100 things I learned and did in 2012

  1. We survive the doomsday! Among the many doomsday preparation stories my favourite got to be that man in China who sells everything and build an ark. Wonder what happens to him now.
  2. There’s a town in US Pennsylvania named Intercourse. It is recommended to visit here first before going to Fucking, Austria.
  3. According to a major study, the global super-rich elite had at least hidden $21 trillion in secret tax havens by the end of 2010.
  4. When Alexander Graham Bell perfected and patented the prototype of telephone, he originally preferred the greeting of “ahoy” instead of “hello” when answering a phone call. But Bell’s rival Thomas Alva Edison championed “hello” (previously used to summon boatmen) and the greeting caught on until now.
  5. The Congo River and the Amazon River were once connected, with Congo River as the upper reaches. The Congo-Amazon snapped into two when South American continent and African continent split 120 million years ago.
  6. 19 March is father’s day in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, Honduras and Bolivia. Appropriately, 19 March 2012 was the day our son was born. The happiest day of my life!
  7. The song “Happy Birthday” was written by Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill in 1893. It was patented in 1935 thanks to a 3rd sister Jessica Hill. Through a long series of acquisitions, the patent for the song “Happy Birthday” is now owned by a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner. So royalty must actually be paid to AOL whenever actors sing happy birthday in a movie.
  8. Beer was first brewed c. 6000 BC in Sumeria, Mesopotamia. It is said that the Sumerians discovered the fermentation process by accident where a bread or grain became wet and fermented with wild yeast.
  9. The Sumerians thought beer as their ‘divine drink’ or a gift from the gods, and they even have a hymn to Ninkasi, the goddess of brewing, which the hymn is also a recipe for making beer.
  10. The beer brand name in the Simpsons, Duff beer, is named after former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, in honour of his prodigious alcohol consumption.
  11. The name of the days of the week in English language reflect the 7 planets of ancient Ptolemaic astronomy, which named after old pagan German-Nordic gods. Monday: the Moon’s day. Tuesday: the day of Týr, the one-handed god of battle glory. Wednesday: the day of Wodan (Odin), god of wisdom and shepherd to the newly dead. Thursday: the day of Thor, the original hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder. Friday: the day of Frigg (or Freyja), the goddess of love. Saturday: Saturn’s day. Sunday: the Sun’s day.
  12. In Danish, Saturday is Lördag, meaning ‘bath day’. It was the day when Vikings took their weekly bath.
  13. Legend has it that there were once a female pope, pope Joan, who reign the Vatican sometimes in the Medieval era. But due to her gender, her story was erased by the Vatican.
  14. Yemen were also once ruled by a woman, queen Arwa Al-Sulayhi. The much loved queen ruled Yemen peacefully for 71 years between 1067-1138.
  15. Meanwhile, the Roman Empire once had a transvestite emperor, Elagabalus, who ruled Rome from 218-222 AD. Elagabalus offered a huge fortune to any surgeon who could perform a sex change operation on him. But when there’s no one who stepped forward, he tried to become an eunuch, before settling for circumcision (abhorred in Rome).
  16. Leo Fender, the inventor of Fender Guitars, never knew how to play the guitar.
  17. Adam Smith’s writings on free-market economy in 1776 repeat word-by-word the ideas of ancient Persian scholars such as Al-Tusi and Al-Ghazali.
  18. There were once a white slave trade. It began in 1625 when king James II of England sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to English settlers in the New World (the Caribbeans). The Irish men, women and children were forcibly transported to the Caribbean where they were openly bought and sold, with Irishmen only fetched $8 compared with $30-80 for the rarer Africans. African slaves did not arrive in large volume to the Caribbeans until late 17th century.
  19. The story in the TV series How I Met Your Mother is loosely based on the creators’ own lives. The character Ted Mosby is based on Carter Bays, while Marshall Eriksen and Lily Aldrin are based on Craig Thomas and his wife Rebecca.
  20. The Rastafari movement is a new religion movement born in Jamaica in the 1930s. Its followers worship Haile Selassie I, the emperor of Ethiopia (ruled in 1930-1974), as the second coming of Jesus Christ or another incarnation of a Christian God named Jah (notice on most Reggae songs the lyrics contain praises to Jah).
  21. The Rastafarian colour of red, gold and green are derived from the Ethiopian flag. Red: blood of martyrs, green: the vegetation and beauty of Ethiopia and gold: the wealth of Africa.
  22. The Rastafari encompasses themes such as the spiritual use of cannabis. Biblical verses that Rastafaris quote to justify the consumption of cannabis: Genesis 1:11, 1:29, 3:18, Psalms 104:14, Proverbs 15:17 and Revelation 22:2.
  23. The name of the music gender “Reggae” comes from the song “Do the Reggay” by the legendary band Toots & The Maytals.
  24. Cuba’s first president, Tomas Estrada Palma, was an American citizen. He granted the lease of Guantanamo Bay to the US in 1903, in exchange for US recognition of Cuba’s ultimate sovereignty over the area. That is why the notoriously illegal US prison is located in Cuba. The rent, set in 1934, cost $4,085 and paid annually by cheque sent to Havana. But since the revolution the cheques never been banked.
  25. “Anus” is a Latin word for old lady. In an unrelated matter, there’s a town in France named Anus. I think Anus should be sister cities with Shit’, Ethiopia.
  26. Lake Retba in Senegal has water pinker than milkshake. The French refer to it as Lac Rose, and the lake get its pink colour from cyanobacteria a harmless halophilic bacteria found in the water. Like the Dead Sea, Lake Retba has a high salt content thus allowing people to float effortlessly in the water.
  27. Hitler was a momma’s boy, a choir boy and grew up to become a painter who has jewish friends. Made me believe that people aren’t born evil, but shaped to be evil.
  28. How Hitler’s inner demon was shaped: The death of his brother and later on mother changed the outgoing Hitler. Hitler was then rejected from art school because he can’t draw humans. He became a homeless in Vienna, and after reading an anti-semitic phamplet that gave him the easy “explanation” why he fail in life, he became an anti-Semitic. World War I finally gave homeless Hitler a purpose for life, where he then volunteered to become a soldier. Treaty of Versailles and the Great Depression destroyed the German economy and, just like the current situation in the EU, cleared the path for a “populist” extremist like Hitler to rise.
  29. Hitler had a son with a French teenager, Charlotte Lobjoie, while serving as a soldier during World War I.
  30. The symbol in the middle of the flag of India is the wheel of Ashoka Chakra, a depiction of the Buddhist’s Wheel of Dharma (Dharmachakra). The wheel has 24 spokes, which represent 12 Laws of Dependent Origination and the 12 Laws of Dependent Termination taught by the Buddha. I think the Indian flag is more philosophically sophisticated than South Korean flag (usually considered to be the most sophisticated flag design with its symbols of Ying and Yang and the 4 seasons).
  31. Pol pot, the leader of Cambodia’s brutal regime Khmer Rouge, once served in a Buddhist monastery.
  32. The scientific breakthrough “the big bang theory of the origin of the universe” that argues the idea that the universe was created by a Big Bang, not God, was first created by Georges Lemaitre. Ironically, he was a priest.
  33. The men of Aka Pygmies in the northern part of the Republic of Congo are considered to be the most diligent fathers in the world. Men undertake 47% of childcare work, they typically cuddle their children 5 times more than any other societies and when an infant is hungry they will give the infant their nipple to suckle until the mother is present to breast feed. Wow, I have so much to learn about fatherhood from the Aka Pygmies.
  34. Coffee spread along with the spread of Islam, with Catholics denounced it as the drink of infidels before Pope Clement “convert” into a coffee drinker. Amazing story.
  35. The first brand of instant coffee, Red-E-Coffee, was created in Guatemala in 1906 by an Englishman George Washington. The brand dominated world sales for over 30 years, until World War II brokeout and a newcomer Nescafé won a contract to supply the US troops with million cases, leaving Red-E-Coffee in the dust.
  36. The new CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, got to be the hottest CEO in the world.
  37. The name Singapore is derived from the local word Singapura (singa: lion. Pura: city. Hence, Lion City). Singapura was founded in 1324 by Sang Nila Utama, a Sriwijayan prince from Palembang (modern-day Indonesia).
  38. So legend has it that one day Sang Nila Utama went on a hunting trip in Riau Islands (present-day Indonesia) and was chasing a deer up to a hill, when the deer then vanished. From that hill top he looked across the sea and saw another island with a white sandy beach, the island of Termasek. Sang Nila Utama then went across the treacherous sea where he then continued the hunting quest, and then saw a strange but fine-looking animal with an orange body, black head and a white neck breast: A mythical creature lion the guardian of Termasek. Sang Nila Utama believed that seeing the lion was a good omen of good fortune coming his way, and thus decided to build a new city in Termasek, and renamed the city the Lion City, or Singapura.
  39. The first king of all Hawaii, united the island chiefdoms into a peaceful kingdom in 1758-1819: Kamehameha. I know what you’re thinking, Dragon Ball!
  40. The Easter custom of egg decorating is derived from a traditional custom in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, decorating a Christmas tree during winter solice was a Latvian and Estonian Pagan tradition that the German merchants in Riga – then a city in the German Livonia (present day Latvia and Estonia) – started to use in the early 16th century to celebrate the light of Christ. Through them, this tradition spread from Northern Europe to Germany where Martin Luther made it famous and then the rest of the world followed.
  41. Heroin was first launched in 1895 as a cough medicine for children. The name was created and trademarked by Bayer Pharmaceuticals, and comes from Heroisch (heroic) for its supposed effectiveness.
  42. Texas was once part of Mexico. In 1821 when Mexico had their war of independence from Spain Texas was included in their territory, under the state of Chahuila y Tejas (Coahuila and Texas).
  43. However, due to constant raids by the native Comanche tribe, the Mexican government liberalised its immigration policies to permit immigrants mostly from the United States to settle in this low population area. To cut a long story short, the settlers never left Texas, the population outgrew the Mexicans and in 1836 they won their independence by becoming a Republic for 9 years, until in 1845 they joined the US as the 28th state. Oops.
  44. In the US, gay marriage is legal in 6 states. But having sex with a horse is legal in 23 states. Now that’s messed up!
  45. Wednesday, 28 May 585 BC was the day history began. On this day Lydian and Mede armies marched up to the river Halys in Asia Minor (present day Turkey) and began to battle. But then out of a sudden the sun went out in a solar eclipse, and the two terrified kings agreed to a peace treaty on the spot. Based on the eclipse timing that can be calculated retrospectively, the date is the earliest in history that can be given with absolute precision. And ancient historians can then calculate the passage of time to recorded events that happened later, making the Battle of the Eclipse truly the day history began.
  46. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organised crime is worth $870 billion a year. That’s worth more than 6 times the global aid budget.
  47. Guinea-Bissau is a key transfer point for cocaine smuggling into Europe. Since 2005 the country’s drug problem has grown from almost nothing to virtually overwhelming where drug traffickers practically control the country. To put this into a perspective, a 600 kg of cocaine is enough to run Guinea-Bissau’s schools for 20 months. While a single 2 1/2 ton consignment of cocaine has a value equal to the country’s entire national budget.
  48. In Tajikistan, the multi-billion-dollar drug trafficking industry is equivalent to 30-50% of the country’s GDP.
  49. Just how much oil does the world actually has?
  50. In the Shakespearean story Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is 17 years old while Juliet is 13 years old. Makes perfect sense now, just a bunch of love-drunk teenagers (Indonesian translation: ABG galau).
  51. Indonesia has 742 official languages. Only Papua New Guinea has more languages (820) in one country than Indonesia.
  52. !Xóõ is considered as the world’s most challenging language. Spoken by around 4000 people in Botswana, 70% of the words start with 1 of 83 different variety of clicks (in the region of 5 core types). The language also have more distinct sounds than any other languages with 112 sounds compared to 45 sounds in English (45 is already high). For those who are wondering, no it is not the language spoken by the Kalahari Bushman in the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. Xi speaks a similar language of !Kung.
  53. Africa may have up to 200 hidden billionaires.
  54. UN is not a neutral organization. It was founded by the US State Department, headquartered in New York City and as at 2011 the US funded 22% of its budget. And don’t forget the veto power US often abuse, especially when it comes to Israel. Read: America, Hitler and the UN: How the Allies Won World War II and Forged a Peace by Dan Plesch.
  55. In the twelve animal sign of the zodiac, it is believed that cat should’ve been in the zodiac instead of pig.
  56. One day The Jade Emperor (the ruler of the universe) wanted to make the earth more harmonious, so he asked all the animals to visit him in heaven so that he could divide the years between them, with each animal ruling a certain lunar year. The cat needed her beauty sleep, but worried that she’d miss the trip the cat asked the rat to wake her in time. But the rat, thought that the Emperor would prefer the cat’s beauty to the rat’s ugliness, didn’t wake the cat and let the pig take her place. That’s why cats and rats hate each other ever since.
  57. There’s a city named Moron in Mongolia. As at 2007 it is estimated that there are 36,082 Morons, I mean people who live in Moron.
  58. The name Dalai Lama was mistakenly given to a Tibet spiritual leader by a Mongolian ruler. In the 16th century Mongolian ruler Altan Khan wished to convert to Buddhism, and he invited Tibet’s supreme monk Sonam Gyatso to visit him. On Gyatso’s arrival in 1578, Altan mistook his name for a title and greeted him with the Mongolian translation Dalai Lama (meaning ‘ocean of wisdom’). The phrase has stuck ever since.
  59. Fanta Orange was created by the Cocacola Company in Germany during World War II, because the company couldn’t sell Coke (a US brand name) in enemy Germany.
  60. Nothing dominates the temperature of the global markets more this year than EU crisis. And it really astonishes me how EU-IMF keep on imposing austerity, especially to Greece, after IMF themselves admitted that austerity produce disastrous impacts. In order to pay off debts Greece need growth, but yet EU-IMF keep on dismantling their engine of growth through austerity. Even Charles Dallara, the Institute of International Finance boss who once lobbied for Greece’s creditors, commented that Greek austerity is going too far, and EU-IMF should focus on growth.
  61. Out of frustration, this year a small Greek town of Volos dropped the Euro and start using the barter system.
  62. 3 hours ahead of its “motherland” France, The island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean was the first place in the world where Euro currency became legal tender on 1 January 2002. The very first transaction: a purchase of a bag of lychees from a market stall in its capital city St. Denis.
  63. There’s a newspaper in France, named La Bougie du Sapeur, that only published once every 4 years on 29 February.
  64. French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s edition that insulted the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) instantly sold out in September, making it the best sales since 2007 when they, again, insulted the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). So insulting a religion just for profit?
  65. Another nut case seeking for fame in September: Innocence of Muslims, a shitty movie that insulted the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and sparked a riot across the Muslim world was funded by Media for Christ (a christian fundamentalist group), shot by a porn director and produced by a guy who served time in prison for meth production and bank fraud.
  66. I still strongly believe that religion is not violent or peaceful, but people are. These people are acting on behalf of religion, doesn’t mean that Christianity is short-minded and provocative, and doesn’t mean that Islam is short-tempered and violent.
  67. Dolphin’s nipples are located in its anus. To breastfeed, the calf sticks its bill into the hole and then the mother squirts milk into the mouth. Kinky.
  68. There’s a historical evidence that implies that World War I was fabricated by the British Empire, due to the rise of German Empire. While the British Empire use coal in their industrial revolution, the German use oil as their engine for growth and they imported their oil from Iraq. To ensure a constant supply of the commodity, they were planning to build a railway from Baghdad to Berlin, however the British tried to prevent it to be built and the shooting of Franz Ferdinand occurred in that railway path.
  69. The hole in doughnut was invented by sea captain Hanson Crockett in the mid 1800s, after he had difficulty of eating doughnut while steering his ship.
  70. We start giving our son solid food, and he loves carrot. So I was wondering about the history of this vegetable and was surprised with its long history. It originated from present day Afghanistan around 5000 years ago, began to be cultivated since the 900s and were imported to Southern Europe in the 14 century. The original colours of carrot was purple, white and yellow, that is until in the 17th century Dutch growers cultivated a new orange variety as a tribute to their king William of Orange.
  71. The islands of New Zealand is the visible surface of a drowned continent of Zealandia, where 93% of the area remains under the pacific ocean since 23 million years ago. Zealandia is 3,500,000 km2 in size, larger than India or Greenland.
  72. Biblical scholars agree that portions of the Old Testament are directly descended from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Some archaeologists even argue that Moses must have read and carried a copy of it with him when he fled Egypt.
  73. Many anthropologist and religious scholars agree that Moses led the Israelites in the Exodus towards the Promised Land in approximately 1300-1400 BC or 3400 years ago. The Israel-Palestine conflict, however, started to occur since only 64 years ago (dubbed the Nakba). So religion absolutely has nothing to do with the current Israel-Palestine conflict.
  74. Approximately 90% of jewish people in the world today are actually Khazars, or Ashkenazi Jews. Their real homeland is in Georgia, not the Palestinian land.
  75. In the 15th century Spain’s and Portugal’s Catholic monarchs expelled the jews, with a lot of them immigrated and actually settled in Muslim Ottoman Empire. No love lost between Muslims and Jews in the 15th century.
  76. 95% of sacred sites in Mecca and Medina have been destroyed in the past 20 years by Saudi’s Wahhabi regime. This year the Saudi government is outrageously planning to raze the Prophet’s tomb in Medina.
  77. Best book I read this year: Debt: the first 5000 years by David Graeber.
  78. War Games: the story of aid and war in modern times by Linda Polman and Confessions of a microfinance heretic by Hugh Sinclair came in a close second and third.
  79. The flag of Haiti and Liechtenstein used to be similar, with the top half blue and bottom half red. They found out about it accidentally when they met at the 1936 Olympics. A year later Liechtenstein add a yellow crown on the upper left side of their flag.
  80. Liechtenstein is the only country in the world named after the people who bought it (the Liechtenstein family). After their 1712 purchase, the Liechtenstein family didn’t visit the area for 106 years, preferring their far grander estates in Moravia, Silesia and Bohemia (now long-vanished).
  81. Story of the year: In a shooting tournament, Kuwait confuses Kazakhstan’s national anthem with Borat’s parody song.
  82. There were once lived in a Balkan village of Meduegna, a Serbian man called Arnold Paole. One day in 1725 he fell from a hay wagon, broke his neck and died. Legend has it that few days after he died people started dying from the loss of blood, and several eye-witnesses report that they had seen Paole walking around with glassy eyes and long and sharp teeth. Baffled by this mystery, villagers dig up Paole’s grave and saw his corpse undecomposed with fresh blood flowed from his eyes, nose, mouth and ears; while his nails and skin had fallen off and grown new ones. The villagers then decided to drove a stake through his chest, to which he reacted by groaning and bleeding, and they then burned the body. The deaths in the village stopped, the myth spread, and Arnold Paole has since remembered as one of the first real-life vampires.
  83. It is estimated that nearly 100,000 people are involved in the illegal cross-border smuggling activity between Peru and Bolivia, with goods transferred including everything from computers, to clothes, food or fuel. It is a black-market generating revenues of around $1.5 billion a year.
  84. Wanker of the year: Benjamin Netanyahu, for the 2nd successive year! He’s like the Lionel Messi of giant assholes.
  85. High heels were first worn by prostitutes in 16th century Venice, to signal their profession (and to keep their toes clean).
  86. Italics was invented by a Venetian printer, Aldus Manutius, in 1501. Emphasis had nothing to do with it though, as he created the font to print books that would fit inside a gentleman’s pocket.
  87. If a guy comes to a bank asking to borrow $100 million to bet on a horse race, the bank would probably laugh. But what if he offers a collateral for the loan, will the bank lend him? That is basically what happened in most indebted African countries, where their dictators borrow a lot of money with national assets as the collateral, only for the money to be transferred directly to their Swiss Bank account. When they’re toppled, the Swiss Bank account remains untouched while the country (more specifically, the people) have to bear the burden of the debt repayment + interests, or like in any other Economic Hit Man’s work have to surrender their control over the country’s economic sovereignty or loose their national assets. This also currently happening in Greece.
  88. Hottie of the year: I gotta go with Tanja Nijmeijer, the 34 year old Dutch woman who joined the FARC rebel after seeing inequality in Colombia. There’s just something dangerously sexy about her.
  89. There’s an island chain named Chagos islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, situated 500 KM south of the Maldives. Chagos were officially part of the British Indian Ocean Territory and were home of the native Chagossians for more than a century and a half, until in early 1970s when they were brutally forced to leave their home island by the British government, to make way for the US to build a military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island.
  90. It was from Diego Garcia that the US conducted their reconnaissance in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, while Diego Garcia was also used by the US as their base in the first Gulf War, the Afghanistan 2001 and Iraq 2003 wars. The island may store a nuclear weapons and may be a “black site” to conduct their illegal activities like detaining and torturing prisoners.
  91. More on Chagos islands: a story of injustice, Aljazeera English: the heart of an American empire?, John Pilger’s documentary: stealing a nation, a book: Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia by David Vine, UK citizens can help here.
  92. Person of the year: PSY. The world just can’t get enough of him can we?
  93. Thanks to PSY’s hit sensation, Gangnam Style, the market capitalisation of his father’s software firm, D I Corp, has surged to 113.5 billion won on the main Seoul stock exchange. The stock attracted investors simply because the company is owned by PSY’s father and uncle.
  94. More Americans die from gun homicides and suicides in 6 months than from 25 years of terrorism, Afghanistan war and Iraq war combined. For gun nuts out there, this was the circumstance in America when the ‘right to bear arms’ was ratified in 1791.
  95. According to Jewish folklore, Eve was Adam’s second wife. His first wife was Lilith, who was created by God out of dust, just like Adam. Lilith considered herself equal with Adam and she refused to submit to his will and left. Only then did God created Eve from Adam’s rib.
  96. The founder of Save the Children charity organisation, Eglantyne Jebb, actually dislike children. She didn’t personally have, want or even care for children (she referred to them as ‘wretches’). But it didn’t stop her to write a ‘Children’s Charter’, which later became the basis of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – since adopted by every member of the UN except Somalia and the US.
  97. Isaac Newton was born on Christmas day sickly and premature, but lived until the age of 84, where he died a virgin.
  98. Quote of the year: “Love is like a fart. If you have to force it, it’s probably shit.”
  99. A wise man once said that you won’t know the capacity of love that you have, until you have a child. Now that I’m a father, I see the world a little bit differently and can understand – and can even relate with – some of the things I couldn’t before, like how a desperate person can steal just to feed their starving children. If I ever in that situation, I’d do it without blinking.
  100. Loved every single minute I spent this year watching our son grows into a cheeky baby that he is now, with all the shenanigans that comes with it!