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Developing a mental map of WordPress

Saturday January 20, 2018 Learning the building blocks of Wordpress I'm new to the Wordpress world. I set up this website in one weekend by purchasing the Divi theme and a child theme called Ally. I have added a few plugins that other bloggers recommend: Smush, Yoast...

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28 May 1453 at dusk | Byzantium | The Decline and Fall

Imagine yourself crossing the threshold of Hagia Sophia as a random tourist visiting Istanbul. You’re wearing your blue jeans, white sneakers, and a t-shirt with the Nike logo on it.

Now imagine yourself crossing the threshold after having read the above passage. The distance is unmeasurable, isn’t it?

Now imagine you are entering the church on 28 May 1453.

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Constantinople: The City

One day in the not too distant future, we must visit The City and hope to encounter relics and treasures of times past that survived to this day. For Crusaders and Venetians of the Fourth Crusade ravaged and vandalized her, and she was later turned Islamic...

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Ethos of Thermopylae

When lost and looking for direction, the simplicity of Cavafy provides the necessary clarity. Thermopylae Honor to those who in the life they lead define and guard a Thermopylae. Never betraying what is right, consistent and just in all they do but showing pity also,...

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Byzantium | The Apogee | John Julius Norwich

This is volume II of III of the history of the Byzantine Empire. This volume, unlike the first one, covers a relatively short period of time: from the year 800 with the coronation of Charlemagne as Emperor of the Western Empire to Easter Day 1081, when Alexius...

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The tragic figure of Michael IV the Paphlagonian

Forger of coins He was born a peasant in Paphlagonia, out of the way in northern Anatolia. Uneducated. Forger of coins, although he called himself a money-changer. His older brother John had obtained a job at the imperial palace in Constantinople as...

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Michael Psellus | ‘Basileus’ of modesty

The second volume of John Julius Norwich's history of the Byzantine Empire quotes rather frequently passages from one Michael Psellus's Chronographia. A history of the Byzantine emperors from Basil II (976-1025) to Michael VII Ducas (1071-1078). Psellus...

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Tennis observations: 33% + 33% + 33% + 1%

The game is 33% + 33% + 33% + 1%, yet the average player thinks it only consists of the first 33%, and the club coach reinforces this delusion by teaching only that which the average player demands. After several years of retirement, and after dabbling in...

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Books: Byzantium | The Early Centuries | John Julius Norwich

The terrified boy was clutching the altar with one hand and a fragment of the True Cross with the other. One of the agents, John Strouthos ‘the Sparrow’, “wrenching the fragment from Tiberius’s [the boy] grasp, he reverently laid it upon the altar. Next he untied a box of other saintly relics from the Prince’s neck and transferred it to his own. Only then did he drag his small prisoner to the porch of a neighboring church…”

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Books: The Odyssey

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.

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Books: god Is Not Great | Christopher Hitchens

We are living in times in which religion is not only prescindible and obsolete, but also harmful. An ethical life can be and is lived without religion. As Hitchens puts it rather eloquently “Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.”

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Books: The Gene | Siddhartha Mukherjee

So I read its 495 pages. It has given me the much sought sense of timeline and context and, of course, as with any good book, it has opened leads to pursue and continue my education in the realms of biology, ethics, and policy.

The book provides a historical sequence of events and discoveries in the world of genetics, starting with metaphysic postulates of Pythagoras and Aristotle, moving next to actual experimentation conducted by Gregor Mendel, all the way to the latest technologies of the present day, such as CRISPR/Cas9 and embryonic stem cell research, and their potential to cure grievous illnesses. The Gene does a great job in helping us understand not only where we are today and where we come from, but also where the arrow of the future of life sciences seems to be pointing to.

I took some notes. Here they are.

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Cowards die many times before their deaths

When I confided to my good friend and mentor Reynaldo that I had been sucked into a vicious cycle of internet “research” - anxiety - fear - more research - anxiety - and so on… after having been experiencing an assortment of physical, non-imaginary and imaginary...

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El momento en que estas (Presente) – Argentinian Rock

“I remember once, in a concert, that we began playing Presente and, on the second stanza, people stood up and started clapping. We had never seen anything like that, we didn’t really understand, and we were paralyzed. We were shocked, we had trouble keeping on playing. We were distracted because the audience took part in what they saw, and it wasn’t because they’d heard it on the radio, because they had never heard it before.”

A tip of the hat Ricardo, so many memories, teary eyes, gratitude, love. A song that came to our hearts and stays there forever.

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Is a fixed-rate mortgage cognitive dissonance?

When we leave the room, my boss comes to me and says: “listen to me, yes, we agreed that floating rate is always better for the company, but for your house you should always go fixed.”

Thirty minutes before, I had persuaded the big boys in the room to enter into several billion-dollar swap contracts that effectively transformed the company’s fixed rate debt into floating rate instruments, similar to ARMs. 

So why then my boss and everyone else in that room had expressed the opposite view in their personal finances? Why the cognitive dissonance?

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Zero to One | Peter Thiel

This book is a collection of ideas and reflections on the intersection of economics, culture, and technology. It also provides a framework to process and understand businesses, be them existing and established, or inception-stage ventures.

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High tonnage, small size, fleeting value: things I don’t know what to do with

I lie. I do see these things when I’m not looking for them, and their sighting stress me out. All these items that create clutter but have some trivial and fleeting value and that I keep around long after their expiration date.

What would a wise man do? Refuse them in the first place, accept them and then immediately and coldly throw them away, set an expiration date and discard them once they reach it?

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Basic Cycling Gear from a Nerd’s Viewpoint

Nerds vastly outnumber artists. Nerds keep gadget companies alive and profitable. Artists move the craft forward. We need both, but also, every nerd should aspire to be an artist.

I’m a Nerd. Yes, I admit it. But one day, I will be an artist.

Oh, and yes, this post is about buying a bicycle.

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Ramble about decluttering mind hacks

…always inclined to invest in learning about productivity tricks, mind hacks, health and fitness experiments… but… the more I learn, the more packed my day gets with tips, tricks, hacks and experiments. And once my day is filled, I continue writing tricks and hacks in a mental to-do list to complete on an “ideal day,” “when I get there”. The overload makes me useless. So now what?

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Running with Wilson

“It wasn’t easy, you know, to leave family behind and all that. You hear a constant buzz of guilt and, all of a sudden, find yourself running two hours every day. Not very intuitive because people associate running with thinking, with reflection. Not me. When I run, I think of nothing.”

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Mind tricks to stick with daily meditation (what I’ve learned in 203 days)

Why is it so difficult to stick with a daily meditation practice if it only takes 10 minutes? The girl that got me into practicing had “taken a break from it”, even though she raved about its incomparable benefits. The few folks I encouraged to try Headspace didn’t make it past their first week. “Mornings are too hectic,” they explained.

I’ve practiced for 203 days, missing no more than five sessions. These are the tricks I use to stick with it.

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Trail Running by a non-convert (yet)

As we made our way uphill, the sky kept changing colors (it was the golden hour) and each turn on the trail would gift us a new vista of the mountains with the Pacific on the background. Wilson was clearly fighting a cold and the hill with limited airway capacity. I could hear his agony with each breath. Yet he kept pushing through. It was inspiring… “Because the cycling part is too tough.” This is where I get into the simple, silly mind tricks. On mile 5, my legs were begging to stop. They were burning. I imagined…

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Books: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon | Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing is presented as the biography of Jamie Dimon but it covers more than Jamie. It dedicates over a third of the book to the financial crisis. The diversion is perhaps because Dimon is still too young to have a definite biography published. All in all, an easy read with a few nuggets of wisdom and ideas to experiment with.

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Books: Norwegian Wood | Murakami

Norwegian Wood is a story of loss and nostalgia.

Our perception of time is not linear, but logarithmic. It feels as if every new day were shorter than the previous day. Today, at 40, each year passes almost unnoticed and I struggle finding a significant event to stamp on every single year, lest it gets lost in nothingness.

The story took me back to my twenties. It evoked that time of my life when I wanted so bad to fall in love. Rejection and shyness stung so more painfully back then. Reading Norwegian Wood was like being 20 years old and reading Norwegian Wood… or Demian, or Beneath The Wheel, as Toru does in an episode of the novel.

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How to increase tolerance to cold water

I did some non-exhaustive research and found that it may be possible to build resistance to cold water. I couldn’t find a scientifically proven method to do it, but there are enough bits and pieces to concoct a plan.

First: get fat.

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How to have amazingly productive mornings on the West Coast… and how to ruin them

From February 15, 2008 to July 6, 2016 I used to open my eyes before 6am California time, grab my phone and go over their emails and listen to their voicemails, then I would check the news in Bloomberg. I always thought that was the quintessential routine of the West Coast finance professional.

99.9% of the time, the news was outdated and inconsequential within 24 hours. 99.9% of the time the emails from Wall Street were either a reverberation of the news or sales pitches of bad ideas. 100% of the time nothing was urgent.

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Books: The Real Most Interesting Man In The World, Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton

Of his face, a poet once wrote:

… he was gypsy in his terrible magnetic eyes – the sullen eyes of a stinging serpent. He had a deep bronzed complexion, a determined mouth, half-hidden by a black moustache which hung down in a peculiar fashion on both sides of his chin. His face had no actual beauty in it. It revealed a tremendous animalism, an air of repressed ferocity, a devilish fascination. There is an almost tortured magnificence in his huge head, tragic and painful, with its mouth that aches with desire, with those dilated nostrils that drink in I know not what strange perfumes.

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Antivirus for the brain: 89 days of Headspace

Twenty years ago a French girl asked me to join her meditation class. “What do you do in the class?” “We sit and keep the mind blank”, she said.

I always think of people’s personalities as commanded by brain software. The software can be cleanly designed and efficient, but it can be bogged down with viruses, trojan horses or spam email. These are all the useless, unproductive, and harmful thoughts that try to take over and make us miserable. 

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Zero cardio. Zero strength. Zero flex.

The state of affairs on day zero. Let’s move forward to square one.

I should’ve chosen to run a marathon just like everyone else when they hit midlife. Or perhaps get into videogames: pickup The Legend of Zelda where I left it in 1990 and finish the entire series (Wikipedia lists 17 games as of 2016). But instead I’m choosing the most grueling training camp in the world.

To go from ground zero to square one… and then to square one hundred.

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Life’s not fair and Murakami and games

I failed to gamify the situation. I should have viewed my endeavors as little games, each with its own set of ways and rules and avoid trying to apply a single template of fairness to everything. In school, the more I studied before a test, the higher my score. This rule doesn’t apply proportionately in the real world.

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Books: The Crusades, so much devotion and so little understanding

I never liked history. How was I to make sense of the humongous data dump that we were subjected to during so many years in the classroom? Monarchs, battlefields, martyrs, saints, kingdoms, inventions, conquests, everything presented in discrete bits disconnected from each other… Then one day not long ago, I purchased the three volumes of A History of The Crusades, by Steven Runciman. The edition was so beautifully put together by Folio Society that I began reading immediately. And I didn’t stop until I finished the third volume.

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Biohacking: 611 days of cold showers

This is the most important benefit of them all and one that I recently discovered. When I know that I need to work on some important task but I don’t feel like doing it (welcome procrastination!), the solution is to change my state. There are three tactics to change one’s state.

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Cats of Bubastis

… And whenever a fire breaks out, some divine seizure comes over the cats. The Egyptians stand at intervals and try to keep the cats safe, but if they fail to extinguish the fire, the cats slip between or leap over them and rush into the flames…

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Books: Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton

Currently reading a biography of Sir Richard Francis Burton. In one of his books, he reminisces about departing the port of Bombay toward Africa, the beginning of his expedition to be the first white man to find the source of the Nile:Of the gladdest moments in human...

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What’s that say about your reality, Marty?

Reading the "explosive national bestseller" SEAL Team Six, Memoirs of an Elite Navy Seal Sniper, we stopped at the following passage that comes after the author had helped in an operation in Iraq that blew up an enemy compound."I did have a moral concern about having...

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The daily practice: on travel photography

Indisputable answers to the questions that have been asked since the beginning of time... of travel photography time. Q: What type of camera should I buy for travel photography? A: A camera that takes photos Q: What is the best camera hands down? A: The...

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Those who leave everything behind

This woman reminded us of many nomads and world travelers who decided to leave everything behind and explore the planet. How much we respect them.

She also reminded us of Dimitrios I (the Besieger), king of Macedonia in the 3rd century B.C. He was deserted by his troops who joined the camp of his opponent, Pyrrhos, king of Epirus. Dimitrios, too, went away quietly.

Here’s Kavafis (a.k.a. Cavafy) representation of the episode.

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Double Room in Kolkata

We were tired, thirsty and starving. An old man greets us politely at the front desk. I give my name and he starts checking his computer, then looks at us and asks “are you a couple?”

We shook our heads.

Your reservation is for one bed, said the man. No, I said, I booked a double room. No, the man insisted, single room. If you want two beds, pay extra ten dollars!

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