- Howdy, welcome to 100 things in 2019! In the old west, a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents, which is exactly the same cost as a small glass of whiskey. So, according to the custom of the era, if a cowhand was short on cash he could give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a Small glass of whiskey. This, became known as a “shot” of whiskey.
- YouTube was invented by the founders after they had trouble finding a video of Justin Timberlake exposing Janet Jackson’s nipple, during that 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Meanwhile Google add their “image search” function after Jennifer Lopez wore THAT jungle dress at the 2000 Grammy Awards, to make it easier for people to find the image. Yes, it’s all about dem tiddies.
- According to the mind-blowing book This is your brain on parasites by Kathleen McAuliffe, religion teaches its followers the specific ways of hygiene. And interestingly, during the plague in the 14th century the religious people who strictly follow the customs survive the plague, not necessarily because they were religious and God favours them, but because they simply practice hygiene.
- What would happen if everyone on Earth jump at the same time? In 1798 Henry Cavendish, the reclusive professor of physics at Cambridge University, announced that “the density of the Earth comes out 5.48 times greater than that of water”, which meant that on average one cubic meter of Earth had a mass of 5480 kilograms (this was actually a slight arithmetical mistake, as the figure should have been 5450 kilograms). If we scale this number to the whole size of the Earth, the mass of the entire planet would be about six million million million million (6 x 10^24) kilograms. Now, with the average weight for people is 65 kilograms (average adult male 70 kilograms and average adult female 61 kilograms – don’t look at me that way, I didn’t collect the statistics data), if the entire human population step on a scale, the weight would be approximately 422.5 billion kilograms (approximately the weight of yo mama), or one and a half trillionth the weight of the Earth. I repeat, 1 1/2 trillionth the weight of the Earth. So as much as it looks super heavy, if everyone in the world all jump at the same time, if wont cause anything to our planet.
- Every single cell in our body regenerates itself every 7 to 10 years. On the surface level, this is where skin flakes off, nails grow, and hair fall out. And internally, it ranges from stem cell and all of its multi-functions, to even our bones. While cell renewal occurs more quickly in certain parts of the body, overall head-to-toe rejuvenation can take up to a decade. In other words, we’re literally a different person compared to 10 years ago. Now that’s a 10 year challenge! So, that ex of yours from 10 years ago? They’re gone. Whatever happened with you best buddies at college? They literally have changed. Something traumatic happened to you during your childhood? That person is also no longer physically exist.
- Lie detector is actually a false, unofficial name, for the polygraph machine. The whole premise of a polygraph machine is to detect physiological changes like in heart rate, sweating, and respiration. So that if they are guilty, the machine hopes to detect the fear (hence the physiological changes) that they will get caught. Can you see the problem here? That’s right, throughout history a lot of innocent people falsely convicted because they got nervous on the test, while guilty people got away because they can keep their cool.
- The next question then becomes, how to cheat a polygraph test? The polygraph test normally consist of 3 types of questions: 1. The false question: Things like are you wearing a blue shirt, if the person obviously doesn’t wear blue (to identify your reaction towards obviously false statement) 2. The control question: Have you tell a lie to your boss (to get the physiological reaction). 3. The real question: did you steel that ….. ? So, to pass the test practice answering them with the same physiological reactions. Various people have also successfully cheat on polygraph test using things like: consuming sedatives, or putting antiperspirants on your fingers, so your body will have the same reaction for every questions.
- There once lived a colon surgeon from England, by the name of Denis Burkitt. Dr Burkitt went to Africa with the noble deed to cure colon cancer, but found out that there was no single person who had colon cancer in the parts of Africa that he visited, none, nada. Curious, he then switched his focus to why there are no colon cancer sufferer in there. Overtime he became obsessed (obsessed!) on looking at the tribes people’s stool, which come out “snakes”, which fascinates him (sure, whatever floats your boat). As it turns out, the people there can achieve (achieve?) snakes thanks to their diet of eating huge amount of tubers, yams, millet, sweet potatoes, all these fiber stuff. He didn’t know that there are differences between soluble fiber in these kind of food, and insoluble fiber in the likes of grains. And thus, after his discovery, he became one of the main proponents of whole grain goodness in western diet, the idea that we have to have fiber in our diet. Not all heroes wear capes. Ironically, he died of colon cancer.
- The magnetic north of the Earth is actually not in the North Pole. In the 1800s researchers figured out that magnetic north tended to drift rather than static. And in the mid 1990s it even started to move faster, from just over 15 kilometers a year to about 55 kilometer a year, with a 2018 report indicate that the magnetic north has skipped over the International Date Line and entered the Eastern Hemisphere. It’s now believed to be lurching towards Siberia (there’s a potential joke somewhere in that sentence, but I can’t quite figure it out). And what about the magnetic South Pole? It’s located off the coast of Antarctica, outside the Antarctic Circle, so technically also not in the South Pole.
- But perhaps even more fascinating is the findings that the Earth’s magnetic poles have not always been magnetic north at the top and magnetic south at the bottom. In fact, according to a phenomenal book North Pole, South Pole by Gillian Turner, in our planet’s entire life there had been 183 polarity reversals, meaning the earth’s magnetic poles had flipped on average every 430,000 years. In this age of catastrophe, you know where this is going don’t you? Yes the next flip should be just around the corner.
- However, here’s the difficulty of predicting the next flip: research findings suggest that the frequency of the reversals are not uniform, where polarity of intervals had ranged from 10,000 years to 5 million years. Moreover, between 40 and 80 million years ago there were only 40 reversals (on average 1 per million years), but in the past 40 million years there have been 143 reversals. So it’s seems very random. And the last time the poles switched? Around 780,000 years ago (which has passed the average number). So currently there’s no certainty of when the flip is going to take place. But here’s some clues: In the past 200 years the strength of Earth’s magnetic field has dropped by around 15%. Now this is a massive revelation, because many scientists agree that the weakening magnetic field is the classic early sign for polar reversal, while the speeding up of the movement of the magnetic north to 55 kilometers per year is another sign that something unusual is happening. Hence, if this rate is sustained, the next polarity reversal could be imminent.
- So what’s going to happen when polar reversal occurs? At this point the scientists can only speculate: Plenty of animals from birds, butterflies, whales, fishes, even honeybees, and countless other migratory species all use Earth’s magnetic field as their some kind of GPS on their great journeys across the planet. If the magnetic field weakened, these animals could potentially lost their ways and create chaos. Furthermore, Earth’s magnetic field also functioned as our shield from solar winds (that beautiful aurora borealis is actually our magnetic field in action shielding us from solar radiation), so when the magnetic field is weakened we might potentially be forced to take refuge from the constant attacks from the solar winds. But probably the most direct concern in this modern age is the potential chaos caused in human-made technology, where electronic devices, mobile networks, electric grid, satellite GPS, etc are all designed with the base of the magnetic north at the top and magnetic south at the bottom of the Earth. Hence when the poles do switch, it could potentially kill off the majority of modern technology and left only the Amish laughing. But still, while from a geographic age the pole reversal is imminent, in human age this might still be several generations in our distant future. So don’t dig up that doomsday bunker just yet.
- Ludwig van Beethoven once fell in love with a lady by the name of Therese. She was one of his students, a mediocre one at that. To win her love, Beethoven went as far as creating a simple melody that was so easy that even Therese could play it and impress people. But then he found out that she was already engaged with a different man, and she reject Beethoven’s love. Heartbroken, Beethoven then proceeded to make the other parts of the melody complicated, so that Therese could not play it. Therese had a nickname, it was Elise. And the song? Für Elise (literally translated as for Elise). The next time you listen to the song, pay attention to the “other parts” of the melody (especially the C section in the subdominant key of D minor), you can almost listen to his heartbreak.
- Did you know that only female mosquito bite us? And no it’s not for food. Because in actuality mosquito eat nectar, plant sap, or honeydew, for energy, and not blood. Wait, what? Yes, those little bastards don’t drink blood for energy. Instead, female mosquito extract blood from us for reproduction purposes, because blood is full of amino acids and proteins, which makes it the best prenatal supplement for growing mosquito eggs. That’s why only female mosquito attack us, so to speak. And can you guess how many eggs can 1 mosquito produce in her lifetime? 500. I repeat that again, 1 mosquito can produce 500 more of them!
- Have you ever wondered why royalty referred as “blue blooded”? The origin of the word “blue blood” entered the English vocabulary in the early 1800s, and it comes from the Spanish word “sangre azul”, which was used in Spain to refer to aristocrats who were considered pure blooded (that is, unmixed Germanic ancestry who had not intermarried with invader tribes like Moors). But why blue blood? Because unlike the Moors who had dark skin, these people had fair skin, so fair that their blue veins showed through their skin. Was that racism? It feels like racism.
- Speaking of blue blood, you know what’s fascinating? Octopus. An octopus has a blue blood, 9 brains, and 3 hearts. Out of the 3 hearts, 2 pump blood to the gills, while the 3rd circulates the blue thing to the rest of the body. Moreover, their nervous system consist of a central brain, and a large ganglion at the base of each tentacle, which controls movement. Octopuses was once thought by 33 researchers in peer-reviewed Scientific journal as aliens living among us, and it even inserted in the Japanese folklore (no, not that one) in the form of giant octopus Akkorokamui.
- But you know what’s fucked up? Lobsters. First of all, its brain is located in its throat, then its nervous system is in its abdomen, its kidneys is in its head, while its teeth is in its stomach. Did I say stomach? Weirdly while its teeth is in its stomach it tastes with its feet. Next to its feet? Its legs, which they use to hear. And from 100 things in 2016 no. 43 we learned that lobsters are biologically immortal, so they are stuck like this forever! Pretty damn tasty though.
- According to Dr. Valter Longo, a professor of biological sciences and gerontology at the University of Southern California, as a person ages, dysfunctional cells and disused cell components steadily accumulate in the body, and these ailing cells contribute to the aging process and age-related diseases. The question then, can we do anything about it? In 2016 Yoshinori Ohsumi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology for “discoveries of the mechanisms for autophagy”, and he specifically identified fasting as one of the main ways to trigger autophagy. So what’s autophagy? In its very basic function, autophagy is the body’s response to a lack of food, which stimulates a degradation pathway of sub cellular components. Meaning (in English), when the body gets an extended break from food and digestion (aka fasting), our body will then break down its own tissue for sustenance and ends up discarding unhealthy cells to make room for new ones to flourish. This is done in 2 ways: 1. Our body get rid of unnecessary proteins that may be damaged or malfunctioning 2. Our body break down those proteins back into amino acid (proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids), and then our body decide the bad parts of the amino acids to be flushed out into the kidneys as waste products, and the good parts are turned into new cellular components.
- And this is key. Because Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of too much junk protein in the brain. Cancer, kidney disease, ovaries disease, obesity, are all formed from too much growth. Hearth attacks and strokes are caused by atheromatous plaques (excess accumulation of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood which hardens and narrows our arteries and thus limits the flow of our oxygen-rich blood to our organs). And as mentioned above, all of these problems can be counteracted through certain types of cellular stress (that comes from fasting) which activates autophagy and keep the cells in good working order. Fasting can also reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, improve glucose control, reduce liver fat, improve blood pressure, reduce oxidative damage, it can “reprograms” metabolism in ways that may combat type 2 diabetes, and slowing down the growth or development of cancer cells and tumors. A 5 day fast can increase Human Growth Hormone by 300%. And fasting also dramatically improves stem cells’ ability to regenerate. So if you want to stay strong and healthy until your 90s like Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad, you don’t have to do stem cell therapy, just do fasting instead.
- Still not convinced? Perhaps the most appealing part of fasting is the weight loss factor. During fasting, our gastrointestinal tract is allowed to rest and repair, and as there’s no food to digest and to turned into energy, our body then start burning our fat stored in our cells, which leads to weight loss. Moreover, during a fasting period our insulin levels go down, and the decreasing insulin levels cause cells to release stored glucose as energy, which also leads to weight loss. With all of these great effects, it’s easy to understand why people are saying that they have increased endurance, better motor coordination and improved sleep (eating according to our circadian rhythm, as in the case of most fasting, helps promote deep sleep).
- This isn’t a new revelation, though. As early as the 5th century BC, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, had used fasting as a medicine, so did Greek physician Galen and Persian physician Avicenna. Plato said that he fasted for greater mental and physical efficiency, while his pupil Aristotle also fasted, as well as Pythagoras, Benjamin Franklin, all the way to modern day celebrities like Terry Crews, Dwayne Johnson, Hugh Jackman, Kourtney Kardashian, Nicole Kidman, and Beyonce, all of whom practice intermittent fasting. And of course there are the many types of religion-based fasting (remember the practicality of ancient wisdom from religion, at point no 3 above?), as virtually all religion in the world practice a some form of fasting (except Zoroastrianism which prohibits it). Muslims fasting in the month of Ramadan, Jews during Yom Kippur, Baha’i during the month of Ala, Buddhists following the Vinaya rules which commonly do not eat after the noon meal, Hindus have variation of fasting days such as Ekadasi, Pradosha, and Purnima, Christians have various types of Biblical-based fasting on top of their own respective customs in Roman Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodoxy, Methodist, Lutheran, Reformed, Pentecostal, Latter-day Saints, Advent, and so on. And although Sikhism does not promote fasting, they recommend fasting for medical reasons, just like Taoism that use fasting as a traditional Chinese medicine. I personally implement 16:8 intermittent fasting every weekday and the Ramadan fasting once a year for a month, and I never felt better.
- The English language consist of around 500,000 words in total. But yet the average English-speaking person’s working vocabulary only consist of 2000 words (that’s 0.4% of the entire library of vocabulary), with the most frequently used words averages 200-300 words for most people. Furthermore, out of the 500,000 words, as much as 3000 words are used to describe emotions (2/3 of which are used to describe negative emotions). By contrast, poet John Milton’s writings used around 17,000 words, and William Shakespeare used 24,000 words (5000 of which he only used one time). That’s one of the reasons they’re best of the best.
- The creators of superhero icon Superman had a tragic story. The idea of Superman and his powers had long been in the imagination of creator Jerry Siegel, a lonely outcast from Cleveland, which was completed when he met Joe Shuster, an equally alienated fellow dreamer who added the worldly dimension (such as his alter ego Clark Kent, and his love pursuit on Lois Lane). Initially, for 6 long years Superman was rejected by a succession of publishers, that is until finally the editor National Allied Publication (precursor of DC Comics), Vin Sullivan, agreed to publish Superman in the June 1938 cover of National’s Action Comics #1. However, just before their creation hit the stands, on 1 March 1938 Siegel and Shuster signed away all rights to their creation for $130 (which they had to split between them). It was a spectacular mistake, which resulted in Siegel and Shuster spending decades of their lives in court to reclaim the rights to their signature character. Eventually, in the 1970s Warner Communications, the eventual owner of the Superman franchise gave these two gentlemen pensions of $20,000 per year and health benefits, after both had suffered hard economic times. “There is no legal obligation”, said Jay Emmett, then executive vice president of Warner, to the New York Times, “but I sure feel there is a moral obligation on our part.” Joe Shuster died in 1992 and Jerry Siegel in 1996, with their heirs continued their long, loooong, legal battles with now DC Comics.
- Handshakes were originally meant to ensure that the opposite person wasn’t carrying a concealed weapon. The hand clasp is to show that your hand and their hand is empty, and the shaking motion was to dislodge any weapons hidden up the sleeve.
- On 24 January 41 AD Roman Emperor Caligula was assassinated by a Praetorian Guard that Caligula has mocked continuously because of his high pitched voice, which some attributed to a war wound he sustained in the genitals (huh? Who knew there’s a link between genitals and high pitch voice). Anyway, Caligula rarely missed any opportunity to mock his guard, giving him names like “Venus” (a slang for a castrated man) or “Priapus” (a minor Roman god often depicted with a massive erection). Sick and tired of all the mocking, the high-pitched guard eventually organised an assassination on Caligula, with “Priapus” delivered the first thrust of the knife (I’m sorry, but I can’t help but imagining this dude stabbing Caligula, while trash talking him with a high pitch voice LOL).
- Speaking of massive erection, ancient Romans draw penis graffiti as a symbol of luck and domination, and to ward off misfortune. This big revelation (pun intended) was discovered by archaeologists from Newcastle University when they saw an oversized penis etched into stone at a quarry near Hadrian’s Wall, presumably by ancient Roman workers when they were stationed there in 207 AD. And if you thought, nah this is maybe just a one-off prank thing. Behold, one of the university’s archaeologists, Rob Collins, found no less than 57 such symbols along Hadrian’s Wall. Oh there’s more. Adults and children in the ancient Rome were believed to wear amulets shaped like flying penises (called fascinum – just google image it, thanks to J-Lo) to protect themselves against sickness. I think I can fit right in just fine in Ancient Rome.
- Meanwhile, Roman Emperor Octavian adopted the name Augustus after his triumph of killing Marc Anthony and Cleopatra. And as you know from 100 things in 2017 no. 81 he then inserted Augustus as the 8th month of the year. So in a way, our 8th month of the year exist to commemorate the defeat and death of Cleopatra.
- The moon is 1/400th the size of the sun, and remarkably it’s also exactly 1/400th the distance away from Earth. This is why from earth the moon and the sun look like they’re the same size, a unique coincidence not shared by any other known planet-moon combination. They’re right, God is a mathematician.
- Hamburger was first accidentally invented by the Mongols. During Genghis Khan’s great conquests, Mongol armies carry around their meat at the saddle on their horse. After a while they realised the constant pounding of the meat when the horses were running made the meat softer. They eventually intentionally put their meat in this way to consume them easier. The Mongols teach this technique to the Russians, which gave birth to the steak tartar. And then on trade missions with the Germans the Russians finally teach this technique to the Germans, mostly those in Hamburg. And then the great emigration occurred to the US, where the German people serves the Hamburg steak in New York. It is in New York where the Hamburg steak met their love match in bread, and the dynamic duo became a popular food especially during the Great Depression, where other food sources were expensive. Dammit, now I want a burger.
- Speaking of burgers, Ray Kroc is not the original founder of McDonald’s. Can you guess who the original founders were? The clue is in its name, it’s the McDonald brothers. Richard and Maurice McDonald started out the burger chain by opening a drive-in barbecue and burger restaurant in Acardia, California in 1937, and then moved it to San Bernardino in 1940, which was successful for 8 years but eventually was shut down in 1948 to reopen with a more efficient system and a streamlined menu that serve only a few items: hamburgers, french fries, soft drinks, and milkshakes. In 1954 the brothers came across a struggling Prince Castle Multi-Mixer salesman by the name of Ray Kroc, and became his best customers when they bought 8 of his machines (for their milkshakes). Upon his first visit to the restaurant, Kroc was blown away by the low prices, the effectiveness, and the quickness of the restaurant’s operation, due to the chain of employees working together as a system. In fact, the restaurant had gained attention when making the cover of American Restaurant Magazine in 1952. Initially, Kroc envisioned how much money he could make if there were hundreds of McDonald’s across the country, which would each be equipped with 8 of the milkshake machines that he sold. But he ended up proposing to the McDonald brothers that he work as a franchising agent for them, in exchange for a very small slice of the profits. By then in 1954 the McDonald brothers had already sold more than 20 franchises and opened 8 restaurants themselves, but the brothers were looking for help expanding, in which Kroc then offered to buy the US franchise rights, and successfully unleash the true franchising potential of the chain.
- Flash forward: Kroc became president in 1955, constantly clashed with the brothers along the way, which Kroc eventually bought out all of Richard and Maurice McDonald’s shares 6 years later in 1961 (and since then change the McDonald history as its founder, which was embolden in his 1977 biography where he traced McDonald’s origin to his own 1st restaurant in Des Plaines Illinois). One of the many clashing points between Kroc and the brothers was the [real] original restaurant in San Bernardino, which Kroc argued was included in the agreement, but the brother insisted that it wasn’t. Since he now owned the rights to the McDonald’s name, the furious Kroc then forced the brothers to rename the restaurant “The Big M”, then opened a bran new McDonald’s a block away, putting The Big M out of business after 6 years. Moreover, after the brothers refused to give him the original restaurant, Kroc cheated the brothers out of the 0.5% royalty agreement that they had been getting, which would have been valued at $15 million/year by 1977 and $305 million/year by 2012. Relatives of Richard and Maurice McDonald say that Maurice was so distraught by this conduct that it attributed to his death from a hearth failure a decade later. Ah, American capitalism at its best.
- How to protest against a ridiculous regulation? In 1979 homosexuality was classified as an illness in Sweden. The protest? Plenty of people call in sick from work, saying they “felt gay.” Nice. While we’re still on the subject, you think the west is progressive, but in Samoa there have been 3 genders for a long time. The 3rd gender is named Fa’afafine, a biological males who behave, as the word translates, “in the manner of a woman”. But when it comes to biological gender nothing beats the weird shit the animal kingdom have in store for us. Behold, there’s an animal that have 720 sexes.
- The Inuits are the indigenous tribe live in Siberia, Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland, making them the most spread out aboriginal (meaning, local) people in the planet. And as it turns out, the term “Eskimo” is an insult to the Inuits, with “Eskimo” means eaters of raw meat. The term was first given to the Inuits by an outsider tribe.
- When we cry, laugh, or scream, our brain releases a chemical called endorphins to suppress the area of the brain that is linked to pain, so that we would feel somewhat relieved. So it’s scientifically proven that if we cry it out, laugh it off, or scream our lungs out, whatever bad emotions that we are having we will feel better. However, if we do the opposite to that, aka holding down the emotions, our brain will think that we’re in danger and it will release a chemical called epinephrine (adrenaline) which prepares our body for fight or flight response (this is then when we feel that anger and hatred). So channel that emotions properly, and you’ll be fine.
- The iconic painting of Mona Lisa was not originally a famous painting. That is, not until Vincenzo Peruggia stole it in 1911. So Leonardo Da Vinci began to draw the painting in 1503, where wealthy silk merchant Francesco Del Giocondo commissioned Da Vinci to paint his wife, Lisa Del Giocondo, with the majority of work continued until 1507. However, the painting never ended up in Del Giocondo family’s home, because this is easily Da Vinci’s favourite painting and he continued to add details here and there until his death. But how did a piece of art painted by an Italian ended up in Louvre, a French museum? In 1517, Da Vinci went to France at the invitation of the king, and he brought the painting with him, where he kept working on the painting until his death in 1519 in Amboise, France. Upon his death, his assistant Salai inherited the painting, in which he then sold to King Francis I of France for 4000 gold coins. It was first kept at the Palace at Fontainebleau, then moved by King Louis XIV to Palace of Versailles, and finally moved to the Louvre during the French Revolution.
- Now, Vincenzo Peruggia was a proud Italian who was working at the Louvre, and on Monday 21 August 1911 he decided to walk out of Louvre with the Mona Lisa painting tucked under his jacket (must be a pretty big jacket). His reasoning? Not to sell it, but simply to bring the painting back to Italy, where he think it should belonged. After realising the lost painting, the Louvre was closed for a week for investigation. And when it reopened, there was a massive queue to see the spot where the painting was stolen. This created a buzz among the public, where this relatively unknown painting became the talk of the town, mainly because the identity of the thief was still unknown. A bizarre twist in the investigation even briefly implicate Pablo Picasso, in which he quickly set free. The investigation went to a dead end, that is until November 1913 when Vicenzo Peruggia contacted a Florentine antique dealer named Alfredo Geri to claim that the painting should stay in Italy. Words soon reached the press that the Mona Lisa had been found, and Peruggia was soon arrested and tried in Florence. He was soon released, however, when the judge viewed him as a harmless fool. But this whole saga had made the painting, and the Louvre, became an internationally recognised masterpiece.
- The bullet that was shot at Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 was famous of becoming the single shot that changed history, as it triggered World War 1. But there was another bullet that changed history in World War 1, this time it was the bullet that wasn’t even fired. The bullet belonged to an Englishman by the name of Henry Tandey, and he was in the Battle of Marcoing in 1918 when an injured German soldier Adolf Hitler passed through his line of fire. Tandey even took aim at Hitler, but he later recall “but [I] couldn’t shoot a wounded man, so [I] let him go.” That one act of kindness in the name of humanity would haunt Tandey for the rest of his life, knowing what Hitler would eventually turn out to be.
- Trees don’t produce the most oxygen, the number 1 producer is phytoplankton, which produce more than 50% of the earth’s oxygen. So while planting trees is good, saving the ocean from pollution is also very important. But for the big picture, remember that every breath that we inhale actually consist of only 20.95% oxygen, while 78.08% of it is nitrogen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and the rest consist of small amount of neon, helium, and hydrogen.
- The part of the brain that govern intention is different with the part that govern habits. Intention is regulated by prefrontal cortex, and habits are regulated by basal ganglia. So having a strong willpower by itself is meaningless if you don’t turn your goals, hopes and dreams, or whatever into daily habits. And the thing is with habits, it doesn’t take any willpower once the habit is in place. Because the more often we perform an action or behave a certain way, the more it will get physically wired into basal ganglia. This adaptive function of our brain is scientifically known as neuroplasticity.
- So the key to achieving something is not necessarily willpower, but it’s how to trigger the cues to form a chain of habits, and having the discipline to stick to the habits. Creating the right environment is very important, i.e. get rid of the junk food at your kitchen cabinet, avoid places that allow you to smoke, or join likeminded crowds of people (make the things that you need to avoid 20 second harder to reach, and make what you need to gain easier to access). Attachment to other existing habits is also a useful tool (like start reading books on your morning commute, or take your routine phone calls while walking outdoors). It’s also important to break down the big goal into small digestible parts, with specific instructions for the daily habit, and celebrate the small wins if you’ve done the parts (e.g. you’re not running a marathon from zero experience to directly 42.195 KM, but for a period of time you get up every Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday morning and start training, first aiming for 5K, then 10K, etc, until you’re well trained for the full marathon, or whatever your training regime is). Because remember what Greek poet Archilochus once said, “we don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”
- But let’s say that you just couldn’t be bothered with developing a healthy habit like exercising, have you ever think to yourself why can’t someone just make a pill for the benefit of exercise? Well as a matter a fact, someone did. In the 1990s, pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline) licensed a technology that Ronald Evans, a director of the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, had developed and used to create a drug called GW501516. The drug was originally designed to increase HDL cholesterol levels, but it never received FDA approval as it cause cancer to develop in the mice it was tested on. Undeterred, Evans then created a different variation of the drug, with the aim that it would be less toxic. Surprisingly, though, in both obese and sedentary mice who were tested with the new formula for 30 days, their physiology seemed to indicate that the mice had been exercising, although they clearly had not been. “[I]n terms of metabolic fitness in, let’s say, the brain, it does exactly the same things,” said Evans in astonishment. “It gives you this increased energy expenditure, you burn more lipids, you burn more sugar, and you correct your insulin. Your adipose depot starts to shrink, so you lose weight. And the drug, by itself, gives you adult neurogenesis.” The drug also seems to boost endurance, where Evans and his team discovered when putting the sedentary mice on a treadmill, and compared the mice that got the drug for 30 days to those that did not, and found out that the mice that got the drug could run about an hour longer. And this became the problem.
- GW501516 quickly became the drug used by athletes as an ergogenic performance-enhancing drug, as initially it was not controlled by regulations or detected by standard tests. But then the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) then developed a test to detect GW501516 in urine test, and added the drug to the prohibited list in 2009. By 2011 the drug was circulating in the black market, and was reportedly cost $1000 for 10 grams. In 2013 WADA issue a warning of the possible health risks from consuming the drug, stating that “clinical approval has not, and will not be given for this substance”, while the New Scientist added to the warning that the drug has the risk of causing cancer, the initial problem of the drug. Mayo Clinic’s Michael Joyner sums this whole debacle on GW501516 best: “I think you can find a mimetic for things that sort of look like exercise, but I don’t think you’re going to find the big-picture drug or compound that can do the 10 or 15 main things that exercise does for people.” So yeah, I guess the moral story is there’s really no shortcut to success or health or whatever, we have to earn them.
- John Harvey Kellogg invented Cornflakes in 1878 to stop people from masturbating. To stop what now? Yes, Dr. Kellogg created the cereal in the hope that plain food would stop people from masturbating, and he even marketed it as a “healthy, ready-to-eat anti-masturbatory morning meal.” I have, sooo many follow up questions right now.
- You know the devil horns hand gesture in metal music? That gesture is not a devil-worshiping gesture after all. The gesture was first flashed by Ronie James Dio of Black Sabbath, but not as an acknowledgement for the devil, but rather it’s a gesture that his grandmother used to ward off the evil eye. In other words, the gesture’s intention is for the other way around, to flip off the devil!
- This year, South Africa is considering to change its name to Azania. The argument states that “South Africa” is just a geographical reference of the place, named by the colonial rulers. And of course other African countries have changed its name away from the colonial label, like Rhodesia back to Zimbabwe and Zambia, Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, Tanganyika-Zanzibar to Tanzania, Gold Coast to Ghana, Dahomey to Benin, even Swaziland change its name last year back to its ancient name of eSwatini. But unlike these countries, the name Azania does not have an African root. Instead, it was the name used by 1st century Greek explorers to refer the region of Southern Africa. This is more aligned with Ethiopia, who was never colonized but whose name is rooted to Greek word “burnt-face” (as a noun) or “red-brown” (as an adjective).
- So, being curious, I wonder which other countries in Africa have interesting origins for their names? As it turns out, all have an interesting story behind their names. Cameroon was named by a Portuguese explorer in the 15th century, who, coming across the Wouri river, re-named it Rio dos Camaroes (shrimp river) for the abundance of shrimps there. Another 15 century Portuguese explorer went further west and found either the impressive roar of the thunderstorm or the mountains that looked like a lion’s teeth, and named the place Sierra Lyoa (lion mountains) which evolved to become Sierra Leone. Mozambique is named after an Arab sheikh, Mussa Bin Bique, who ruled the area when the Portuguese came. Kenya is named after the mountain that the Kikuyu people call Kirinyaga. However, struggled to pronounce Kirinyaga, the colonial ruler lazily decided to shorten its name to Kenya. Meanwhile, Madagascar was named after a clerical error, where Marco Polo, whom never visited the island, mistaken it in his memoirs for Mogadishu. But somehow the corrupted Italian translation of Mogadishu, Madageiscar, sticks and eventually became the country’s name. But my favourite is how Mali got its name. It is named after the local Bambara word for hippopotamus, which evolved to mean “the place where the king lives”, where in a Malian legend the founder of the Malian empire, Sundiata Keita, transformed himself into a hippopotamus – a symbol of strength – before his death and continued dwelling in the Sankarani River ever since. Such a poetic meaning.
- While we’re at it, here’s a fun way to learn the literal names of every country in the world. And of all the countries in the world, there are only 2 countries that don’t have an independence day. Can you guess? The first one might be obvious, United Kingdom, the cause of so many other independence days. The second one? Denmark, because Vikings don’t get colonised!
- Rooster became a French symbol because the Latin word for “rooster” and “Gaul” (ancient name for France) are the same: gallus. And Epstein didn’t kill himself.
- When people say that they’re in the zone or in a state of flow, do you know what that actually means? “The zone” is actually a level of brain waves between high theta and low alpha, which will be clear in a moment. So there are 5 major brain wave levels in average human brain, each correlates to different state of consciousness: 1. Delta (the slowest brain wave – with the longest pauses between bursts of electricity – between 1 Hz and 3.9 Hz. Deep and dreamless sleep is in delta wave). 2. Theta (between 4 Hz and 7.9 Hz. Correlates with REM sleep, meditation, insight, and the processing of novel stimuli). 3. Alpha (between 8 Hz and 13.9 Hz, the brain’s basic resting state. This is where we’re relaxed, calm, lucid, and not really thinking). 4. Beta (between 14 Hz and 30 Hz, correlates concentration and learning at the lower end, and stress and fear at the higher end). 5. Gamma (above 30 Hz, the fast moving wave that only show up during “binding” – when different parts of the brain are combining separate thoughts into a single idea).
- Now, when we’re making a decision our brain go through a 6 stage cycle: 1. Just before the novel stimuli shows up, we’re in a baseline state 2. Then the novel stimuli come, our brain move to problem-solving analysis 3. Pre-action readiness 4. Action 5. Post-action evaluation 6. And then back to baseline. Each one of these stages uses different parts of the brain and produces different brain waves (theta for processing, beta for analysis, alpha for action, etc). This is where it gets interesting, the angel-devil self-argument within ourselves is really about alpha vs beta waves. Alpha is the angel, where the implicit system is saying “you know what to do, let’s go for it”, while beta (the devil, with implicit system natural with stress and fear) is acting as the risk manager by saying “hang on for a moment, and let’s assess more data.” It is only after we suppress the beta wave that we can proceed to alpha/theta – aka the zone – and achieve the flow.
- The name “avocado” comes from central American word “aguacate”, a word that was derived from “ahuacatl” which means testicle. Yes you read that right, it is named such a way due to the similarities in shape of the hanging fruit in the trees with hanging testicles. Meanwhile, this year Mexican avocado growers are starting to hire private guards to protect them from cartels and vigilantes which often assert violence towards growers and their workers. These people are looking for ways to capitalize off the meteoric rise of the avocado industry, which has particularly infused money to Western Mexico, where a lot of those avocados wind up crossing the border into the US as the demand for this super food has increased significantly from 2.2 to 7.1 pounds per capita between 2000 and 2016. In other words, you can say that “testicle fruit” has become the most dangerous fruit on Earth. I get it, I totally get it, I’ve watched Narcos Mexico.
- All this time I always thought that lightning that strikes the ground simply comes from two clouds bumping into each other, just like the way we were taught in school. But apparently that wasn’t quite accurate. So the definition of lighting is an electrical discharge that is caused by 1. the imbalances between storm clouds and the ground 2. And between the clouds or inside the clouds. Now, although most lightning occurs within the clouds (definition no 2: that is from two or more clouds bumping with each other), this type of lightning does not strike the ground. Instead, the lightning that goes from clouds to ground is caused by definition no 1: the imbalances between storm clouds and the ground. What the hell is that? So, electrical currents cause magnetic fields to form around them, and lighting is no different, where the movement of rapidly moving electric currents in the cloud produces magnetic field. And as the storm moves over above the ground, lightning will strike when the strong negative charge in the cloud attracts the positive charges in the ground. As simple as that. This also explains why metal and magnet-based electronic products attracts lightning better than other materials, due to its magnetism.
- Ever since I started to live a [relatively] healthy lifestyle, I’ve been monitoring my Body Mass Index (BMI) religiously every morning, like fixed income traders awaiting LIBOR prices from London. But as it turns out, BMI is not as accurate as we thought. So the BMI calculation was invented around 200 years ago, not by a doctor, instead by a Belgian astronomer and mathematician by the name of Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. While having a good intention, Mr Lambert missed a few things from his calculation. For a start, the BMI number is calculated by dividing our height in meters squared by our weight in kilograms, but it doesn’t account for our bones or muscle mass. And secondly the scoring behind the metric (that high BMI is correlated with poor health, especially the “overweight” and “obese” classification) is shady. It is because a lot of people with low BMI scores live an unhealthy lifestyle, and thus it is possible to have a “healthy” weight but have heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc, and vice versa, there are those who have high BMI score who go on to live a long healthy lives. So BMI index can be misleading if we interpret it wrongly, as no single measure of test can fully capture the overall picture of our health. But to be fair BMI is still a good one to measure 1 matrix of our well being, but only if we use it alongside other health matrix.
- The latest climate data reveal that, as things stand, by the year 2100 our planet is on track for 3.2 degree Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels (the benchmark measure). This means that to stay below the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold (the agreed level at the Paris Agreement, the last “safest” limit), global emissions would need to be cut by more than 7% every year between 2020 and 2030 so that emissions in 2030 could be 55% lower than in 2018. For further context to make sense of this data, please visit 100 things in 2015 no. 63-68. And just in case you often got confused on the difference between weather and climate, meteorologist J. Marshall Sheperd explain it nice and simple: “weather is your mood, climate is your personality.”
- Meanwhile, we have yet another record breaking weather this year, with temperature went as high as 54 degree Celsius in several countries in the Middle East and South Asia. And this time, according to Loughborough University climate scientist Dr Tom Matthews, the human body is close to our thermal limits at several places, which means that swathes of land could soon become uninhabitable. First, the mechanism of our body: Our body sweats when our core body temperature rises, so the sweating is to cool off the heat and to bring our temperature back to normal. However in an environment where the “wet bulb” temperature reaches 35 degree Celsius, this body mechanism doesn’t work anymore. Wet bulb temperature, according to Dr Matthews, “includes the cooling effect of water evaporating from thermometer, and so is normally much lower than the normal (“dry bulb”) temperature reported in weather forecasts.”
- And once this wet bulb temperature of 35 degrees Celsius is crossed, the air will be so full of water vapour that our body sweat will no longer evaporates. This means that our body will not be able to cool itself enough to survive more than a few hours, because without the means to dissipate heat, our core body temperature will rise no matter how much we hide under the shade, how much rest we take, or how much we drink water. For the record, the highest body temperature ever recorded on a survivor is Willie Jones of Atlanta, USA, who survived a heatstroke that left his body at 46.1 degree Celsius. Just keep these info in mind, I have a bad feeling that we will often revisit them in the near future, as the COP25 meeting in Madrid ended in relative failure (for a damn good reason, highlighting the core problem of the post Bretton Woods world).
- Children who wet their bed very frequently are most likely become a creative type when they’re older (Or a serial killer. But let’s stick with creativity for this argument’s sake). This is because bed wetting is caused by excess adrenaline, and creative people have the most adrenaline. Perhaps even more interesting, people with autism also have excess adrenaline, also people with bipolar syndrome, Asperger, ADD, ADHD, OCD, ODD. So the key to manage them is to control the adrenaline. And speaking of children, Epstein had 13 different phone numbers to keep in touch with Prince Andrew (wow yeah I saw it, my bad, that’s an awful segue).
- Have you ever wondered how much information is out there? Let’s start from the basics, there are the familiar kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB), with 1 GB is approximately the number of books that would fill up a pickup truck. Next in line after GB is terabyte (TB), With 1 TB is the equivalent of around 50,000 trees made into paper. Next we get into the grand stuff with petabytes (PB), with 200 petabytes approximately represents all the printed materials on earth right now. But since we now live in the digital world we’re actually exceeded exabytes (EB), which is 1000 petabytes. Oh but that’s not the big picture yet, the real measure of the annual global internet traffic is now around 1000 EB, which forms 1 zettabyte (ZB). So 1 ZB is our current state of information size, with the next capacity of yottabytes (YB) (that’s 1000 ZB, 1 trillion TB, 1 million trillion MB) waiting round the corner. Meanwhile, I dunno why I feel the need to tell you this, but one single sperm contains 37.5 MB of DNA information, and thus an average ejaculation contains roughly 15 TB worth of data (that’s 15,875 GB, just in case you need the exact number). The real question is, who on Earth figured this out?!
- Remember dopamine, from 100 things in 2018 no. 43-49? In his book The Molecule of More by Daniel Z. Lieberman wrote that experts that studied hormone discovered that when someone is face to face with something they highly desire, their dopamine level would diminish straight after acquisition. Lieberman then concluded that as it turns out, dopamine is not the chemical that generate pleasure but instead it’s the chemical that generate the pleasure of wanting more, and that’s a big difference.
- Moreover, according to brain expert Dr. Stephanie Estima, dopamine is located in the left brain, and it is triggered by ourselves like doing our to-do list. Meanwhile, in the brain serotonin is located in the right brain, and it is triggered by outside factors like getting a compliment from others. Emotions like happiness tend to live on the left side of the brain, while emotions like joy lives on the right side of the brain. It is worth nothing that when serotonin is high, it will also drive up dopamine. That means that we need to be able to love other people first, before we can love ourselves. Because when we interact with someone that we love, they will give positive reinforcement to us, and that will drive up our serotonin and then the serotonin will drive up our dopamine.
- Furthermore, men have twice more serotonin receptors than women, which means that women need twice more positive external reinforcement, i.e. compliments, than men (yes, science confirms it). But on the other hand, women have more estrogen receptors than male in the brain area that drives language and communication. This means that women can read facial face, listen to other people’s tones, and read overall hints better than males (yes, science also confirms this). It’s also why baby girls tend to speak earlier than baby boys. Furthermore, male brains have more testosterone, especially in the amygdala area, which functions to regulate our emotions, this is why men tend to be more generally angrier than women.
- And what about that awful feeling when we just had a breakup or alienated from a group? We humans are designed to be in a tribe, we hunt and migrate in tribes, we survive better in a group. So when we have a breakup, it doesn’t matter if the relationship lasts a minute or a decade, neurologically it will feel like crap because of the exile or rejection from another person or groups of people. When this occur, cortisol (the stress hormone) will be release for our safety, because our brain sense that we’re in danger. This will normally disrupt our circadian rhythm (our cycle of sleep), which in turn will cause a negative domino effect to everything else. So what’s the cure for this? here’s what doctors are recommending.
- Are people born wicked? Medusa was seeking help to Athena, where Poseidon then raped her. Jealous of what she saw, Athena then cursed Medusa with hair of venomous snakes. In other words Medusa was punished for being raped. No wonder that she’s mad as hell. I can’t believe that all this time I thought she was born already a villain.
- Indoor gymnasium was first created in 1852 by Adolph Spiess in Hesse, Germany, which was based by the same concept found in ancient Greece. In fact, the name gymnasium comes from a Greek word Gymnós, which means naked. That’s right, the ancient Greeks exercise in the gym wearing nothing. I bet if we bring back the ancient Greek concept of gym, these places will be packed everyday, but most probably exclusively filled by dudes eagerly awaiting women like conspiracy theorists in Loch Ness Scotland.
- According to Dr. Daniel Amen, positive thinking kills too many people. I’m sorry, what? Yes, in a Stanford study on 1500+ kids, those who are happy go lucky people with positive thinking died the earliest from accidents and/or preventable diseases. In contrast, those who live a longer lives are those who are conscientious, those who have a bit of anxiety because anxiety, as Dr. Amen put it “prevents them to drive 180km/hours in the rain.” And what about when really hard shit hit positive people? They tend to be knocked down more severely compared with those paranoid people who already anticipate them. So be miserable, if that makes you happy.
- The Chinese food “Kung Pao chicken” was accidentally created. One day, Ding Baozhen (1820-1886), the late Qing Dynasty official and the governor of Sichuan province, was just came home from a long trip and asked his chef to cook him food. But unfortunately, in the kitchen there were only chicken breast, nuts, and dried chili, and nothing else. With only these ingredients, the chef then created a spicy chicken dish that the governor instantly loved. So much so that he constantly asked for more, made this dish the main food in the governor house, and when Ding was promoted, he took the chef to move along with him. When Ding died in 1886, the recipe for this chicken began to spread to the public, with the name of Kung Pao, which comes from Ding Baozhen’s nickname that means “palace guardian.” I dunno, the real hero of the story for me is the chef, who should get more recognition.
- The world’s 1st mobile phone call was made on 3 April 1973, by Martin Cooper, a senior engineer at Motorola. He called a rival telecommunications company, and informed them that he was speaking via a mobile phone. Savage LOL.
- Why do Islam in Indonesia today feels so different compared with in the 1980s and 1990s? First, a background. There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims in the world right now, which make up about 24.1% of the world population. Out of the 1.8 billions, most Muslims belonged to 2 big denominations: Sunni (around 1.5 billion people, or 80-90% of Muslims) and Shia (around 170-340 million people, or 10-20% of Muslims). Within the Sunni majority there are 4 big schools of interpretations (madhhab): Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and Syafi’i. These 4 scholars appeared in the 9th and 10th century, during the Golden Age of Islam, a period of time where intellectual debates were thriving and differences of opinions were the stimulation for growth, not the cause for conflicts. Over time, the school of Hanafi became predominant in South and Central Asia, Hanbali in North and Central Arabia, Maliki in North and West Africa, while Syafi’i in East Africa and Southeast Asia (including Indonesia). Hence, the different “feel” of Islam in these different parts of the world.
- For instance, the school of Syafi’i combines the observance of the Prophet’s (PBUH) sunnah (sayings) with modern logic, hence the moderate tendencies and the high degree of assimilation between Islam and local traditions in the practicing countries. By contrast, the school of Hanbali advocates Islamic teachings and way of life back to its purest roots in the 7th century, hence the conservative tendencies of Islam in the practicing countries. This is key, as we shall see later. In 1932 the descendants of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Muhammad bin Saud finally merged the 4 areas in Arabia that they have brutally conquered since 1902, to become the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with the descendants of Saud controls the government while the descendants of Wahhab controls the religion. This union changed the face of Islam dramatically for the first time after 1300+ years of existence, because the regime crucially controls the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and thus the Saudis became the de facto emperor of Islam.
- Why the dramatic change? Like most tribes in North and Central Arabia, the Saudis practice the Hanbali school of thought. But unlike their fellow Hanbali counterparts, their brand of interpretation, Salafi, is on the extreme spectrum of Hanbali, which they repackaged it according to the teachings of their spiritual founding father Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (hence, the name Wahhabi. Wahhabism to Salafism is like Leninism, Marxism, or Maoism to the general idea of Communism). So in short, the Wahhabi ideology that they practice is an extreme view on an already conservative interpretation of Islam. This is where thieves get their hand chopped, public beheading is a normal weekly routine, women must wear niqab, music and art are forbidden, and perhaps most damagingly to Islamic heritage the Wahhabis believe that historical places, monuments, tombs, etc are a source of false idol worshiping (Bid’ah) (that’s why a whopping 98% of Islamic historical sites have been destroyed by this regime. The house of the Prophet’s beloved 1st wife Khadijah, for example, is now insultingly a public toilet). Even Mecca that had always been an intellectual hub, where scholars from different madhhab come together and discuss all religious matters, changed to become the main hub of only 1 ideology: Wahhabism.
- In other words: in less than 100 years in its around 1400 years of existence, the rich, diverse, and highly intellectual Islam have been reduced to become a barbaric, and dumbed down, religion in its land of birth. But how all of this affect Indonesia? Please visit my original post on this subject, because it’s a pretty long explanation.
- In 2010 a man named Kim Min-seok co-founded a company named SmartStudy. The company then proceeded to make a whopping $125 million, which largely thanks to only 1 song and 1 song only. You might have heard it: Baby Shark. The song was released in 2015 under its Pink Fong brand. The song has now been viewed on YouTube 3.8 billion times, and even reached Billboard Hot 100 chart.
- On October this year a renown Florida plastic surgeon Dr. Daniel P. Greenwald died of a weird plane crash, where his private plane was reportedly refueled with the wrong fuel. Now Dr. Greenwald was an experienced general aviation pilot with hundreds of hours of flight time experience. And as some pilots and airport staffs (whose work is refueling planes) later commented, the case of putting the wrong fuel is rarer than getting struck by a lightning, as different types of fuels are colour coded (jet fuel is yellow, avgas is blue), the fuel trucks also have giant labels and only ever carry one type of fuel, and even the jet fuel nozzle doesn’t fit in a piston aircraft like the one used by Dr. Greenwald (in other words, it’s idiot-proofed). Hence, the cause of his plane crash was very questionable. And oh, Dr. Greenwald was Epstein’s plastic surgeon.
- In the end of the 19th century, there was a young woman’s corpse floating in Seine river in Paris. Nobody knew who the corpse was, didn’t know where she came from, or what her background was, and why she died. All they know was the estimated 16 year old corpse had a very pretty face, and they started to call her L’Inconnue de la Seine (the unknown woman of the Seine). (Side note: I don’t speak French, so I don’t know how to pronounce her nickname, but I imagine it’s similar like this. Ok back to the story). Bizarrely, this poor woman’s face soon became famous all over France, when one of the attendant at the mortuary was so in awe of her beauty that he ordered a plaster cast to be made of her face. The mask, was a hit. Soon enough L’Inconnue’s face was sold in souvenir shops across Paris, then Germany, and then the rest of Europe. She soon dubbed the “drowned Mona Lisa”, and her frozen half-smile began to appear on mantels, hung in drawing rooms all over Europe, positioned in artists’ workshops, even became a muse for painters, poets, and novelists.
- But then, half a century after this continent-wide fame, L’Inconnue’s transformed into something else again, by a man named Asmund Laerdal. Mr. Laerdal was a toy manufacturer from Norway, and after the war he began to experiment with a new kind of material that had just entered mass production: plastic. And one of his most famous plastic doll? No, you’d think it’s L’Inconnue, but instead it’s Anne doll. But one day, Laerdal’s 2 year old son nearly drowned, but luckily Laerdal rushed to pull the boy out of the water and forcing the water out of his airways. This episode proven to be crucial, when later on a group of anaeshesiologists approach Laerdal to make a life-sized mannequin to demonstrate (and practice) a newly developed resuscitation technique (the CPR), Laerdal quickly jump on board. It was difficult at first, to make a realistic, functional mannequin that could demonstrate the physical complexities of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. But once he successfully made the required mannequin, he only need to put a face on this giant doll. That’s when Laerdal recalled a mezmerising half-smile mask, that he had seen hanging on the wall of his in-laws’ house. And that’s how an unknown drowned girl from the late 19th century became the universal face of the CPR doll, a technique that could have saved her life.
- Nintendo’s character “Mario” (of Super Mario Bros) was named after Mario Segale, the company’s landlord in 1981. Mr. Segale passed away in October 2018. Speaking of Mario bros, one elderly couple has been battling out every morning for nearly 20 years to decide who has to make tea. That is just heart warming. Yeah, I’m definitely going to try this out.
- The most poisonous plant in the world can be found in Australia, and it is called Gimpy Gimpy. The plant is so poisonous that any animal and human that touch it will experience a tremendous amount of pain so severe that it has led most of them to kill themselves. The pain is described as a mixture of electric shock and an acid burn.
- You know that old wives’ tale that we should not swim straight after eating? Yeah that’s actually a myth, which can been traced back as far as 1908, and became widespread starting from the 1950s and 1960s. For those who are not familiar with the wisdom, it was said that swimming straight after eating can cause muscle cramps or side stitches (and they in turn can cause us to drown), and thus, as a preventative measure, we need to wait 30 minutes after eating before we get into the pool. But there’s actually no evidence to suggest that eating and then straight to swimming would cause either of these any more often than any other activity. Instead, muscle cramps are caused by a few different factors, including dehydration, muscle fatigue, and some scientists argued that reduced blood flow to muscle can also cause muscle cramps (which is still highly debated).
- But let’s say that reduced blood flow do cause muscle cramps, the blood sent to our stomach to aid the digestion of a meal could indeed in theory reduce blood flow to our muscle. However according to a gastroenterologist Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, unless we’re taking part in an extreme swimming challenge, we have more than enough blood to digest our food AND fuel our muscle to swim. And even if we did get a muscle cramp, it would be highly unlikely that it can disable us and make us drown. Instead, there are about 10 fatal drowning in the US per day (the research and the articles are based in the US), but from a number of reasons for drowning – from alcohol use, lack of child supervision, and people who, uhm, can’t swim – eating before swimming isn’t one of them.
- One of the scientific reasons why women relatively live longer than men because women, uhm, “donate blood” every month, while men don’t hunt and bleed anymore like they used to. So, every time we donate blood we lose between 220-250 mg of iron, and that’s a good thing because iron is actually one of the deadly substances we have. To be clear, we need iron to create red blood cells, and the more red blood cells the more hemoglobin that can be produced, and the more hemoglobin the more oxygen we carry. But too much iron (and too little iron) can damage our mitochondria, the working organelles that supply the cells with energy (it absorb nutrients from the cell, breaks it down, and turns it into energy. This energy then used by the cell to carry out various functions for our body). So, plot twist, is that mean female mosquitos are actually helping us?
- In the 200+ years between the time of the death of Jesus (estimated between 30-36 AD) and the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, there once lived numerous Christian sects with multiple (and some contradictory) interpretations, including the famous Christian Gnosticism. At that period, there was no standard Christian canon or dogma, no one right or wrong faction (just different), and the competing sects had equal rights and equal popularity within the early Church. But it was all changed when a faction called Orthodox Christianity (the original church from which Orthodox, Catholic and Reformed Christians come from), began a campaign against what they considered heretic or simply wrong doctrines, and even went as far as persecuting and eradicating these many different factions. By the time of the First Council of Nicaea, these many different sects have all pretty much obliterated and disappeared from history. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it, whether this is another case of [mainstream] history is written by the winner. But whatever the case, huge respect for the Council of Nicaea for gathering enormous set of books (that was originally written in several different languages, comes from different cultures, with diverse ways of ancient thinking) into 1 Holy Bible, which takes more than a year for most people to read it cover to cover (I began to read the NIV Bible, on the side, since Christmas last year, and I’m still currently stuck at the Old Testament – but I already gain more understanding of my own religion, where some of the stories serves as the background explanations that aren’t necessarily available in The Qur’an).
- By now you must have heard that bees are extremely important for humans. But do you know why? Because bees allow plants to reproduce through pollination, and these plants hugely contribute to the food system by feeding animals like birds and insects (yes, and mosquitos). Without them, a whole sets of ecosystems will seize to function and die, which will eventually spread to humans. And on 19 November Epstein’s private banker, Thomas Bowers, died by “an apparent suicide” before the FBI got the chance to question him. Crucially, Bowers was also the boss of Rosemary Vrablic at Deutsche Bank (Trump’s personal banker, stay safe ma’am).
- Quick question, what is the hottest planet in our solar system? If your answer is Mercury, you would be forgiven, as Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. But with average surface temperature of 462 degree Celsius (864 Fahrenheit) and dense atmosphere that contain 96.5% carbon dioxide with sulfuric acid downpours, the hottest planet in our solar system is actually Venus. But it had not always been this way. In fact, when it came into being 4.2 billion years ago, Venus had a pretty similar formation process as Earth, where it cooled rapidly and trapping most of the carbon dioxide in the crust, and it also had a nitrogen-rich atmosphere (with small amounts of carbon dioxide and methane left in the atmosphere), similar like in Earth. Moreover, Venus also had a habitable range of temperatures (20 degree Celsius (68 F) to 50 degree Celsius (122 F)), where simulation showed that it sustained these temperatures for 3 billion years, which falls Venus into the habitable “Goldilocks Zone.”
- But then, around 700-750 million years ago a massive volcanic activity spewed out molten magma and released a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, before cooling off to form a thick protective coating, which prevented the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to be re-absorbed by the rocks (scientists call this “outgassing”). This triggered a runaway greenhouse effect, which trapped al the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and making it thicker and hotter until it reached the present-day hellish level. On Earth, we have some example of large-scale “outgassing”, in the creation of the Siberian Traps 500 million years ago, which was linked to mass extinction 200+ million years later in the end-Permian extinction (Earth’s 3rd extinction – see 100 things in 2018 no. 10). That’s some scary stuff. It reminds me of a phrase once said by historian Will Durant, “civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice.”
- Speaking of massive volcanic activity, in a lighter note, mount Krakatau (or Krakatoa) in Indonesia got its name from the phrase “Kaga tau” which means “I don’t know” in local language. Right. Ok, it’s funnier if you know the slang twist of the words, which perhaps equivalent with a chav speaking slang English. Similarly, the name of the animal “kangaroo” is also an Aborigine word for “i don’t know.” Yes the Brits asked to the locals what’s the name of the animal? And the local said I don’t know. And the name sticks. And Thomas Bowers’ death was the 2nd death after Aivar Rehe, the head of Danske Bank’s Estonian unit, also “committed suicide” on 25 September. His body was found in Estonia at the exact day German authorities raided Deutsche Bank’s headquarter in Frankfurt and seize files for a money laundering scandal. Mr. Rehe was at the very heart of this €200 billion money laundering scandal, which oversees suspicious funds channeled from Russia via Nordic banks to the West between 2007 and 2015, with the Guardian and Berlingske once reported without further elaboration that a certain Russian gentleman by the name of Igor Putin might have been involved in this scheme. But if anyone ask, just tell them about the kangaroo thing.
- In ancient India, it was believed that there are several different types of breaths. And each one of them correspond to a state of mind, to the emotions, the passions, the worries, and anger of the beholder. Proper breathing, it is said, can restore our inner balance by returning the mind to the vibration of the heart, to the harmony of nature, where scattered thoughts are dissolved and strong emotions are dispersed. And thus, the ancients have always known that conscious breathing is not only a physiological function, but also a natural medicine.
- So how did the ancient Indians breathe? The depth of breath, they believed, depends on the capacity that the air flows into (the size, the shape, etc) similar like the amount of water that can be stored in a bottle depends on the capacity of the bottle. In this way, breathing is not necessarily the act of pulling of pushing of air, but rather the act of creating space for the air to fill. Hence, the basic method begins by inhaling the air and letting it fall into the pelvis as a start, then to the primal brain, the sexual organs (don’t ask me, I haven’t a clue), and then feeling the torso to expand until comfortably heavy. And then it continues by exhaling the air, which would withdraws from chest and stomach, and ends with the pelvis, and go back out to the world. This whole cycle is gentle, slow, and long, with the optimal breath rate is said to be around 5-8 breaths per minute. For more on different types of (modern-day) breathing exercises, click here, and here.
- On 20 September 2019, a bunch of people from around the world gathered in Nevada desert near Area 51, with the plan to swarm the defenses and see for themselves if alien stuff really occurring there. It was the strangest social media gathering, and it was awesome. It was all started 3 months earlier, when Joe Rogan podcast (such an awesome podcast) interviewed Bob Lazar, a cult figure in UFO circles (more on him later), in such great details. One of the many listeners of the interview was Matty Roberts, a college student in Bakersfield, California, whom created a joke Facebook event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” which became viral and escalated quickly. Here’s the full story.
- What interests me is the theories behind it all, since Area 51 was officially a secretive US Air Force facility and for decades had never been associated with UFOs. That is, until a man by the name of Bob Lazar had an interview with a local Las Vegas TV network in May 1989, and claimed that the government had hired him to reverse-engineer purported extraterrestrial technology at a secret site called S-4, which was located within the Area 51. What makes him believable, though, was his detailed descriptions of the day to day workings at and around Area 51 which can be confirmed by the locals. He also mentioned about a hand scan device that scans your bone structure, which 30 years later was mentioned by a declassified report. Furthermore, few times on Wednesday night he would bring along people to watch from afar all the lights showing up from supposedly flight testing area in Area 51 (which he knew the schedule), he even passed a polygraph test, all of which brings credibility to his claim (just listen to his full descriptive interview with Joe Rogan, and judge yourself). He eventually moved out from the area to other city and start a business instead of cashing in the UFO hype, because get this, he isn’t interested with aliens (only fascinated with the technology from the spaceship he was working with), he even dislike the crowd that live and breathe conspiracy theories of the UFO (or what the government officially called AAV: Advanced Aerospace Vehicle). Here’s 2019 Bob Lazar, back with a bang with a Netflix documentary.
- But before you dismiss the alien fanatics, few days before 20 September 2019 the US Navy actually confirmed an AAV sighting, which is a serious breakthrough! However, as you may have thought, it brings out more questions than giving us answers, because it is an unidentified flying object, not an actual alien discovery. So the real question remains, why haven’t we properly met aliens? There are 6 general theories: 1. The rare earth theory: we really are the only intelligent life in the universe 2. The great filter theory: any other intelligent alien lives died in mass extinction events, we’re the only last survivor (and might be next in destruction) 3. The great silence theory: other aliens exist, but way more intelligent that us, and we’re simply not worth their time 4. Early bird theory: we’re actually the first intelligence life in the whole universe, so we’re the most advanced being (and it’s up to us to discover the others) 5. Different kind of life theory: other aliens exist but not carbon-based like us, so we can’t see them (like micro beings have to be seen with microscope) 6. In a far away galaxy: they exist but they’re just too far away and out of reach. Because our galaxy is actually indeed on the outer ring of the whole universe, so maybe, just maybe, we’re like the weird isolated ones compared with the cool guys from the centre of the universe who hang out with each other inter-galactically.
- On 6 December, Banksy was caught on camera painting his newest gravity, and it was a big deal for those who closely follow him, even though we can only see his shadow. But some very smart people actually found the real identity of street artist Banksy, using geographic profiling, a technique often used to search for terrorists. As I admire him, and especially intrigued by the his mysterious animosity, I think it’s best if I don’t elaborate any further, and just let you read the findings paper (which is 20 second harder to find, so, good luck).
- A new study from the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School found that excessive electrical activity in the brain is linked to shorter life spans. This excessive electrical activity can be triggered through multitasking, such as the consistent consumption of multiple forms of media without planned breaks or downtime (a truly modern day problem). Moreover, the study also conclude that overworked brain may escalate the aging-related decline in thinking skills and memory skills. Ouch. I can almost hear you thinking, but in this fast paced information era, it’s almost impossible not to have an active brain! Well, the good news is, these decline can be preventable.
- Enter Michael McConnell, a neuroscientist at the Lieber Institute for Mind Growth, who in short says “limiting neural activity is a good thing in healthy aging.” This means planning to disconnect every once in a while, sitting with a book and read, journaling, drawing, or just sitting quietly and observe our thoughts while practicing deep breathing (aka meditating), or the good old classic solution: just sleep more. Don’t get me wrong, keep your busy schedule, keep the brain active, but make sure to make time – schedule it if you must – to relax and rest our mind, and learn to appreciate the stillness moments in our lives. While we’re at it, training ourselves to become conscious when we become hyperactive, and can immediately slow down or take a break, is also a valuable skill to have (not incidentally, legendary hedge fund manager Ray Dalio attributed meditation as his no 1 success tool, which trains us to have all of the skills mentioned above). After all, the longest living people on Earth, from the blue zones in Sardinia to Okinawa, are comfortable with stillness, among other Ikigai.
- Which brings me to the book of the year. This year is my Ryan Holiday year. I still re-read his book Daily Stoic for the 3rd year running, I read his 2 other books this year, purchased the rest of them and put them in my anti-library list, I listen either to his daily podcast or read his daily mailing list (which content the same material), I even subscribed to Medium with the initial intention of reading all of his many articles (a great “gateway drug” to Medium) which was done in 3 months. So it won’t be an exaggeration if I say that he’s currently my favourite author (no shit, Sherlock). And what better book to be this year’s best than an urgently needed book in this busy age, that emphasizes the importance of stillness. Book of the year, the no. 1 quake book on one of my weaknesses (recovery), hence significantly influential book for me personally: Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday.
But had it not for the perfect timing of Stillness is the Key, my book of the year would have been Man’s Search for a Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Seemingly recommended by almost everyone that I look up to, this book is written in 1946 by a brilliant neurologist and psychiatrist, who lost his entire life’s work when he was sent to 4 Nazi concentration camps. Forced to memorize them all by heart, he then got to implement his theories directly in the brutal camps, which contributed to his survivorship (with its stories became the 1st part of the book). Later on after the war was over, he finally able to re-write everything down, with the addition of his own experience in one of the darkest places in human history, that forms the basis of his Logotherapy (which becomes the 2nd part of the book). The book is so depressing but also very touching, it’s unbelievably dark but truly enlightening at the same time, it’s a relatively thin book but with an immense amount of wisdom that justifies the classic stature that it has since earned. So what’s the meaning of life? Viktor Frankl said that asking this question is like asking a chess champion “what is the best move in chess?”
- But interestingly, these two were not the most enjoyable book that I read this year, that title goes to The Mixer by Michael Cox, hands down the most intelligent analysis on the beautiful game of football that I’ve ever read. Furthermore, 2 books stand out among my reading list this year: The Rise of Superman by Steven Kotler and Headstrong by Dave Asprey, both of which analyses the limits of human capabilities and how to scientifically break them. The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson was also superb and very directly applicable for our parenting approach, Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport was perfectly timed, Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall was the most exciting political book since Why Nations Fail, and I have been wanting to read The Case for God by Karen Armstrong for a while, and was not disappointed when I finally did. Meanwhile, The Little Book of Stoicism by Jonas Salzgeber was a nice surprise, as the author himself approached me and gave me the copy of the book in exchange for a honest review, which turned out to be the best book I’ve read about Stoicism this year (which says a lot about the book, as this year I also read Discourses by Epictetus and Letters From a Stoic by Seneca, 2 out of 3 “main books” on Stoicism). But perhaps if I can only give out 1 book to people from my 2019 reading list, it would have to be Ikigai by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles, the Japanese wisdom, backed by science, to live until 100+ years like the people covered in the book. But as I’m not restricted to give out only 1 book, there are some great souls who put up an amazing library of free books that consist of Harvard classics, which can be read in just 15 minutes per day. Go check it out. Or you can also check out 600 free online courses from 190 universities.
- Person of the year: I believe the future of our health rests on the shoulder of brilliant people like Dave Asprey and Mark Hyman. The future of our survivorship as a human race will be influenced one way or another by Naveen Jain. I also think that our world can be better understood thanks to people like Roman Mars, Indre Viskontas and Kishore Hari, Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, and the ever intriguing Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis, all of whom see the world from many different angles. While every morning I began my day with Ryan Holiday and Dan Harris, I proceeded to learn a lot during my commute from the likes of Jim Kwik, Vishen Lakhiani, Ben Greenfield, and from those interviewed by Tim Ferriss, Cal Fussman, Tom Bilyeu, Lewis Howes, and of course Joe Rogan. Every single one of these people have been tremendously life changing for me this year, and each one of them can easily become my person of the year. However, in the age of discrimination and escalating violence towards minority, one person (and one nation) stands out for me, as a glimpse of hope to store my faith in humanity. Person of the year: Jacinda Ardent, on behalf of the wonderful people of New Zealand, for their excellent respond after an extremist white supremacist gunman killed a bunch of people inside a mosque. The way they quickly came forward to accompany Muslims who got scared after the shooting, the way adzan prayer was played to a respectful crowd at a university, and the reassuring tone from the prime minister herself that Muslims and immigrants are all citizens of New Zealand, that were class acts.
- Wanker of the year: Can you guess who it is, from a sandwich description I viewed somewhere on the web: white bread, full of baloney, with Russian dressing, and a small pickle. Brilliant stuff. Know already who it is? Ok I give you one more clue, his daughter has just been reported to have personal relationship with a former MI6 officer (or British spy, yeah let’s call it British spy, way cooler) Christopher Steele. Their friendship coincidentally stretched exactly from 2007 to 2015. And by the time I write this, Mr. wanker is considering to add Alan Dershowitz into his legal defense team. Dershowitz, of course, is famous for being Epstein’s lawyer.
- Stor(ies) of the year that have caught my attention more than any other: 1. The unbelievable story of mistaken identity, that began from an innocent facebook friend request and ended up in Italian jail 2. A Brazilian gang leader tried to dress up as his daughter to escape prison. His disguise: a silicone mask, a long wig, glasses, jeans, and a pink T-shirt. It didn’t work. And he apparently died not long after in prison. Yikes 3. We might have discovered the newest oldest person in the world by accident 4. There’s actually a Tinder, wait for it, for cows! Tinder for cows! 5. This got to be the best headline of the year: Desperately Horny Australian Cane Toad Ride Snake Train to Sex Town 6. Remember that Nigerian prince e-mail scam? The dude behind it is already in prison for 24 years sentence. But what’s interesting was, he can still pull off another $1 million scam, from prison. But, plot twist, is it a scam though? 7. Meanwhile, billionaires are buying yacht for their yacht 8. Remember when I half jokingly said that Russia is training a bunch of dolphins as an assassins? behold. Okay I was wrong, not assassins but spies. Still hella cool 9. The fascinating story of a guy who has run a marathon in every single UN-recognised country (196) 10. Not this particular article per se, but the whole saga in general. This one is the latest update: Jeffrey Epstein’s former partner and principal enabler, Ghislaine Maxwell, is now missing.
- 2019 has been a pretty wild roller coaster year for me, from being scammed by a good friend to the death of my beloved mother in law after months of multiple hospital hopping. Even our son was hospitalised this year, twice. But in between the testing times we can somehow still manage to go on an adventure to Central Vietnam, have mini adventures back home, attended various festivals, watching our kids grow day by day, and also managed to tick off 1 of my bucket list: watching U2 live in concert. And throughout all of this, I learned so much from “Zuckeberg” + 10 amount of books, numerous podcast episodes, and my new muse: Medium articles. Lewis Howes always ask the guests at the end of his interviews about their 3 truths. This is mine from this year, which, like in the movie Slumdog Millionaire, I gained from the most significant of events: 1. Everything is trainable 2. It’s not what happens to you, but it’s your interpretation of what happens and how you respond to it, that determines the meaning of the event 3. You are responsible for your own health and happiness, and there’s always a price to pay. And by the way, there is no such thing as “the best move in chess.” It all depends on the situation in the game, the psychology of the opponent, and the overall end game you have in mind. The same goes with the meaning of life. “One should not search for an abstract meaning of life”, Viktor Frankl once said, “as it differs from man to man, from day to day, and from hour to hour.” That’s why he can found the meaning of his life in the unlikeliest place, in a Nazi concentration camp. And that’s what kept him alive. Have a great new decade guys!
This is to me the smartest, most entertaining piece ever written on the beautiful game of football. It tells the evolution of formations and tactics deployed in the Premier League, by English clubs and few European clubs in the European championships, and their effects on the national teams.
The author, Michael Cox, brilliantly narrates them all into several themes that define their respective eras, from the classic long ball tactics, to the early number 10 role in the formative days of the Premier League, the evolution of the Makalele role, the usage of false 9, the tiki taka passing game, all the way to the current pressing game.
In between the eras, we’ll learn about the anatomy of Blackburn’s winning team, Liverpool’s several near champions, the treble winning Man Utd 1998/1999, the Arsenal invincibles, what the riches of Chelsea and Man City brought to the Premier League, the modern developments in football that fits Pep Guardiola’s character perfectly, among many other analyses, from top to mid to bottom table clubs.
The book also analyses the brilliant tactics used by the managers, and shows exactly why they were masters at their craft. For example, why Alex Ferguson used Johnsen (instead of Scholes) alongside Keane vs Juventus at Champions League semi-final, how Sam Allardice’s Bolton Wanderers implements the classic long ball tactics, how Stoke City brilliantly utilise their long throws, how Brendan Rogers’ Swansea adapted to the passing game, the many roles of Fabregas at different teams, the military-like discipline of Rafael Benitez’s tactics, and the curious tactics built around Ruud Gullit in Chelsea.
Of course, we’ll also read about all the mishaps along the way, like how Diego Forlan never quite fit in at Man Utd but brilliant in La Liga, how that title losing Gerrard slip vs Chelsea was a culmination of several things going on few matches prior, how chaotic was Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United, the curious case of Georgi Kinkladze’s rise and fall at Man City, how underrated Matt Le Tissier was and whether he would be phenomenal in today’s passing game, how Leeds United spectacularly fall from their European heights, and the background stories of why the mighty England midfield quartet of Beckham-Gerrard-Lampard-Scholes never quite clicked.
The book also serves as a fond nostalgia, with the likes of Vieira vs Keane fights, the Michael Owen early Liverpool days, the Paolo Di Canio antics, THAT Aguero goal at Man City v QPR title-winning match, the tactics that allow David Ginola dance around several defenders, everybody’s favourite underdog Leicester City in their incredible 5000/1-odd title winning season, and many, many more.
It remains gripping from the very first word till the end, with the nice delicate touch of the very last word on the postscript chapter explains the brilliant meaning of the book’s title. Absolutely enjoyable to read!
“We were keeping our eye on 1984. But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.
As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.
In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.”
Neil Postman (1931-2003)
This quotation has been edited for brevity
Some call it “the zone”, others call it their secret formula, scientists call it “the flow.” Record-breaking extreme sports athletes have it, so do Nobel Prize winning academics, military top forces, Fortune 500 CEOs, paranormal researchers, maverick scientists, psychedelic underground, world class artists, adventurers, Bohemian outcasts, start up entrepreneurs, surgeons, chess masters, everyone who are successful in their field got this so-called flow.
It is the difference between life and death for mountain climbers and base jumpers, it is the inspirational floodgate for aspiring writers, the right improv for jazz musicians. It is the one thing that breaks human limitations, that fuels the huge rise of record breaking attempts in all fields in the past few decades. And it’s all hackable for everyone, including you and me, to be as close as humanly possible as a superman.
Backed by massive amount of scientific data sets – from neuroscience to sociology – and breath taking stories to illustrate the examples, this book shows the what, the why, the where, the when, and the how of “flow hacking.” And it’s mind-bendingly incredible.
People don’t fear change. People fear sudden change. People fear revolutions. People don’t fear evolutions – Simon Sinek
There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims in the world today, which make up about 24.1% of the world population. Out of the 1.8 billions, most Muslims belonged to 2 big denominations: Sunni (around 1.5 billion people, or 80-90% of Muslims) and Shia (around 170-340 million people, or 10-20% of Muslims). Within the Sunni majority there are 4 big schools of interpretations (madhhab): Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki, and Syafi’i.
These 4 scholars appeared in the 9th and 10th century, during the Golden Age of Islam, a period of time where intellectual debates were thriving and differences of opinions were the stimulation for growth, not the cause for conflicts. Over time, the school of Hanafi became predominant in South and Central Asia, Hanbali in North and Central Arabia, Maliki in North and West Africa, while Syafi’i in East Africa and Southeast Asia (including Indonesia). Hence, the different “feel” of Islam in these different parts of the world.
For instance, the school of Syafi’i combines the observance of the Prophet’s (PBUH) sunnah (sayings) with modern logic, hence the moderate tendencies and the high degree of assimilation between Islam and local traditions in the practicing countries. By contrast, the school of Hanbali advocates Islamic teachings and way of life back to its purest roots in the 7th century, hence the conservative tendencies of Islam in the practicing countries. This is key, as we shall see later.
In 1932 the descendants of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) and Muhammad bin Saud (1710-1765) finally merged the 4 areas in Arabia that they have brutally conquered since 1902, to become the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with the descendants of Saud control the government and the descendants of Wahhab control the religion. This union changed the face of Islam dramatically for the first time after 1300+ years of existence, because the regime crucially captured the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina in 1914-1926, and thus Saudi Arabia became the de facto emperor of Islam.
Why the dramatic change? Like most tribes in North and Central Arabia, the Saudis practice the Hanbali school of thought. But unlike their fellow Hanbali counterparts, their brand of interpretation, Salafi, is on the extreme spectrum of Hanbali, which they repackaged according to the teachings of their spiritual founding father Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (hence, the name Wahhabi. Wahhabism to Salafism is like the customised Leninism, Marxism, or Maoism to the general idea of Communism). So in short, the Wahhabi ideology that they practice is an extreme view on an already conservative interpretation of Islam.
This is where thieves get their hand chopped, public beheading is a normal weekly routine, women must wear niqab, music and art are forbidden, and perhaps most damagingly to Islamic heritage the Wahhabis believe that historical places, monuments, tombs, etc are a source of false idol worshiping (Bid’ah). That’s why a whopping 98% of Islamic historical and religious sites have been destroyed by this regime. The house of the Prophet’s beloved 1st wife Khadijah, for example, is now insultingly a public toilet. Even Mecca that had always been an intellectual hub like Baghdad and Cordoba, where science flourished and scholars from different madhhab come together to discuss all religious matters, changed to become the main hub of only 1 ideology: Wahhabism. In other words: in less than 100 years in its around 1400 years of existence, the rich, diverse, and highly intellectual Islam have been reduced to become a barbaric, and dumbed down, religion in its land of birth.
But how do all of this affect Indonesia? The Padri war (1821-1837) in Minangkabau was believed to be the 1st entry point of Wahhabism to Indonesia, when 3 people – Haji Miskin, Haji Sumanik, and Haji Piobang – came back home to Indonesia in 1803 from a pilgrimage in Mecca, during the time when Mecca and Medina had just been [temporarily] captured by the Wahhabis (before the Ottomans drove them out again from the holy cities in 1812). These 3 newly-radicalised people, and Tuanku Nan Renceh that was backed by the Padris, began to force the spreading of Wahhabism with the intention of creating a “khilafah” in South Sumatra, which clashed with the local traditionalists, with a full-blown war eventually broke out after the Padris slaughtered most of the local royal family. The royal family then requested help to the Dutch colonial power, and thus because they were fighting against the Dutch, Imam Bonjol (the eventual leader of the Padris) and his gang of extremists forever written in Indonesian history as national heroes.
But aside from Padri war, and DII/TII movement (1942-1962) that wanted to establish its own Islamic state in Indonesia, the Wahhabi penetration into Indonesia had never gain any meaningful traction. Because from the Dutch colonial ruler to 1st president Soekarno all the way to president Soeharto they all made sure that any form of extremism won’t live long in the country. This also remained true when Saudi Arabia discovered oil in 1938, and began to use their huge petrodollar money to boost the spreading of Wahhabi ideology to the world, including (or especially) to Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world.
It was not until the downfall of Soeharto in 1998 and the decision by president Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) to open the country to any form of religion (in the good intention of religious freedom), that the extremists came back home and a floodgate of Wahhabism started to really spread in Indonesia. A generous funding from the “guardian” of Mecca and Medina? It’s not hard to see how the spread of Wahhabi can become increasingly rampant in Indonesia, simply because it’s the “ideology from the holy land.” This is achieved through funding to many madrasahs (Islamic school), universities (like LIPIA), mosques, through the many web of charity organisations (such as Al Haramain), the escalating public doctrines and smear campaigns through airtime slots on TV and radio, the news media, the cyber army on social media, and increasingly today through the web of local ustads, celebrity ustads, celebrity influencers and through the peer pressure of their prayer groups (kajian). Gus Dur himself warned us about this Wahhabi penetration in Indonesia 10 years ago, in his book “Ilusi negara Islam”, complete with all the historical timeline, all the names, and the master plan to creep into Indonesian society.
So why do Islam in Indonesia feels so different today compared with in the 1980s and 1990s? Because the extreme conservative version of Hanbali ideology is spreading like wildfire in the country and trying to replace the moderate syafi’i way of life (the one we used to have back in the simpler days).
Hence, many Islamic customs that we never saw before suddenly appear in the past few years, and increasingly dominating our surroundings. Whenever there’s an ustad justifying two dots on the forehead, that’s Wahhabism. Increasingly believe that conventional banking is “riba”, and you left your secure job to sell perfume? Yes, Wahhabi. Don’t believe in the government anymore and fully support the creation of “khilafah”? That’s the Utopian dream of Wahhabi. Women wearing niqab or long hijab and men sporting cingkrang pants? they might not realised that they have succumbed to the peer pressure to “hijrah” from Syafi’i to Wahhabi. They even go as far as attacking those who practice the syafi’i interpretation as kafir (infidel), hence the constant attacks on, and the clashes against, Nahdlatul Ulama (a traditional Syafi’i organisation) in particular. Gone are the days where ustads were teaching calmly about the religion of peace and tolerance, and the importance of habluminannas, and they are replaced by ustads preaching angrily like Hitler, using hateful rhetoric to make their discriminative points, Wahhabi style.
The Wahhabi stronghold in Indonesia have even penetrated the political scene. PKS, what Gus Dur dubbed as “evolutionary jihadist”, is a Wahhabi political party co-founded by the descendant of one of DI/TII leaders. “Revolutionary jihadist”, on the other hand, is like terror groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, or the local Jemaat Islamiyah and JAD in Indonesia, which opted for a direct aggression to reach the same Utopian dream, all of whom not coincidentally are also Wahhabi (indeed, the key difference between terrorists and extremists is in the evolution/revolution approach). Moreover, the now banned HTI is also an evolutionary jihadist based on Wahhabi ideology. Bachtiar Nasir, the head of increasingly influential GNPF MUI, is publicly Wahhabi, while the PA 212 (which evolved from GNPF MUI) reached as high as the role of a king maker in the last presidential election, mobilising the masses for candidate Prabowo-Sandi (which Sandi himself later on admittedly regretted).
And here’s the reality on the ground: Syafi’i tend to be passive, that if people want to learn more about Islam they can come and ask, while Wahhabi are more aggressive in “converting” people, with the help of petrodollar funding, their vast networks, and the fact that they tend to legitimise any means necessary to reach their Utopian dream. And just in case you’re wondering, Gus Dur considered evolutionary jihad as more effective and more dangerous than revolutionary jihad, because instead of forcing us to comply with their worldview through violence (which would trigger an instant backlash) they are patiently gaining trust, converting one person at a time to come to believe that their ideology is the only true view of Islam, and in what arguably becomes a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome they eventually turn people into missionaries that fight for their cause on their behalf. And this time around, their penetration to Indonesia’s society seems to be working. You’ve been warned.
Post Script: The good news is, in his 2nd term president Jokowi appointed some powerful names in his cabinet positions, in relation with this problem: For the first time the Religious Affairs Minister position is not occupied by a religious political party but by an ex military general (with the literal mandate to fight radicalism). The chief of police (whom is an expert in terrorism) becomes the Home Affairs Minister. Even presidential rival Prabowo himself became Defense Minister (which now in theory should fight against the very people he used at his presidential campaign). And on top of that, in the Saudi itself crown prince Muhammad bin Salman, the de facto ruler, is undergoing several reforms to modernise the kingdom, including (and crucially) eradicating hardliners. So there is hope.
What Islam was like during its Golden Age [National Geographic / Victor Palleja de Bustinza]
Saudi Arabia Bulldozes Over Its Heritage [Time / Carla Power]
How Al-Saud stole Islam’s pilgrimage and capitalized a faith [The Huffington Post / Catherine Shakdam]
We have a Saudi Arabia problem, not Islam problem [Mother Jones / Kevin Drum]
Extremism is Riyadh’s top export [Foreign Policy / Farah Pandith]
You can’t understand ISIS if you don’t know the history of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia: the striking resemblance of the rise of ISIS with the rise of Saudi Arabia [The Huffington Post / Alastair Crooke]
The short history of Islam Nusantara, and its struggles against Wahhabism [New Mandala / Keith Loveard]
Jejak Wahabi, dari sayap kanan hingga perang Paderi [BBC Indonesia / Heyder Affan]
Aliran Wahabi dan wajah Islam moderat di Indonesia [BBC Indonesia / Heyder Affan]
Saudi Arabia’s influence in Southeast Asia – too embedded to be disrupted? [The Jakarta Post / Asmiati Malik and Scott Edwards]
How Saudi fund its spread of Wahhabi to Indonesia [The New York Times / Jane Perlez]
The Saudis are coming, via building a university [The New York Review of Books / Margaret Scott]
Salafi movement gains ground in public sphere in Indonesia, via radio stations [The Jakarta Post / Haeril Halim and Fadli]
One reason the Indonesian government is unlikely to present roadblocks to Saudi cultural expansion is its precarious annual Hajj quota [VOA News / Krithika Varagur]
Geliat penyebaran hijrah ala Salafi di Indonesia [CNN Indonesia]
Ilusi Negara Islam edited by Gus Dur
It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and myths surround it – John Pilger
It’s one of those clarity moments, in the midst of a chaos. It’s that oh sh*t feeling that makes me questioning my media-shaped worldview, a realisation that I got after reading the many one sided coverage by major media outlets and their journalists on the RUU protests.
For a start, there’s hardly any balanced arguments (like why do we need a watchdog for KPK vs why that would be a bad thing), almost no explanation for the before-and-after comparison on RUU KUHP, and if they provide any larger context and/or arguments on the government intentions with the RUU (and weight them based on their merits) it is done scarcely.
No, instead all we get is the romanticised picture of idealistic students who are trying to save the country from an increasingly authoritarian government that creates idiotic RUU. The anarchist students? They cry foul when they are arrested after attempting to break the law, and reported in the media as the innocent being beaten by the repressive police. The biased and provocative journalists and activists? The media focused on their arrests by the regime, and how that move is violating the free press, and not on the damages these people potentially may have caused. Like in the case of provocative Veronica Koman who unapologetically pro West Papua independence, spreading hoaxes that actually ignited riots and separatist movements – but of course later on apologised for the whoopsie – but doesn’t really provide any clear solution for the complex problem in West Papua other than just provoking for independence now!
And what about those social justice warriors who actually have read and understood the law? Instead of using their platform to educate, they regrettably tend to attack, provoke, and insult those who have opposing views, in a condescending tone that would make Robert Cialdini cringe. Even the respected names in global media only show the videos and pictures of the clash between the police and the students, the beatings, and the arrests, with very minimum background context (only show the effect, not the cause and the provocation).
So naturally this whole episode got me thinking, are the global current affairs problems not that relatively straight forward after all? Because the line in the sand looks pretty clear in cases like Rohingya case, the Kashmir conflict, the Brexit debates, the Hong Kong protest, the Amazon forest fire, the Uighur oppression, but are they just another oversimplification by the media? Why are they seemingly able to give much needed context and understanding on the complicated case of, say, Yemen conflict or Israel-Palestine never ending battle, but seems only able to one-sidedly report on the Indonesian problem?
Don’t get me wrong, I also don’t agree with most of the points in RUU KUHP and the other RUU, they look hugely unbalanced and seems like profiting only, well, the lawmakers and their cronies. It’s not lost on me that Ma’ruf Amin is publicly contradicting Jokowi and why the parliament are rushing to sign the RUU before their term expires next month, which indicate a vested interest by a certain group (just look at who protested the loudest when Jokowi postponed the signing of RUU KUHP). I’m also not suggesting that journalists are not the victim of an increasingly unreasonable law enforcement (the arrest of Dandhy Laksono is baffling, and it’s the last thing the government should do in the middle of this tension).
What I am saying is that the real world is complicated, where there is no black and white, only different shades of greys. Hence it would be best if the media can educate the mass on the complicated reality, rather than oversimplifying it almost to the level of a movie mentality (where there is a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys), and fuelling and/or enhancing the anger along the way.
Because the real truth is messy, and nobody is a saint in this scenario. For example, in the more obvious case of KPK. In practice, as much as we absolutely need a corruption watchdog the KPK is currently indeed abusing their God-like power. Because in an environment where almost every (if not all) politicians are dirty, they say KPK becomes a platform to attack political opponents. Because from around 3000+ cases, and within the supervision of only 5 commissioners, they only blow up selected few cases that have prominent names on it for publication purposes (and even then they tend not to further investigate and arrest the web of crooks), and allegedly settle on big blackmail money for the remaining majority.
Because as idiotic as it sounds, KPK’s corruption watch is indeed slowing down investments, simply because in the system where bribery is the sad reality, almost nobody is willing to take any risk to make a deal when there’s a chance of being busted and extorted for money by, you guess who (an ugly reality not explained or argued by the media, but only reported without context that made Moeldoko looked like someone who is disconnected from reality).
Indeed, instead of addressing these problems, by providing the pros and cons and the potential solutions, the media seemingly just dumb it down to merely “the corrupt government and parliament are trying to weaken the corruption watchdog.” No wonder that the ill-informed masses are angry.
Thus, in the age where clickbaits are the new normal, and sensationalised news pay the bills for these media, I’m starting to question how many of their coverage are actually genuine reporting, how many come from seemingly biased anti-establishment (or pro-establishment) mentality, and how many are hugely edited and adapted to satisfy their financial backers or fit their for-profit motives (more sensations, more news)?
Because being [admirably] idealistic is one thing, but withholding half of the information to accommodate a biased agenda is a grave crime in this information age. And they should remember that the role of the media is not to choose a side but to fully inform the public of what’s really going on, while providing the many sides of the argument.
Thomas Jefferson once said that information is the currency of democracy. And right now, the currency feels rigged.
1945: Indonesia merdeka.
1949: Belanda baru mengakui Kemerdekaan Indonesia.
1960: Dutch geologist nemu gold and copper deposit di Netherlands New Guinea (nama Papua Barat di jaman kolonial Belanda).
1961: Papua Barat deklarasi merdeka dari Belanda (pengibaran bendera bintang kejora). Tapi nggak ada satupun negara yang mengakui.
1962: Soekarno nyerang Netherlands New Guinea, dengan alasan mau ngambil balik bagian Indonesia dari Belanda (karena perwakilan dari Papua Barat ada yang ikut di deklarasi Sumpah Pemuda 1928), dan bukan menyerang negara yang baru independen.
1962: Presiden US John F. Kennedy (JFK) intervensi, dan jadi “penengah” untuk perdamaian antara Indonesia dan Belanda. UN bikin special body utk jadi caretaker Papua Barat, dan mempersiapkan mereka untuk referendum di tahun 1969.
Fakta kejadian-kejadian di tahun 1962 – 1969 (not necessarily related antara satu sama lain):
1963: JFK di assassinate.
1965: Soekarno di kudeta.
1966: Freeport bikin Freeport Indonesia Inc, utk negosiasi kontrak dengan pemerintah Indonesia (bukan pemerintah Belanda, bukan negara independen Papua Barat, tapi pemerintah Indonesia, meskipun technically Papua Barat masih under caretaker nya UN dan baru referendum 3 tahun lagi).
Maret 1967: Soeharto officially jadi presiden RI kedua gantiin Soekarno.
April 1967: 1st order of business nya Suharto: sign a concession deal dengan Freeport untuk memberi mereka ijin penambangan di Papua Barat (yang technically belum punya nya Indonesia).
1968: Robert Kennedy, adiknya JFK yang di specially assigned oleh JFK untuk jadi special council untuk Papua Barat, di assassinate juga.
1969: akhirnya sampai juga waktu referendum nya. Dari sekitar 800 ribu populasi Papua Barat pada saat itu, yang bisa voting untuk referendum nya cuma sekitar 1000 “village elders”, dan mereka almost unanimously vote utk join indonesia (situasi voting nya gimana, dan kenapa mereka milih untuk join Indonesia? Google aja, I’m not here for the speculations).
Jadi siapa yang berhak memiliki tanah Papua Barat: Belanda, Indonesia, US, atau Papua Barat yang independen? Kenapa baru heboh setelah tahun 1960, 15 tahun abis Indonesia merdeka, dan bukan sebelumnya? Kenapa perlu waktu 7 tahun untuk mengadakan referendum nya? Dan siapa yang berhak atas gold and copper nya? As you can see, it’s not that simple.
This post is an excerpt from a previous post on the same topic.