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How to be a thought leader

How to be a thought leader

Pat Kelly narrates the format of every single TED talk in detail – and demonstrates how painfully easy it is to use form and style to portray yourself as being much smarter and your ideas as more important than they actually are.

It’s pure gold – because he nails all the little tropes exactly right. You’ll never be able to watch a TED talk the same way, or as seriously, again. Which is probably good – because it is a form of emotional and intellectual manipulation. TED talks show that even supposedly smart and sophisticated people are just as susceptible.

Emotional and intellectual manipulation like he demonstrates isn’t new. These exact same kinds of tropes exist everywhere. Paul E.T. shows how easily you can make a $70 Netflix documentary and can get your audience to believe any point you want. Most Hollywood movies use the Save the Cat narrative structure to make audiences believe or feel emotionally connected to whatever theme the narrative structure dictates. All of this without having an honest debate on the facts of the subject.

Today in startup culture we see stealth mode digital nomads iterate passionately and create paradigm shifting disruptive PoC’s that will transform a traditional marketspace with ephemeral apps and portals! They are the Uber for your laundry! We’re the Shapchat for your groceries! Yet, despite all the million and even billion dollar valuations, the majority of these Forbes 30 under 30 disruptors are now in, or facing, very real jail time for basic fraud and lies. It turns out so much was based on buzzy marketing with no substance. It should not have been a surprise either – so many of these ideas promised things that were not economically viable to downright scientifically impossible. Yet VC’s and the smartest people in the room ate them up.

The reality is that we are in an era in which FORM and STYLE are used to convey meaning and manipulate us into taking a side or believing an assertion more than actual facts. This isn’t just about fake news or biased social media posts, the fact this works on TED talk audiences shows that even those that consider themselves educated and refined can easily fall for this kind of emotional and intellectual manipulation.

Charter your private jet

Charter your private jet

Flight prices aren’t as cheap as they used to be anymore. In fact, if you’re about to fly your family and friends of 5-7 people somewhere, you might consider picking up a private jet. It might actually be in the same ballpark for price.

How much? Charter companies like XO specialize in these sorts of chartered trips. If you have flexibility, they sometimes even offer discounts and special deals for one-way trips to get their planes back/to the next pickup.

Here’s a list of recent prices

New Old Sound cards

New Old Sound cards

Retro gaming has a solid community – even in the PC world. Prices of old hardware keeps going up as supply of working components goes down as time goes on. But would you be surprised to hear that people are out there making new components for these old machines? I already mentioned the recreated Covox Speech Thing, but there are even re-creations of Adlib, SoundBlaster, and other early sound cards. Enter the Orpheus ISA 16 sound card that can emulate just about any 90’s era sound card perfectly.

Cracking codes from 1547

Cracking codes from 1547

In 1547, Charles V penned a letter to his ambassador, Jean de Saint-Mauris, part of which was written in the ruler’s secret code. Nearly five centuries later, researchers have finally cracked that code.

Cecile Pierrot, a cryptographer with the Loria laboratory in France, first heard of the letter’s existence at a dinner in 2019 and finally managed to track it down two years later.

The task proved rather daunting since the approximately 120 encrypted symbols didn’t employ a simple symbol-to-letter representation. Most represented letters or combinations of letters but others represented entire words. For example: a needle was used to represent the English King Henry VIII. Vowels that came after consonants were replaced by diacritical marks, except for the letter ‘e’ (the most commonly used letter), which the code makers cleverly avoided using as much as possible.

The big break occurred thanks to historian Camille Desenclos, who directed Pierrot to several other coded letters written by, and sent to, the emperor. One of which turned out to have been informally translated and became the key for cracking the code.

You must invite him in

You must invite him in

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. 29 But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. 31 With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. 32 Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”

Luke 24:13-36

The Road to Emmaus is a personal favorite and one of the most powerful stories after the resurrection of Christ. It contains just about all the major themes (theology) and experiences of Christian life – a life believers understand well today. It is a pattern for the mass, for conversion, His presence in the Eucharist, and many other wonderful teachings about how God works to reflect and meditate on.

This year though, I was caught by verses 28 and 29. Even after talking and walking with Christ along the way (but not recognizing him), having him explain the scriptures to them, he still acts as if he’ll keep moving on. It wasn’t until the 2 men INVITED him to stay that he came, ate a meal with them, and then revealed in the Eucharist that He had been with them all along.

It’s a reminder that we need to make explicit invitation for Christ after we have had an encounter with Him. Sometimes that encounter comes clearly through reading scripture or receiving Him in the Eucharist during mass. Sometimes its encountering Christ acting through others, through healing and answered prayers, a visit or kind word when especially needed, sometimes it’s the odd coincidences that make us think we had an encounter with God. But in all cases, Christ will never invite Himself in. We must take the initiative and explicitly do so – or He might continue on His way. This doesn’t just happen once, we must make this invitation again and again as we meet Him in all these different and unexpected ways like the 2 disciples walking to Emmaus.

It’s a good practice, at least once a day, to explicitly invite Jesus into your life and whatever is going on. Maybe as simply as saying, “Lord Jesus, you are my Lord, my savior, and My God. I invite you to stay here awhile with me and be with me through <whatever this is I’m doing> today. Stay and rest in my heart and there break bread with me so we may live like this through eternity.”

Argonne labs and the Hunt for Red October

Argonne labs and the Hunt for Red October

One of my favorite movies was The Hunt for Red October. In it, Sean Connery plays a Soviet sub commander in control of a nearly silent intercontinental ballistic submarine. Its silence comes from a hypothetical magnetohydrodynamic drive that had no propellers. But this was all fiction, wasn’t it?

When I was in high school, our science team took a trip to Fermi lab and Argonne National Laboratories up near Chicago. I was captivated. I still remember the discussion on subatomic particles by the Fermi lab speaker and seeing some of the devices such as the Tevatron. I still remember him talking about plans for an even larger collider being planned in Europe (hint, they built it).

At Argonne labs, we took another tour. At one point, we went into one of the large warehouse labs and there was a giant circular machine. The guide told us it was, in fact, an experimental magnetohydrodynamic drive. He shared some interesting anecdotes about the device. It turns out, the principles were sound. By creating a gigantic magnetic field one could indeed introduce thrust from salt-water passed through the center of it. If you want to make one, it is not complex and there are even YouTube videos demonstrating small devices.

The biggest problem? It wasn’t very fast, and you needed a GIANT magnetic field. It also didn’t work in fresh water and had a variety of other limitations and caveats.

The Japanese experimented with the technology as well and there were numerous prototypes developed. They also ran into the same problems but it did advance the field a bit by using smaller and more powerful superconducting magnetic systems to introduce the field. It works fairly well on a small scale, but pushing something as large as a transport ship or ballistic missile submarine was untenable. Not much has happened since those days as the physics of the system simply don’t work out – though China recently announced their experiments.

Still, it was absolutely fascinating to see something that was on movies and hinted at as secret technology in person. I think it was a big part of what got me interested in science and led me to computer science years later.

There has also a lot of suggestions that The Hunt for Red October book, publish from a nobody salesman via the Navy Institute Press, contained then-classified secrets, and happened at the same time of several strange submarine incidents was actually a ploy to signal certain messages to the Soviet Union. Since Tom Clancy recently died, we may never know for sure. But it wouldn’t be the first time this has happened.