100 things I learned and did in 2014

  1. Each day is longer than the previous one by 0.00000002 seconds, which makes it 13 seconds each century.
  2. The root of nearly half of world’s languages is Central Asian language, simply because they were the first to ride horses, thus helping the spread of languages quicker.
  3. This strengthen the claim by the “Sun Language Theory” that all human languages were descendants of one Central Asian primal language.
  4. The national anthem of south Africa is uniquely sung in 5 languages: Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English. Here’s the music video of the national anthem.
  5. The first people to invent bread were the people in the ancient site Göbekli Tepe (present-day Southern Turkey). While the wonderful flavour of vanilla was first discovered by the Totonac people in present-day Mexico. Thanks guys.
  6. Early on January this year my lovely wife gave birth to our 2nd child, and it’s a baby girl! Before she was born I thought that I could never share the love I have for our son to another person. But as it turns out the capacity to love is not some storage that can be filled into its full capacity, but instead we can grow an entirely new capacity equally side by side.
  7. Her first name is Kirana, here’s a short legend on where the name came from: Once upon a time, in the 13th century Mughal Empire, there once lived a man named Gopal Nayak. Gopal was a dhurpadiya singer and a Hindu court musician turned Muslim convert, and he became an influential figure in Indian classical music by founding one of the most prolific Hindustani Khyal Gharanas: the Kirana Gharana. Kirana means a ray of light.
  8. Her second name is Hagia, here’s a short tale of where we got the name from: Few thousand miles west in Asia Minor, the Latin Empire just captured the city of Constantinople and converted Hagia Sophia into a Roman Catholic Cathedral in 1204, which lasted until 1261 when the Byzantines re-captured the city and turned Hagia Sophia back into Eastern Orthodox Church. In 1453 this sacred place was converted once again, this time into a grand Mosque, when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople. This lasted for 482 years until in 1935 Turkey’s founding father Kemal Ataturk transformed Hagia Sophia into a museum, and thus it became a testament to interfaith tolerance and respect for many different religions. Appropriately, its full name in Greek translates to “shrine of the holy wisdom of God”, with Hagia means holy. Hence, our little baby girl is our holy ray of light. The history and the meaning of her name are fully implied.
  9. Golf was born in Scotland around the year 1000 by shepherds, who ease their boredom knocking stones into rabbit holes.
  10. The mammoths were still around when the Great Pyramids in Egypt were being built (c.2550 BC – 2490 BC). In fact, when the last Wooly Mammoth presumed died around 1650 BC on Russia’s Wrangle Island, the great Pyramid of Giza has already existed for 1000 years, with the ancient Egyptian culture was already an advanced civilisation.
  11. There’s a theory that suggest the Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra was actually black, as her father was an ethnic Nubian.
  12. “Bluetooth” is named after a 10th century king Harald I of Denmark, in which the name is the English translation of “Blåtand”, an epithet of Harald I (Harald Blåtand Gormsson). Legend has it, he received this name due to being extremely fond of blueberries, and he ate them in such volume and regularity that they stained his teeth blue. “Bluetooth” is named after him because of his ability to unite warring Scandinavian factions, just as “Bluetooth” is able to unites various wireless devices.
  13. On a slightly unrelated matter, here’s a music video of a regional Indonesian singer (apparently he’s famous in the island of Madura) showing how to spell “Blue Tooth” in his local dialect, among others.
  14. The reason why we know so little about the Mayan civilisation is because in 1562 Bishop Diego de Landa, in the name of the Spanish Crown, burned thousands of Maya hieroglyphic books, which contained 8 centuries worth of collective memory. The bishop burned the sacret texts with the excuse that they were filled with superstition and lies of the devil.
  15. As at December Ebola has infected more than 16,000 people and has killed more than 6500 people, in what can only be described as a tragedy for humanity. The deadly virus was given its name by scientist Peter Piot in 1976 after the Ebola River, near the town of Yambuku, in present-day Democratic Republic of Congo, where the virus first infected humans.
  16. Denmark’s top 3 exports are: Lego, beer and sperm. Yes, sperm. How do you measure sperm into the GDP and trade balance? And what an easy way to maintain positive trade balance: export figures a little low? Jack off a little bit more!
  17. The first ever sperm bank in history was created in 1952 in Iowa, US, by two doctors who had figured out how to freeze sperm, thaw it back to life, and use it to help families to conceive. At the time the national poll suggests that only 28% of Americans approve of artificial insemination, nevertheless the year after these men began the implementation of their discovery 3 babies were born from thawed sperm.
  18. The Moroccan Wall (2700 KM long) is claimed to be the 2nd longest wall after the Great Wall of China (3460 KM long plus 3530 KM of branches and spurs). Stretched from southeastern portion of Morocco and Western Sahara, the wall was build in 1981-1987 by Moroccan forces, and it acts as a separator barrier between Moroccan-controlled area in Southern provinces and the Polisario-controlled free zone, to prevent Saharawi people for entering Morocco, specifically to exclude the guerilla fighters of the Polisario Front that seek independence for Western Sahara.
  19. But there is actually a longer wall than Morocco’s, the 3200 KM long border wall between India and Bangladesh, what described as the most abusive border in the world. Here’s the full story.
  20. According to Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, half of the population of India (that’s a whopping 600 million people) don’t have access to toilet, a basic everyday human need. According to Sen this is a result of “a combination of class, caste and gender discrimination.” Even in Bangladesh, which is poorer than India, only 8% of its population don’t have access to a toilet.
  21. In the Indian Rupee banknotes there are words written in 17 languages. The languages are: 1. Assamese 2. Bengali 3. Gujarati 4. Kannada 5. Kashmiri 6. Konkani 7. Malayalam 8. Marathi 9. Nepali 10. Oriya 11. Punjabi 12. Sanskrit 13. Tamil 14. Telugu 15. Urdu 16. Hindi 17. English.
  22. There’s a new kind of premium coffee, originated from Thailand: Black Ivory Coffee. Similar like Kopi Luwak (where the coffee beans went through the digestive system of luwak cats), Black Ivory Coffee beans came out from the digestive system of elephants, with the end result “presented” in its poo, before someone pick up the beans. Why, and who the hell came up with the idea of selling them?
  23. The first ever recorded striptease is in the Sumerian creation myth that explains the four seasons. So one day the goddess of fertility, Inanna, makes a journey to the underworld, during which she is forced to remove one clothing item at each of its 7 gates until she arrives at the destination stripped naked. Sexy!
  24. Remember the “origins of beer story” I learned in 2012? Well, after the Sumerian empire collapsed, the Babylonians became the rulers of Mesopotamia. And they also mastered the art of beer brewing, making 20 different varieties. King Hammurabi of Babylon established a daily beer ration for his subjects: 2 litres a day for the worker, 5 litres a day for the high priests. What a good time it was to be a priest.
  25. The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius was a divorced single dad.
  26. There were actually many US presidents before George Washington. Under the current United States Constitution George Washington (who served in 1789-1797) was indeed the 1st US president, but before the US constitution came into being there was the Articles of Confederation, which went into effect in 1781 to serve as a loose alliance that held all 13 states as a single country since their proclaimed independence day on 4 July 1776. This Articles also defined the role of Congress and the office of president, with the role of president was extremely limited in power and scope, was not a paid position, with primary roles of the president to simply preside over meetings, handle state correspondence and sign official congressional documents.
  27. The 1st president under the Articles of Confederation was John Hanson of Maryland (served 1781-1782), succeeded by Elias Boudinot of New Jersey (1782-1783), Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania (1783-1784), Richard Henry Lee of Virginia (1784-1785), John Hancock of Massachusetts (1785-1786), Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts (1786-1787), Arthur St. Clair of Ohio (1787-1788) and Cyrus Griffin of Virginia (1788-1789).
  28. One of the main reasons of the 1776 revolution in the US was the prohibition by Britain to set up manufacturing industry in its American colonies, especially on masts and tar that were needed by the British. Meanwhile, 3 years earlier the American Revolution was first sparked after the British impose tax on tea imported to Britain, which prompted the Boston Tea Party movement. So in a sense, it’s all about economics.
  29. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew cannabis sativa (marijuana) on their plantations. Hence, the second amendment?
  30. Contrary to popular belief, Cannabis is not toxic. No death have been recorded from overdosing. It had been suggested that it would take 800 joints to kill, with the death coming from carbon monoxide rather than cannabinoid poisoning. By comparison, 300 millilitres of vodka or 60 milligrams of nicotine would be lethal.
  31. Opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar and Laos rose in 2014, and it has risen for the 8th consecutive year, and has tripled the amount of cultivation in 2006. I wonder what’s going on in that underworld part of the world.
  32. Humans can survive living without food for 8 weeks. But only 3-5 days without water.
  33. Britain’s population in the late 1800s grew from 1.5 million to 22 million, simply because their newly-found addiction to tea. They drink more tea hence boil more water, while previously they never boil their water, making survivor chance against bacterias thinner. Yes, as simple as that.
  34. The name earl grey tea comes from the 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister in the 1830s. According to the Grey family, the tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin to offset the preponderance of lime in the water at Howick Hall, the Grey family’s seat in Northumberland. When entertaining guests at a political events Lady Grey used this blend of tea, and it became so popular that she was asked if it could be sold to others. Hence, the Earl Grey Tea branded “Lady Grey” began to be marketed by Twinings.
  35. In the Victorian Era, they used to serve tea in special tea cups which protected gentlemen’s mustaches from getting wet from the tea, and to keep the tea unspoiled as it was an era where oiling one’s mustache was popular. Classy!
  36. The practice of nail manicuring has actually been around since 3200 BC, where ancient Egyptians were painting their nails according to their social classes: the richer the class the darker the colour.
  37. Long before Christopher Columbus [re]discovered the New World in 1492, the French called syphilis “the Italian disease”, and the Italians called it “the French disease.” The Dutch and the Portuguese called it “the Spanish disease”, while the Japanese called it “the Portuguese disease.” For the Polish it was “the German disease”, but for the Russians it was “the Polish disease.” The Persians, on the other hand, believed that it came from the Turks. After the [re]discovery of the New World, however, everyone seems to agree that syphilis is an “American curse” that come to Europe from the Indians of the Americas. Which is also a false myth.
  38. Argentina has the world’s highest rate of breast enlargement. Just FYI.
  39. One day on October I was sitting at my trading desk having a lunch break, when I read an article that says people who have their lunch breaks at their desk would have higher risk of diabetes and a whole other list of diseases. Holy crap. I shared the article with my colleagues (whom also having their lunch break at their desk) and we decided to change our habit. The following day we went out to eat, but it was a heavy doze of Padang food (equivalent to Indian food). Feeling guilty, we decided to join the office gym, in a similar way a group of people apply for a micro-loan where if one person bails the rest of the group will also take the blame. 2 months on, we haven’t break any gym session. Yet. We’ll see.
  40. Interestingly, the modern word “gymnasium” and “gymnastics” comes from a Greek word γυμνός (gymnos), which means “naked.” Yes, naked. And in Ancient Greek people commonly exercise in the nude.
  41. Still in ancient Greece, whenever there’s a storm coming it is said that women would expose their vaginas to ward off the storms. I bet I would enjoy living in Ancient Greece.
  42. Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia believed that the Bible had curative powers, and he would actually eat few pages of it whenever he felt sick, in order to get better. In a spectacular tragedy, in 1913 he ate the entire Book of Kings and died as a result.
  43. This year the price of oil started to drop significantly from a high of $115/barrel in August 2013 to under $60/barrel in mid December 2014, with Saudi Arabia boosting their production by half a percent to 9.7 million barrels/day since September 2014 and offerring increased discounts to major Asian customers. The intention is pretty clear, it is similar like in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan encouraged Saudi Arabia to boost up oil supply thus weakening its price, leading to depleting hard currency earned by the Soviet Union that led to its collapse. This time around it is believed that the US made a similar arrangement with Saudi Arabia, with the US pledge to fight ISIS in return for cheaper oil, which so far have destroyed Russian ruble, and seriously diminish the economic power of Iran and Venezuela, among others, all of which just happens to be US’s nemesis.
  44. I bet if law enforcements stop using water cannon to break up protests, and start using one of those septic tank trucks that can fire shit into the crowd, a lot of protest will end before it even began. What? It’s just a random comment, not a suggestion.
  45. The number of Chinese killed in WWII by the Japanese is greater than the number of Jews killed in the holocaust.
  46. Similarly, under King Leopold II Belgium actually murdered 10 million Africans in Congo, but yet for some reason it was not categorized as genocide.
  47. Leonardo Da Vinci was an illegitimate son born out of wedlock. His name is literally translated as Leonardo from Vinci, a place just outside Florence.
  48. I started to watch the brilliant TV series “Da Vinci’s Demon”, and delightfully discovered that the TV show is actually one of the most historically-accurate shows. Of course, aside from the intentional fictional elements.
  49. The gold at the top of Jakarta’s Monas was a donation from an Acehnese businessman Teuku Markam. The gold came from a village named Lebong Tandai, in northern Bengkulu, a location so rich in gold and silver that it became the biggest gold and silver exporter for then-colonial-Dutch East India in 1896-1941. As the gold and silver reserves were depleted, this area were then abandoned and became isolated, where today it took 9 hours to go there from the provincial capital Bengkulu City.
  50. Another forgotten place in Indonesia that has a huge impact in its history: Penyengat Island. Penyengat Island is only 240 hectare wide, it is located near present-day Bintan Island, Indonesia, and it is where Raja Ali Haji wrote his masterpiece “Gurindam Dua Belas” in 1847, which became the basis of the Indonesian and Malayan language. Raja Ali Haji has since became the father of Indonesian language.
  51. There’s actually a weird place with weird looking plants like in the movie Avatar: the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean, officially owned by Yemen. Here’s the National Geographic coverage on this mysterious island.
  52. The name “gorilla” was applied to the animal in 1847 by missionary Thomas Savage. But the original meaning of the word comes from the Greek word Γόριλλαι (Gorillai), which was originally applied as a reference to an African tribe noted for having very hairy women, as recorded in 500 BC by Hanno the Navigator during his travels along the coast of Africa.
  53. In parts of rural Nepal, women are forced to isolate themselves in huts or caves during their menstruation period. It’s not as convenient or as funny as it sounds, though, as this custom often criticised as inhuman.
  54. On 26 February 1885 a General Act of the Berlin conference was signed by European colonial powers, which divided African land, jungle, mountains and ethnic population into several countries. The General Act was signed “in the name of God Almighty”, they did not mention any of the prized gold, oil, diamond, timber, cocoa and other commodities that lies beneath the continent, and they even outlawed calling slavery by its name, and instead refer companies that provide slaves as “charitable institutions.” There was no single African presence in the conference, but these colonial powers can almost swear that they were acting for the moral and well being of the natives.
  55. And so Africa was divided into several fictitious countries, with no regards whatsoever to ethic and religious differences that became the root-cause of violent clashes in nearly all African countries, such as in Rwanda, DR Congo, Mozambique, Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria and most recently Central African Republic. And what began as an inconsiderate divide and plunder among European colonial rulers have since evolved into a legitimate recognition enforced under the international law, with these made-up countries became 54 legitimate independent states recognised by the UN and international community today.
  56. Cocoa trade sums up to $30 billion worldwide, with Cote D’Ivoire (1.23 million tonnes) and Ghana (0.73 million tonnes) produce more than half of the world’s cocoa (35% and 21% respectively). But yet, have you ever wondered why these countries and its people remain relatively poor, especially compared with chocolate producing countries like Belgium and Switzerland? Hint: it’s more than just a simple value added.
  57. As my Kenyan friend once said in Africa to have commodities is a curse rather than blessings, an estimated $400 billion have gone missing from oil revenues in Nigeria over the last 50 years – arguably the root-cause of nearly everything that are currently wrong in the country, including the birth of Boko Haram.
  58. In Greece there’s an awesome hidden city in a tiny island of Monemvasia. If we look at the island from mainland Greece, all we will see is a huge rock that dominates the landscape of the island. However, behind the huge rock there’s an ancient city, which is preserved at its original shape since Medieval time. Here’s some pictures of the magnificent place, via Google image.
  59. Meanwhile in the weird fish department: there’s a fish called African lungfish that can live both in sea and land. Everyday for 30 minutes they step out of the water to get some oxygen, or else they will actually drowned. During the summer they would go out and basked.
  60. The Black Death that killed 30 million Europeans was the ripple effect caused by fanatical custodian of the Catholic faith, whom in the 14th century declared war on cats in Europe’s cities. Cats were crucified, skinned alive, skewered and burned into bonfire because these men believe that these diabolical animals were the instruments of Satan. With cats nowhere to be found rats came out to rule the cities in Europe, and transmitted diseases.
  61. An olive tree can live up to 1500 years. Well, at least the one in Ionian Island of Ithaka, the home of hero Odysseus who returned there after the Trojan War.
  62. When I was a teenager my blood thrombosis level was way higher than normal at 986,000 (normal range 100,000 – 400,000) and thus I was technically immune to a dengue fever, as my thrombosis level would go down to a normal range if I ever catch one. A lot of doctors I’ve consulted with all said that this is incurable except for a high risk bone marrow surgery, no thank you. And so I learned to live with the blood abnormality. But then during my uni years my thrombosis levels was miraculously decreased down to the normal range simply because one simple thing: I didn’t like the milk in England. As it turns out for my blood type drinking excessive milk could somehow lead to blood thinkening and higher thrombosis level, and growing up I drink my milk like normal people drink water. Safe to say right now I drink my milk in moderation.
  63. This summer a semi-outbreak of dengue fever occurred in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, with 12 people caught the disease in my social circle alone, including my dad, my son, my nephew, 2 of my work colleagues, my colleague’s mom and dad, some of my neigbours and indeed myself. It was crazy! As I lie there at the hospital bed, I felt like that episode of Superman movie where he gave up his powers and became a normal human being, I was no longer immune!
  64. Anyway, here’s a brief history of sliced bread.
  65. The friction match was invented by an English pharmacist named John Walker in 1826. No, not the scotch, that’s Johnnie Walker.
  66. The first female admiral in history was Artemisia I of Caria. She became admiral during the battle of salamis in 480 BC, where she originally warned King Xerses of Persia that the heavy Persian ships should not battle the agile Greek triremes at the Strait of Salamis. The advice was ignored by Xerses, and his fleets was then surrounded and got badly beaten. Desperate to save at least some ships and some remaining honour, Xerses then put Artemisia in charge and thus saving the remaining survivors.
  67. Book of the year: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century got to be the “it” book of the year, with so many reviews, debates and summaries surrounding the topics of the book. The smartest book I’ve read this year is The Body Economic, that brilliantly link changes in health statistics directly with economic policies. But my personal favourite this year is After Empire by Dilip Hiro for its condense and detailed history of the current ruling empire. Why Nations Fail is also very impressive.
  68. The greatest slave uprising in the history of man occurred in a stormy night of 22 August 1791, in the depths of the jungle of French colony Saint-Domingue. The revolution was led by a former slave and the first black general of the French Army, Toussaint Louverture, who managed to defeat the mighty army of Napoleon Bonaparte and transformed an entire society of slaves into an independent country by 1 January 1804, in the name of Republic of Haiti. Till this day the Haitian Revolution remains the only slave revolt which led to the founding of a country.
  69. I had that “oh crap I’m an history geek” moment when I was looking at pictures of past British Monarchs, then stumbled upon one picture and I went “hey I know this guy, he’s Phillip II of Spain, what is he doing here?” And as it turns out the dude’s married to Queen Mary I of England. Talking bout hot gossip!
  70. Went to Bali for our office outing this year, and for some reason the organiser didn’t book a hotel in places like Kuta, Seminyak, Ubud or Nusa Dua, but instead we got to stay at Sanur’s haunted hotel Inna Grand Bali Beach. Formely known as Bali Beach Hotel, back in 1993 the hotel experienced a massive fire for 3 days and 3 nights, with everything burned down to ashes, except for 1 room: room 327. Legends has it that when the hotel was built by Indonesia’s 1st president Soekarno in 1962 he dedicate room 327 for Nyi Roro Kidul, the mythological underwater queen-ruler of the south seas of Java. And after surviving the great fire, the room was preserved and became a semi-shrine for Nyi Roro Kidul.
  71. Hotel guests were allowed to visit room 327 upon request, so naturally, along with few of my colleagues, I went for it. First I requested the concierge to see the room, who then escorted us towards the room, where in front of the room he then use the telephone line there to call a “gatekeeper” who has the key to the room. Once the room was opened the gatekeeper ask us to remove our shoes and sandals, and then we’re in. We had instant goosebumps, and I instantly recalled the moment I stepped in to Vietnam’s notorious ex-prison Hanoi Hilton where the room was empty but feels like very full with people. The whole room in 327 was covered in green (Nyi Roro Kidul’s favourite colour), it was dark and had several framed pictures of Soekarno and 1 large painting of Nyi Roro Kidul, who is really pretty. It was quite bizzare and amusing at the same time.
  72. This year we’ve once again witnessed what apparently becomes an annual thing during the holy month of Ramadan: Israel bombing Gaza. Here’s the chronology of the event that I summarised in my opinion blog.
  73. This year, though, we’ve seen a tremendous people movement in protesting Israel’s illegal agression, including Israeli citizens themselves, which I compiled here.
  74. And most importantly, if we can’t do anything about it politically, seems that we’ve found a good way to punish Benjamin Netanyahu’s government: hit him where it hurts, boycott the economy. There’s actually an app to help us with the boycott, and a feedback on whether boycott movement works: in 2009 Israeli exports was hit by European boycotts after Israel attacked Gaza.
  75. Wanker of the year: seriously, need I say more? Israel is much better off without him.
  76. Speaking of boycott, the name boycott came from a 19th century Englishman captain Charles C. Boycott, whom became rather unpopular with the masses one day in September 1880. At the time, in Ireland 0.2% of the richest people owned almost every square inch of the land, with the majority of these people didn’t even live in Ireland, but instead they rented out their lands to tenant farmers generally in a one-year leases. Unhappy with this situation, in mid-nineteenth century many of these tenant farmers band together and demand 3 things: fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale, with one of the leaders of the protesters Charles Stewart expressed that it would be more Christian if instead of killing any tenant farmer who bids on an evicted neighbour’s land, they would shut him, ignore him and isolate him.
  77. In 1880 Captain Charles Boycott, now retired from the military, was working for the third Earl of Erne John Chichton as a land manager. The harvest that year was bad for many farmers, and so as a concession to the tenant-farmers Boycott decided to reduce their cost of rent by 10%. However, the tenants demanded 25% cut instead, which Boycott’s boss refused. In protest, 11 tenants didn’t pay their rent at all, and thus Boycott had no other choice than sending the Constabulary to give eviction notices to them. This move didn’t go over pretty well with the angry masses, and they began to use social ostracism against Boycott and anyone who worked under him.
  78. Soon those who worked under him began to leave him and had to join the ostracizing of Boycott for them to be acknowledged again. The social out-casting of Boycott even spread to other businesses, carriage drivers, ship captains and letter handlers, whom all stop doing businesses with him. He even couldn’t buy food locally anymore, and after couple of months this led Boycott being forced to leave his home and move to Dublin, where he still met with hostility. Poor chap, he’s just doing his job.
  79. There’s a town in New Zealand named “Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu.” Say again?
  80. The town is in Hawke’s Bay, and the name means: “the brow of the hill where Tamatea, the man with the big knees who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as the land eater, played his flute to his loved one.” What a poetic town name.
  81. According to Dr Mark Galeotti, a professor of Global Affairs at New York University, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year has shaken up the global criminal underworld, with Crimea now offers a game changing alternative from Odessa, as the hub for global criminal activities.
  82. Story of the year: the story of footballing nation of Germany, the first European country who are able to win the World Cup in the Latin American soil. From the awesome performance of underdogs like Chile and Costa Rica, to the spectacular rise of James Rodriguez, to the whopping 7-1 defeat of the host by Germany, the Brazilian World Cup was such a joy to watch! And as it was broadcasted late at night in Indonesia, I always ended up watching the matches with my baby girl who’s always up – bonding time, just like I bonded with my first born watching Euro 2012 matches.
  83. According to Greek mythology the crow, the bird, used to be white. So once upon a time there’s a beautiful women named Coronis, she was a princess of the Thessalian kingdom of Phlegyantis. Coronis was loved by the god Apollo, whom then sent a white crow to look after her, to safeguard her frim any harm. But then one day when Coronis was pregnant with Apollo’s child, she committed adultery with another man named Ischys. The white crow informed Apollo of this event, and angry with this news Apollo then commanded his sister Artemis to kill both Coronis and Ischys, and while still upset Apollo then turned the crow black for being the bearer of bad news. Poor bird just doing his job, this is Charles Boycott all over again.
  84. This year we have witnessed the rapid rise of the so-called terrorist organisation ISIS. For those who are still trying to figure out who they are, here’s an excellent summary of their facts that are broken down into just 20 information cards.
  85. The game of chess is believed to be originated in the Gupta Empire, Eastern India, c. 280-550 AD, with its early form called Caturanga, a Sanskrit word literally means four divisions (of the miltary) that consist of infantry (evolve to be modern pawn), cavalry (modern knight), elephants (modern bishop), and chariotry (modern rook). However, no actual hard evidence has ever been found of its origins, with the earliest evidence of the game is found in nearby Sassanid Persia c.600 AD where the game was known as Chatrang. After the Islamic conquest of Persia (in 633-44) Chatrang was taken up by the Muslim World, and the game spread to Europe with the help of Muslim traders. The modern-rule of chess was started to be modified in Southern Europe in 1200 and was completed around 1475 where the game became essentially as it is known today.
  86. The first important big game in the history of chess was arguably fought in 19 August 1575 with Leonardo da Cutri won the game and received a prize of a thousand ducats, an ermine cape and a letter of congratulations from King Phillip II of Spain. However, the first official World Chess champion is Wilhelm Steinitz, who claimed his title 3 centuries later in 1886.
  87. Hottie of the year: Got to be Kazakhstan’s volleyball athlete Sabina Altynbekova. She took the internet by storm, well at least among the Indonesians.
  88. DNA fingerprint technique was invented in 1984 by British geneticist Sir Alec Jeffreys, a professor at the University of Leicester, my Alma mater.
  89. When I was at Leicester, the view from my accommodation window was the Walkers Stadium (now named King Power Stadium), home to Leicester City football club, back in the days when they were playing in the Championship. If only they were in the premier league like this season, I would’ve bought the home match season ticket!
  90. Since 1984 the country Upper Volta changed its name to Burkina Faso, which means “land of the upright people.” Tragically, the country has experienced 5 coups and 1 internal power struggle, with the 4th coup occurred on 1987 where Thomas Sankara was ousted and killed by his close aide Blaise Compaore. Compaore then cling to power for 27 years, that is until October this year where mass protest led to violence then ultimately the ousting of Compaore.
  91. They have actually found the cure for AIDS as far back as the 1990s, but the drug giant Pfizer patented the drug and thus prevent it to be mass-produced as a generic drug or sold at an affordable price, and instead they are sold at a very expensive price. Check out the documentary Fire in the Blood.
  92. If you want to help cure AIDS, don’t donate money to AIDS charity, but fight for the drop of patent for Pfizer aids drug, to make them way cheaper and affordable for everyone.
  93. As the world’s largest country, spanning across 9 time zones, Russia covers more surface area than Pluto! But perhaps what’s more bizarre is the fact that the tiny nation of Bangladesh actually has more population (156.6 million people) than the whole of Russia (143.5 million people).
  94. Person of the year: can’t think of a better person right now than Pope Francis, for the 2nd consecutive year. He can even be an excellent mediator in the trickiest diplomatic relationship between the US and Cuba, that are now in the path of recovering after more than 50 years in tension, thanks to the Pope.
  95. Several Popes were actually married before receiving Holy Orders. Pope st. Hormisdas (514-523) was married and widowed, his son also became a Pope: Pope st. Silverius (536-537). Pope Adrian II (867-872) live in the Lateran Palace with his wife and daughter, before the Church’s chief librarian killed them both. Pope John XVII (1003) had 3 sons who all became priests. Pope Clement IV (1265-1268) had 2 daughters who both entered a convent. The last Pope to have been married was Pope Honorius IV (1285-1287).
  96. 2014 has been a sad year for airline travels, with MH370 missing on 8 March with 239 passengers on board, MH17 shot down on 17 July with 295 people died, TransAsia Airways flight GE222 crash on 23 July with 48 people died, with the following day 24 July Air Algerie flight AH5017 crash killing 116 people, and 39 people also died in an Iranian plane crash on 10 August. And then at the time of writing, 28 December, Air Asia flight QZ8501 with 162 passengers on board are currently missing. Hope everyone in the Air Asia flight are safe and will soon be found.
  97. The Barbarian king, Alaric, was actually an honourable man who got betrayed by the Roman Emperor. Only when he was betrayed that he decide to invade Rome, in retaliation. But as always, history is written by the victors, and the phrase “barbaric” has since been associated negatively.
  98. After a seemingly long process of legislative election, many weekly TV debates, presidential election, election result dispute that was ended in a highest court drama: Indonesia finally has a new president! President Jokowi is by far the only Indonesian politician that rise up from nowhere: a furniture businessman turned small city mayor who gained a clean reputation, then elected to be the governor of Jakarta, and then elected as the nation’s leader.
  99. Continuing his fast and efficient work ethic, as well as his clean-guy image, the first few months of his presidency are marked with a lot of cleaning up and reforming a lot of inefficient sectors, including the bold move to cut oil subsidy. Religious harmony is back after 10 years of indecisive leadership, border sovereignty is strengthened, while the new president seems unafraid to be a leader that focused on self-sufficiency while at the same time trying to maintain a healthy balance between protectionism and Foreign Direct Investment. Looks really good on paper, hope his plans and implementations can prevail despite the limited quality resources and the many potential setbacks from powerful oppositions.
  100. And so, to wrap things up, here’s some of the best reviews for this year’s major events: The year 2014 on Al Jazeera English, The Guardian’s eyewitness accounts on the year’s defining events, The Economist’s 2014 in charts, New York Times’ 2014 the year in pictures, Top 14 Mother Jones long reads of 2014, and Nat Geo’s top 10 photos of 2014. Have a great 2015 all!