My Commentaries on Our Times on Medium

Tom Nickel
9 min readSep 13, 2021

It doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to write general Op Ed kind of pieces on Medium. People who are interested in specific topics, like VR, can easily find value in my writing when I stay between the hashtags. My thoughts on current events? Probably not so much.

I write these because I want to and I almost can’t help it. As a result, these are some of my favorite pieces, and also some of the ones I consider my best.

Ridiculous White Paper 32b

Ridiculous White Paper 32b

May 26, 2021

Is solving Really Hard Math Problems the only way to demonstrate Proof of Work?

Just asking. I’m sure other people much more committed than I am to the cryptocurrency field must have thought about some other alternative. Like, what about using something that is inherently beneficial as Proof of Work? Like, planting a tree?

My Fudgsicle, My Self

My Fudgsicle, My Self

May 19, 2021

The people around me like food, like talking about food. Like planning and preparing food. I like it too, but I get full faster, full of everything about it. The food aspect of my social life was not working.

I knew the only solution was to embrace food and make stuff.

Three years ago I began exploring homemade ice cream as a way to join the food world and make a contribution. Now frozen confections are an integral part of my role in the micro community.

JFK Now

JFK Now

February 4, 2021

It comes down to one second, like the universe in a grain of sand, if we could only see it.

If we could just get that one second right, we’d know something:

How many bullets hit the President and where did they hit him

How do we know anything? Who would wade into one of the most contentious topics of modern history and claim that anything can be known?

The two biggest enemies of knowing anything are:

  1. thinking that we already know something
  2. thinking that we can never figure this one out
Abraham, Isaac, and School Re-Opening

Abraham, Isaac, and School Re-Opening

August 2, 2020

The Abraham & Son story is the ultimate Test-of-Faith lesson in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We can speculate about what it meant at the time, how people three thousand years ago may have understood it or interpreted it.

I think it influences us today. Its message is part of our deep conditioning. Stories like this are told and retold and influence how we think about important decisions that we all have to make.

I Love Sports and Sports Must Die

I Love Sports and Sports Must Die

July 19, 2020

I love sports.

It’s this version of big time sports that has gone wrong and needs to redirected.

I know how wonderful it is to sit back with a friend and watch athletes compete because I have been doing it all my life and loving it.

I also know the emotional effect college and pro sports teams can have on a city or a whole region. I lived in Boston.

I want all those good parts.

Paul Simon from Nairobi

Paul Simon from Nairobi

June 8, 2020

He wanted to talk.

He wanted to talk about the Killing of George Floyd. He wanted to host a discussion on everything that is going on and he had a specific plan for how he wanted to do it. He said all that in about one minute.

I’ve learned over the past few months not to be surprised by anything and to do my best to welcome everything. It was hard not to be surprised by Paul Simon — but it sure was easy to welcome him!

Book Club Guide: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth

Book Club Guide: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth,

Parts 1&2

April 8-April 26, 2020

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth,” was published in 1968 and was part of new orientation toward seeing the planet as a unified, interconnected entity.

“The Whole Earth Catalog,” also first published in 1968, with its picture of the Earth seen from Space on the cover, was dedicated to Buckminster Fuller.

In my opinion the book is not dated at all; in fact, I would say we have finally caught up to his thoughts from over fifty years ago.

Plain Vanilla

Plain Vanilla

January 1, 2020

Vanilla is the most popular flavor in the world. It is also a symbol of the ordinary, with bland overtones.

How can this be? How can we elevate something but also call it meh? I don’t think there is any good reason for ‘Plain Vanilla’ being associated with dull. But it is, so that leaves only bad reasons, ‘bad’ meaning dynamics that don’t make obvious sense.

I believe the phrase ‘Plain Vanilla’ is a victim of Semantic Shift, the tendency for word usage and meaning to evolve.

Entering Another Country

Entering Another Country

November 6, 2019

It is an accepted given that the Customs Experience is awful. Why does it have to be this way?

Why couldn’t entertainers put on a show featuring unique cultural expressions of the country you’re waiting in a long line to enter? Why can’t Customs Agents be friendly? Why can’t Customs be fun?

I am a Russian Asset

I am a Russian Asset

October 26, 2019

The Authorized position is that, yes, the US is the strongest country on earth, but that strength and the dominance that comes with it are used for good. The country makes mistakes and no one is perfect, but overall, the US should be where it is because the American Way is best.

This is the American Exceptionalist position. In case you think only foolish people would believe it, you would have to think President Barack Obama was either lying or pandering, because he is definitely not foolish, when he trumpeted his belief many times.

RE: There is No Free Speech

RE: There is No Free Speech

October 18, 2019

Limits to self-expression are set at every scale — internally as individuals, within relationships and families, in the workplace, and at the level of Community, Region, and Nation.

The limits are set by the most powerful, although it is not always obvious what power is and how it is exercised. Find out who you can’t criticize, who you can’t make jokes about. That’s who’s setting the limits of self-expression and enforcing them somehow.

Suppose an NBA player wanted to wear a t-shirt with a Confederate flag on it in a post-game interview? Would everyone rally to defend that free self-expression? I believe it would be seen as shockingly insensitive.

To me, this is Step One: Acknowledge that we are always talking about limits to self-expression, not ‘violations’ of some cherished principle that doesn’t exist.

Remarks on the 2020s

Remarks on the 2020s

March 23, 2019

I know that any plans I create are likely to be made irrelevant by external events. The reason to have a plan, I’m finally realizing, is not to guide me at some future time, but to strengthen my sense of purpose right now. If someone else’s purpose gets strengthened while I’m at it, so much the better.

Reality disrupts plans. We are living in times when disruption is widespread, much-discussed, and accelerating. Sometimes it is welcomed, even embraced, for apparently making life more convenient. Often it is feared or hated for destroying ways of life.

Joe Rogan and Sir Roger Penrose

Joe Rogan and Sir Roger Penrose

January 3, 2019

The Cosmologist and the Cable News Guy talked for over an hour and a half a few weeks ago.

Sir Roger Penrose is respected and influential, and also controversial. Joe Rogan is all those things too, for different reasons.

For all his honors, Sir Roger Penrose has espoused ideas that many established scientists think are crazy, most notably his framework for a theory of quantum consciousness.

Influencers for Good

Influencers for Good

January 1, 2019

The term, ‘Influencer’ is not about a general capacity — it refers specifically to the ability to get other people to Buy Stuff.

The people and the Brands they work for that are harnessing the power of Influencers are clearly onto something. Why shouldn’t we think about using Influencers to touch other aspects of people, the parts of us that want to become an artist, to adopt more healthy behaviors, to learn new skills, or to help other people?

We need Influencers for Good.

Listening to Joe Rogan

Listening to Joe Rogan

July 22, 2018

This is my second most popular piece. It came just as Joe Rogan was emerging from semi-cult status to the cultural mainstream and people anted to read about him. I don’t know if he has changed in the three years since this piece was written, but the world sure has and so has his image. I think this arti cle helps explain why he became so popular.

I hadn’t listened to Joe yet. I was aware of him, of his popularity, but I hadn’t quite bought into his format. I still preferred nicely produced podcasts, shows with a topic. That’s not the “Joe Rogan Experience.” Joe does long-form, open-ended yakking and I wasn’t ready for three hours of it.

It was the Michael Pollan interview that finally drew me in; it was only an hour and a half. I knew he was back in the zeitgeist with his well-timed book on psychedelics, an area in which I had some direct experience in the past, as well as a re-emerging interest in the present. I wanted to hear

Naming Rights

Naming Rights

July 6, 2018

States need categories because States need to count. People everywhere who don’t fit well in some crucial category are fighting back. The psyop isn’t working as well any more in the US.

In China it is working better than ever.

Xi Jinping showed how specifically he was tracking names when the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) sent a letter to 44 major airline companies from all over the world, simply asking them to check their websites and make sure the name ‘Taiwan’ was shown accurately.

The Inertia of Podcasts in a Time of Abundance

The Inertia of Podcasts in a Time of Abundance

February 9, 2018

Since podcasts are universally reported to be booming, I assume the advantages of programming your own audio experience are well known. What might be less well known is how the heck we’re supposed to do a good job of it. How are we supposed to know what’s out there and make informed choices about what to listen to?

It’s not that tough to find a few shows you like, but how do you branch out and add to your repertoire? New and improved podcast apps can nudge and make suggestions, but the problem is deeper than that.

Give Us Just a Little More Time!

Give Us Just a Little More Time!

October 28, 2017

Doesn’t this 11th hour delaying tactic tell us everything we really need to know about the JFK assassination?

This release date was established decades ago. It’s a joke that someone needs ‘just a little more time’ when they’ve already had 25 years not to mention all the years before that. Here’s the punchline: Lee Harvey Oswald was doing uncover work for multiple organizations in the US federal government, including Hoover’s FBI, the ATF and G2, as a contractor for Guy Bannister’s private agency. The Mexico City trip featured in the current set of records touches on one or more of those gigs.

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Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos