the outfit:
madewell dress, jacket and sandals
j. crew bracelet
dooney and bourke bag

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Court of Appeal: No Duty to Pay for Defendant Employee's Choice of Lawyer

Several years ago, a radio station conducted a contest that involved consuming water. The one who "held it in" the longest would win a prize.  Unfortunately, one contestant died from drinking too much.

Anyway, the contestant's representative sued the radio station as well as Matt Carter, an individual who helped with the contest.  Carter hired a lawyer and tendered his defense to his  employer's insurance company. The insurance company appointed its own defense counsel to represent Carter.  ]
Carter refused to change lawyers and sued his employer for indemnification under Labor Code Section 2802. Carter sought over $800,000 in attorney's fees for his attorneys' representation.

The insurance company settled with the plaintiff on behalf of all individuals.  The plaintiff recovered millions against the radio station.

Carter's indemnity claim went to trial to the court. The court decided that Carter's attorney's fees were not covered under Labor Code Section 2802, except for about $1980 he spent before the insurance company offered counsel.

The Court of Appeal clarified what Labor Code Section 2802 requires employers to do when individual employees are sued for actions undertaken within the course and scope of employment:

Subdivision (a) of section 2802 provides that “[a]n employer shall indemnify his  or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer, even though unlawful, unless the employee, at the time of obeying the directions, believed them to be unlawful.”
As the court explained in Grissom v. Vons Companies,  Inc. (1991) 1 Cal.App.4th 52, “Section 2802 does not say that an employer must ‘defend’ an employee. The word ‘defend’ does not appear in section 2802. The statute merely requires the employer to indemnify the employee for all that the employee necessarily expends in direct consequence of the discharge of the employee’s duties. The focus of the actual words of the statute is on the employee’s expenditure. If that expenditure is necessarily in direct consequence of the discharge of the employee’s duties, then the employer must ‘indemnify’ (i.e., reimburse) the employee.” (Grissom, at pp. 57-58, fn. omitted; see also Cassady v. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 220, 236 [“Section 2802 does not impose a duty to defend upon an employer”].)

The Court emphasized that an employer that does not offer to pay for counsel up front will be responsible for necessary expenses the employee incurs.  In this case, though, the employer did make that offer.

The Court rejected Carter's claim that he had a "right" to choose his own counsel.  True enough, said the court. In fact, Carter did so. The issue here, though, was whether the employer had to pay for that right.  The Court of Appeal also rejected Carter's argument that the insurance company's lawyer was insufficient because of the potential for punitive damages liability or criminal charges against Carter.

So, employers (and their carriers) may appoint a lawyer to defend an employee involved in employment litigation.  It may be that conflicts of interest or competence issues will cause disputes between employees and employers over whether the appointment is adequate to conduct the defense.  If representation is not adequate, employees likely can request different counsel or seek their own and argue that the related expense is "necessary."

This case is Carter v. Entercom Sacramento LLC and the opinion is here.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Half a SLAPP Still Hurts

Jessica Chang sued her former employer and an individual named Howard Cho for sexual harassment.  Cho counter-sued Chang for IIED and defamation.

Chang believed Cho filed his cross-claim in retaliation for her own.  She filed a motion to strike Cho's cross-claim as a "SLAPP" or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.

Cho in part claimed that Chang's discrimination charges filed at the EEOC/DFEH were defamatory.  But Cho also based his cross-claim for defamation in part on statements Chang made to co-workers and a written report she submitted accusing Cho of harassment.  So, the court had different types of conduct to sort through.

Each of the two causes of action in Cho's cross-complaint, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, is based on three separate and discrete alleged activities by Chang: (1) Chang‟s discrimination claim filed with the EEOC and DFEH; (2) her written report to Midway management; and (3) her verbal comments to co-workers regarding the November and December incidents.

Cho argued that Chang's statements to other employees about his alleged harassment were not "protected" by either the litigation privilege or the anti-SLAPP provisions.  Therefore, Chang could be sued for slander.   The trial court agreed with Cho, as did the Court of Appeal.

Chang submitted no evidence that her comments to Lee or to other co-workers were made to seek the assistance of any other person as a witness or as a person with an interest in the action. While Chang argues such a rationale, and presumably could have offered evidence to support it, she offered none. Absent such a showing, we agree with the trial court's finding that Chang‟s comments to co-workers were not “in connection with” the issues in her subsequent lawsuit against Cho and, therefore, are not protected activity pursuant to section 425.16.
So, this means that if Chang had demonstrated a closer connection between her formal complaints and her discussions with co-workers, the communications might have been protected.  Because she did not do so, Cho's cross-claim against her could proceed.   Therefore, if this case stands, individual defendants in some cases may get away with cross-claims against plaintiffs who accuse them of sexual harassment.  This does not mean individuals should do so. There is a risk that they will be viewed as vengeful or motivated to deny bad conduct to win the cross-claim.

The trial court and the Court of Appeal had little trouble finding that the administrative charges themselves were covered by the anti-SLAPP statute, as was the letter that Chang wrote to management to complain about sexual harassment.  

The internal complaint was covered because as the court put it: "Where the protected activity is a complaint to management or a government agency, or a lawsuit concerning workplace sexual harassment, it must have a demonstrated nexus with that activity, such as an effort to find witnesses to the same or similar conduct."

So the Court of Appeal decided the anti-SLAPP law barred part of Cho's claims for defamation and IIED. Did that mean the entire cause of action should be struck?  No.  The Court decided that the trial court may stike portions of a claim, and is not required to let the whole case continue.  

Then the Court turned to Chang's request for attorneys' fees, since she prevailed on her motion.  Although the winner of an anti-SLAPP motion is entitled to fees, the trial court denied Chang's claim for them, because she had not "accomplished" enough by striking part of Cho's cross-complaint.  The Court of Appeal allowed this ruling to stand.

This ruling encourages anti-SLAPP motions directed to portions of a cause of action, but then creates a disincentive by denying attorney's fees.  We will see if the parties attempt California Supreme Court review.

This decision is Cho v. Chang and the opinion is here. 

California Court of Appeal: Applying New Post-Harris v. L.A. Standard in FEHA Discrimination Cases

Alamo worked for a small company called PMIC as a collections clerk. She took pregnancy leave.  PMIC hired a pregnant temp to replace her during the leave.  The temp, named Moran, intended to stop working once Alamo returned.

Stop me if you've heard this before. While Alamo was on leave, her manager discovered performance problems with Alamo's work, including problems that cost the Company money.  And - again stop me - the manager had noticed performance problems before the leave, but had not disciplined Alamo previously.

So, Alamo is getting ready to come back to work. She comes into the office one day to have lunch with a co-worker.  She runs into Moran and gets into a heated argument about Moran's alleged treatment of Alamo's co-worker (with whom she had just had lunch).  Moran tells Alamo she's about to be fired.  Sure enough, when Alamo returned, she was fired for poor performance and insubordination.

Alamo sued for pregnancy discrimination. After trial, a jury awarded her $10,000.00 in compensatory damages, and 0 for punitive damages.  The court awarded about $50K in attorney's fees.

PMIC appealed.  It argued that the court should have instructed the jury that the plaintiff has to prove discrimination was a "substantial motivating reason" for the termination, rather than just "a motivating reason."  PMIC also argued that it was entitled to put on evidence of a "mixed motive" defense,
following Harris v. City of Santa Monica (2013) 56 Cal.4th 203 (discussed here).

The Court of Appeal ageed that PMIC was entitled to an instruction that says discrimination must be a "substantial" motivating reason. The form civil jury instructions ("CACI") have been amended to incorporate Harris.  Practitioners should ensure they have the most current version of the instructions.

But PMIC was not so lucky on the mixed motive defense. PMIC offered a defective mixed motive instruction that was not a proper statement of the law. And the Court also found that "mixed motive" is an affirmative defense that must be pleaded in the defendant's answer.  Therefore, employers seeking to limit damages with the mixed motive defense must plead it or amend their answers.

Frankly, I don't know why the employer lost, or why it wanted a "mixed motive" defense.  There was scant evidence of discrimination described in the court of appeal's opinion.   Alamo argued that this was not a mixed motive case at all, and I think I agree with her.  We shall see if the employer can assert the mixed motive defense without admitting there is evidence of a discriminatory and non-discriminatory motive for taking action.

This case is Alamo v. Practice Management Information Corp. and the opinion is here.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Have Money, Will Buy Bitcoins! (Updated Again!)

My frustrating journey to buy bitcoins online! 

OK so by now you’ve probably heard of Bitcoins, the great electronic virtual currency (actually, it’s what’s referred to as a crypto-currency) that has promise to become the "future of money".  The entire banking system is afraid of bitcoin because it has the possibility to replace government issued currency; Law enforcement is afraid of bitcoin because it lets people conduct anonymous transactions thus raising the spectre of money laundering; paypal and credit card companies are afraid of it because it allows you to transfer value without paying any commission, and on and on.

I won’t get too much into what bitcoin is (you can go to or just search for bitcoin and you’ll find tons and tons of sites online explaining what it is), but let’s just say I’ve been intrigued by virtual currencies since 2007, when Linden Dollars (as part of Second Life) and QQ (from tencent) were the “next big thing”.

After hearing about bitcoin for months and months, and hearing that many Silicon VC’s are starting to fund  bitcoin related companies (not to mention that the Winkelvi, of Facebook fame, were big owners of a large amount of the available bitcoins), I finally decided it was time to get me some.

This was almost 10 days ago.   I decided I would buy some bitcoins online – after all this is an electronic currency, i'm a computer kind of guy, so why should I have to use snail mail or sneakernet to conduct an electronic transaction?  That would make no sense to me whatsoever.

Well, let me just say that in the last ten days, i have gotten lots of bitcoin wallets, but haven't been able to buy a single bitcoin online yet.  Yes, that’s right, I have zero bitcoins.  

And not for lack of trying and not for lack of purchasing power – I am ready to spend money to buy bitcoins.  My only criteria are:
-I won’t wire money to a foreign offshore bank account or anyplace that either looks shady
-I want to do the entire transaction online, so i'm not going to go to a bank to do a physical wire (and in fact, many banks now let you initiate wire transfers online, at least domestically)
-I don’t want to be identified up the wazoo – I’d like a semi-anonymous transaction - i'll give you my email but i'm not going to send you photos of my drivers license, etc.

Seems simple?  It wasn’t.  After scouring the internet for articles on how to buy bitcoins, I started on an my own bitcoin odyssey – wandering in the ocean of bitcoin paraphanalia and coming up mostly empty.

One of the oldest and most popular bitcoin exchanges is Mt. Gox.  And right on the home page it says I can “buy bitcoins”.  Great – that’s exactly what I’m looking for!

I was able to open an account with my email address but then I had to “verify” my account. To do this they wanted me to photocopy my drivers license for proof of residency and it felt like I was applying for a mortgage!   WTF?  This is supposed to be anonymous currency.  Then, they wanted me to wire money to some international bank account before they could fully “verify” me.

OK so I'm not going to start wiring money to some international desitination.   So, I decided to go to another popular bitcoin site.  Instantbits.  It was down.  Rumor has it that the US government has been regulating bitcoin exchanges and shutting them down.  Geez.

What about paypal? I did some research and found that paypal will shut you down if you buy or sell bitcoins. I’d rather not have my paypal account shut down, so that’s out.

So I looked around, and stumbled onto Blockchain, which promised that I could buy and sell bitoincs easily.  Once again, I was able to get an account and another bitcoin wallet ( a place to store bitcoins). The problem is, my wallet(s) are all still empty. How do I get any bitcoins into them?   Well it turns out according to blockchain the only way to get money into my wallet on their site was to go to another bitcoin site – BitStamp and deposit money there.

So I sign up for yet another account on yet another bitcoin site (BitStamp, and yes now I have another empty bitcoin wallet) and they tell me that I not only have to transfer money to the UK but I have to send it to a Slovenian bank!  WTF!  I live in the United States, the biggest economy in the world, and probably where most of the bitcions reside, and I’m not going to start transferring money to a random Slovenian bank! (Nothing against Slovenia, by the way, I actually am an investor in a company that has an office in Slovenia and the employees there are great!).

So finally, I stumble onto Coinbase.  Coinbase is one of the more “respectable” bitcoin sites and was actually funded by Union Square Ventures, a very well known VC firm recently. I had actually vaguely heard of them - they were located in New York City (I assume this means that Elliot Spritzer or Rudy Guilani or "whoever the latest opportunist lawyer/politician looking to make a name for himself in the New York Attorney’s general’s office is" will keep an eye on them).  Since they are backed by “reputable” people, I decide to sign up for YABA (“yet another bitcoin account”). 

Hell, I think, maybe they’ll even let me buy bitcoin with a credit card.  No such luck - that would be too easy!   The site tells me that I can’t buy bitcoin with a credit card, only by “verifying” my bank account.

Here we go again. But this time, it tells me that I can verify my account by them sending small amounts of money into my bank account!  OK this is starting to sound a little bit like the famous Nigerian oil money scam (we’ll transfer money to you – just give us your bank account information and social security number!).  Again, largely comforted by the knowledge that Coinbase is VC-backed, I decide to go ahead and enter my US bank information, thinking that they can “instantly verify my account” and get me buying bitcoins.

Now I’m told that it will take 3 business days to verify my information!  WTF!  So I’m still without any bitcoin and headed into the labor day weekend and i'm going on vacation for a few days.

I keep searching.  Maybe I could buy bitcoin with in-app transactions through google or apple?  I know they take a 30% commission, but the transactions are completely electronic and I think, OK someone must have done this. At this point, I don’t even mind paying the 30% commission to google or apple - i just want to get my hands on at least one bitcoin!

Nope.  Couldn’t find it.  In fact, there’s pretty reliable information out there that Apple will reject any apps that let you buy or sell bitcoins via in-app purchases (not a surprise, having been in the Apple ecosystem since 2009, the one thing I know is that Apple will reject anything at any time because they “feel like it”, but that’s another story altogether).  Google tends to be a little more lax – so it may be possible, but I couldn’t find an app that does it and in fact there's speculation that Google won't allow it either!

As I'm surfing the ocean of outdated bitcoin-related sites with outdated information, I see a random entry on some website that you can exchange linden dollars for bitcoin.  I used to have a second life account and some linden dollars left over (plus, as I recall, you can purchase those with credit cards) but when I follow the links they are no longer available.  Hmmm.

So after the Labor Day weekend, I get back and continue the hunt.  First I look at my bank account to to see if Coinbase has sent me any money to “verify” my bank account.  Nope.  Nothing yet.

I then stumble onto “localbitcoins”.  This sounds promising.  There is a list of people who are willing to sell me bitcions.  There are even some people locally, but still clinging to my fantasy that bitcoin is an electronic currency and that I should be able to buy some somewhere, online, I skip those for now.

Some of the sellers around the country use paypal but most of them use payment methods i've never heard of, for example, something called “Moneygram”.  I sign for YABA, and since I don’t want to get my paypal account banned, I try to buy bitcoin from a seller in Texas who says that I can send him a “moneygram”.

But then he tells me that he needs me to take a “picture” of my credit card so that he can verify it’s really me. Huh? Take a picture of my credit card and send it to some guy on the internet? You’ve got to be joking! This is getting ridiculous.

Still, I press on doggedly, and actually try to send the guy money through Moneygram.  Turns out they can’t find him either, and the only way he can get the money from Moneygram is to go to a physical shop and pick up the money.  Kind of like Western Union. The only problem is when I try to send to him, Moneygram rejects my transaction.  Not once but twice!

I look at other buyers on localbitcoins and there are some that want me to send Cash in the Mail.  Yes, Cash in the Mail. As in the Post Office. WTF is this, 1891 instead of 2-013?? It’s like I’m ordering bitcoins from the Sears Roebuck Catalog … 

At this point I’m starting to lose hope. I don’t think I’ll ever get any bitcoins online. 

Then, the next day, I see two very small deposits of a few cents in my bank account. Coinbase! Yes, the VC-backed company comes through!  I suppose with the millions they’ve raised ($5 million to be exact), they can afford to send out a few cents to everyone who gives them their bank account information.

Yay!  Although I did have to share my bank account info (which I don’t like to do), at least I didn’t have to photocopy my drivers license (or my credit cards) and send them to some guy called “bitcoindude” located in rural Texas.

So I go back to coinbase and “verify” my account.  Hurrah! I’m finally (about a week into it) approved to buy bitcoin!  The rest should be a snap, right?

After all, they, like every other bitcoin site out there, have a big visible button on their homepage  to “Buy” bitcoins.  So I click on it. The price is like $125 per bitcoin.  Damn that’s expensive, but OK, I tell them I want to buy several bitcoins.  Actually, I don’t even care what the price is at this point - i'm so excited that i'll finally be able to buy this mythical bitcoin thingy.

And then…. Nothing.  My order is listed as “pending” and it says it may take up to 5 days to get my few bitcoin.

Five Days??  WTF??

I thought this was the easiest currency in the world to transfer from one person to another.  I thought this was an electronic/digital currency that was going to set the world on fire.  That all you needed was a hard drive and some money to get and trade bitcoins.   I thought this was the future of money?

Well, it’s now been almost 10 days since I started trying to buy bitcoins and I have many bitcoin wallets, just no bitcoins!  I mean Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Hell, I could order a book from amazon and get it delivered to my house, faster than I’ve been able to get bitcoins.  And I’m not talking about an ebook – I mean a physical book.  Actually, Amazon’s createspace print on demand platform could print a new physical copy of a book and ship it to me in the time it’s taken me to get bitcoins.

Now, I’m sure one of these days, coinbase will say that my transaction is processed and finally someone will take my money and promise to “deliver me bitcoins in a few business days”.  But I’m not holding my breath!  Until then, i'm stuck floating in this ocean of bitcoin hype.

If they don’t arrive in a few days, I guess I’ll have to start wandering the seedy streets of San Francisco, holding up a sign “want bitcoin, will pay!” or stop random passers by wearing trenchcoats and say “pssst buddy! You got any bitcoin?”

UPDATE: After waiting patiently for 5 more days for coinbase to send me my bitcoins (after I had already given them my bank account information), today (September 10, 2013), the same day that TechCrunch had a panel on how promising bitcoin is, I got this email from coinbase.

From: Coinbase 
On Sep 4, 2013 you purchased 5.00 BTC via bank transfer for $631.40.
Unfortunately, we have decided to cancel this order because it appears to be high risk. We do not send out any bitcoins on high risk transactions, and your bank account will not be charged.
Please understand that we do this to keep the community safe and avoid fraudulent transactions. Apologies if you are one of the good users who gets caught up in this preventitive measure - we don't get it right 100% of the time, but we need to be cautious when it comes to preventing fraud.
You may have more luck trying again in a few weeks. Best of luck and thank you for trying Coinbase.
Kind regards,
The Coinbase Team

Huh? No explanation of why my account is high risk! Just "try again in a few weeks"!  Maybe coinbase doesn't have any bitcoins either ... and bitcoins *really* don't exist on the internet - it's like an insider joke to see how much publicity they can get for a currency that doesn't really exist.

I gotta tell you - I have never had so much trouble trying to give people money in my life!!
It is now 15 days since I first tried to buy bitcoins; still no luck - all of my many wallets still have zero balance.

I am going to change tactics and try to buy bitcoins from local sellers in person.  This kinda defeats the purpose of an electronic currency in my opinion.   I tried contacting a few sellers on, but no luck so far.

UPDATE 2:  After getting frustrated trying to buy bitcoins, I read these article by Robert McMillan at Wired about buying bitcoins:

I thought ebay might be cracking down on Bitcoin, like they did with other virtual currency/goods for MMORPG's a few years ago, but maybe not.  So I went on ebay, and sure enough there are quite a few people selling fractional bitcoin (.05, .1, .25, and 1 bitcoin denominations).  The catch? The sellers are trying to get the price bid up as much as possible so that you have to pay more than Bitcoin is trading for on the exchange.  I looked for "buy it now", and bought .05 bitcoin for like $15, but this translates into a price of like $300 per bitcoin! Way more than the market of $120-$130 that the exchanges were quoting.  Still, I was able to pay using an online payment vendor (most sellers won't take paypal!). My next purchase was .10 bitcoin for $16, a price of $160 per bitcoin and this was one of the few sellers who was willing to take paypal.

So, you can buy bitcoin on ebay, but few of the sellers are willing to take paypal, and you'll have to pay *alot* more thanon the exchanges.

UPDATE 3: Finally, i gave in and tried to find someone to  to agree with Robert's article that the only way to buy bitcoins is on the street. I advertised on localbitcoins lookinng to "buy" bitcions, and one of htem found me.  We met at a cafe, and I handed him the cash and he sold me 5 bitcions.  The catch? Well, this is a  pretty slow process and he was only willing to sell a few bitcoin.  And for some reason, localbitcions, which advertises a commission of only .0003 bitcoins, ended up taking .05 so I only got 4.95 bitcoin!

I asked the seller how he was able to acquire bitcoin in the first place.  He told me he was from Europe and so was able to transfer money to a polish bank account and get into mt. gox (one of the oldest bitcoin exchanges which has been having problems lately).  He seemed to share my assessment that it's very difficult to buy bitcion in the US online.

I was finally able to buy bitcion, but the process was painful and tedious.  It took almost two weeks from the time I started until I got some.   Buying locally seems to be the best way, but finding people locally who are willing to sell may not be practical for everyone (because I live in Silicon Valley, I was able to find at least one seller).  The exchanges are already over-regulated and so concerned with fraud that they are blocking legitimate transactions.

Once you have bitcoin, it is almost instantaneously transferred between wallets. Since I ended up with like 6 empty wallets and only one with money in it, I tried transferring bitcoin around and it is as easy as promised.  I gotta say i've become a bigger fan of bitcoin after seeing how easy this process is.

Since bitcoin is a peer to peer electronic virtual crypto-currency, my big question is: why do we need excahnges at all? If all bitcoin clients can read the blockchain and find all transactions, then why can't bitcoin clients use a peer to peer system to make requests to buy or sell?  Well, i'll write more about that now that I have some bitcoin and need to figure out what I can actually do with it!

Monday, 2 September 2013

The Tapas Crawl


A trip to Spain is simply incomplete without enjoying a few tapas. 

Tapas, also known as Pintxos in Basque, are served from 7 PM to 12 PM, and are meant to be eaten as appetizers; a precursor to a very late dinner. It is not uncommon for locals to "hop" from one tapas bar to another, sampling each bar's specialty as they go. While tapas bars were once seen as small and cheap eateries, they are quickly gaining popularity and recognition in the gastronomic world. 

During my stay in San Sebastian, I knew I had to fully experience this so-called tapas crawl at some point. The city is notorious for hosting a range of exceptional cuisine and dining; there are more Michelin stars in the city per square foot than any other city in the world! (crazy, huh?)

I began my walk towards San Sebastian's old town at around 9 PM. The worn streets, filled with locals and tourists alike, smelled like a mixture of beer and olives. Although I carried a map with me that highlighted the specialties of each tapas bar, I decided it would be more fun to pick the bars at random. With that decision made, I began my crawl.

After entering a few bars, I noticed that each eatery presented their tapas differently. While some bars took the traditional approach to presenting the delicacies, others used marble slabs and an edgy presentation to display their tapas. The pictures above highlight the differences in presentation and construction of different tapas.

Overall, I had a lot of fun experiencing the crawl. I would, however, recommend doing some research before venturing out into the streets. Although it was fun to sample different tapas at random, there were some bars that seemed much more popular than others.