What’s the deal with Blockchains LLC and their Smart City?

From blockchains.com

So I just learned about this company, Blockchains LLC, that was founded by a certain Jeffrey Berns, a guy who became incredibly wealthy by trading cryptocurrencies and as a lawyer. The company was presided by his brother, David Berns (they look so alike I thought they had written the wrong name in the keynote).

Blockchains’ mission is to “reimagine and build the infrastructure and tools needed for greater personal control over digital interactions and better protection of personal information through blockchain-based security, while offering the freedom of choice and an easy-to-use interface—all for the purpose of empowering individuals“, which sounds pretty nice and all; privacy protection and decentralization (which could be considered the ultimate definition of ’empowering individuals’, I think) are pretty great.

The first thing I learned about this company is that they were building a blockchain-based city in Nevada, where they had purchased 67,000 acres of land, and I briefly learned about it in an article by Stuart Hollinger. I thought this sounded a bit delirious and utopian and I even kind of made fun of it and also got a bit irritated at it, thinking “Come on, if you have that kind of money there is so much you can do for humanity instead of siphoning your wealth into a vanity project that pretends to be helpful but won’t accomplish much in the long run”.

There have been lots of previous utopian projects, and to this day I’m pretty sure we are not living in one, since most of us still work 40+ hour weeks, can’t afford a house and are at the whim of a few very powerful entities.

But then I thought to myself that even if it was a bit ridiculous, I found it interesting and almost charming. So I decided to do a bit more research instead of just having the one opinion based on one piece of information. I went to their website and watched the keynote they did in 2018 (linked before but I will link to it again here in case you didn’t click it).

I recommend you watch it, but in case you don’t, here is the rundown:

The ultimate goal of the company is to better the world and people’s relationship with their assets (Berns mentions even the workweek as an asset, which I found interesting) through a wide range of technologies all based on blockchain. One of these “betterments” of society is the creation of Innovation Park, a 68,000 (why the number changes depending on the source, I am not sure) acre area in Nevada that will house a 1000 acre campus for the company in which 4 key technologies will meet: AI, Nanotechnology, 3D printing and blockchain.

Ambitious, but interesting. In this campus they will incubate their future projects.

There will also be a residential area, with schools, apartments, stores, etc.

And there will also be a “movie studio” that creates immersive content, again, based on blockchain. Games, movies, music, etc, and all with the intention of giving power back to the creator. Oh, yeah, and they also want to make an esports arena.

Some of the other things they’re up to:

NetID– Vein scanning technology. Hashes (creates a string of numbers) the information from the veins in the palm of your hand and you use it as your ID; and only you have the key to it.

Custody– Executed Distributed Code Contracts (EDCC’s) are like smart contracts, The EDCCs will store assets in cold storage and allow you to move them from cold to warm to hot storage. What does this mean? (I ask because I didn’t know when I heard them talk about it) Well, cold storage is where stuff that you access rarely is stored, and hot storage is where you store stuff that you access all the time. Basically cold storage is less liquid and hot storage is more liquid, and warm storage I guess is somewhere in between?

Blockchains will protect the backup keys for the EDCC’s in 3 different places in 3 different states in the US, and 2 of those places are bunkers built in the 60’s to withstand nuclear bombs. Jeepers. And for global users there will be another nuclear bomb resistant bunker in Switzerland and another in Sweden. They aim to have better security for everyone’s assets than any bank in the world.

The Big Bank Theory– Berns thinks that banks want to take over blockchain. He had a bad experience with banks (the IRS tried to get all the info from users of Coinbase at one time; Berns outed himself as a user of the site, helped prevent the IRS overreach, but during that time the government closed off his bank accounts with no warning), so he bought a bank. At the time of the keynote, it still needed to be approved.

Distributed Collaborative Entities– basically a way for Berns to make the Blockchains company a co-op, in which 6 different stake groups own 90% of the company.

This is all very interesting. What’re they up to now?

Well, when you go to their website’s ‘Projects’ Tab, you are met with a thorough description of the Smart City idea that they detailed in the Keynote three years ago.

A Decrypt article from last year (by Ben Munster) describes how they haven’t yet broken ground in this city, and are instead ‘focusing on developing Web3 tools’. It also talks about how an array of Senior executives (9, including David Berns, a 10th of the workforce, apparently) have left the company and how a lot of their responsibilities have gone to Slock.it, an advisory firm they acquired in 2019. Jeffrey has assumed the role of president.

There’s this little paragraph in that Decrypt article that I found interesting:

But Blockchains has made little progress since, having struggled to obtain water rights for the putative 10,000 resident city, sources say. The project was formally “put on hold” in the summer of last year, according to one former employee, and the “suite of Web3 products and tools” have yet to yield even a white paper. Reviews on employer-rating website Glassdoor (which we could not verify independently but match testimony from multiple sources) describe an atmosphere of aimlessness and confusion.

“Nevada’s $170 million “Blockchain City” facing challenges”, by Ben Munster, March 1st 2020

In the same article, the spokesperson for the company states that the city “was always a 10-15 year project”. I mean, that sounds obvious; I didn’t think they would finish the city anytime soon. It is a very ambitious project, and that might be the nail in their coffin. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Another article from March 10th 2021 written by Pat Hickey in the Reno Gazette Journal talks about how the smart city Blockchains wants to build hasn’t gotten approval from the locals either, in spite of the Governor’s support for the project. It goes on to quote Berns saying that if all goes well they’ll start building in 2023. At least in the article Berns sounds hopeful and committed to the project and the company.

The company also seems to be very much about supporting charities, with their “Our Story” page (also linked above), talking about over 900 thousand dollars donated to charities so far.

What else have I found… Their youtube channel seems to be quite active, so there’s that. While looking at their latest video I saw that there is a recent interview with Berns (March 10th, 2021), conducted by The Nevada Independent. Here’s a link to it if you want to give it a look, but here’s a rundown:

  • Daniel Rothberg (one of the interviewers) mentions how some people are a bit wary of a company owning a city (yes).
  • 2013-2014 is when Blockchains was founded
  • “The city is a place where people can come to create […] it’s a living sandbox”- Berns
  • They haven’t made any money as a company yet and they haven’t figured out where they will “extract fees”. Berns thinks that “the moment they start thinking about how to make money, that’s where you start moving the line on what you’re trying to accomplish”.
  • Berns is funding the company (I mean, himself? On his lonesome? Hmmm)
  • Rothberg: “How do you get to a point of sustainability?” Berns: “Our products are gonna be released next year. […] The revenue can come from people who come to create here, and then the city would be like any other city”.
  • “The infrastructure is what is different […] we need smart infrastructure, everything needs to change”. Basically the city would be an experiment; Berns called it a “bubble”. which might be a funny slip of the tongue.
  • They want to start the city with everyone having a liveable wage from the start. Berns might not be leading the project 10 years from now (I guess he expects the company to be profitable by then).
  • The technology they want to build the city with would be able to, say, pay sales tax immediately. It would eliminate middlemen, basically.
  • The idea would be for there to be multiple Innovation zones eventually.
  • Berns seems frustrated that some people (a Stephen Colbert segment is referenced) don’t understand that “blockchain is anti-big tech”.
  • “We don’t want to create our own government. The company would have control over how the land is developed, just like any other company [that owns land]; but people living there will elect their representatives and make the decisions”.
  • Rothberg: “In this instance, where is the line between public and private?” Berns: “The land is privately owned. The goal would be that the inhabitants of the city would control their land”
  • “We need a place where politics isn’t going to affect how things are done”.
  • Lovato: “Who is this for?” Berns: “For people who want to be part of advancing the ball of how we live our lives”.
  • On affordable housing: “All of it should be affordable housing. All the land is leased; the community is the one that benefits from everything that happens on that land”.
  • Lots of companies will be part of Innovation Park.
  • They are aiming to change a lot of things through blockchain technology (that is evident)
  • They have a bunch of potential investors, tech companies, undisclosed.
  • They want to create a stablecoin and back it through that bank he bought (I knew that had to pop up again)

I will leave the list there. The interview is and hour and a half long, and that covers roughly 40 minutes, in case you want to jump into it. He does mention the creation of Dapps within the city at some point, and about some other governmental entities interested in the project and even the prospect of sister cities.

Berns sounds incredibly passionate and with so many ideas and energy that only two things can happen: you like him or you think he is delusional. I like him and I think he knows his stuff. It also seems to me like he’s trying to be an advocate for crypto, blockchain and his projects, and the weight of it all is massive, especially since he’s dealing with actual government and legislation.

My thoughts

First I thought it was ridiculous. Upon further investigation, I saw the potential but I was still weary.

At this point I feel kind of bad for them but hopeful? I think their idea is very interesting, and Berns, as I said, seems genuinely invested (both mentally and financially) and knowledgeable about the project, and if they pull it off it would be a very cool experiment to see; one that could potentially start a chain reaction of change all over the world, because I do agree that Blockchain as a technology has a lot of potential.

But I think that his company bit way more than it could chew. There’s too many fronts that they’re trying to cover, and with not being profitable and only being funded by Berns alone (as far as I understood, though it seems like ther must be some other people financing this), it seems to me that they could go bankrupt or have to sell the land they bought before achieving anything. They spread themselves too thin.

I go back to my initial thoughts, in which it seemed to me they could do so much good with the amount of money they had, while still managing to start a company edging in the direction of what Blockchains LLC is now, and instead they’re letting all that capital slip away by trying to do too many things at once.

Who knows though, some companies manage to pull through in spite of trying to do a lot. We will have to wait and see, I suppose.

Dealing with something always being there.

This is a bit of a rant.

There’s a feeling that has been consistently in the back of my mind since more or the beginning of last year, before even the whole pandemic stuff happened. It is not a good feeling, and if there was a single word to describe it I would, but since I don’t know what word that is, I have chosen to refer to it as the “there’s always something, isn’t there?” feeling.

It is that feeling that happens whenever you have managed to get through something (anything: pain, an uncomfortable situation, an economic struggle, a relationship tumble; anything), and getting through it means you have lost that tunnel vision that so often hounds those with a problem, and once you’ve lost the tunnel vision you’re able to focus on everything else going on in your life and you realize that that was not the only thing bothering you, that there was some underlying bother that you hadn’t noticed previously and that now has your full attention.

It is also that feeling that happens when you lose the tunnel vision and it turns out that everything is fine, but a problem pops up right away.

Both of these instances end up with you sighing and thinking “There’s always something, isn’t there?”.

Last year was brutal. First the pandemic, which was its own collective stress that still has its grip on us. Then I broke left pinky toe while walking around barefoot in the apartment and throwing kicks around – I’m not crazy. I do this while twisting my back as the same time as my kick hits its high point so that I can stretch and crack my spine. It feels nice. It is also a very stupid thing to do with no foot covers and without spatial awareness, because you can break your toe. Again, I’m not crazy, but I didn’t say that it was smart, either. I digress.

Then our cat passed away.

Then and throughout the whole year there was a hounding anxiety prompted by being in a different country than my family and worrying about them because I don’t trust the leaders in my home country and their handling of the pandemic; and then there was the worry that the most powerful nation in the world would be destabilized due to the insanity of a somewhat deranged yet powerful man, and, as neighbours to that nation, that we would get some of the proverbial shit that hit the proverbial fan.

Then economic stress because I can’t believe I’m closing in on 30 and I am not able to afford a house, a car or economic stability, so my mind races to find different avenues through which I can secure some passive or mildly active income, which prompted me to overwork and hurt my hands, and with the wrist braces on I think: “why must there always be something”.

I think that the problem with this line of thinking is that it is pessimistic, defeatist and travels at high speeds through the aforementioned tunnel vision, with its destination being a fireball of stress, disappointment and confused hyperventilating.

And I believe that once I start falling in this well of always something (bad) being there it is hard to extend my limbs, hold on to the wall and stop screaming and think straight. So I need to taka deep breath and climb back up.

I don’t consider myself to be depressed or at a bad stage in my life. If anything, I think I am very fortunate to be where I am, being with whom I’m with, doing what I do, rambling on the internet about things and stuff. I do know that I tend to focus on certain problems and let them take a hold of me, falling down a spiral of anxiety and worse-case scenarios that takes a while to get out of. So I need to remind myself that to stop focusing on something always being there, I need perspective.

Well, perspective and other things.

But first is perspective. Perspective will help me see the big picture and stop this tunnel vision.

Once I have perspective I can focus on assigning and withdrawing responsibility. That sounds weird. I mean, with perspective I can figure out how much of what has been happening has been due to something I have or have not done and how much of what has been happening is completely outside of my control. Breaking my toe? Totally my bad. Overworking and damaging my arms for at least 3 weeks? Yep, guilty as charged. The fate of a nation comprised of millions of people? Yeah, no, that one is a bit outside of my paygrade.

Having perspective and having assigned responsibilities I can work on things that haven’t happened yet or that I want to happen, for example buying an effing house. You know, things that cause me mental anguish. To do this I think I need to temper my expectations. When I was 21 or 22 I started thinking that everything in life and our experience of it comes down to expectations, and it is up to us to temper these expectations in order to not go crazy and actually enjoy life. This now seems rather reductive but I think I had a bit of the right angle, in the sense that expectations play a huge part on how we take things. I expect to be able to work a lot of extra hours in a week in order to do my own projects aside from my day job, and I expect the fact that I have not been consistent with my exercise to not be a problem. So when I hurt my wrists with overworking, given my expectations, a cloud of bummer looms over me and that nagging “there’s always something isn’t there” ditty starts going in my head.

And once I adjust expectations to match what is actually happening, I need to think of solutions, ways to improve my current situation and taking into account that there is only so much within my control. I think the responsibility bit could be renamed ‘control’.

The problem is that all this reasoning and thinking and making my experience of reality objective often only comes after something happens. It takes a very centred and zen mind, I think, to be able to acknowledge each situation in the moment and choose their next actions carefully, and I don’t have that. Yet. Meditation and mindfulness are things I love but I haven’t practiced as much as should.

Perhaps there is nothing inherently bad with having the “there’s always something, isn’t there” feeling. As with most things, though, the problem is letting it take over and not looking for a way out. After all, that thought comes from wanting to be and feel better, and that is the side that maybe I need to embrace more often. That positivity too will help me take the steps to be and feel better.

Lovely. Ranting sometimes helps gets thoughts straight, you know? Thanks for reading.

Budgeting helps you find money where there was none

Published first on read.cash

So, as far as I know, everybody’s first instinct when it comes to trying to accrue wealth tends to be “How do I make more money?”.

I know it is my first instinct, even though I have been thinking about and reading and watching finance stuff for a couple of years, now, and all of the competent resources tend to tell you that making more is not necessarily a solution to one’s current money woes.

And yet, it still is my first instinct. I want to achieve X or Y goal and I need money for it, my mind scrambles in order to find some new avenue through which I can increase my income. The problem is that, short of scams or a lucky draw of the lottery or a very timely sell of stocks or crypto assets or a sudden inheritance, there are not many ways in which one can increase their income on a whim.

Just like most things that are worth it, achieving a sense of financial security (or awesome wealth, if that is your goal), take a ridiculous amount of time. Especially if you are not born into money or have an incredibly keen sense of accounting or business.

Being frugal is a suggestion that comes often, and sometimes uttered by people who either act condescending towards you or don’t know your situation, or both. Frugality is nice and all, and there is something to be said about how good thrifting is both for your wallet and the environment; but I have found frugality will get you nowhere without budgeting.

As the title of this short blog post that I am writing on a bit of a whim states, budgeting will help you find money where there was none. It is true. But not because this will magically make every paycheque bigger, but rather because it will help you know exactly where every single cent from that paycheque goes.

I’m not kidding. Ideally, you should know what your money is being spent on. Whether you correct some spending habits or not is up to you, but knowing is the first step and one of the most important ones if your goal is to be somewhat financially free in the future.

It’s like the basis of your strategy: First you know what (or how much) you’re working with, then you allocate it and you make sure that you stay within budget, and then growth stems from there. Obviously this budgeting has to work in favor of and alongside other things, like paying-off debt, investing and saving, in order to work appropriately, but let’s start simple.

I have budgeted in two different ways before: in percentages and in amounts. Percentages tends to work better during very predictable timeframes and for more general purposes, whereas amounts are a tad more adaptable and fluid. At least this is what I have found in my particular case; if it works differently for you, that’s great. I haven’t tried a mixture of both yet, but I am sure that that is a thing that could work.

Bear in mind that I am not a financial advisor, nor do I have all the answers and I am as much in this journey as the next person is, but I thought I’d share this because, even if it hasn’t fixed all of my problems, it has definitely helped. Also, I am aware that a big part of this post comes from a somewhat privileged position (ie. I have a steady job and have had one for several years now), but I hope that whatever your situation is, this helps in some way. 🙂

Budgeting 101

First we need to know what our monthly expenses are. In my hypothetical situation, these are the monthly expenses I deal with every month:

  • $50 for rent
  • $10 for groceries
  • $7 for utilities
  • $7 for pet food

And my paycheque every two weeks is $100 dollars. So for monthly expenses, I spend roughly $74 out of $200 in an average month, and that leaves me $126 to spend on whatever I please, right? That’s how it works.

Eh, no, not really.

That $136 should be assigned to something from the beginning. Like paying off debt, or saving for retirement, or for a new something, or to put towards investments, but it should not just be left to be spent all willy-nilly with no purpose at all.

So we have two paycheques then. If we budget with percentages, the distribution could look like this.

Paycheque 1

  • 50% for rent
  • 5% for groceries
  • 7% for utilities
  • 3.5% for pet food
  • 30% for Credit Card payment
  • 8.5% for Rainy Day

Paycheque 2

  • 5% for groceries
  • 3.5% for pet food
  • 50% for Investments
  • 31.5% for Credit Card payment
  • 10% for new thingy that I want

Since we are working with very small hypothetical sums, these percentages would work also as amounts. As I mentioned before, I find that using percentages work really well especially in the middle of the year, or in seasons where there’s no unexpected expenses (that you can think of) or special occasions.

I would recommend always having a Rainy Day fund and either some stocks (or crypto assets) or an investment account (or all of those) so that your money can make money for you. But that’s outside the scope of this.

I don’t think you need any fancy app or software to budget. Personally I have found that libreoffice or a notebook work wonders. I have been using the BulletJournal method for a couple of years now and at the start of each month I break down my future paycheques. It’s incredible how much it helps.

One strategy I have found that helps me a lot is to keep, for example, a separate savings account for rent, and to put slightly more money in there than my monthly rent amount. Say I pay the $50 in rent every month, but instead I put $55 in that account, and I spend less money in some other area. This will grow your savings without you necessarily thinking of it, and it doesn’t hurt since you already budgeted for it.

Also I have to emphasize how important it is to prioritize paying off debt ASAP. Budget for it. You can save and pay off a credit card at the same time, it’s not impossible, but the focus has to be on the not-owing-money part of it. If you owe money, and that debt is just generating interest, you’re just digging a bigger hole for yourself. But if you just funnel money into your debt, you don’t really feel like you’re getting ahead in life.

I would recommend budgeting an amount every month and applying the 80/20 rule to it in order to pay off debt and growing some savings: 80% of that amount goes to debt and 20% goes to savings. Once the debt starts decreasing enough that you can breathe again, you can even flip the amount and watch your savings grow, until the debt is payed off and you can focus 100% of that amount to savings only.

What if you don’t have a fixed income?

Well, that should be addressed the same way: allocate every dollar, euro or peso every time you get payed. Give it a job. In time the money you get from these freelance jobs or what-have-you should start to feel like a paycheque.

As with most things, the hardest thing to do is to begin. If you’re anything like me, once you have numbers going on in your head, you’ll find it hard to stop. Every dollar will need to have a purpose, and there’s no reason why that purpose shouldn’t be “eating take-out” or “a new game”.

Just remember that before you burden yourself with more work or before you fall for a fast-money-making scheme, sometimes rearranging wat you already make could start solving your problems and taking you in a direction you’d like.

Thanks for reading.

New designs on Teepublic

I have updated my TeePublic storefront and added a few new designs.

Banjo Kazooie – Print

Print
Magnet

Banjo Kazooie Shirts and other apparel

Shirt
Also all of this stuff!

Magic Mushroom T-Shirt and other stuffs!

Joaco T-Shirts and other things!

La Rana print, magnet and pillow!

Dragon Quest Print!

That was a lot! There will be more designs coming!

Thanks for reading.

Ads

A partir de hoy voy a colocar una sola caja de anuncios (ads) en la barra lateral del sitio web. Es la única caja de anuncios que habrá en el sitio por ahora, aunque no creo añadir ninguna otra.

Salud.

//

Starting today I will place a single ad box on this website’s sidebar. Is the only ad box that will appear on the site for now, though I doubt I will add another.

Cheers.