Ilusi New Normal

Kasus penanganan Covid-19 di Indonesia sekarang ini mirip dengan kasus subprime mortgage market di US yang menyebabkan global market crash 2008. Problem utama nya dicuekin, dan di bungkus secantik mungkin sampe kasih ilusi kalo semuanya udah aman. Dan ketika problem utama nya akhirnya meledak, it’s all too late to react.

Jadi di awal tahun 2000an mortgage lenders di US bikin subprime mortgage loans untuk minjemin KPR ke orang-orang yang nggak punya aset, nggak punya kerja, nggak punya income. High risk sekali dan hampir pasti gagal bayar? Well, subprime risk nya ini digabungin ke satu instrumen yang namanya Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) yang isinya dicampur dengan instrumen-instrumen aman lain nya kayak government bond, US dollar, gold, dll. Dan CDO ini dapet rating A+ dari ratings agency, jadi kasih kesan aman.

Karena ratings A+, CDO jadi laku keras dan dijual belikan banyak orang dan masuk ke global financial network, dimana pemerintah berbagai negara banyak yang beli, hedge fund beli, mutual fund beli, pension fund beli, semua banks punya, insurance punya, sampai investor retail juga banyak yang beli.

High risk nya subprime mortgage secara perlahan jadi dicuekin dan dilupakan, karena udah di bungkus secantik mungkin di CDO. Tapi problem nya tetep nggak ilang, orang-orang kategori “subprime” yang minjem KPR ini tetep nggak ada uang untuk bayar, dan mayoritas jatuh tempo nya 4-5 tahun. Subprime mortgage loans mulai banyak di issue tahun 2003, jadi di tahun 2007-2008 bakal jatuh tempo. Dan by tahun 2007 CDO udah nyebar banget diseluhur dunia, ketika satu per satu subprime borrower nya mulai gagal bayar. It’s a ticking time bomb, yang akhirnya meledak collapse setahun kemudian di 2008. Global crash!

Subprime Covid

Kasus Covid-19 di Indonesia bisa masuk ke analogi subprime crash. Problem nya jelas, ada deadly virus pandemic. Tapi sama pemerintah di bungkus secantik mungkin jadi keliatan nggak bahaya. Mall buka, GBK buka, boleh CFD di sebar di beberapa titik, tempat hiburan dibuka, bioskop mau dibuka “biar happy”, tiba-tiba ada banyak “obat” abal-abal yang quick fix (jangan mau ditakut-takutin Covid, cuma tinggal pake kalung Covid aja beres, atau cuma minum jamu, atau cuma jemur matahari, minyak kayu putih, dan masih banyak lagi yang nggak ke verifikasi secara ilmu kedokteran).

Ironis nya, ketika PSBB mulai diterapkan pada bulan Maret orang-orang pada ketakutan stay at home semua, ketika penyebaran masih dibawah 100 kasus. Tapi sekarang pas udah 150 ribu – 200 ribu kasus? Kalo di subprime mortgage crisis ada CDO, di krisis kita ada yang nama nya “new normal.”

Dan pemerintah kita, yang udah terang-terangan ngaku nutup-nutupin data keadaan asli nya biar nggak “nakutin masyarakat”, berhasil mengajak banyak orang untuk menjalankan semangat “new normal new spirit.” Berawal dari kumpul aktifitas baru, kongkow makan-makan “kita kita aja” sambil lepas masker, ktemuan sebentar dan foto rame-rame pake masker dan sekali lagi tanpa masker, dan untuk yang takut di kota jadi naik gunung rame-rame nggak pake masker dan ketemu banyak orang dari luar rumah juga.

Dan semua nya di posting di social media dan kontribusi untuk kasih kesan keadaan udah A+ aman, dan ignore the fact kalo “subprime covid” nya angka nya naik terus dan nyebar makin cepet. I mean, kalo mau keluar rumah do it responsibly, jangan lepas masker sama sekali, bener-bener jaga jarak, dan just don’t post it di social media dan bantu create availability bias (info yang available di social media itu cuma postingan semua orang udah keluar-keluar dan aman).

Efek nya, yang uneducated dan ignorant nggak peduli (malah marah kalo dikasih berita-berita update Covid, “tolong jangan membuat resah”). Dan yang well-informed dan educated selalu coba cari justifikasi untuk kelakuan mereka, share berita-berita yang ngejelekin komunitas/kegiatan lain tapi ignore problems di kegiatan mereka sendiri, atau coba downplay angka official Covid sebagai hoax atau “permainan rumah sakit biar dapet duit dari pemerintah” (selalu hear say, dan belum pernah ada Bukti nya).

Dan sekali nya ada yang kena positif Covid? Mereka nggak pernah posting kalo mereka kena, cuma ngilang aja dari social media jadi nggak pernah kontribusi nunjukin kalo penularan nya ini nyata (bantu create survivorship bias, alias yang orang-orang liat di social media itu cuma yang survive aja). Dan yang sembuh, sadly bakal keluyuran dan posting-posting lagi karena it’s just their nature. Yang nggak abis pikir itu yang punya uang, banyak yang positif Covid dan mereka milih untuk isolasi mandiri di hotel tanpa mikir mereka expose pekerja cleaning service dan room service hotel tersebut.

Sementara itu, di saat angka penularan terus naik, tenaga kesehatan harus banting tulang kerja keras untuk nyembuhin orang-orang yang kelakuan nya kayak gini. Kita bukan cuma darurat Covid, tapi darurat empati juga.

Jadi nggak heran, ketika ada orang yang komen “udah enak-enak mulai normal eh dihajar lagi ditutup PSBB sama gabener.” Mereka cuma liat CDO nya, dan nggak liat subprime mortgage problem nya.

Peran pemerintah

Kalo kita liat New Zealand yang berhasil sempat clear 100 hari dari kasus covid mereka (dan sekarang tetap rendah dibawah 10), approach mereka simple: PM nya bilang ini kasus medis jadi dia nurutin 100% saran dokter dan scientist untuk solusi nya. Kalo di semua negara lain di dunia, masalah medis solusi nya dari politisi yang di politisir. Di Indonesia udah di politisir, decision making nya sengaja dibikin layer birokrasi lagi karena pemimpin nya nggak decisive dan nggak mau disalahin. Presiden lempar tanggung jawab ke gubernur, tapi gubernur harus minta ijin dulu ke kemenkes (yang di bawah presiden). Jadi menimbulkan benturan kepentingan dimana antara pusat, pemda, dan para ahli beda semua mau nya / pendapat nya.

Kayak sekarang,“tiba-tiba” PSBB mau diterapin lagi di Jakarta. Ini karena pendapat dokter dan scientist nggak didengerin dari awal, dan kebijakan pemda dan pusat lebih mikirin ekonomi harus tetep jalan dibanding short term putus penyebaran Covid nya. Dan berkat “new normal, new spirit” rakyatnya jadi ngeremehin dan di fasilitasi pula (semua dibuka, asal… Dan condition “asal” nya ini nggak di supervise). Seperti masuk ke Ancol cuma boleh terbatas, untuk social distancing, tapi dengan bodoh nya pembatasan ini menciptakan antrian panjang desel-deselan diluar gerbang Ancol dan dibiarin aja.

Jadi apakah PSBB lagi itu perlu? You damn right perlu banget. Tapi sebulan yang lalu, bukan dadakan sekarang ketika tinggal beberapa minggu lagi health care system kita bakal collapse.

Karena “mendadak PSBB” lagi itu last minute panic nya pemda DKI, di keadaan yang udah rada telat. Dan karena panic, justru PSBB yang drastis banget measures nya bisa bikin usaha-usaha mati. Kayak nggak ada planning mateng dari awal, semua serba reaktif dari liat keadaan yang uncertainty nya tinggi. Tapi kalo nggak PSBB lagi?

Ini kayak 2007 dimana financial institutions ignore problem subprime mortgage yang bentar lagi bakal default satu per satu, mengabaikan semua pihak yang udah kasih warning dari awal, dan even have the nerve untuk ngomong kenaikan market ini (yang ada andil dari property bubble karena subprime people tiba-tiba bisa beli rumah, jadi create demand) bisa berlangsung selama nya, seperti yang di claim oleh CEO Dow Chemical dan CEO Citigroup pada saat itu.

Dan di 2008 awal ketika mortgage lenders Fannie Mae dan Freddy Mac mulai collapse, regulator fail to see cause-and-effect nya yang eventually collapse nya bakal merembet seperti ini: mortgage lenders yang issue subprime mortgage – investment banks yang create CDO – all kind of funds and countries yang beli CDO nya – insurance companies yang issue insurance just in case CDO gagal – corporations yang nggak pegang CDO tapi yang credit line nya di freeze di bank mereka karena bank nya collapsing – the economies kena imbas big time.

By the time Fannie Mae dan Freddy Mac collapse, udah a little too late kayak Covid-19 udah 3000+ kasus per hari di Indonesia. Karena kalo ini kayak dinamit di film-film kartun, sumbu nya udah dinyalain dan mulai merembet jalan. Jadi ada PSBB lagi atau nggak, does it really matter at this point?

The problem is, baik di level pemerintah pusat maupun level pemda peraturan dibikin sedemikian rupa untuk menjaga bisnis dulu, baru manusia, dan nggak bisa liat jauh ke depan kalo selama virus nya masih nyebar terus, bisnis-bisnis ini bakal mati juga in the long term.

Dan ketika kita ngomong bisnis, lebih tepat nya bisnis nya orang yang ada leverage. Mall dibuka, tempat hiburan dibuka, dan kalo ada yang positif Covid? Cuma diumumin aja di berita (kayak satu toko di mall di Senayan). Ada yang positif di restoran mahal? Nggak ada tindakan. Tapi kalo ada yang positif di pasar tradisional? Pasar nya langsung di paksa tutup.

Penegakan hukum yang setengah-setengah dan diskriminasi sekali seperti ini jadi create privilege bias, kalo ini sorry to say “penyakit orang miskin.” Kalo di “klaster komunitas” ada yang kena Covid? Tracing satu komunitas dia nggak di tindak sama sekali. Tapi kalo satu warga desa ada yang kena, satu desa harus di karangtina.

Orang-orang menengah atas pada umum nya jadi gede kepala, that they’re untouchable. Sedangkan yang rakyat miskin bakal mikir ini cuma conspiracy orang kaya aja yang mau control mereka. Hasil nya, jadi socio-economic problem yang totally ignore the main problem dari awal: ada deadly virus yang terus nyebar.

The collapse

Waktu subprime mortgage market crash merembet menjadi global financial crash di tahun 2008 setelah Lehman Brothers collapse, banyak yang bingung nggak ngerti kenapa “tiba-tiba” crash dan collapse semua, kenapa tiba-tiba CDO A+ yang mereka pegang jadi worthless dan uang mereka jadi ilang.

Dari cara Covid-19 di handle sampe sekarang, dari sisi pandemi nya with 3000+ new cases setiap hari kita keliatannya tinggal tunggu waktu aja untuk healthcare system kita collapse (17 September di DKI kalo menurut para ahli, sebelum PSBB diperketat kembali), ekonomi juga kemungkinan besar akan masuk resesi, dan usaha-usaha banyak yang udah mulai tutup. Alias dengan kebijakan yang setengah-setengah tanpa bener-bener tackle problem utama nya, pemerintah bakal end up jebol di semua sisi.

Ini bakal jadi kegagalan pemerintah pusat yang nggak berani tegas decision making nya dari awal, dan kegagalan pemerintah daerah yang terlalu reaktif dan nggak ada planning yang matang juga, dimana dua instansi tersebut terlalu dengerin opini short-term lobbyist pengusaha dibanding opini long-term para ahli medis.

Dan nanti the same “CDO holders” nya Covid yang udah telen mentah-mentah ilusi “new normal” yang di create sama pemerintah dan komunitas mereka masing-masing, bakal bingung juga kenapa tiba-tiba semua collapse di sekitar mereka. And these same people bakal yang kritik pemerintah pusat dan pemda paling keras, sembari makan-makan dan ngobrol lepas masker. And they won’t see the irony kalo kelakuan mereka ini justru yang kontribusi besar ke penyebaran virus nya.

Book review: The summary of seemingly every prominent crime stories in history

“The Crime Book: Big ideas simply explained” by DK

After reading few books on happiness, well being, and stuff like discovering your inner Buddha, I thought to myself you know what I haven’t read for a while? A f***ed up book on f***ed up people. So, here we are.

It is an absolutely billiant book with a complete history of every crime imaginable, covering organised crimes, heists and robberies, gang violences, mafia related violences, white collar crimes, serial killers, political assassinations, and so much more. With prominent names and cases from Yakusa, Jack the Ripper, Ponzi scheme, Bernie Madoff, the murder of Tupac Shakur, the charm of Ted Bundy, the enigmatic Rasputin, Pablo Escobar and the drug wars, the assassination of JFK, and hundreds more sick stories that shook the world.

Holy cr*p that was one gruesome book. Couldn’t recommend it more. 5 stars.

Book review: You think that today is the most violent era in history? This book shows that it’s in fact the most peaceful one

“The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why violence has declined” by Steven Pinker

This book is the ultimate history of human violence. The thick book brought us in a journey into the very dark places in history, with gruesome details on how different civilisations in different parts of the world in different periods of time conducted their violent acts as a daily occurrences, which can be overwhelming to read at times. The historically accurate Roman-style brutal crucifixion, for example, is even more sadistic than the depiction in the movie The Passion of the Christ.

Indeed, the book seemingly covers every single violence known in history, from war, murder, rape, bullying, violence against women children homosexual, all the way to violence towards animal.

But as the book progresses, it then points out the many pivotal moments that turned humans into a less barbaric creatures, such as the introduction of printing press that introduced empathy, and completes the thesis with its main point that today humans have evolved into a more civilised and peaceful beings, and that our time today is the most calm and peaceful era despite all the media portrayals. The gradual narrative is also complemented by all the available social theories known to man about the particular growth periods.

However, I stop reading it mindfully 3/4 of the way after I realise the arguments that Steven Pinker is presenting in this 800+ pages book are directed toward overly justifying the current status quo of State and capitalism (with weak cause-and-effect association from his own data) that ignored the dark and also violent side of it. Moreover, it also dawns on me a little too late that his arguments are biased towards New Atheism doctrines that would make Richard Dawkins blush (an argument that can be easily refuted, but that’s for another day).

All in all, great build up, impressive data, but disconnected conclusion. It certainly a big let down after such a promising start of the reading, hence the eventual 4 stars.

Book review: It’s understandably not easy to follow up from a masterpiece

“Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow” by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens is one of my top 3 favourite books of all time, so I had such a tremendous expectation for this sequel. In retrospect, it is still a brilliant book with vast range of topics filled with plenty of data and insights that are signature of Harari. Some parts are even world class.

However, almost the majority of the contents are stretched a little too long, and give the feel like they are only the extended notes that didn’t get the cut in Sapiens. Moreover, it is not really a direct book about the future, in which I expected to be like the brilliant last chapter in Sapiens. But instead it dwells quite some time in history, thus the overlapping feel with his 1st book.

And when we finally arrived at the predictions of the future? Nothing is really new, although to be fair I have read, watched, and listened to a lot of interviews with Harari talking about this book.

All in all, when reading this book, I can’t help but feeling like when I’m watching the 8th season of Game of Thrones. Sure, it’s brilliant on its own. But when we compare it with the early 7 seasons it becomes obvious that it’s a rather disappointing follow up from the build up.

Already bought his 3rd book though. And I remain a massive fan.

Book review: Lessons from the 1st Stoa

“Stoicism and the art of happiness” by Donald Robertson

Modern Stoicism is largely based on the wonderful thinking of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca through their “main 3 books” of Meditations, Discourses, and Letters, respectively. This is because these books are only a handful of surviving bodies of Stoic writings left that are almost fully intact (with only 4 books out of 8 of Discourses survived).

But these 3 wise philosophers were all part of the so-called 3rd Stoa, the 3rd generation of “Late Stoa” in Rome. So what about the wisdom of the founding fathers of Stoicism, the 1st generation of “Early Stoa” in Ancient Greece? Well, it is said that there are only 1% of surviving Stoic materials left in the world, with the “main 3” dominate the canon, while everything ever written by the founder Zeno have all but disappeared. And so I thought.

This book is different than the rest of 7 modern Stoic books that I’ve read so far, because besides discussing the teachings of the usual 3rd Stoa it also provides the teachings from the 1st Stoa such as Zeno, Cleanthes, and what growingly becomes my favourite Chrysippus, as well as many other Stoic philosophers. And the stories are simply astonishing.

Firstly, I never knew that Pythagoras (the math triangle guy) had such an interesting life and philosophy (and many cult-like followers too in Ancient times) which the Stoics like to refer to. Then we have the story of Paconius Agrippinus, a highly regarded Stoic philosopher who responded with a complete composure when being informed of his impending death execution, by finishing his lunch with his friends.

But my favourite got to be the story when Macedonian king Antigonus II, a powerful political and military leader, came to visit Zeno to listen to his teachings, and Zeno was completely unconcerned when he met the powerful king. Because Antigonus had power over nothing that Zeno saw as important in life and he possessed nothing that Zeno desire about.

Furthermore, the book also has a neat “try it now” section in every chapter, which consist of the suggested Stoic lesson for us to practice for the topic. My absolute favourite is got to be contemplating life as one big festival, with us getting a ticket to attend Glastonbury or the modern Olympic games or any art event. Like the sequence of life, we attend festivals to absorb the experience, to learn a thing or two from it, to enjoy it fully but to never get too attached to anything in it because we’re only a visitor and it is only a temporary gig. When things get rough, it’s okay because it’s the nature of chaotic festival. And when it’s time to wrap up the event, you don’t get upset by it but instead you just leave the event bringing fond memories along with you.

As a reader (and dare I say, a practitioner) of Stoicism it delights me that up to this point I found the numerous modern books on Stoicism as complementary for each other rather than competing. While one focuses on the history, others adapt the lessons into modern-day contexts. While some focused more into the academic discussions, others are more targeted towards bite size day-to-day implementation. And this book is no different, it serves as another piece of Stoic puzzle by dwelling deep into the origins and the formation of the philosophies that becomes the Stoic principles.

Thus, it is a form of injustice if we compare the modern books on Stoicism against each other, as each have different purpose that serve the greater good. Instead, in the quest of reading all available books written on Stoicism I am absolutely estatic, wait, hang on, nay, I’m preferably indifferent that there is another excellent book that provides yet another new angles on the Stoic philosophy. And this one, happens to be written by the founder of the influential Stoicon.

Book review: How children succeed

“How Children Succeed: grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character” by Paul Tough

Firstly, children who grow up in a stressful environment will find it hard to concentrate at class, difficult to follow directions or rules, hard to rebound from disappointments, or difficult to just sitting still. It is because stressful environment negatively affects the part of the brain called prefrontal cortex, which is critical for our ability to self-regulate. A case in point, almost all of the cases of “troubled kids” have uncontrollable bad tempers and attitude, which are rooted from their stressful encounters at home or their surroundings. So we really are the product of our environment.

Secondly, but the good news is children whose parents (especially mother) or guardian are attuned to their mood and responsive to their cues will produce a securely attached children, where early attachment creates a positive psychological effects that could last a lifetime. Moreover, if children grow up in a nurturing parental environment where there are a lot of comforting, physical affections like hugging, and reassuring talks since birth, they will have a stronger and braver character. So a good or bad parenting is the absolute key in a child’s character development, no matter the surrounding circumnstances (remember how in the movie “Life is Beautiful” Guido can turn a horrifying Nazi concentration camp into a fun game for his unknowing son).

And thirdly, it is vital for parents to teach their children since infant the ability to manage their inflamed stress system and to restore themselves to a resting state, which includes teaching them how to calm down after a tantrum or a bad scare. And when the child grows older, they will also need to learn about discipline, rules, and limits. And perhaps most crucially, they also need a child-size adversity appropriate for each of their age levels, a chance to fail and get back up on their feet without help. This is the best gift a parent could ever give to their children, the chance to develop self-control, persistence, grit, curiousity, conscientiousness, and the self-confidence that they can handle anything life throws at them.

These are the 3 key messages of the book, where the author back them up with scientific findings and illustrate them with plenty of real-life great examples. And this is how children succeed.

Book review: The science behind the Wim Hof Method

“What Doesn’t Kill Us: How freezing water, extreme altitude, and environmental conditioning will renew our lost evolutionary strength” by Scott Carney

This is a phenomenal book. It is the story of our long-lost superhuman capability that we once possess, and the science behind the ability to consciously control our immune system and body temperature. It is also a book largely about Wim Hof, and his unorthodox method that surely will change the way we practice medicine and could even save humanity in the future.

So, who is Wim Hof? the Dutchman holds 26 official Guinness Book of Records, he climbed pass the death zone altitude at mount Everest (around 7500 metres) wearing nothing but shorts and shoes, he dipped into ice bath for nearly 2 hours and his body temperature didn’t plunge, and he can hold his breath under water for 10 long minutes.

Moreover, the “iceman” can also run at a high altitude without suffering from altitude sickness, he completed a full marathon above the Arctic Circle in Finland wearing, again, nothing but shorts and shoes despite the temperature was close to -20 degree Celsius (-4 degree Fahrenheit), he ran another full marathon in the scorching hot Namib desert without training and without water (and like a badass re-hydrated afterwards with a beer). And all of this are achievable thanks to his method.

Perhaps the best part of this insane achievements is, despite looking like a hippie and behave like a funny madman, he routinely asks scientists to measure and validate his “crazy” method. Method that are continuously verified to be legitimate, including by the MIT lab. Method that is not genetically available to his “normal” twin brother without practice. Method that is teachable and trainable to anyone, including you and me. And this is where this book excels.

Now, while the book is not about Wim Hof per se, it is a testament on Wim as the absolute superstar in this particular bio-hacking subject. Thus, it has Wim at the cover, Wim for the foreword, Wim for the first few chapters, and Wim again at the last few concluding chapters. But the space in between? It’s the juicy science stuff.

At the core of the book lies Brown Adipose Tissue, an inactive “brown fat” deposit within our body that plays an important role in insulin sensitivity and packed with mitochondria that acts as the power generator for the cells (the ATP). It is a “hidden function” in our body that Harvard researcher Aaron Cypess discovered can be ignited to instantly keep our body warm (the thermogenesis process).

Previously, scientists used to believe that only babies had brown fat since birth (to protect the body from the outside-world cold exposure), but the fat disappears by the time most people reached adulthood. However, recent studies suggest that adults have small reserves of brown fat (usually stored in small deposits around the neck and shoulders), and more importantly some brown fat can be “recruitable” by converting white fat (the normal fat that we have) into brown fat, which can be done most effectively by exposing our body to cold water. And this is where Wim Hof breathing method come in play.

So how does it work? First you inhale deeply through your mouth or nose, filling your belly and chest with as much oxygen as you can, then exhale gently through your mouth. And repeat the sequence 29 more times in short and powerful bursts. On the 30th sequence inhale deeply, then exhale all the way (let all the air out), and then hold your breath for 1 minute or until you have the urge to breathe again. Then take one big gulp of inhale, and stop breathing again for 15 seconds. And exhale, release all. Repeat this whole sequence 1 more time. The breathing method brilliantly trigger both sympathetic and parasympathetic responds in our body (more on that shortly).

Note that you should do this breathing method sitting down in a safe place (not while driving, for example), and in the middle of the 30 sequences you could start feeling light-headed, tingling sensations in your body, or erupted by a sudden emotion (several people even burst out crying for no reason) and that’s normal, it’s the body reaction that we can instantly feel from the method.

And here’s the scientific explanation. Neuroscientists have found that every inhale that we take nudges our sympathetic nervous system (which will increase our heart rate, dilating our pupils slightly, heighten our alertness), and every exhale prods our parasympathetic nervous system (which will slow down our heart rate, constricting our pupils, and calming us down). While normally every inhale is matched with an exhale, by spending more time exhaling and less time inhaling we can produce a net change towards our parasympathetic nervous system (like the 2nd part of the Wim Hof Method, where we hold our breath for 1 minute after we exhale all the way).

And conversely, if we inhale more than we exhale (like in the first 30x rapid breathing in Wim Hof Method) we’ll create a fight-or-flight condition within our body, where the sympathetic nervous system is activated by the hypothalamus by sending signal through the autonomic nerves to the adrenal glands. These glands will then respond by pumping epinephrine (or more commonly known as adrenaline) into the bloodstream, which will prop up our immune system, produce anti-inflammatory effect, give us the boost of energy, and trigger the redistribution of blood to the muscles that will keep us warm.

In other words, by net-inhaling in rapid successions the Wim Hof Method fooled our brain to think that we’re in a danger, and trigger it to produce the adrenaline that normally appears when we are chased by a tiger, or have to lift a very heavy falling wall during a fire, and in any other life and death situation. And the 2nd part of the method then relaxes our body to calm state, in order to prevent a prolonged adrenaline rush.

This same adrenaline is what protected Wim during a lab experiment where he was injected with a bacterial endotoxin, which should normally affect our immune response. But through the breathing method, Wim demonstrated that he can voluntarily influence his autonomic nervous system, and thus he can consciously control his immune system and treat it as a barrier against the disease. To show that he is not the anomaly, Wim then teach this to 12 other people, and all of them also didn’t get any body reaction when injected by endotoxin.

The Wim Hof Method is not a new phenomenon, however. It is a similar method used by the Tibetans to adapt their body in high altitude, the same approach implemented by the Inuits to withstand the freezing cold, similar like the aborigines and the Kalahari bushmen that use a method to remain warm in plunging temperatures at night without clothes on, and interestingly archaeological findings suggest that it’s even the same technique used by the Neanderthals to survive in the cold.

It is also similar like a long tradition of semi-mystic practices such as Tummo breathing and Prāṇāyāma yoga, although these two have the opposite objection to Wim Hof Method where it relies on parasympathetic deep breathing to induce a “hypometabolic state” where autonomic and mental arousal are minimal.

And true to his superhero-like narrative, Wim did not initially discover his method through science or training, but through pain after his wife committed suicide and left him alone with his 4 kids and little money to get by. This is when the ice cold water of the nearby lake became his sanctuary, the saviour that healed his pain. And in time, through trial and error the superior combination of the cold and his breathing method turned him into a superhuman capable of breaking various limitations that were thought humanly impossible. And it didn’t kill him.

Book review: My sanctuary

“How To Enjoy Your Life and Your Job” by Dale Carnegie

Every once in a while, I resort to Dale Carnegie after a long streak of reading books on various topics. I do this because as a man who lived in the 1890s – 1950s he produced the clearest good-old-fashioned values, which fittingly feels at home after a long journey outside. And this book is no different.

Published in 1970, the book is a some kind of summary of his 2 most famous books, “How to win friends and influence people” and “How to stop worrying and start living”, which are then catered to the particular subject displayed as the title of this book. While the book is published posthumously, it has the familiar Dale Carnegie’s style of writing, the endearing pop references from his time, complete with his template of heart-warming examples to illustrate the points that he’s trying to make.

And similar with his previous 2 magnificent best-sellers, and a 3rd one about public speaking (equally excellent), this book also teased me into highlighting every single paragraph, because they all seem to be important. But that’s how home should feel like, wouldn’t you agree? It’s that feeling of ease and security when you’re inside the house, where nobody is judging you, where there’s nothing but love, where every single item in the house is important and valuable for you. And that is what this book is for me.

Book review: The silver song of a lark

“Klopp: bring the noise” by Raphael Honigstein

This book reads like the Chicago Bulls documentary “The Last Dance”, with all the going back and forth in Jürgen Klopp’s different periods in life, from childhood to Mainz to Liverpool to Dortmund to Liverpool back to his punditry days in Germany, back to Dortmund, and so on. And it’s gripping.

The author has a special way to depicts a scene and brings us into the mood in the stadiums, in the pubs, and you can just taste the emotions among the supporters. And it is reflected in the book, which gives the overall context and “feel” around the development of Mainz, Dortmund, and Liverpool within Klopp’s respective periods in life, from the wreck at the beginning for each club to the few years of building up the team until its success stories for Dortmund and Liverpool.

But most importantly, in between the stories the book also brilliantly captures the essence of Jürgen Klopp’s tremendous, larger-than-life, personality and the wisdom and intellect that match it. Hence, it is similar with reading books about basketball’s John Wooden or American football’s Vince Lombardy, where we can learn so much more from the great men and from the lessons that they teach us for life outside their respective sports.

Yes, the core of this book is about Klopp’s strong values, it’s about his work ethic, his natural charisma, his clear conscious between what’s right and what’s wrong. One single passage in the book perfectly describes this philosophy: “But unlike Bill Shankly, Klopp has never believed that sport is everything. It can’t be. ‘If life would be judged at the end, and you stood at that door, and somebody asked you “Did you win something or not?” that would be really strange. But: “Did you try everything to improve the place you’ve been in, the house you lived in, the mood, the love?” “Yes, I tried, every day.” “Then come in.” And all the other guys, who won ignoring all the rules, all the laws – I think they have to use another door. I didn’t do that much in my life. But when we won it felt incredible (because) we always won it in the right way. You have to be patient. You have to work harder than others. You have to try, over a long period. Then you have a chance.’”

His philosophies, of course, also projected in his footballing approach. He’s very demanding but fair, he always push his boys to the limit but never throw them discouraging critics. He’s the ultimate authority but he’s “one of them”. He parties with them, exchange jokes with them, the hugs, oh the many hugs, and he genuinely value everyone at the club from top to bottom. In fact at the start of his tenure in Liverpool, he gathered everyone in one room, from players to the toilet cleaner and the lunch lady and ask them introduce to one another, to create a togetherness atmosphere in the club.

And he’s also good at protecting his players: “The Liverpool boss also reminded his men again about the pact he had made with them shortly after coming into the job in October 2015. ‘When you win, it’s down to you and when you lose, it’s down to me,’ he had told them in a bid to ease unspoken concerns about the new, complex and very demanding playing style.”

Now, I know love is a strong word but even if he kills a puppy at this very instance, I bet every Mainz, Dortmund, and Liverpool supporter will still see him as a saint. That’s how much Klopp is loved by the entire city of Mainz, the entire city of Dortmund, and by Liverpool fans worldwide, and it is a testament to his great character.

As a biased Liverpool fan, whose club just won the first English title in 30 years thanks to this err, saint, with many records broken in the process, this book is like the icing on the cake. It is the perfect book for the supporters. Thank Fowler that he’s our manager.

Book review: The best of Stephen Hawking

“Brief Answers to the Big questions” by Stephen Hawking

This is a mind-bendingly incredible book. It asks 10 big questions in science and in life, with Stephen Hawking gives the most thought-provoking answers.

The questions are: 1. Is there a God? 2. How did all begin? 3. Is there other intelligence life in the universe? 4. Can we predict the future? 5. What is inside a black hole? 6. Is time travel possible? 7. Will we survive on Earth? 8. Should we colonise space? 9. Will artificial intelligence outsmart us? 10. How do we shape the future?

The book itself is relatively thin, and the title literally says BRIEF answers. But it sure does feel voluminous and heavy weight, due to its condensed content.

It is one of those books that gives me the physical feel that my brain is being stretched and expanded to the limit of my ability to comprehend. And it’s fantastic. If what reading a book does for our brain equals with lifting weights for our body, then this book is one massive weight that we train with the assistance of the best possible personal trainer.