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One time, I was moving, and I found notebooks of lyrics from my high school band. They weren’t emotional or anything, but still so, so bad. For about a day, I thought about how badly I needed to erase their existence, in a way that could not be reversed. I cut them into tiny pieces of paper, scrambled them up, then made four piles, and put one in each of my pants pockets.

I had to do errands at a few places, each 5 or 10 minutes apart from each other. At each one, I found a trash can and threw out a pile of the scraps of bad lyrics. At one place, a Canadian Tire, I saw 2 trash cans, so I put a pile in each.

One of the Worst Topics for a Blog Post

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I think back when blogs were conquering the Earth, a common slam on them was that a lot of people would just write “Sorry I haven’t updated, I will soon!”, and then maybe a little more detail, but not much. I keep holding myself back from doing that, because I have been meaning to update, but I never have a ton of time.

I started my little side business selling camera film in Canada, and originally my idea was just “Hey, it’s a pain to buy this stuff here, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel this way, so I’m going to start a little online store, and it won’t be too much work, and who knows, maybe it’ll take off after a year or two”, but things went a different way. The store has become much more popular than I expected, much quicker. I’m spending a lot of time importing merchandise, shipping orders out, re-stocking, etc. It’s fun, but unexpected.

I’ve always loved the idea of having a small, well curated online store. For some reason, it appeals to me to create a really well done online store that looks really nice, has a lot of detail, but doesn’t necessarily sell much. I tried doing this a little bit about 10 or 12 years ago, but back then I had to write the software myself, and it took a lot of time. Nowadays, you can get something together much quicker, although there’s still a lot of work to do an decisions to make.

There’s one online store idea that I’ve always wanted to do, but it always seemed to be too much work, because I’d have to go buy some boxes, figure out shipping rates, buy packing tape, etc. Now that I’m actually boxing up orders and shipping them regularly, I might actually do it.

The idea was to create an online store where you’d visit, and there would be a webcam pointing at a single book, streaming constantly. That would be the only book for sale, and there would only be 1 copy, and when somebody bought it, I would walk over, move it out of the way, and put a different book up for sale.

I was thinking that I could call it The World’s Smallest Online Bookstore, but I’m not 100% sold on that name. There seem to be a few actual brick and mortar businesses who call themselves the world’s smallest bookstore, and I imagine if I searched hard enough, there has to be someone using that as the name for their online store.

Interestingly, the main result I get for the world’s smallest bookstore is a place that closed in 2016 and was about 2 hours north of Toronto, in the Kawartha region. I really like that area, and I usually go to Bobcaygeon once a summer, so I wish I had known about the place before it closed, it looked really cool. The article I linked is a very good read, it’s at least looking just for the picture of the signage.

Toronto also used to be the home of The World’s Biggest Bookstore, which I went to many times from when I was a kid onwards. It closed a couple of years ago, which wasn’t incredibly surprising. Turns out that occupying a huge chunk of prime downtown real estate is only good when your industry is booming.

Here’s a little history of good and bad times to be a small or big bookstore, decade by decade:

1980: Huge brick and mortar bookstore: Awesome, profitable idea.

1980: Huge online bookstore: Bad idea because online doesn’t exist.

1990: Huge brick and mortar bookstore: Still looking good!

1990: Huge online bookstore: There is some online, but still a bad idea.

2000: Huge brick and mortar bookstore: I think this is still okay.

2000: Huge online bookstore: Oh yeah baby.

2010: Huge brick and mortar bookstore: Yeah, not looking so good.

2010: Huge online bookstore: Oh yeah baby.

2020: Huge online bookstore: This went so well the founder started a literal spaceship company.

2020: Tiny webcam-powered online bookstore: Wow this went even better than expected, and after 3 years, I am happy to announce that I have purchased 2 spaceship companies.

Why the Juicero Is so Expensive

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A bunch of rich people thought a huge amount of people were as dumb as themselves.

The Hidden Danger of Cryonics.

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All the smart transhumanists and futurists are really into cryonics. If you’re rich, it seems kind of like a no-risk situation to have your body frozen after death, with the hope that scientists will figure out a way to bring you back to life eventually. Worst case scenario, the power grid goes out for an extended period of time, your body thaws out, and roving bands of wolves eat you, right? Maybe not. I mean, that’s pretty bad, I don’t want to get eaten by wolves, even if I’m already dead, but I have another problem here. I’m going to go into it in a minute, but let me just say, I didn’t live my whole life just to wind up wolf food. There’s lots of animals out there the wolves can eat, I don’t care how hungry they are. I wish a wolf was reading this so I could yell at them, but I accept that only humans and spambots are reading this, so let me get back to cryonics.

Okay, so let’s say you’re a rich guy and you want to get your body frozen after you die, and you set it all up. First of all, I have to admit, I have no clue how it works, but I assume you probably need some special equipment. I’m specifically picturing a huge Coleman cooler shaped like a coffin, filled with ice.

This is an illustration I made to show how I picture it. I wasn’t sure who to photoshop into the cooler, so I asked on Twitter who was the person most famous for being dead. Joel Potischman said Archduke Ferdinand, and I immediately decided to use him, and I definitely didn’t have to look up his Wikipedia to remind myself who he was. I’d also like to point out that I was only able to find a painting of him with no lower half, so I photoshopped a sensible pair of brown khakis onto him.

Okay, so picture you’re this guy, dead and in a huge cooler. First of all, I assume that once you get old you’re going to have to hang around the cooler all the time, probably keep it filled with ice, so already the flaws in the cryonics plan are showing up.

But my main problem is that, okay, let’s say you get frozen up really hard, and you last for 50 years in some cryonics facility. One day, they cure death, and they figure out how to fix all your cells and bring you back to life. Here is my concern: Isn’t it perfectly logical that the people who work at the cryonics facility are probably going to just use you as a slave or something? You don’t have any money and they have a business that suddenly had to spend a whole bunch of money regenerating a bunch of old dead guys. This is how the conversation will go:

You: Guys, nooooo, I don’t want to be your slave”, you’ll say, “I thought you cared about life extension and science!

Cryonics guy: That was my great-grandfather, I just inherited this place. This place sucks ass, my cousin inherited a gas station.

You: What about my family?

Cryonics guy: Oh good point, hold on, let me phone them.. Hey guys, your rich great-great-grandfather woke up and he’s probably going to want all his money that got passed down to you guys? What’s that, I should keep him as a slave, and also have sex with him? Okay thanks, bye.

You: Did you actually call them, I don’t know what a phone looks like now.

I’m tired of writing this blog post. I really burned myself out with that incredible Photoshop work.

New Site – I’m in the Business of.. Film?

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I’m in the film business. I know what you’re saying: “What?”. I am saying the same thing. But uhh yeah, I am running a little online store selling film. Camera film. Photo film. You know the stuff. The site is called Buy Film Canada.

The main deal is that my biggest hobby is film photography, (which is on a general popularity upswing lately), but it’s a little frustrating if you live in Canada, because there just aren’t quite the options as in the USA for buying things. Cameras, film, etc. cost a lot more here than in the USA. I’ve always really liked the idea of having a good online store, but I never have anything to sell lately, and I decided this was a good spot to start one up.

It’s taken longer to get going than I expected for various reasons, but I guess that’s just how everything in life is I guess. I’ve done various online commerce things over the years, although not for quite a while I guess, and I was reminded of a few things.

The one thing that I already knew, but I’ve had to explain to a lot of people, is that one of the bigger hassles in running a business involves dealing with suppliers and getting merchandise. The problem manifests itself in different ways, depending on what you’re selling, but it is always more of a hassle than you expect.

In a lot of cases these days, people buy stuff from China (possibly custom made, possible something already being manufactured), and get it shipped over here. When you first look at a site like Ali Express or DHGate, you see all this stuff listed and the interface looks somewhat like Ebay or Amazon – just enter your quantity and buy it. People who have dealt with it, though, quite often have very frustrating stories about how late things came, how different the merchandise was from what they expected, how long they had to wait for samples, whatever.

In my case with the film, I had a few challenges. The first was that creating a relationship with the Canadian distributors is not a piece of cake. Before even approaching them, I suspected that they probably get inquiries from photographers who just want to buy and stockpile 200 rolls of film at a cheap price. My suspicion was definitely correct, and I had to go through a definite process to get an account setup. I was not remotely surprised at this, but it seems like a lot of people I talked to said “Oh man you’d think they’d be eager to sell you a bunch of film!”

Apart from that, there are some distributors that I can’t even get in touch with, even after emailing and phoning and leaving messages. This is something I’m sure I can get worked out now that the site is up, but it’s interesting.

Anyhow, none of this is a problem. You can always find alternate distributors if you look hard enough, and I’ve got the site up now and my only real hurdle is just selling enough of this film. I’m making a pretty small markup, and offering free shipping over a certain order size, so my only real worry is making sure I actually make a profit on the site haha, but whatever.

Okay that’s all, I’ll try to update here with stuff unrelated to that store soon. I was thinking of creating a standalone blog that basically documents the process of setting up and running an online store, instead of sticking all that info here, what does everyone think, should I do that? Or post it here? Or just shut up? How about I shut my mouth? How about that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Domain Name Decisions

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So, a quick thing: As I mentioned in a couple of earlier posts, I’m starting a little online store, and part of the idea is that I’m selling a type of product that isn’t that easy to get in Canada as in the USA. You can buy this type of product at some stores, but not a ton, and in a lot of cities and towns, your options are very limited. There’s no really good (ie. reasonably priced) way to buy online from a Canadian company, so a lot of people are stuck ordering from the U.S., and paying import fees and border fees and whatnot.

So since I’m mostly concentrating on Canada, I think it’s important that the store’s name communicates that. A lot of the value the store gives is that I’m shipping thiese items from inside Canada, which should make things faster, and cheaper. I bought the following domains:

buyXXXXcanada.com

buyXXXX.ca

buyXXXXcanada.ca (just backup for the .com version)

and just plain buyXXXX.com was already taken, and I’m sure they want $20,000 or something for it (the XXXX is a common 4 letter word).

Hey you know what, I just got curious, and I phoned the company (Afternic) who owns the .com version of it, and asked how much it was, just for the sake of this blog entry, and they wanted $9999. I talked to the guy a teeny bit, and I think I probably could have negotiated this a lot lower, but I honestly don’t know what it’d be worth to me – would I pay $500? Maaaaaaaaybe, but I don’t know if I’d get a huge return for that price, even if the store does well and lasts a long time. So the price is, predictably, way too much for me, but really, it’s not as insane as you might expect. Actually let me go on a tangent here:

There are big brokering companies that buy a huge amount of domains (this one mentioned they have 11 million on hand), and then sell them, and it’s interesting to me that the prices are not always nuts. I’ve phoned about a couple of other domains in the past (also just for curiosity), and they’re never as bad as I expect. The big domain broker companies obviously have a decent feel for how much people might actually pay, but if you ever approach just some random joe-schmo who owns even a mediocre domain you want, they always think they’re going to get $50,000 for it, and I think maybe sometimes (but very rarely) they do. I think it’s less and less common though, and I would bet if you saw a chart of domain prices, it’d be steadily falling.

I don’t have a ton of domain selling or buying experience. I’ve always been very, very interested in the whole field, but I’ve only sold one domain. It was a 5-letter, made-up word, and I owned the .com version of it for 8 or 9 years, but never did much with it. Then, in 2012, a guy emailed me saying he wanted to buy it. I think we had a brief exchange, then weren’t in touch with each other for 6 months, at which point he came back and was more serious.

The guy wouldn’t tell me exactly what he wanted it for, but he did say he was just some random guy with a business idea. I did as much digging as I could, and I couldn’t find anything to suggest that he was actually a front for some big company that could pay me a lot more, so after a bunch of negotiating, he agreed to buy the domain for $1250 (I think his initial offer was $250 and my first counter was $2000). When he finally launched a site, it did indeed turn out that he was just a guy with an interesting product (some kind of mask to help you sleep if I recall).

I own Pitas.com and I’ve never, ever received any remote interest from anyone in buying it. I have never tried to sell it, but I imagine if I did, it wouldn’t be that desirable – what would possibly go there? Years and years ago, I looked up a bunch of fast food names, and none of them had anything up other than “Domain For Sale” notices. Hotdog dot com, Hamburger dot com, Hamburgers dot com, Chickenwing dot com, etc. – I’m sure they were all registered a long, long time ago, but none of them have ever had anything interesting there.

This is actually what I find very frustrating about the domain name business: For the most part, it seems like there are a huge amount of domain names for sale, and so, so, so, so many of them just sit around forever, unused, because nobody really needs them. Having a great domain name is nice, but as people become more web-literate, and also just type business names into Google more, the value is less and less.

I think as the general value of domain names goes down, the amount of people looking to buy “special” (anything over $100) ones also goes down, so the domain brokers are relying even more than ever on making all their profits from fewer and fewer sales. This means that when they actually have a potential buyer on the hook, they’re going to want to get the max value from the domain the customer wants. I’m not explaining this well I don’t think, but anyhow yeah, it’s too bad. There have certainly been times in the past where I’ve wanted a certain domain name, and phoned, fully knowing that they’re going to ask for $3000, and fully knowing that I would never pay over $200 for it, but also knowing that nobody else will ever want that domain, or do anything with it. So it just sits there and is never used.

Anyhow, back to my little store: I don’t actually mind, in this case, that I can’t get the buyXXXX.com version of the name. It might actually be a good thing, because just owning buyXXXX.com doesn’t actually signal that I’m focusing on selling to people in Canada. It might be nice if I ever branch out and really start trying to market outside of Canada, but I don’t really anticipate that happening; it’s definitely not some goal I have anyway.

So I had to make the decision between buyXXXXcanada.com and buyXXXX.ca and to begin with, I went with the .com version, and I set up the commerce software to go along with it, and had the whole store set up there.

But then, I really got thinking about which of the two is better, and it was very, very tough for me to decide.

On one hand, the longer domain is a .com, and it also has the Canada keyword inside the name, so if you’re a potential customer and you see that name, it will signal you right away that it’s a Canadian business.

On the other hand, the .ca name is shorter, and a bit catchier. It also feels a little more like an actual brand name, just a little less generic, you know? It doesn’t have Canada in the actual domain name, but I do think that here in Canada, people are quite used to .ca domain names, and I think that on first encounter, having .ca in the domain might be just as good a signal of “Hey this is a local business” as having Canada. If you read any article on domains, they always say something like “The dot com name is king!”, and I still mostly agree with that for a lot of websites, but I think people outside of Canada probably have no clue how common and accepted .ca names are here. I don’t think the idea that people will go to the .com version by accident is that big a deal here.

So, in the end, I went with the shorter buyXXXX.ca name, but I’d definitely like to hear any opinions from people reading this. Heck, it’s not too late to switch if I’ve made some huge horrible mistake haha! (Although I think that even if I picked the wrong name, it’s unlikely it would be a really catastrophic mistake – maybe it makes a 2% difference to traffic/sales long-term or something).

Okay, so this was 1400 words on “I chose between these 2 domain names, but I’m still not 100% sure I was right” haha, which is kind of par for the course on this blog. I have a few upcoming entries, and I’m very close to actually launching the store properly, at which point I’ll actually talk about what it is, link it, etc.

Shopify vs WordPress/Woocommerce

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This is not a big, in-depth review of the two platforms in the title (Shopify and Woocommerce). I’m not comparing them at a super detailed level, just reporting my recent experience in trying them out. My blog is just random stuff mostly, and this is just a random thing I figured I could write a post about.

I’m starting a little online store, and while I’ve tried both of these platforms a few years ago, it was a pretty quick thing both times, and I didn’t run an actual store using them.

A few weeks ago, I decided to give each of them another run, to see which I was going to use for my little store (details coming soon). I did some fairly quick  research into what the best platforms might be, but as I suspected, the only choices that fit me were Shopify and Woocommerce.

Shopify has a 2 week free trial, so I signed up for that, and gave it a look. Woocommerce is a plug-in for WordPress, and is open source and free, so I installed it on a Linux server.

I’m going to just sum up my thoughts here, although I did just have to travel for a week, and I may have forgotten a few things.

Setup

You can get started with Shopify so easily, it’s really amazing. They’ve obviously put a huge amount of work into making that process very smooth and easy. I can’t imagine anyone would have any trouble with it.

Woocommerce is not as smooth, but it’s fine. Because it’s an add-on to WordPress, the whole experience is not 100% laser-focused on setting up an online store, but it’s still fine. I think the menu system they use could stand a few usability/clarity improvements, but it’s not terrible or anything.

Price

    • Woocommerce is free.
    • Shopify starts at $29 USD/month, and then has plans that go up to $299 (and some custom high-volume plans for huge businesses, presumably with a wide range of high prices).
    • In both cases, you’re still going to have to pay fees for every credit card transaction too.

Shopify actually has a weird thing where you pay a slightly smaller transaction fee (percentage wise) as you move up in plans, so on their $29 plan, you pay 2.9% +30¢ per transaction (I’m looking at my local rates, I’m in Canada), but if you’re on the $79 or $299 plan, that percentage goes down to 2.7% or 2.4%.

It’s such a small thing, but I’m not a fan of this. When I was looking at their pricing, I started wasting a bunch of brainpower while I was looking at it, basically doing algebra to determine at what sales volume it would make sense to switch to a higher plan. I don’t think it’s great to have people doing mental algebra when they’re looking at your pricing page, and I also think that this tier system kind of makes it look like they’re skimming 0.5% extra from smaller businesses.

To me, I don’t like that; it reminds me of when someone sells something online and charges $20 for shipping, but the actual shipping price is only $18. I don’t think it’s horrible or unethical, and I understand that people can price things however they want, but I do believe that a certain amount of the population gets very annoyed over those little things.

Anyhow, like I said, I don’t care really, but I don’t love that.

The Real Price

Okay, so Shopify has a monthly fee, but my impression from my quick testing is that they provide more things for that price. For instance, with Woocommerce, to set up a Canada Post shipping calculator, I have to buy a plugin for $35 (if I recall), and some other features require a subscription. I believe that service is free on Shopify.

In the end, depending on what exact features you need, you might pay less with either platform, although my impression is that most people will get away cheaper with Woocommerce.

However, I don’t think anyone should make this choice on price alone. The main thing I was really looking for when I tested both platforms was how smooth the customer experience was when someone came to my store and bought an item. I have a lot of inordinately deep feelings on this, and I pay tons of attention to this sort of flow when I buy anything online.

So which was better: Eh, both seemed good. I was disappointed because there was this one feature that some ecommerce sites include in their shopping cart flow, and I was very likely to just go with whatever platform had it, but neither did (unless I missed it on Shopify). But having said that, they’re both fine.

If I recall, I did figure out that you could do the thing I wanted with Magento (another big ecommerce platform), but I’ve worked on a site that used Magento before, and it seems so old and crappy looking to start, and I didn’t feel like working super hard to make it look good. I also think there was something else that was a pain in the ass – I think to use Stripe as a payment method you have to buy a pretty expensive plugin? Don’t take my word on that, I may be remembering wrong what the pain was, but I think that was it.

Ease of Maintenance

Shopify is going to be way easier to maintain, because you don’t need to run the servers or anything. I guess there are probably really good hosted solutions for Woocommerce, but I’m not aware of which are the big ones, and I don’t think these are what most people use.

I actually had an interesting exchange shortly after trying both these out. A guy I follow on Twitter complained that Shopify hosts the website for Breitbart (the nazi news site), and he said that he was going to close his account as soon as he could find a better solution (unless they kicked BB off their platform). I emailed him to say that I had just been using Woocommerce, and to give it a look, and that I’d be happy to show him my installation/admin area if he wanted.

He replied that he had actually used Woocommerce before Shopify, and that he couldn’t deal with it, because he’s a guy with a family, and his worst nightmare is that his site would go down, perhaps due to an incompatible plugin, and his only resource for tech support was a forum.

This is an incredible valid point! I’m actually going to do a spoiler here and mention that I did finally decide to go with Woocommerce (more on that later in this post), and I had an issue like this just today.

I went to add SSL support to my site (so it could use https:// URLs) using Letsencrypt, and I started following what seemed like a very straightforward tutorial. As if often the case with self-hosted stuff, everything was great, until something went wrong. In this case, I followed the step where you set your site name and URL to say https:// instead of http:// inside WordPress, and boop, the admin area became inaccessible. I hit the back button and tried to change the setting back, but I couldn’t, because it was now trying to send me to a form starting with https, which didn’t exist.

I’m probably explaining that somewhat unclearly, but the point was, it was a pain. Luckily for me, I know how to log in to a server using SSH, get into the MySQL database, and find/change the settings manually, but I imagine 99% of people using Woocommerce wouldn’t know where to begin.

I also have another story similar to this involving WordPress: I currently host and administrate a few WP sites for a friend, and they just told me yesterday that the admin area for one of them is completely inaccessible due to HTTP 500 errors. It’s not urgent, because they rarely update this site anymore, but at some point I’ll have to figure out why it’s doing it – I’m assuming it’s an incompatible plugin issue – and how to fix it.

Openness

So I already mentioned that I wound up going with Woocommerce, and the reason actually tied in with the issues above a little:

For my specific needs and uses, I really couldn’t find a huge difference between the platforms. I finally made the decision on two points:

1. I just prefer an open source product, because after years of using (and making) web-based software, it’s become clear to me that open source stuff just works better. You tend to have a better base of information online, software doesn’t get abandoned as quickly, and everything just works better, in my opinion. A lot of people get into open source software because of the sort of philosophical parts of it, and sure, those are fine, but from a purely pragmatic level, I just think OSS works better.

And closely tied into that, is that by running WordPress/Woocommerce myself, I’m much more in control. I can mess around with any part of my site I need to without any limits. I’m actually quite interested in writing a few specific features into Woocommerce (I guess in the form of plugins), and I think you can actually do with Shopify as well, and I’m sure that’s fine, but it feels a little more natural to me to write stuff for an open source/self-hosted thing than for a closed platform run by a company.

All my store data is always available to me to use on Woocommerce as well, although I am pretty sure Shopify gives you all the data you need as well. I have to admit, I didn’t check on this super hard when I tried them though, but I’d be shocked if they didn’t let you export all sorts of info. But I like the idea that I can do anything I wanted – for instance, I can literally log into my server, run a tail command and watch people come to my store in real time, as they navigate, and see what people are doing.

But that’s just me, and I guess I’m kind of the opposite of the guy who I mentioned emailing. I think he might be more typical of a lot of people – they just want to get their shops up, sell their items, and not deal with server issues.

Summary

I don’t think this is a great article. I’m not really comparing Woocommerce and Shopify at all, I’m just saying what my thought process was. I also didn’t come to any huge conclusions, and I’m not going to put PROS and CONS bullet points at the bottom here. If you read this article, you probably have a good feel for who I think is better suited to each platform.

Let me know what you think in the comments btw.

Twitter Is Bad, Part 400000000000

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One remarkably dumb thing about Twitter is this:

There are all these spammy accounts that follow 450,000 people, and have 390,000 followers. Twitter, which is still running on unimproved code that they copy and pasted from Matt’s Script Archive in 2004, thinks that if an account with 390k followers interacts with you, you want to know immediately, and it pings your phone. These accounts are almost always a 60 year old guy who worked for 30 years at Proctor and Gamble, retired, discovered auto-following apps, gave a TEDx talk about Social Media Marketing, and wrote 3 ebooks (Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,201,617 Paid in Kindle Store).

I was also thinking about how many problems could be solved if Twitter would differentiate brand accounts from real people. For one thing, they could charge brands a monthly fee, which any company would happily pay, make an insane amount of revenue, and hire people to fix.. everything.

But nope, they’ve never done this. They’re like “no way man, if we charge $20/month for brands, Pepsi will close their account and move to a new platform and we’ll go out of business, people are only here for the brands”.

I think Twitter actually has some sort of weird philosophical stance where brands, consumers, and Russian propaganda bots are all people, and they all stand on equal footing, and must be treated equally. Everybody in charge at Twitter was like “Wow, we live in a world where corporations have all the same rights as people and…… it’s turned out great, we better emulate that!”

People bag on Reddit, but Twitter is basically the ultimate libertarian website. The rich (spam accounts with 390k followers) are rewarded, corporations are treated like people, and everyone has the worst opinion in the world, and is racist.

More About Reality Simulation Theory

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I think I wrote about Simulation Theory a while ago on here (oh yeah here it is, I forget what I said). Basically, it’s the idea that maybe our whole world is a simulation,and it’s been getting so much press for the last year or two. One thing I love about it is just how corny it would be if it turned out to be true. Guess what guys, the meaning of the Universe and life and everything? It’s a plot twist that you already saw in some of crappy-ass science fiction a while ago.

There is one really great thing about simulation theory though: There was a New Yorker write-up on Sam Altman (young woke VC) a while ago that just casually mentioned “two tech billionaires have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation” as an afterthought. That wasn’t even the whole sentence, it was the end of a sentence; there were 26 words that came first. It’s like if one of my regular boring posts here was like “So I bought one of the ketchup bottles that hotdog stands use, and it really does make a difference, I know there should be no difference, but I swear I can taste the difference when I eat the hot dog; I’m in a consensual relationship with a talking frog” and then just dropped the subject.

Last year, I met Nick Bostrom, who popularized simulation theory, but I only talked to him about superintelligent AI and totally forgot to ask him about the billionaire thing. I still remember the exact place I was, twenty minutes later, when I suddenly remembered it and went “FUCK” on a (fairly deserted) sidewalk.

Marc Andreessen, who is quoted in the New Yorker article, follows me on Twitter, and I’m so curious about this billionaire thing that I did something I almost never do, and Direct-Messaged him a question, despite having never actually chatted with him on there previously. I’m always wary of bugging famous/popular people who follow me, because I don’t want them unfollowing; I figure it looks good if someone comes across my profile and sees the “these people follow Andrew” bit and it’s a bunch of good tweeters. Anyway, Andreessen didn’t give me any info, he just said that a credible reporter had told him that, but he had no knowledge of it. I assumed that’d be his answer, but I had to check.

I think the general consensus of who the billionaires are tends to include Peter Thiel and Elon Musk. Both are billionaires, and closely connected to Altman. Musk is is a founder of OpenAI, along with Altman, and became rich as a founder of Paypal, along with Thiel.

Peter Thiel is basically the Darth Vader figure to Sam Altman’s Luke Skywalker. Altman was Thiel’s protege, and they both became unimaginably wealthy and powerful, but one turned to the bright side (Altman fighting to save humanity) and one went bad (Thiel spending millions of dollars to stop us from ever seeing the full Hulk Hogan sex tape). They weren’t brothers like Vader and Skywalker, but listen, this analogy is falling apart, I totally lost focus on this one, I’m honestly concentrating most on just saying shit about Star Wars so I get more comments on my blog. Anyhow, those guys know each other, so people assume it’s him.

There’s definitely a movie script in this whole thing. Here’s how I picture it, and for the sake of clarity, instead of saying “John Smith (a Sam Altman type character)”, I’m just going to use real names. But if you’re a producer, director or studio executive reading this, and you want me to make it into a real movie, just get in touch, and I can change the names to fake names and write the full script, in return for like a million dollars or something. Also, I’m going to put the actor name after the character name, but if you see “John Smith (Ed Norton)”, it doesn’t mean that the character is named John Smith Ed Norton and has brackets around his last name.

BREAKIN’ OUT (SIMULATION GAMES) script outline

The movie opens with Nick Bostrom (Samuel L. Jackson) giving a talk at an unspecified TED Talk-like conference. The camera pans across the crowd and we see two men nodding along: Peter Thiel (Danny Glover) and Sam Altman (Donald Glover).

Cut to the hallway after the talk. A reporter (Taye Diggs) approaches Bostrom and asks whether he really believes we live in a simulation. Bostrom adjusts his Kangol and smiles. “Listen Smales, I read your blog. I like your blog. We all like Benicetobears, but you got to stop asking me these tough questions”. The reporter, Andrew Smales (again, played by Taye Diggs) winks and says “can’t stop, the truth is in my blood”.

Bostrom begins walking down the hallway, and is approached by Thiel and Altman. “Bostrom, just ze man we were looking for” Altman says in a thick German accent (is this correct?). Bostrom looks puzzled. “Can you break us out of the simulation?” asks Thiel. Bostrom chuckles, and adjusts his Kangol. “Hell no motherfucker. Nobody can break us out of the simulation, hell, you’d have just as much chance asking me as you would..” he looks around randomly “.. as you would asking this janitor here” he points to a janitor and as the scene fades out, we see a close up of the janitor (Kevin Hart) cocking his head, as if he just thought up a cool plan.

Next scene: We’re in the fancy office of a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Peter Thiel is having lunch with Elon Musk (Dwayne Johnson). A secretary knocks at the door and says “There are two scientists who want to see you, but they don’t have an appointment”. Thiel says “Send them away” but Musk raises his hand.. “No, no, wait a minute Pete, this might be a laugh, let’s have a little fun with these guys, really give them the business!” A wry look crosses both their their faces as the secretary exits and says “The guys will see you now”.

The janitor (Kevin Hart) enters along with another man (J.B. Smoove). They’re carrying large folders.

Actually, I’m going to cut this off right here. This is what they call “a taster” in Hollywood, and I don’t want to give the whole thing away. Suffice it to say, the janitors turned con men quickly pull one on the billionaires, and wind up living high on the hog, pretending to work on breaking us out of the simulation, while having all sorts of hijinks. Little do they know that one tenacious blogger – who looks a lot like Taye Diggs – is on to them, and will stop at nothing to figure out JUST WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON!

Breakin’ Out! In theatres………………………….. soon??????????????????????

What Eggs Like

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Sometimes I remember I should be posting and I feel bad, but then I think about all the really terrible posts I don’t tweet, and I feel better, responsible even. That’s me, a good, responsible blogger, not posting a bunch of crap just to put in hours.

Now however, having just said that, I did save a photo in Photoshop, and I wanted to call it “egg-life-hack.jpg” but some weird muscle memory made me type “egg-like-hack.jpg“.

I started thinking “Egg like hack? No, egg like crack”, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I guess I am imagining an egg who can’t talk very well saying that he likes being cracked.

Okay anyway, I’ll try to post soon, but as I said, I’m not going to just post garbage for the sake of it. Only the top quality stuff.