'Black Panther' Discussion: This One's Gonna Be Fun

In case you haven’t been near a theater, TV, mall, or interstate overpass, and haven’t seen the news, Black Panther opened this weekend. And it opened big. Like, history-making box office numbers big. With good reason—T’Challa (aka Black Panther) is a hero fans have been anticipating for a long time. As WIRED’s Jason Parham noted last week before Marvel’s latest movie “black superheroes were never afforded the same deification” as their white counterparts, but now Panther director Ryan Coogler has made a movie that shows what a superhero movie can truly be. A lot of us here at WIRED saw the movie over the weekend, and now that the worries of spoilers have receded (yes, this post will have them, continue at your own risk), it’s time we finally talk about it at length. Here we go—Wakanda forever!

Angela Watercutter: OK, I’m not going to say too much right off the bat because I want to know what my colleagues thought, but I will just say that Black Panther lived up to the hype. Like, the anticipation for this movie had been building for months and I was starting to worry that nothing could live up to what fans were hoping for with this movie, no matter how talented everyone working on this film is, but judging from the reaction at the screening I saw, people are thrilled. Did you guys have the same experience? How did you feel walking out of the theater? Did you sense that your fellow theater-goers were satisfied?

Peter Rubin: Angela, we were both in Hall H for Marvel’s panel at Comic-Con last July, and after Ryan Coogler surprised the crowd with some BP footage, we both know what was possible. The mood in that room—among attendees, Comic-Con staffers, and the crew itself—was not your usual “ah, this looks cool!” anticipation. Something cathartic happened in there. And even though I had the opportunity to go to a press screening earlier last week, I skipped it, because I wanted to see it for the first time in a theater full of people who were invested in it.

I wasn’t disappointed. Not by the movie, and not by the feeling of joy and lightness (and yes, Oakland pride) that was occupying every chair at in that theater. Two seats over from me was a young kid, seven or eight years old, in a full-on T’Challa suit; in the 24 hours since I saw the movie, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the T’Challas (and Okoyes and Shuris) all over the country, stepping out into recess feeling like heroes. Justice, you’ve already seen it twice, right? What kind of differences did you notice in the two screenings—either in the crowd’s reception or in your own enjoyment?

Justice Namaste: The first screening I went to (second one is today!) was in Oakland on opening night. The only screening I’ve been in that nearly matched the energy in the theater during Black Panther was during the opening weekend of Get Out, when one of my friends actually fell out of their chair during the pivotal scene.

Visually, no other Marvel movie has ever come close to Black Panther—the lush Wakandan landscapes, the vibrantly colored costumes, even the wearable tech was beautiful. And that moment where the Royal Talon Fighter dips below the veil and we get an aerial look over the Golden City? Jawdropping.

But even with all this to mull over, when I left the theater, what was left ringing in my ears was Erik Killmonger’s last words: “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, ‘cause they knew death was better than bondage.” In my opinion, the driving relationship in the film was that between T’Challa and Killmonger. (Or, thought of another way, the one between T’Chaka and N’Jobu, but realized through their sons.) T’Challa and Killmonger didn’t spend much time together on screen when they weren’t trying to murder each other—their lack of real dialogue was one of the movie’s more disappointing choices—so the tension between them was largely ideological, but it still drove the story. The “son reckoning with his father’s legacy” trope is a staple of the MCU, but it’s a limited one. Using a villain like Killmonger to complicate the idea of what heroism actually looks like, though? That’s a much more fascinating story.

Phuc Pham: As much as I enjoyed watching T’Challa grapple with both his opponents and his emotional demons, I couldn’t shake the sense that his heroic arc was a copy-paste of the superhero’s journey that Marvel has come to rely on. I mean, this is the fourth guy that has had a plot twist regarding his father upend his world.

Killmonger, on the other hand, was much more interesting to me. While T’Challa does his whole superhero thing, his archenemy points to actual systemic oppression, grounding Marvel’s universe in the real world in a way that feels new and bold. His motivation, essentially, is black liberation the world over—which to me qualified as the biggest heroic endeavor in the film. (At least until you realize that the means to achieve that end are vibranium weapons and a high body count.) Like you, Justice, I wish T’Challa and Killmonger had spent more screen time hashing out their ideological differences. The scenes when they engage in ritual combat are visceral—no Black Panther powers allowed!—but also seemed like wasted opportunities for some fight chatter about how best to rule Wakanda as well as improve the lives of the African diaspora.

Watercutter: Totally. I also wanted Killmonger and T’Challa to have more time to actually talk about their differences. Because, unlike almost every other Marvel villain before, Killmonger didn’t just want to rule to be a ruler. He wanted liberation, and in that he and T’Challa weren’t too far apart—they just had different ideas of how to achieve it. In that final scene that Justice mentioned, I truly didn’t want Killmonger to go. I wanted him to join T’Challa and stay in Wakanda. That, to Jason’s point, doesn’t happen often in these films. Maybe it happened a bit with Loki, but he’s always been a character with many allegiances. (And yes, Peter, I remember that Comic-Con Hall H panel—I’ve never felt anything like that a SDCC, and doubt I ever will again.)

Jason, in your great review last week you talked about how Black Panther showed what a superhero movie could do. What do you think it demonstrated in how it portrayed both its heroes and villains?

Parham: I didn’t think Michael B. Jordan’s acting was particularly strong, but I do agree that Killmonger as a character was perhaps the film’s most compelling—because he really wasn’t your typical antihero. I think Jelani Cobb at The New Yorker was correct in that the real villain was history itself. Killmonger’s rage was merely a product of the times, and all the despair he’d seen firsthand around the world. That’s a heavy burden to reckon with, but not an untrue one. In doing this, Coogler positioned the film in a really smart way, giving it historical currency but also contemporary heft, and all without feeling like he was trying to make some obvious political statement.

One of the more brilliant aspects of the movie—a credit to Coogler and Joe Robert Cole’s fine script—was its insistence on complicating character arcs, especially with people like W’Kabi and M’Baku, who expertly straddled the line between good and bad. Then there’s someone like Okoye, who is fiercely loyal to Wakanda in every regard. Her inner confliction felt so palpable—being forced to serve an unfit king and wage war against her lover (Danai Gurira’s Okoye was maybe my favorite character, along with Shuri and M’Baku). Everyone felt like they were doing what was best for Wakanda, which you can’t really fault them for. It felt like a truer reflection of what it means to be alive in the world today. Black Panther succeeds on so many levels. I’m curious: what did everybody think were some of the stronger aspects of the film?

Namaste: This is the obvious answer, but I just have to say it—the women. The strongest part of the film was undoubtedly all of the women characters. And that extends to the women behind the scenes as well. Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia, Angela Bassett’s Ramonda, Letitia Wright’s Shuri (and of course Okoye and the rest of the Dora Milaje) were complex characters whose identities and motivations did not revolve solely around men. The audience saw Okoye as both a warrior and a lover, Nakia as an undercover spy who’s more concerned with protecting human rights than gathering intelligence, and Shuri as a younger (and better?) Tony Stark.

Not to mention the fact that their actions and beliefs are key to driving the story forward. Nakia is the first character who really pushes T’Challa to consider what Wakanda’s responsibility is to oppressed people across the rest of the world. And T’Challa would likely be dead 10 times over without Shuri’s engineering brilliance. Speaking of which, I’ve seen Letitia Wright being called the breakout star of the film, a title she most certainly deserves. As Shuri, she delivers some of the funniest lines, while also masterfully navigating a series of tense and heart-wrenching moments. Sure, T’Challa might be the Black Panther, but these women are far from secondary characters.

Pham: I’m so glad the writers decided to adapt Nakia and the Dora Milaje away from the ways they’re set up in some of the older comic book runs, where Nakia has an unrequited crush on T’Challa and the Dora Milaje—in addition to their role as royal guards—are a pool of potential queens. So extra kudos to film-Nakia for asserting she doesn’t want to be a Dora.

There hasn’t been an MCU film that’s as focused on technology since the Iron Man trilogy, and I was struck by how hopeful Black Panther, both the movie and the character, are how a future shaped by it doesn’t have to be dark and bleak. Production designer Hannah Beachler has said how Blade Runner inspired her vision of Wakanda’s capital Birnin Zana, and it shows. The dense urban landscape, replete with pristine skyscrapers and dusty merchant stalls, certainly hearken to traditional cyberpunk environments. Here, though, Afrofuturism shines figuratively and literally. Wakanda forgoes the dim and damp settings of futuristic cities (why are the streets always slicked with rain?) for a warm glow that almost makes you root for Killmonger’s vision of an empire upon which the sun never sets.

Thematically, the film also bucks the trend of Marvel movies in which new technology always begets catastrophe. Tony Stark’s bleeding-edge armaments always seem to end up in the hands of terrorists while Chitauri tech enables a middle-aged megalomaniac to hunt high schoolers in his spare time. Meanwhile, T’Challa not only prevents vibranium from being weaponized but also closes the film with plans to open a Wakandan outpost in Oakland—a city adjacent to Silicon Valley wealth yet wracked by a 20 percent poverty rate—to share and exchange knowledge. In an age when technology is often abused for nefarious and disruptive ends, the Black Panther’s techno-optimism seems to be a call for fewer divisions, not more.

Rubin: The rest of you have already ticked off just about everything that made this movie so appealing, so in hopes of adding something new to the mix, I’ll close with the idea that Black Panther created an entirely new lane for the MCU. After all 4,000 characters band together to (presumably) defeat Thanos in the two Avengers: Infinity War movies, Marvel is going to need a way to move forward, and Wakanda’s entry onto the global geopolitical stage is one of those ways. The MCU has its cosmic arm, its street-level arm, its mystical arm—and now Wakanda links the political intrigue of the Captain America movies with the deeply personal stories of a fully-fleshed world.

Does that mean we’ll see a Dora Milaje prequel movie in 2021? An M’Baku standalone? Only time will tell, but with a roster of new characters, ready-made internal conflict, and a rising cadre of filmmakers who are ready and able to tell these stories, the MCU’s prospects as a long-range paracosm have never been better.

My 'Cash Flow Investing' Strategy

My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest.

– Warren Buffett

“Cash Flow Investing” is a strategy of my own design. It can either be a stand-alone tactic or used in combination with stock and bond picking. The basic concept is to receive money, each and every month, with a few quarterly additions if the yield is high enough, that can be used for living expenses or used to increase the size of your portfolio and your wealth.

The underlying fundamental is the compounding of interest which, if you receive money monthly, adds approximately 1.10% or 110 basis points to the yields that you are receiving. It also has a further advantage, made clear in our recent correction, of having the readily available cash to buy assets at lower prices and higher yields minus any change in dividends.

When I began to employ this methodology, some years ago, I quickly discovered that closed-end funds offered the best opportunity for its use, to employ my strategy. ETFs are the more touted protocol because, in my estimation, the manager receives more money as the assets increase, which is not the case in closed-end funds. Given this dynamic, closed-end funds are the ignored step-child, which is fine with me, as I load up on the monthly, with a few quarterly, dividend pay-outs.

After more than four decades on Wall Street, I also know that “stuff happens.” Consequently, I use investment-grade Corporate bonds, with maturities of 5-10 years, all bought at par or less, as the anchor of my program. Minus a credit event, you should receive all of your principal back, at one hundred cents on the dollar, upon maturity, regardless of the machinations in the markets. The Corporate bonds generally pay semi-annually, and they represent one-half of the portfolio.

Now I have spent countless hours choosing the closed-end funds that I prefer. Currently, my favored closed-end funds are composed of eight, mostly bond funds, with a few equities scattered about in some portfolios, and six MLP closed-end funds and one REIT closed-end fund. My favored MLP funds hold mostly pipeline companies which can be thought of as toll roads, collecting fees, for the transmission of oil and natural gas. Prices of the commodities up or prices down, the oil and natural gas still have to be transported. Choosing these funds is no easy task and the complexity of the choices is based upon any number of moving parts.

There is the NAV, the fund’s liquidity, the leverage used, the quality of the assets, the expertise of the manager, the yield, and the track record of the fund, just to name a few criteria. You have to know what you are doing because, if you don’t, you will make some very poor choices.

One of the components, of virtually all of the closed-end funds, is leverage. This is troubling to some investors mostly because of a lack of knowledge, and understanding, in my opinion.

First, the leverage is the funds and not yours. You are borrowing nothing, and it is the funds’ obligations. Second, closed-end funds are limited to a maximum of 50% leverage by statute. Closed-end funds do not have the 200% or 300% leverage of some ETFs, most of which I consider to be toxic investments that are in the gambling category.

Let’s examine the leverage in context. John Mauldin, in Forbes, cites an $8.6 trillion U.S. corporate debt level. He further states that the average ratio of U.S. corporate debt to GDP is 45.3%.

In the case of the MLP closed-end funds that I like, the average leverage is 27.83%. The one REIT fund that I favor is levered at 27.40%. Then the average for the closed-end bonds funds that I prefer is 30.62%. This puts the average leverage of all of my closed-end fund choices at 28.62%.

Now, let’s look at the yields. Most, as I said, are monthly payers which, by compounding the interest, adds about 110 basis points to the yield. For reference, I use Bloomberg’s “Indicated Yield” as the basis for my computations. In the case of the MLP closed-end funds, the average yield is 12.15%. The REIT closed-end fund yields 11.56%. For the bond closed-end funds the average yield is 11.17%. This then gives you an average yield of 11.63% for the funds that I find attractive. To put this in perspective, the ten-year Treasury closed Friday at 2.88%.

Therefore, at this point in time, if one-half of the money is in investment-grade corporates, yielding approximately 4.25% and one-half of the money is in the closed-end funds then the average total yield is about 7.94%. This is a quite conservative strategy, in my opinion, and one which allows for a peaceful night’s sleep when turmoil is jumping about you during our recent correction.

I also point out that appreciation can be a factor. The concept is to “make money on the money.” Therefore, if there is any meaningful appreciation, I generally suggest taking the profit and rolling out of one fund, or one bond, into another bond or another fund to keep making all the money possible on the cash that has been committed to the strategy. Adjustments can be made at the end of the year for tax planning, if necessary.

There you have it, “Cash Flow Investing” explained. Compounding interest leading to compounding assets which provide monthly cash to adjust to market conditions.

Understanding both the power of compound interest and the difficulty of getting it is the heart and soul of understanding a lot of things.

– Charlie Munger

How To Track Elon Musk’s Roadster On Its Journey Towards Mars

The successful launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy earlier this month was a landmark technical achievement, but it has quickly come to be symbolized by something a bit sillier — the image of a red Tesla Roadster floating through space, with a dummy in a spacesuit behind the wheel.

The car and its passenger — known as Starman — were the test payload for the Falcon Heavy, and they’re now on a long journey out into the solar system. If you’re curious what that path looks like, an aerospace engineer and SpaceX admirer has put together a website that uses NASA data to track the Roadster’s course. It’s called Where Is Roadster?, and it’s fascinating, with both live data on the Roadster’s location and an interactive tool that shows its future course.

It’s often mentioned that the Roadster is “on its way to Mars,” which can give the impression that it’s making a beeline for the Red Planet. But the Roadster, like all things in the galaxy, is subject to the tug of gravity, so instead of a straight path, it’s tracing a long arc away from Earth and the sun.

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And the distances involved are truly vast. Right now, the Roadster is still much closer to Earth — 2.25 million miles away — than to Mars, 137.5 million miles away. Meanwhile, Mars is moving too, so when the Roadster first intersects its orbit this July, the planet itself will already be millions of miles away. After that, the Roadster will actually return to something close to Earth’s orbit, though again, Earth itself won’t be anywhere close.

According to the site’s data, which is taken from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Roadster won’t actually be close to Mars until early October of 2020. And as far as we know, it doesn’t have any landing equipment or thrusters that would make it possible to actually get the car down to the surface.

Unless, of course, Elon Musk has another big secret up his sleeve.

Instagram, After Spreading Russian Election Propaganda, Censors Evidence of Kremlin Corruption

On Friday, a new indictment from Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller included claims that Facebook-owned Instagram was used by Russian operatives to spread propaganda during the 2016 U.S. election. But just a few days ago, the same platform succumbed to Russian government demands to suppress what one of the Putin regime’s most vocal opponents says is evidence of high-level corruption.

According to the BBC, Instagram has blocked Russian users from viewing posts by an alleged Russian escort that became fodder for an investigation by Alexei Navalny. Navalny is an opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner who has been jailed by Russian authorities and, more recently, barred from opposing Putin in an upcoming presidential election by embezzlement charges that are widely seen as politically motivated.

In the video that helped trigger the backlash, published on February 8th, Navalny used Instagram posts by a woman going by the name Nastya Rybka to lay out allegations that oligarch Oleg Deripaska bribed Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko, including by providing private jet flights. Navalny also raised questions about the source of Prikhodko’s personal wealth. In a statement to the Associated Press, a spokesperson for Deripaska called the allegations “scandalous and mendacious assumptions.”

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The video triggered a Russian court ruling that Deripaska’s privacy rights had been violated, and then a takedown order from Russia’s communications regulator. According to the BBC, Rybka removed some of the related posts herself, while Facebook removed two others in response to the order. Navalny has blasted Instagram’s compliance, writing on Twitter “Shame on you, @instagram!”

A spokesperson for Facebook acknowledged complying with the takedown demand, saying in part that “when governments believe that something on the internet violates their laws, they may contact companies and ask us to restrict access to that content. We review such requests carefully in light of local laws and where appropriate, we make it unavailable in the relevant country or territory.”

Navalny’s own website has also reportedly been blocked by some Russian internet providers. By contrast, according to the BBC, Google has not complied with the order, and Russians can still view the Deripaska report on YouTube. It has been viewed more than 5.5 million times.

Oleg Deripaska is also entangled in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election. As detailed in a recent feature in The Atlantic, a multimillion-dollar debt to Deripaska helped motivate Paul Manafort to seek a leadership role in the Trump campaign. Soon after securing that role, Manafort reached out to Deripaska to offer insight into the campaign as a way to repair their relationship.

Uber Is Reportedly Planning to Sell Its Southeast Asia Branch to Competitor Grab

Uber is preparing to hand over its Southeast Asia business to the Singaporean ridesharing company Grab, according to a report by CNBC. Uber would get Grab equity in the deal, if and when it goes through.

CNBC’s sources further said the deal was part of a strategy to help Uber reduce costs ahead of a planned IPO. The company lost a mind-boggling $4.5 billion in 2017 on $7.5 billion in sales – which means there’s plenty of demand for its services, but it needs to do some serious streamlining and focus on its strongest regions.

But a closer look shows there may be more going on than one company’s decision to exit a challenging market.

Asia as a whole has certainly been tough on Uber, with regional services consistently beating the American giant. Uber already threw in the towel in China, where it swapped its operations for an ownership stake in competitor Didi Chuxing in 2016. In India, the taxi platform Ola stole 3% of the market from Uber just in the second half of 2017, despite Uber’s major push to win there. Ola now leads in market share by more than 15%.

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But here’s the thing: Didi, Ola, and Grab have all taken large investments from Japan’s SoftBank. Last month, SoftBank also made a $1.25 billion investment in Uber and became the company’s largest shareholder. Based on those relationships, Quartz recently dubbed SoftBank “the real king of ride-hailing.”

An Uber deal with Grab could serve SoftBank’s push to streamline the competitive environment for ride-hailing services – or, put another way, to divide up its global kingdom into small, relatively sheltered fiefdoms. Rajeev Misra, who joined Uber’s board as part of the SoftBank deal, has argued that Uber should focus primarily on the U.S. and Europe. It has also remained strong in Latin America and the Middle East.

So while the Southeast Asia deal might help nudge Uber’s balance sheet in the right direction, it also represents a non-trivial retrenchment of its ambitions. As Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky chronicled in his 2017 book on the company, Uber once sought global domination. Now, facing regulatory and competitive roadblocks in dozens of markets, and with investors guiding it along a more modest path, it may have to settle for a lot less.

Russians Trolls Used Cryptocurrency Exchanges, DOJ Indictment Says

Russian nationals identified in a Justice Department indictment released Friday used cryptocurrency exchanges as part of an alleged scheme to mislead U.S. citizens leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

The indictment, part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s on-going investigation into possible election interference by Russia, linked 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups to alleged misinformation campaigns spread in the U.S. public through Facebook (fb) and Twitter (twtr).

The Russian nationals and their co-conspirators allegedly stole social security numbers, home addresses, and other information from U.S. citizens to create bogus accounts on PayPal (pypl) as well as unspecified online crytopcurrency exchanges, the indictment said.

The groups also bought fake U.S. driver’s license numbers and other common identification documents that they used to “maintain their accounts at PayPal and elsewhere, including online cryptocurrency exchanges.”

Although the indictment doesn’t specify what the Russian nationals used their cryptocurrency accounts for, it does say that the group’s fake bank and PayPal accounts “were used to purchase advertisements on Facebook” that promoted its messages to misinform the U.S. public.

Criminals have used cryptocurrencies and its promise of anonymity as a way to carry out illegal activities like receiving ransom payments and selling banned goods without being caught.

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In July, the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network levied a $110 million fine against the Russia-based cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e for facilitating “transactions involving ransomware, computer hacking, identity theft, tax refund fraud schemes, public corruption, and drug trafficking.”

Although the BTC-e exchange shut down after the fine, tech website Coindesk noted in September that it appears to have been resurrected as a new exchange called WEX that claimed “that it did not receive any funds from BTC-e, while at the same time alleging that it would abide by anti-money laundering and know-your-customer laws.”

The Big Engineering Behind Olympic Snowboarding's Big Air Event

A jump with the exact proportions of the launch ramp for snowboarding’s big air event, which will make its Olympic debut in Pyeongchang, does not exist in nature. It must be built. And so, fewer than a dozen times a year, at venues ranging from ballparks to parking lots, impeccably orchestrated teams of engineers, ice suppliers, snowmakers, crane operators, up riggers, down riggers, scaffold designers—you get the picture—do exactly that. And at this year’s Winter Games, from February 19—24, snowboarders from around the world will hurl themselves from one of the biggest big air ramps ever conceived.

“They’re crazy projects—I love them,” says Michael Zorena. The owner of the Massachusetts-based Consultantzee, Zorena has led the construction of awe-inspiring structures around the world, from Ai Weiwei’s 20,000-pound, metal-wire “Good Neighbors” installation in New York City to a geodesic, 360° projection sphere in Dubai. But big air ramps are particularly fun. His company recently built two in as many years—the first inside Fenway Park in 2016, the second in a Los Angeles parking lot, last year, at one of Shaun White’s Air + Style music-cum-snowsport festivals.

Most big air ramps are temporary, purpose-built to fit their particular venues. As a result, each is constructed a little differently, but they share a standard anatomy. At the top of the structure, about 150 feet feet up, is the deck, a flat staging area where snowboarders wait to perform their jumps. There’s the inrun—the long, vertiginous drop, typically at an angle between 38 and 39 degrees, that the athletes descend to gain velocity, accelerating to speeds between 35 and 40 miles per hour. Then there’s the kick, an abrupt upsweep at the bottom of the inrun, which flings riders into the air.

Next comes the landing ramp (another long, steep section with an angle similar to that of the inrun), the placement of which is crucial. Its descending slope helps convert the riders’ downward momentum into forward momentum, sparing them the ruinous impact of a multi-story fall. Placing its center about 70 feet from the lip of the kick gives riders ample room to over- or undershoot, maximizing their odds of touching down on a steep decline. Add in the finishing area—a large, increasingly flat corral of snow beginning some 85 feet from the base of the landing ramp—and you’ve got a run that extends between 400 and 500 feet, from nose to tail.

It’s as challenging to build, and build safely, as it sounds. Underpinning all these features is a combination of snow, metal, wood, and—when their dimensions are close enough to those of the desired feature—existing infrastructure and topography. (At Pyeongchang, for instance, the landing ramp was built by layering snow atop a section of stadium seating.)

Drawings by scaffold engineer Jeremy Thom show the angles and curves of a big air ramp he designed for Fenway Park. A:Deck. B: Inrun. C: Kick. D: Landing.

Jeremy Thom/Atomic Design

But the temporary nature of most big air ramps—and their inruns, especially—results in a strikingly industrial aesthetic. Think soaring skeletons of steel scaffolding; the ramp’s bones and joints comprise tens of thousands of rods, fasteners, and clamps. “It’s essentially a big Erector Set,” says Jeremy Thom, an expert in the design of stage sets, amphitheatres, and similarly tremendous structures. The scaffolds of the big air ramps at Fenway and in LA, both of which he designed, consisted of 25,823 and 22,693 individual parts, respectively. (In his CAD files, he accounted for every single component.) “We assemble the structure one piece at a time,” Thom says. “It’s hand crafted. Bespoke. Like a Savile Row suit.”

On many job sites, workers will often erect a scaffold by forming a passline, handing each component from one person to the next. But then, most job sites don’t accommodate scaffolds as colossal as a big air inrun. Workers on the ground build the repetitive elements of the structure, which crane operators hoist up to riggers, who put them in place. Finally, a wood team adds a reinforcing layer of 4×4 lumber before topping everything off with plywood.

The naked big air inrun in Pyeongchang. Note the stadium seating below, which was covered in snow to create the landing ramp.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

That leaves you with what Zorena calls a “faceted gradient”—a curved incline, sure, but one that’s far from even. To dial in a long, smooth slope, you need a lot of snow, which engineers account for when they design the structure: Dry, fresh powder can weigh as little as three pounds per square foot, while an equivalent volume of wet, heavy stuff can tip the scales at upwards of 20 pounds.

Orders of ice can vary by the hundreds of tons, depending on the local weather. A big air event held in Los Angeles in March needs more than one hosted during a New England cold snap. When Zorena and his team began building the big air ramp at Fenway in 2016, they ordered 800 tons of ice from a local supplier in anticipation of unseasonably warm weather. But when the forecast called for a return to sub-freezing temperatures, they slashed their request by half.

In the end, the snow on the ramp is usually no more than 18 inches deep—any more than that and the weight can overwhelm the underlying structure. (“Plus, removal is a nightmare if it’s too deep,” Zorena says.) Snowmakers add a foundation of crushed ice, then blow powder on top; they point upward-facing snow guns in the landing zone, and another set on the deck, pointing down.

Snowcats can smooth out parts of the jump, but much of the work is done by hand. “It’s super labor intensive, not very glamorous—basically shovels and rakes,” says Eric Webster, who, as the US Ski and Snowboard Association’s senior director of events, has overseen the construction of multiple big air ramps. A week before big air’s Olympic debut, snow-shapers overseen by Schneestern—the German company behind the big air features in Pyeongchang—were still tending to the jump.

But the experts I spoke with say it’s worth the effort. The deck of the big air jump in South Korea towers just over 160 feet above the base of the landing ramp (about 10 feet higher than the jump Zorena built in Fenway Park), and its inramp is a degree or two steeper. Expect those variations to translate to even bigger air than the world has seen in competitions past.

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U.S. probe finds bitcoin mining operation interfered with broadband network

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday an investigation had found that a Brooklyn bitcoin mining operation interfered with T-Mobile US Inc’s (TMUS.O) broadband network.

The company had complained about interference to its 700 MHz LTE network in Brooklyn from radio emissions it said were coming from a Brooklyn residence mining for the cryptocurrency – verifying bitcoin transactions.

The FCC said its investigation determined the user was “generating spurious emissions on frequencies assigned to T-Mobile’s broadband network and causing harmful interference.”

The agency’s enforcement bureau said in a letter dated Thursday that continued use of an operation known as “Antminer s5 Bitcoin Miner” would constitute a violation of federal law and could result in fines, criminal prosecution or seizure of the equipment.

T Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a tweet the “letter has it all: #bitcoin mining, computing power needed for #blockchain computation and #wireless #broadband interference. It all seems so very 2018.”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Susan Thomas

I Tried Going Negative With My Advertising–and It Actually Worked. Here's What I Learned

We hear a lot about the power of positivity. Have you ever stopped to think about the power of negativity? This typically shows up in the form of political attack ads, but recently I’ve been experimenting with how I can use the power of negative and comparison advertising to support the growth of my own digital marketing.

At my company, thinking like an underdog both creates a drive within the company to innovate and also attracts a following of consumers who want to see us win and may even want to be a part of our win. We saw this happen specifically when a larger company sued us and it made local headlines. Many of our customers expressed their support, and when we finally won, we saw a bump in sales from new customers, referred by friends who had been backing us the whole time.

Going negative in a strategic and targeted manner, has been a huge competitive advantage for my business. It’s an outlier strategy that has increased my market share and continues to grow my consumers year after year.

Here’s what I discovered.

Comparison, Not Annihilation

Turns out, most of my customers will root for my company when I position myself as the underdog trying to knock out my biggest competitors. Thinking like an underdog both creates a drive within my company to innovate and also attracts a following of consumers who want to see me win and may even want to be a part of my winning growth story.

I have found that the common misconception that leads other CEOs and business owners away from comparison advertising is the (incorrect) assumption that you have to go full mud slinging, abandon all taste, and totally disparage your competition. That’s not what I’m talking about.

In today’s ‘don’t rock the boat’ business culture, my fellow CEOs are so afraid to run comparison ads on their competitors that they won’t even consider the strategy. What are they so afraid of?

I think that they fear any kind of controversy caused by an ad comparing them to their competitor, even if they’re the ones controlling the narrative. They are petrified it might reflect poorly back on them. And no one wants to come across as a bully.

To clarify my position, I’m not talking about total annihilation. Recently, my team carefully used the power of comparison to create underdog status with consumers similar to the “Avis, We Try Harder” campaign. This allowed us to engage with our audience, build our following, and ultimately craft an environment where our customers draw their own negative conclusions about my largest competitor, and chooses our company, all by themselves.

It’s About ROI

When looking to increase profile and brand awareness, I’ve found that going negative is a smart, lean, cost-effective solution, that can yield substantial results. When it comes to digital marketing, we’ve all been taught that differentiation and unique selling propositions are what allows us to stand out, become associated with the category and move to the first consideration when someone is thinking about making a purchase decision.  

To illustrate this point, think about T-Mobile’s recent strike at Verizon, with a single tweet. T-Mobile’s smart and adept CEO, John Legere, tweeted an article that showed that T-Mobile customers are more loyal than Verizon’s, Sprint’s, or AT&T’s. He appended the article with the following line:

Notice how he only called out the biggest competitor, Verizon? He didn’t mention Sprint or AT&T. There was no need–the press picked up the story did all that work for him. That’s what I’m talking about, and it’s a strategy that is highly underutilized in my opinion.

Turning Negative Advertising Into Positive Results

The bottom line is that negativity works. But, it has to be comparison advertising with finesse, including a certain flair, and creativity–especially for a company trying to disrupt their market and its more established competitors.

Going negative with this delicate formula will help position your company as the underdog, attract fans that root for you, and yield big returns. Give it a shot and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Once you realize the power this strategy yields, you’ll find all sorts of creative ways to leverage it for your growth.

7 Phrases Successful People Tell Themselves On A Daily Basis

Successful people tend to have very positive inner dialogues.

They know how to nurture their own personal growth. They believe they can do whatever it is they set their mind to. But most of all, they believe in themselves.

If you look at the differences between those who achieve their goals and those who fail, what you’ll usually find is a lack of self belief. Those who fail tend to plan for failure.

There is something to be said about the relationship you have with yourself–and the way you encourage (or discourage) your actions. If you are overly critical every step of the way, chances are, you’re going to lose your motivation to keep trying.

The key is to be patient, positive, and understanding of the process.

Over the years, I have interviewed hundreds of CEOs, executives, serial entrepreneurs, and successful individuals–for written content, and also my own learning. And I have found, time and time again, that successful people all tell themselves these 7 things on a daily basis:

1. “I will figure it out.”

People who succeed don’t plan for failure. 

Instead, they plan for obstacles. They know there will be challenges. They know they will need to find their own solutions. So, instead of planning on dealing with defeat, they master skill sets that prepare them for the worst.

They tell themselves, over and over again, “I will figure it out. No matter what.”

And they do.

2. “Everything in the world was built by people no smarter than you.”

This Steve Jobs quote has become a mantra for successful people all over the world. 

Those who achieve their goals don’t see the world as fixed, or set in stone. They see it as malleable, constantly moving, ready to be disrupted by the next great idea. And they see themselves as the person fit for the job.

The moment you realize that the world around you was made by other people just like you–people who woke up one day and decided to start working relentlessly toward their vision–is the moment you’re able to take full control over your life.

3. “Never mistakes. Only lessons.”

People who achieve big things in their lifetime operate under the assumption that in every mistake is a lesson.

They don’t get bogged down making themselves feel bad for a misstep. They don’t punish themselves for doing something wrong. They take everything in stride, in order to keep moving in a positive direction.

Calling something a “mistake” is almost counterproductive.

Call it a lesson instead.

4. “Work hard to know what you don’t know.”

There is a misconception that all successful people are egotistical, or “have it all figured out.”

The truth is, most very successful people are the complete opposite. They are extremely open, ready and willing to learn–always on the lookout for the next thing they don’t know.

This is such an important distinction between those who achieve short-term success and those who are able to sustain it over long periods of time. Success is all about being aware of your next weakness, the next thing you can improve.

And in order to do that, you have to know what you don’t know.

5. “Forget your competition.”

While there is absolutely something to be said for keeping tabs on your competitors, I’ve found the most successful individuals to be hyper focused on their own direction and where it is they feel they need to go.

Reason being, focusing on your competition for too long can cause you to be distracted. You end up making decisions based on someone else, rather than questioning what would be best for you, your team, your company, etc. 

Successful people forget their competition. 

6. “Take the time to get it right in the beginning.”

This is a phrase a mentor of mine, fellow Inc columnist Ron Gibori, said often. He’d say, “There is always time to get it right in the end, when everything has fallen apart. So make the time to get things right in the beginning.”

I find that most successful people work very, very hard in the beginning of projects, engagements, deals, etc., to make positively sure every single element is on track. They know that if they take the time to get things right from the start, they don’t have to put out fires half-way through.

It’s all about attention to detail.

7. “Never forget why you started.”

Again, I am constantly surprised by people who have achieved massive amounts of success in their lives, and how connected they are to the beginning of their journey. They remember where they started. They remind themselves often why they got into the business they’re in. Their motivation comes from a love for growth, not necessarily the achievement of an end goal.

In order to maintain long-term success, this is a crucial part of the process. You have to remember why you started down this road in the first place–and do everything in your power to make sure you never forget it.