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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Magnus Carlsen Won the Chess World Championship Again, but Something Has Changed

Two weeks ago, at a press conference in London, after Round Five of the twelve-round world chess championship, the two competitors, Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen, were asked to name their favorite chess players from the past. Caruana answered with Bobby Fischer, the brilliant American whose dynamic play unsettled Soviet dominance of the game, at the height of the Cold War. Carlsen gave a different answer: “Probably myself, like, three or four years ago,” he said. Carlsen at twenty-three, the moderator pressed? “Yeah, twenty-three,” Carlsen said, with a nod and a smile. The media members in attendance laughed and applauded. It was classic Carlsen: arrogant and wryly self-deprecating at once, and very charming.

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Friday, November 30, 2018

Cityblog Feature: MPC News

The Key to Good Luck Is an Open Mind

Luck can seem synonymous with randomness. To call someone lucky is usually to deny the relevance of their hard work or talent. As Richard Wiseman, the Professor of Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, in the United Kingdom, puts it, lucky people “appear to have an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time and enjoy more than their fair share of lucky breaks.”
What do these people have that the rest of us don’t? It turns out “ability” is the key word here. Beyond their level of privilege or the circumstances they were born into, the luckiest people may have a specific set of skills that bring chance opportunities their way. Somehow, they’ve learned ways to turn life’s odds in their favor.
Demystifying this luck skillset has been a personal project of Christine Carter, a sociologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center, at the University of California, Berkeley. A few years ago, she was putting together an online course for families on raising happier kids. She translates research findings on qualities such as gratitude, mindfulness, and happiness into quantifiable, teachable skills. Amidst her work, she stumbled upon a funny little concept that seemed to be entangled with all these things—luck. “On the academic side of things, I’ve always been sort of skeptical of any concept related to luck,” says Carter. “Because as a sociologist, it’s like, Oh, so all those children in Darfur are just not lucky? We know that there are other things there.”
“His research is hilarious.”
Then Carter stumbled on Wiseman’s luck research (one of his books is The Luck Factor, published in 2004). Wiseman started out as a magician and made his career researching the more unusual niches of psychology (a 2002 study, published in The Journal of Parapsychology, is titled, “An Investigation into the Alleged Haunting of Hampton Court Palace: Psychological Variables and Magnetic Fields”). By the 1990s, he had taken on an unconventional project—running experiments on self-proclaimed lucky and unlucky people and attempting to quantify their differences. “His research is hilarious,” says Carter. “He takes people who self-define as lucky and people who don’t say they’re lucky, and then he puts a $20 bill in the street and the lucky people notice them and pick them up. And unlucky people don’t.”
The experimental design may seem a little silly, a superficial way to distinguish the fortunate from the unfortunate. Yet this was the kind of result that Wiseman found in several related experiments over the course of about 10 years, from about 1993 to 2003. In one such study, Wiseman provided a group of volunteers with a newspaper and instructed them to count the photographs inside. Written in large font on half of the second page was this message: “Stop counting—there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” A similar insert placed halfway through the paper read, “Stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $250.” Overall, the self-identified unlucky participants were left counting. It suggested that luck could have something to do with spotting opportunities, even when they were unexpected.
Wiseman didn’t stop there. He turned these findings into a “luck school” where people could learn luck-inducing techniques based on four main principles of luck: maximizing chance opportunities, listening to your intuition, expecting good fortune, and turning bad luck to good. The strategies included using meditation to enhance intuition, relaxation, visualizing good fortune, and talking to at least one new person every week. A month later, he followed up with participants. Eighty percent said they were happier, luckier people.
“I thought if Wiseman can train people to be lucky, you can certainly teach those skills to our kids, and they have other really good side effects too,” says Carter, like better social skills and a stronger sense of gratitude. She came up with a few basic strategies for parents to teach their kids, including being open to new experiences, learning to relax, maintaining social connections, and (yes) talking to strangers. All of these techniques had one theme in common—being more open to your environment both physically and emotionally.
“If you’re anxious that you won’t find a parking place, then literally your vision narrows. You lose your peripheral vision.”
It makes sense. The more observant you are of your surroundings, the more likely you are to capture a valuable resource or avoid tragedy. Lucky people don’t magically attract new opportunities and good fortune. They stroll along with their eyes wide open, fully present in the moment (a problem for people glued to phone screens). This also means that anything that affects our physical or emotional ability to take in our environment also affects our so-called “luckiness”—anxiety, for one. Anxiety physically and emotionally closes us off to chance opportunities.
“If you’re anxious that you won’t find a parking place, then literally your vision narrows,” says Carter. “You lose your peripheral vision the more anxious you are because your flight-or-fight mechanism creates binocular vision.” Anxious people bias their attention to potential threats, and are predictably less likely to converse with strangers. “We teach our kids not to talk to strangers and we teach them to fear other people, and that shuts them down to the opportunities that people might bring, but also creates anxiety,” says Carter.
Proponents of “stranger danger” might balk, but the idea is relatively straightforward: reduce kids’ fear and anxiety toward meeting new people, and consequently open them up to the advantageous connections that people can bring.
Carter discovered that simply opening up parents’ minds this way to the idea that luck could be learned made a big difference. Carter herself admits she comes from a long line of anxious women, and learning these luck skills wasn’t easy. But once you do, she says, you can begin to see the good in unlucky situations, which can improve your response to misfortune.
In the Huffington Post, Carter wrote, “My kids and I love to read Jon Muth’s book Zen Shorts, which includes an ancient parable about a farmer’s son who breaks his leg. When his neighbors say, ‘What bad luck!’ the farmer says only ‘Maybe.’ Turns out the broken leg sav
es his son from going to war….”
Teresa Iafolla

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Cityblog Special: Artificial Intelligence Reality

How I became a morning person (and why I decided to make the change)

It’s early and dark. The alarm sounds, and you reach over to switch it off. After a short pause, you sit up. You swing your legs off the bed, touch the floor with your feet, and reach for your phone. You sit quietly while your phone’s screen illuminates the dark bedroom. There are a few notifications waiting—new emails, a Twitter reply, a prediction of rain. You look at your messages, the news, and the weather. “I’m half asleep,” you think. “I’ll just look at Twitter while I wake up.” Ten minutes pass, then another five. You’re not asleep, but you’re not really awake either.

Five years ago, I decided to become a morning person.
It didn’t come naturally to me. When I had to wake up early—for a meeting, an event, or class—it was like the vignette above. I struggled to get out of bed. Often I barely made it to my engagement on time. And that rushed, zombie-like morning loomed over my day like a hangover.
But I was fascinated by the potential of mornings. Those early hours seemed like a gift—a couple of “free” hours when I could be productive and prepare for the day. Becoming a morning person would also give me more time with my wife. Michelle works at a biotech company in Marin where early meetings are the norm. I hated keeping a different schedule from Michelle, and it cut into our time together.
As a natural night owl, I knew I needed a plan if I wanted to avoid the mistakes of my previous early mornings. So I decided to research what had worked for other people, and try some simple experiments on myself.
It worked. I traded a typical night-owl schedule—up till midnight or later, staring at a screen, writing, doing design work, coding—for an uncommon routine where I go to sleep early, wake up early, and get a lot of work done in those quiet morning hours. (In 2015, that included writing our book Sprint.)
Here are the lessons I’d share with anyone who wants to wake up early.

Coffee, light, and something to do

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 Asian Paradise Flycatcher

Asian Paradise flycatcher aka APFC is one of the most beautiful bird amongst flycatchers. It's long tail is very distinctive and helps in flight.

Male are seen in 2 morphs, the p icture below is of rufos morph

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Basics of Blockchain Technology, Explained in Plain English

Historically, no asset has been a greater source of wealth creation than the stock market. Throughout its history, stocks have returned an average of 7% per year, inclusive of dividend reinvestment, and when adjusted for inflation. For the average long-term investor, this works out to a roughly doubling in value about once a decade.
Then cryptocurrencies came along and turned this traditional source of wealth creation on its head. When 2017 began, the aggregate value of all digital currencies combined equaled just $17.7 billion. However, as recently as this past weekend, the combined market cap of the nearly 1,400 investable cryptocurrencies was almost $836 billion. That better than 4,500% increase in value is something that the stock market would take multiple decades to accomplish.
Yet, truth be told, most folks don't understand the basics of cryptocurrencies, or the blockchain technology that underlies them. Recently, we broke down what cryptocurrencies are in the easiest way possible. Today, we're going to explain, in plain English, what blockchain technology is all about.

What is blockchain technology?

Blockchain is the digital and decentralized ledger that records all transactions. Every time someone buys digital coins on a decentralized exchange, sells coins, transfers coins, or buys a good or service with virtual coins, a ledger records that transaction, often in an encrypted fashion, to protect it from cybercriminals. These transactions are also recorded and processed without a third-party provider, which is usually a bank.

Why was blockchain invented?

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Insight Lands on Mars

After a 205-day journey through space, NASA’s InSight lander is safely on the surface of Mars. Tasked with peering beneath the Martian surface and mapping the planet’s underworld, InSight touched down just before 3 p.m. ET in a sunny patch of boring landscape inside the equatorial plains of Elysium Planitia.
Anxious teams of scientists and engineers, clustered together at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, knew the spacecraft had survived its wild and tricky descent to the red planet’s surface after receiving a single tone from the lander.
The spacecraft’s home team isn’t fully celebrating just yet: For its mission to succeed, InSight must also deploy its solar panels, and that confirmation signal won’t arrive for a few more hours. But assuming it does, the spacecraft will officially be the newest member in an elite fleet of interplanetary robots currently exploring the red planet—including NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which monitored InSight’s descent.

First contact

InSight’s journey of more than 300 million miles began on May 5 with a foggy, early morning launch from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. Tucked inside its shell, the spacecraft rocketed through the solar system, navigating by starlight as an onboard star tracker helped it stay on course.

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Sunday, November 25, 2018

What to Do When Your Flight Is Canceled or Delayed

With winter weather already blowing in, travel can get complicated. And considering the number of people affected on the busiest travel days of the year, it's probable that at some point you—or someone you know—will get hit with a flight delay or cancellation. Here's how to handle it like a pro:

Know the rules

If a flight is delayed for reasons beyond the airline’s control, such as weather, strikes, air traffic control, and, yes, most mechanical issues, then it is not obligated to do anything more than get you to your destination on its next available flight. Here’s how the DOT sums it up on its Fly-Rights page, emphasis ours:

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