Book review: Clear and direct answers to the most frequently asked questions on Islam

“What would a Muslim say?: Conversations, Questions, and Answers About Islam” by Ahmed Lofty Rashed

To learn about Islam you can learn from its history, like those written beautifully in Islam: a short history by Karen Armstrong, No god but God by Reza Aslan, or Lost Islamic History by Firas Al Khateeb. You can read the religion from the current affairs perspective, like The World without Islam by Graham E. Fuller and Misquoting Muhammad by Jonathan A.C. Brown. You can also learn from books that analyses The Qur’an like If The Oceans Were Ink by Carla Powers, or read The Qur’an translation directly like one of the best translations by M.A.S Abdul Haleed.

But among the most popular books there is one vital angle that has yet to be covered: the everyday real questions or accusations by non-Muslims towards Islam. This book is a collection of e-mail correspondences between the author, interfaith instructor Ahmed Lofty Rashed, and real-life people asking real-life questions.

I’m talking about genuine questions like: Why do Muslims are living the same way as 1400 years ago with no progress? Why do Muslims support terrorist attacks? Why do Muslim women wear a head scarf? Why are women oppressed in Muslim countries? Why can’t women get an education in some Muslim countries? What are Islam’s view on homosexuality? Why Muslim men can have 4 wives? What happen to people who do not believe in God or people from different faiths, are they going to hell? What happens when a Muslim marries a non-Muslim? Is it possible to be a good person and not be a Muslim? And many more, including questions on those conflicting passages in the Qur’an that leads to misinterpretations by extremists.

The author then gives the most reasurring answers to all of these sensitive questions with calm demeanor and gives elaborate but concise answers by quoting the Qur’an, hadiths, and important studies along the way. And the resulting discussions are nothing short of an eye opener.

One example is the questions regarding terrorism. Through the discussions it is suddenly clear that there is a lot of anti-Islam propaganda and misinformation in the media that are subjecting Islam in an unfair manner, and drowns out the mainstream Muslim voices. Rashed pointed out that “while it is true that some Muslims do evil deeds, it is also true that certain media outlets emphasize those evil acts without balancing what the religion actually preaches and what the majority actually practice.”

In fact, Rashed continues, in adressing suicide bombings, “Suicide is absolutely forbidden; the Prophet said that the man who purposefully takes his own life will automatically go to Hell and never see Paradise (see also the Qur’an 4:29-30). Killing noncombatants is absolutely forbidden; the Prophet repeatedly instructed his companions that the children, the women, the elderly, the farmer in the field, the craftsman in his shop, the laborers, and those who surrender SHOULD NOT BE HARMED. I think this is very clear evidence that Muhammad (peace be upon him) would not be okay with [the terror attacks]. And there are scholars and sheikhs around the world who say the same.”

Moreover, Rashed also pointed out that “if someone recruits Christians from the church so they can go bomb an abortion clinic, it is not right to say ‘your Christian faith enlists young men to carry out these acts.’ These acts are clearly against the teachings of Christianity. Likewise, all the acts that [an accuser] mentioned are against the teachings of Islam.” Rasheed then give emphasis that “the extremism of Muslim culture is a result of leaving the values and principles of Islam, not a result of following them.”

Another example are those questions related to treatment of women. The most frequently asked question is perhaps the most visible trait in Muslim women: about wearing the scarf. Rashed remarks “that head scarfs it is actually gives freedom to women, freedom from physical judgements. The same reason why Christian nuns and orthodox jewish women also cover their hair.” And when asked whether girls should or should not get an education, Rashed replied “of course girls can and should get an education. The Prophet said, ‘Seeking knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim, male and female.’ So what you see is that Muslims are doing something that is against the teachings of Islam.”

Muslims doing something that is against the teachings of Islam, which becomes the sole subjective focus of the media whilst ignoring the good deeds of the majority of Muslims, is the biggest PR problem Islam have right now. It’s like as if the media only show coverage of elegant and funny cats, while only show the nasty videos or pictures of dogs attacking humans and being a total beast. The world will only see dogs as a nasty creature that needs to be isolated from society, and see cats as the ultimate pet. The fact that there are many seeing-eye dogs, canine unit at the police, or many loyal stories like Hachiko in Japan, they will go unnoticed.

There are many, many more topics that are being thoroughly discussed in this book, which are impossible to cover all one by one in this short review. It is one of the most direct books that tackles the hot pressing topics on Islam right now, an absolutely vital book to read for those who are sceptical to, or even agressive towards, Islam.

It is also, in a way, a good guidebook for Muslims who constantly being harrassed and attacked based on their beliefs, on how to calmly and respectfully answer and straightened the wrong accusations. The author repeatedly says “With dialogue comes understanding”, and that is ultimately what this book does.

For more reviews, please visit my book review page on Amazon

Book review: Veteran traders telling their fascinating war stories

“Hedge Fund Market Wizards: How Winning Traders Win” by Jack D. Schwager

It’s been a while since the last time I read New Market Wizards, when I was in university. And since then a lot of developments have occurred in the financial markets, including the rapid evolution of hedge funds. This 4th sequel of market wizards shows how far the industry has evolved. The wizards interviewed in the book are more technical, discussing more complex methods of trading, in an environment very different than the previous interviews.

Like the previous Market Wizards books, and indeed just like in the market, the trading methods or philosophy applied by the wizards could not be more different from one another. Some even directly contradict one another, with surprisingly good results for each of them. This, of course, remains the underlying message of the Market Wizards books: bottom line, we need to figure out who we are and what kind of strategies could work with our temperament and world view.

One interesting remark made by Jack Schwager when people were asking him to introduce them to one of the wizards, to work under their apprenticeship and learn about their methods/system that bring success, in which he answers that it will be useless because the main point is to develop our own trading system that cater to our character. Just like Colm O’shea said “If I try to teach you what I do, you will fail because you are not me. If you hang around me, you will observe what I do, and you may pick up some good habits. But there are a lot of things you will want to do differently.”

Nevertheless, as different as these Wizards can be, they all share some similar traits that become the foundation of their trading approach.

First and foremost, they’re all very dilligent about risk management, minimizing risk is almost the most sacred part of each one of these traders. They also trade only the size they’re comfortable with. To them the market is always right, Steve Clark commented that the market is not about facts but people’s opinion and positions that reflects their opinions, and they aren’t afraid to cut losses when they’re wrong. In a similar tone, Scott Ramsey said that there is one principle that you cannot violate: know what you can lose.

Meanwhile, as one wizards believe that price is not actually important (instead the size of your position is more crucial, to determine whether or not you can get out quickly), Edward Thorp complement this view by saying don’t bet more than you are comfortable with (and just take your time until you’re ready). Moreover, Jamie Mai highlighted that finding answers is much easier when you know in advance what the questions are, and another wizard gives the simplest wisdom of all when he said do what you do best, and so less of what you do badly.

Furthermore, as different as they may be, almost all of them point out the fact that profit is nice but it wont teach us anything, and one of the most important parts of trading is to make as much mistakes as we can, learn from them, and create our own system to avoid those mistakes.

And the interviews in this book provide us with exactly that, the raw and honest stories about their hopes, fears, and doubts, and their struggle and journey from nothing to become one of the best in the world. It is also, perhaps more importantly, about the long road on how they come to acquire/develop the skills or tools or principles that they eventually use to make them very successful (like Ray Dalio’s principles, which he then expanded into a very good book). And it’s all very human, and the lessons are also very applicable in any walks of life other than trading.

Just like the format in Dale Carnegie’s books, by the end of each chapter Jack Schwager provides a concluding paragraph to sum up the interviews, which is very helpful. But the real gem of the book is definitely the conclusion chapter, where everything are summarized so neatly, in which Schwager lists the ultimate 40 Market Wizards lessons, which, of course, I won’t spoil in this review.

This would definitely be the 1st book I recommend on anyone asking about trading/investing. An absolutely useful real-life manual for the battle on the financial market ground.

For more reviews, please visit my book review page on Amazon

Book review: The perfect introduction to Stoicism

“The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living” by Ryan Holiday

Stoicism is not a religion. In religion the sacred texts lay out the ideal way of life and guide us to try our best to live a sinless (perfect) life. Stoicism sees the world completely the opposite, it acknowledges the harsh realities of life, the chaotic mess of the world that is filled with imperfections. And instead of demanding us to live up to a certain perfect standard, it gives us the tools to handle the real broken situations on the ground.

Founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in 3rd century BC, this branch of Greek philosophy got big in the Roman Empire, with its principle philosophers of Epictetus, Seneca, and ultimately Marcus Aurelius with his most-quoted memoir “Meditations.” The author of this book, Ryan Holiday, reads and re-reads Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations for 100+ times, which was the main reason why I choose this book as the 1st book I read on Stoicism.

At its core Stoicism gives us clarity on what we can and can’t control. It teaches us that although we can’t control what happen to us, we can control our perceptions about it. It teaches us that even though we can’t control how we feel, we can control how we react to it. It teaches us that all emotions are generated from within ourselves, and what comes out from us can be controlled by us.

As Ryan Holiday sums it up “[t]he three most essential parts of Stoic philosophy worth carrying with you every day, into every decision: Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control.” Indeed, focus on the things that we can control, as Holiday elaborate “[i]f we can focus on making clear what parts of our day are within our control and what parts are not, we will not only be happier, we will have a distinct advantage over other people who fail to realize they are fighting an unwinnable battle.”

And suddenly the things that matter and the things that are insignificant become abundantly obvious. If we spend less/no time on the things that don’t matter and won’t make any difference, we will have more time for the things that we do have an influence over. Getting emotional over an injustice, for example, is being human. But unless we direct our grievances to something that fix or expose the injustice, getting overly emotional about it with no action won’t do any good. Another example is when we get ill. Don’t moan about the illness, but focus on how to cure it: figure out what the illness is, what’s the cure, and focus on the curing process. Dwelling on how ill you are won’t accomplish anything.

This simple but powerful philosophy is what kept Nelson Mandela sane during his 27 years in prison, as he reads and re-reads Marcus Aurelius’ book “Meditations” in Robben Island. Bill Clinton also read “Meditations” once a year, while Thomas Jefferson had a copy of Epictetus’ book “Discourses” on his bedside. Furthermore, Stoicism is also highly popular among Silicon Valley people and dilligently used to set the mental state of numerous pro athletes. And reading Seneca’s “Letters From a Stoic” was what prevented Tim Ferriss from killing himself during his darkest period of time, and turned his life around into becoming a successful author and investor, among others.

Indeed, Stoicism is not a religion, but if it were its 3 main gospels are Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditation”, Epictetus’ “Discourses” and Seneca’s “Letters from a Stoic.”

And being the ultimate compilation of Stoic wisdom, if Stoicism is a religion this book would be its book of hadiths, the book that compile the sayings of the prophet(s). It spreads over 366 mini chapters that comprise a year, which makes it easy to digest and can be learned one day at a time. In fact, this is the first time that I re-read a book straight after I finish reading it cover-to-cover, which I digest the 2nd cycle of reading according to the date of the year, one chapter each morning as a part of a new daily routine.

I could not recommend Stoicism enough, and this book is a perfect introduction to it.

For more reviews, please visit my book review page on Amazon

Book review: A vital book to understand political Islam

“A world without Islam” by Graham E. Fuller

This is an absolute important book to understand today’s current affairs, which heavily linked with the rise of Islamic terrorism. The book is written by an ex-CIA analyst stationed in the Middle East, whom possess an incredible clarity over the geopolitics dynamics on the ground.

The premise of this book is to picture a world without Islam. How different it would have been, how the butterfly effects that never happened would turned out to be, and it’s very sobering. This, in effect, becomes a book about the history of the world that has nothing to do with Islam.

Chapter 2 and 3 cover the antagonism between Rome and Constantinople, which created the divisions between Western Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, with very extensive details that could make this book easily becomes the history of the split within the Christian powers. This scism, according to Graham E. Fuller, was the predecessor of today’s East’s (especially Russia’s) resentment towards the West.

The proceeding chapters cover pretty much every single problematic interactions with Islam in the world, including the best analysis on the current problem immigrant Muslims have in Europe, the best statistics-heavy analysis on the Hindu-Muslim violence in India, including the root-cause of the tension in Kashmir, and why Muslims in America are generally more established compared with their European counterparts.

The book also covers Muslim-China relationship, including the root-cause of today’s tension in north west China till this day, and the fact that Muslims built the capital Beijing. Chapter 12 in particular is a masterpiece, analysing straight to the heart of the world’s problem today. And like most books analysing political Islam, this book also covers the complex problem in Israel-Palestine, which according to Fuller wasn’t rooted with Islam, but with Western European persecution of European Jews.

This is the perfect book to give to Islamophobic or anti-theists who think that religion is always the underlying problem. It is also a perfect book to read to understand the arguments about state and religion, and how religion is being used for political gains. Its conclusion gives the best answer to the immediate problems arises in the Middle East. But judging from the reason why the US is in the Middle East to begin with, these brilliant solutions would probably go unnoticed.

Never in my life that I have been so wrong about judging a book by its cover (and title). When purchasing the book I intended to read what the Islamophobics are saying about the religion, but right from the first couple of paragraphs I was in for a surprise. I did not even suspect this to be a very comprehensive book. But oh I have never been this happy to be dead wrong!

For more reviews, please visit my book review page on Amazon

We need to talk about cryptomania

Every market crash is sparked by a trigger. Every trigger is preceded by a mania. Every mania began as an overshoot optimism. And every optimism started off by a justifying reason to be positive.

In 1880s the optimism was the invention of US railways. In 1920s the radio and motorcar companies. In 1980s the invention of microcomputers. In 1990s the optimism was the internet. In 2000s a complex invention of derivatives. And in 2010s? It’s the blockchain technology and its cryptocurrencies.

People in every era always say that this time is different, and they rightly point out at the new technology being invented. But the market consist of people who collectively decide the direction of the market, and people are fundamentally irrational. Throughout history human behaviour has not changed a bit since the 1st ancient market crash during the Roman Empire era, they’re still overly greedy at the optimism, and overly fearful at the sight of a collapse.

Just as George Soros explained in his book The Alchemy of Finance: “when events have thinking participants, the subject matter is no longer confined to facts but also includes the participants’ perceptions. The chain causation does not lead directly from fact to fact but from fact to perception and from perception to fact.”

Hence, when a new invention caught the exuberant eyes optimism quickly turns into an offshoot, a bubble.

It took approximately 5 to 7 years for each of the new inventions of 1880s, 1920s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s to turn into an overall market bubble, which then entered into a mania phase for 1 to 2 years before they respectively crashed in 1893, 1929, 1987, 2000, 2008.

Likewise, at first it took Bitcoin 1789 days from 2008-2017 to increase its price from $0 to $1000. But when the optimism grows, $1000 quickly rise into $5000 in half a year in 2017. And then we enter the overshoot optimism phase, that’s when the exuberant speculators come in: it took 13 days to rise from $6000 to $7000 in October 2017, 14 days from $7000 to $8000, 9 days from $8000 to $9000, 2 days from $9000 to $10,000, less than 1 day from $10,000 to $11000, 6 days from $11,000 to $12,000, a whopping 17 hours from $12,000 to $13,000, 4 hours from $13,000 to $14,000, 10 hours from $14,000 to $15,000, 5 hours from $15,000 to $16,000 and it hover around at nearly $20,000 before it fell down and began to be slightly saturated.

As Bitcoin started to get saturated, other cryptocurrencies began to rise too, everything from the serious like Ethereum and Ripple, to the ridiculous like CryptoKitties, DogeCoin and Okoin, to the bizarre like Venezuela’s Petro.

And suddenly everybody everywhere can’t stop talking about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Every single Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) is greeted in the same manner as every Initial Public Offering (IPO) of any internet company in 1990s, or when people in 1720s all rushing to buy the South Sea Company’s stock: the price immediately shoots up no manner what their underlying is. In a true dot.com bubble manner Long Island Iced Tea change their name to have the word “blockchain” in it and as a result enjoyed an astronomical rise in share price (+200%), even though they still sells iced tea and has nothing to do with blockchain. Even Kodak is rising from the dead, to be a cryptocurrency company.

Indeed, a lot of companies have began to divert away from their core business to trade cryptocurrencies. This is exactly what happened in Japan 1980s with their Zaitech invention, where at the height of the bubble companies no longer gain their profits from their core work but from the practice of Zaitech and speculating on their Eigyo Tokkin account in the market, just like a steel company named Hanwa who raised over ¥4 trillion from speculating in the market (which is 20 times larger than their gains from their core business).

This, right here, is unmistakably signs of the mania phase of the bubble. This situation is not that different than the height of the 1920s stock market bubble described by Bernard Baruch: “taxi drivers told you what to buy. The shoeshine boy could give you a summary of the day’s financial news as he worked with rag and polish. An old beggar who regularly patrolled the street in front of my office now gave me tips and, I suppose, spent the money I and others gave him in the market. My cook had a brokerage account and followed the ticker closely. Her paper profits were quickly blown away in the gale of 1929.”

True to any mania phase, in the middle of the hype there’s opportunity for scams. Because cryptocurrency is independent and the industry has no proper regulation yet, it is truly a Wild West out there. All the oldest dirty tricks in the book – from the tricks used by John Law and Jesse Livermore, to Heinze and Morse, to Ivan Boesky – are all back.

However, while we’re quite possibly at the peak of the bubble, the fact remains: every crash always have to be sparked by a trigger. And while Tulipomania 1630s finally crashed after a rumor spread about a break of war in Nice, France (which people afraid could spread to the Netherlands), and while the derivatives-fueled subprime mortgage market crash was inevitable once the subprime mortgage borrowers all defaulted in the beginning of 2007, in the crypto world the trigger is far less visible and far less obvious. So this time it really is different.

Of all the possible risks in cryptocurrency, exchange risk come first in mind, with the likes of Mt Gox and Bitconnect, among many others, have famously been spectacularly hacked (or stolen by its owners). But perhaps the biggest thread comes in the form of regulatory risk. China, Japan and South Korea trading ban in this early January 2018 have sent enough danger alert to the crypto market and have caused several crashes.

But still, as we have witnessed several times in 2017, every time a crash comes, another willing buyers quickly jack the price back up, and even rising the price even more towards new record high. Hence the argument by crypto supporters, that this unregulated Wild West always self-sustain itself and will never crash.

So, are all the bubble riders justified? Maybe. As long as the bubble is still developing there’s no reason not to consciously, and carefully, participating for a neat profit. Just make sure that we don’t become the greater fool.

Nevertheless, just like in every market bubble, a [healthy] correction is eventually needed for the new invention to “return to the mean”, the “normal” price, before its true function can perform well in a healthy environment. The Black Friday crash 1929 wiped out the many amateur motorcar companies and left us with the likes of General Motors and Chrysler. Out of the Black Monday 1987 survivors we have Microsoft. The dot.com crash wiped out all the frauds and half-baked companies, and left us with Google, Apple and Amazon. Because while the dot.com mania was insane, the technology behind it (the internet) had a promising future. The railway, motorcar, microcomputer and even derivatives have also become a vital part of our modern society.

Likewise, while cryptomania is arguably starting to get out of control, the technology behind it (the blockchain) has a very promising future. But before we can reach the “normal” phase, the market will eventually need to wipe out the speculators, the scammers, and the amateur hitchhikers.

So the million dollar question then becomes this, when will the healthy correction going to take place? And what will cause it? It is very interesting to watch, because like a good movie nobody knows where the plot of this story is heading.

 

Further reading on the enigma of market crash

100 things I learned and did in 2017

1 Hot damn, it’s already that time of the year again and 2017 is almost over! And what a crazy ride it has been, the North Korean nuclear threats, Zimbabwe’s [not a] military coup, Saudi Crown Prince offensives, Pakistan’s Fontgate, Prince Harry’s engagement to Rachel Zane, King of the North did it with his aunt, insane Bitcoin rally, the floodgate #MeToo has opened, Arsène Wenger contract extension at the very last minute, and I haven’t even mentioned the numerous shits Trump did.

2 More than 70% of our planet’s surface are covered by the oceans, but yet till this day we have only explored less than 5% of the ocean.

3 In Michelangelo’s painting “The Creation of Adam” the angels and the God who touch David’s fingers were all inside of a brain. It took 500 years for someone to notice this in the painting, and the hidden message is that the divine gift does not come from a higher power, but from our own minds.

4 The founder of South Korean giant Lotte, Shin Kyuk-ho, gave his company’s name from a character from a novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that he loved so much, Charlotte. Hence, the name of the company was taken from the last 4 letters of Charlotte.

5 Have you ever wondered why almost every Vietnamese’s last name are Nguyen? As it turns out it all started by Minh Mang emperor, whom during his 50 years life had 78 sons and 64 daughters. Now this is where it gets interesting: his 1st son had 64 children, his 3rd son had 144 children, his 4th son had 74 children, his 9th son had 62 children, his 37th son had 61 children. Not to mention the rest of his children who also had children of their own.

6 But the record for the most children born to one woman belongs to Valentina Vassilyeva from Shuya, Russia. She gave birth to a total of 69 children in 27 births between 1725 and 1765, which consist of 16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quadruplets. Holy crap.

7 Do you know why football jersey number designate certain number to a position? For example no 1 goalkeeper, 2 normally for right back, 11 for left winger, and 9 for central striker? Because when jersey numbers were first made compulsory by the FA in 1939, the common formation was 2-3-5 and in the team sheet it would look like this (including goalkeeper): 1 ; 2,3 ; 4,5,6 ; 7,8,9,10,11. Meanwhile, football and rugby went their separate ways on 8 December 1863, at 7 PM, at a meeting at the Freemason’s Tavern in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London, where the divided participants on the laws of the game disputed over hacking, that is, whether kicking opponents in the shins should be allowed or not.

8 The oldest verified alphabet is the Phoenician alphabet (from c. 1050 BC). It is also the first widely used alphabet, which formed the basis of the Latin alphabet that is used in many parts of the world today.

9 The 2nd atomic bomb, the Fat Man, wasn’t intended to bomb Nagasaki. The chosen city was originally Kokura, but on that day 9 August 1945 a dense cloud covered Kokura. And the plane, after circling three times in vain and almost low in fuel, then decided to change course to Nagasaki. Hence, in Japan there’s a phrase “the luck of Kokura.”

10 Viagra was first created to cure angina. But the drug’s developer noticed some “side effects”, which then became the main selling point of the drug. So I guess it’s safe to say: have a chest pain? Get an erection!

11 Why do some countries drive on the left-side of the road and some on the right-side? The explanation goes way, way back. So, a long time ago Medieval swordsmen preferred to ride their horses on the left-side of the road, so that they can hold their swords on their right hand in anticipation of the opposing side attacking them (while approximately 10-15% left handed knights just went along with the general consensus). But it all changed when horse cart was introduced in the 1700s, with the driver’s seat located on the left-side of the cart so that they can hold the whip on their right hand. This made driving on the right-side of the road safer, as the driver would not be blindsided. The early adopters of the horse carts were France and the US, hence they started the switch to right-side driving until this day, while the British government refused to change their custom of left-side driving.

12 Now, the spread of the left-side and right-side custom of driving is directly aligned with the spread of colonialism. That’s why most former British colonies still drive on the left-side of the road, while the former colonies of France and its derivatives (e.g. the colonies of the former European colonies of France under Napoleon) drive on the right-side of the road. Meanwhile in the US, when Henry Ford unveiled the Model T car in 1908 he put the driver’s seat on the left side, complying with the custom already in place in the US. This changed the custom of a lot of Western and Eastern European countries (and Canada) which soon followed the US right-side driving custom to accomodate the new invention, while Britain sticks with the left-side driving. About 35% of the world population today drive on the left-side of the road and 65% drive on the right-side.

13 People who play video game regularly can have lucid dreams, or in other words can control their dreams.

14 Anyone here named Jessica? Well the name Jessica was actually invented by Shakespeare. He first use the name in his play “The Merchant of Venice” (1596). Shakespeare in fact invented about 1700 words out of the total 17,000+ words he used, including lackluster, gossip and addiction.

15 This year archaeologists potentially found the tunnel to the underworld. It’s in Teotihuacan, Mexico. But if you want to go directly to the door to hell, go to Derweze, Turkmenistan.

16 “Vikings” literally means raider. Hence it is more of a job title than a race in a medieval Nordic world. The Vikings famously sailed west to England, Greenland and later the American continent. But they also travelled east by land and founded the Kievan Rus, the foundation of modern-day Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. The word Russia is derived from the term “Rus.” On a slightly unrelated matter, the actress playing Lagertha in the series Vikings (Katheryn Winnick) is super badass, did you know that Winnick is a black belt in Taekwondo AND a black belt in Karate? Respect.

17 The inventor of Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoi, was a janitor at Nintendo. One day the president of the company walked pass him, and saw the toy he had invented out of boredom. The president then turn him into a successful game designer. Sometimes all we need is the opportunity.

18 Have you ever wondered why so many Hong Kong’s sky scrappers have holes in the middle of their building design? They are called Dragon Gate, and these holes are made to allow dragons to fly through. Daenerys would be thrilled!

19 In 1994 when British band Oasis did a disastrous gig at Whisky a Go Go in LA, Noel and Liam Gallagher had a fight and Noel threatened to break up the band. He then went missing, only to resurfaced days later having written the song “Talk tonight.” In their documentary “Supersonic” Noel told the story of how during those few missing days he flew to San Francisco to meet a girl he just met days earlier, and stayed with her. She then became the inspiration for that song, and practically saved the future of the band. Noel swore that he forgot her face and her name, but the girl came forward to San Francisco Chronicle, her name is Melissa Lim. Not all heroes wear capes.

20 Interestingly, all this time we all (well, I) thought that Noel’s brother’s name was simply Liam Gallagher. But it turns out Liam is short for William, and his full name is William John Paul Gallagher, with John Paul taken from the name of 2 members of the Beatles. Talking bout naming prophecy.

21 Sunny Leone, the, uhm, actress, “stole” her stage name “Sunny” from her brother. Yes, Sunny is her brother’s actual name. Nope, not weird at all. Meanwhile, Osama Bin Laden had Sunny Leone’s “work of art” in his stash in his hideout in Pakistan. Fundamentalists or not, boys will be boys.

22 Humans are one of the most diverse, but at the same time the most genetically close, species in nature. And this is way beyond Genghis Khan. So one day in around 72,000 BC there’s a super-eruption on a volcano on the Island of present-day Sumatra (Indonesia). The mountain exploded with a force 1.5 million times bigger than Hiroshima-size bombs, and it was so massive that the mountain turned into a lake (present-day Lake Toba), rocks and magma reached continental distances, with volcanic ash of around 15 centimeters settled over Asia and reached as far as our homeland in East Africa.

23 As the temperatures fell and the skies darkened, long nights proceeded and lasted for many years. Food sources then diminished drastically, and from DNA testing we can now indicate that the human population in East Africa was reduced to around 3,000 and 10,000 people (no bigger than a population of a small town). It is from this small bunch of survivors that all of 7 billion people on Earth today are descended.

24 There’s a football stadium in Brazil, Zerão, that have a midfield line that lies straight bang in the equator. Hence one team defending the north hemisphere the other defending the south.

25 An informal study suggest that ethics books in the library are 25% more likely to be stolen than the average library book. Oh the irony.

26 Good deeds or gestures always pay off eventually. And to make this point across, let’s talk about what happened in North Korea. On 17 March 2009 two American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling crossed from China to North Korea without a visa, and were immediately detained for illegal entry and for spying, and sentenced to 12 years of hard labour. It was during the Obama presidency, with Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State, but the person who went to North Korea on a diplomatic mission to release the two journalists was the former US president Bill Clinton. Why Bill Clinton, and why was he able to successfully release the two journalists? Because when Kim Il-sung died on July 1994 the first country leader to call Kim Jong-il for condolences was US president Bill Clinton. That simple gesture mark a good impression on Kim Jong-il, and ever since then the North Korean president have always wanted to meet Bill Clinton in person. And 15 years later, they finally met.

27 According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2.4 billion people in the world lack access to basic toilet, while 1 billion of them can’t even “do their business” in private. Moreover, in many places in the world building a flushing toilet is nearly impossible due to lack of water sources, while some have too much water that it is difficult to prevent overflowing. So how to solve this problem? Enter Loowatt, with their water-less toilet.

28 The flags of Palestine, UAE, Kuwait, Sudan, and Jordan are identical because they were derived from the flag of the Arab revolt, which was supported by the British to fight against the Ottoman Empire in World War 1. The flag was designed by Sir Mark Sykes (yes, of the Sykes-Picot 1916 agreement that tears apart the Middle East until this day).

29 Stalin, Hitler and Mao are all history buffs. Hitler’s Holocaust was inspired by the killings of Armenians by the Ottomans. Stalin’s brutal genocide was inspired by his Russian hero Ivan the Terrible. And Mao’s genocide was inspired by the First Emperor. This reminds me of a quote by Jim Rohn that said “if you let your learning lead to knowledge, you become a fool. If you let your learning lead to action, you become wealthy”, but, yeah, these are probably the worst examples for the quote.

30 Hitler and the Nazi always talk about the Third Reich. But do you know what the First and Second Reich were? It’s the Holy Roman Empire (First Reich) and the German Empire (Second Reich), with Reich being a German word for empire.

31 Hitler had an unofficial British girlfriend, besides his official one Eva Braun. Her name was Unity Valkyrie Mitford. That’s right, her middle name became the real inspiration of the name of Nazi’s flying squad.

32 In 1898 Morgan Robertson wrote a book called “Futility, or the Wreck of Titan.” The novel is about an unsinkable ship called The Titan, where one April night was going 22.5 knots when it hit an iceberg and eventually sank in North Atlantic 400 miles from Newfoundland. 14 years later, on one April night, the real-life ship Titanic was going 25 knots when it hit an iceberg and eventually sank in North Atlantic around 400 miles from Newfoundland. Now that’s spooky!

33 the first known homicide committed against a Neanderthal man occurred 430,000 years ago. Who solved the case, and how on earth did they figure it out?

34 All of our lives we see the map with the north at the top. But the reality is there is no sense of direction in the space, and thus there is no actual top or bottom of the earth. In fact the world use maps with north consistently at the top only in the last hundred years, while for much of human history north almost never appeared on top because north is where darkness comes from (the same reason why west rarely put on top because that’s where the sun disappears). Ancient Egyptian put east as the top of the world, because that’s where the sun rises. European Christian maps (called Mappa Mundi) also put east at the top, so that the Garden of Eden and Jerusalem are on top (Christopher Colombus use Mappa Mundi when travelling west to America). Early Islamic maps put south as the top of the world because most the early Islamic cultures resides north of Mecca (thus they would look up (south) towards Mecca). So why almost all modern maps have the north at the top (and unconsciously shape the way we see the world)?

35 The discovery and usage of magnetic compass in Europe 1200-1500s helps to influence people’s understanding of the importance of the north (a compass points at magnetic north). But it was not until the 16th century when north began to really secure its position, thanks to cartographers like Gerardus Mercator, Henricus Martellus Germanus, and Martin Waldseemuller, who were obsessed with 2nd century cartographer Ptolemy (who, for reasons that have been lost in history, put the north at the top). It is important to point out the fact that these cartographers were Europeans, the rulers of the world during the beginning of what becomes the age of colonialism. And by putting them above the geographic locations of their colonial subjects, the north-facing map projects power for the rulers.

36 NEWS isn’t short for North East West South after all. It stands for Notable Events, Weather and Sports.

37 1 + 1 = 2 is the simplest calculation possible. But Mathematicians Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell actually wrote a 379 pages-long paper to prove that one plus one equals two. Sometimes we take the simple things for granted eh?

38 Ever wondered why pirates wore eye patches? When we close one eye and use the other eye to see in a well-lit area, once we entered a dark area the previously closed eye can immediately see in the dark. Ok that’s another reason why they’re cool.

39 This year we witnessed another dark side of humanity in the Rohingya massacre. And once again if we trace back on the root cause of the conflict, the problem occurred after the British left, just like in Palestine and Kashmir. During the colonial times British occupation spans across the Indian subcontinent and through Burma, thus blurring the border between Burma and neighbouring India (which became East Pakistan after independence, and eventually turned into present-day Bangladesh). Now, like in any British colony such as India and Malaya, the Brits like to send Bengali people to do some hard labour in their colonies, including in Burma. In Burma, those Bengali people were given a place to settle (just like the British allowed Jews to settle in Palestine) in an area named Rakhine, which was turned into a Special Region. When independence come for Burma, the Rakhine state which sat at the border between Bangladesh and Burma was included in the newly independent country, even though the British had promised to let Rakhine have their referendum for independence (just like what happened with Kashmir). But that didn’t happen, and the Bengali people there over time became known as the Rohingyas.

40 Unlike other ethnic group in the country, however, from the beginning the Rohingyas weren’t given equal rights (in fact no rights at all), and like the Palestinians in Gaza the government is ensuring that these people remain insufficient of food, weakened, have no access to weaponry, and prevented to create any organisation or gatherings (all of this is to prevent an uprising against the government). The Rohingyas are Muslims in a country where Buddhism is a majority religion, but don’t quickly judge this massacre as motivated by religion because Burmese Muslims elsewhere in the country are still free to practice their religion and celebrate their festivals. So this is more of an ethnic cleasing rather than religious war.

41 The hate speeches by “Buddhist Bin Laden” Wirathu certainly didn’t help, and blurred the reality (Wirathu is using the false myth that when settling in Rakhine the Bengali slaughtered the local Buddhists, and so now he is calling all Burmese to seek revenge). But then again, Wirathu is a political ally of the military Junta leader Thein Sein, who has an agenda in the oil-rich Rakhine state and want the people above it moved. And although I regret Aung San Suu Kyi’s behaviour and reaction towards the Rohingya crisis, remember that she became the de facto leader of Myanmar only after striking a deal with the military junta. Hence, It won’t be surprising if her hands are tied from the beginning. But what I truly don’t understand are these 2 points: 1. Aung San Suu Kyi is actually justifying the slaughter of the Rohingya with the reason that they’re not really Burmese, but Bengali. As if slaughtering a Burmese is a big sin, but not if they’re Bengali. And 2. I’m also baffled by how big brother China is handling this situation. China to Rohingya crisis is like the US on Israeli issues, they kept on vetoing any plans to interfere the crisis, even blocking the sending of AID to the victims. What could possibly be their motive, what are they trying to protect or hide?

42 The 1st city to install an artificial light was Paris. In 1318 they hung the 1st public lamp (a candlelit lantern) at the Grand Châtelet. And in 1667 under the reign of Louis XIV (the Sun King) they install the candles (and sometimes oil) on a large scale.

43 The Beatles’ song “Let It Be” was inspired by a dream Paul McCartney had when the relationship of the Beatles was in a turbulent time and on a verge of breaking up. In the dream, when Paul finds himself in times of trouble, he met his mother (whose name was Mary) and she said don’t worry too much, there will be an answer, it’ll turn out ok.

44 Now boys and girls, let’s learn about weird animal sex facts: male crocodile have a permanent erection inside their cloaca. Female kangaroos have 3 vaginas. Sheep have a high rate of homosexuality, where about 10% of rams prefer to mate with other rams. Hens can eject up to 80% unwanted sperms. Once a year male porcupines urinate on the female to stimulate her, the mating itself however only last few seconds though. Duck’s penis shaped like a corkscrew and the female genital spiral the opposite direction, not rarely though the male rape the female. And flatworms have both male and female sexual organs, and the way they consummate is through “fencing”, with a dagger-like sexual organ they duel in slow motion until a “hit” is scored, with the loser impregnated (I can sense my missus is now thinking, what a brilliant concept!)

45 Do you know who is the happiest man in the world? I know who you’re thinking about and it’s not him (R.I.P Hugh Hefner this year), but it’s officially Matthieu Ricard. He’s a French Buddhist monk who is also a molecular geneticist. He earned this title based on neuro-scientific experiments that showed exceptional gamma-wave levels in his brain.

46 If ever there was a world war 3, the closest we got was 27 October 1962. It was during the Cuban Missile Crisis and we were 2 minutes away from the war to break out, but when the Soviet instructed the officer to drop nuclear bomb on America, the officer in charge Vasili Arkhipov refused to comply, and thus narrowly avoided the all out war.

47 The state of Virginia is named after the virgin queen of England Elizabeth I. The name was given by Sir Walter Rileigh. Meanwhile, the Victoria falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia is named after queen Victoria of England. Well, actually there are a lot of places named after her majesty, such as the State of Victoria (Australia), lake Victoria (Kenya), another lake Victoria (Tanzania), dude seriously another lake Victoria (Uganda), Victoria peak (Belize), mount Victoria (Auckland, New Zealand), another mount Victoria (Wellington, New Zealand), again mount Victoria (Burma), oh don’t tell me yes it’s another mount Victoria (Papua New Guinea). Not to mention all the Victoria parks, bridges, hospitals, universities, reservoirs, streets, etc spread around the world. And oh, there’s a town called Victoria, get this, in the state of Virginia!

48 The term “jet lag” was first used by travel writer Horace Sutton in his piece in 1966, which said “If you’re going to be a member of the Jet Set and fly off to Kathmandu for coffee with King Mahendra, you can count on contracting Jet Lag, a debility not unakin to a hangover. Jet Lag derives from the simple fact that jets travel so fast they leave your body rhythms behind.”

49 Encyclopedia was first written in the 7th century by the Chinese, but only really gain importance during the Islamic Golden Age, which was inspired by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who said “seek knowledge, even from China.” The first true encyclopedia was collected in the 9th century by a Persian scholar Ibn Qutaybah, which consist of 10 books on power, war, nobility, character, learning and eloquence, asceticism, friendship, prayers, food, and women. A century later another Persian scholar al-Khwarizmi completed the set with jurisprudence, scholastic philosophy, grammar, secretarial duties, prosody and poetic art, history, philosophy, logic, medicine, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, mechanics and alchemy.

50 The United States of America had one more founding father, but he was erased from history. His name was Gouverneur Morris, and his signature is in the Articles of Confederation. The reason that he’s ignored by history is because he opposed the provision that despite the Declaration of Independent affirm that all men are created equal, each slave was worth only three-fifths of a person. He also tried to abolish slavery in the State of New York, but failed.

51 “Wiki” means quick in Hawaiian language. So, yes, the pedia. And yes that too, the leaks.

52 The founder of culinary journalism, Grimod de La Reynière, the grand master of pen and spoon, was born with no hands. He cooked, ate, and wrote with hooks. That shows that once you have the passion, nothing is stopping you.

53 Muslims consider dogs to be haram, forbidden. But did you know that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) adored dogs, that early Muslims use dogs as the guardian for their goats, and dogs were loved until about 200 years ago? The Quran mention dogs few times in a good way, for example Al-Kahf 18:18 describe dogs as guards and Al-Maida 5:4 describe the animal as hunters, and there is actually no single verse in the sacred text where Allah mention that dogs are dirty animals causing contamination and that dogs are prohibited to be kept as pets. Some point out at Hadiths (such as Malik’s Muwatta, Book 54, Number 54.5.13) for the source of forbidding dogs, but their authenticity remain questionable and The Quran have an answer for them in At-Tahrim 66:1, Al-Anam 6:114 and Al-Maida 5:92. So what really make Muslims trying to avoid dogs so much today? The early Muslim civilisation grew very rapidly, so much so some of the first megacities in the world were built by Muslim civilisation, Istanbul, Baghdad, Damascus, Cordoba, etc. And during those rapid expansion dogs were used as the cleaners to eat the city’s garbage. But as medicine advances, so did people’s understanding of germs and bacteria. And to get rid of the source of germs and bacteria they began to move the garbage out of the city, and dogs came along with it and started to being perceived as the carrier of germs and bacteria. This made Muslim leaders at the time started to ban dogs, using fatwas. So ever since then dogs were seen as haram (thus justifying the many debatable Hadiths) even though things have dramatically changed in the cleanliness of the canine today.

54 This reminds me of the famous “5 monkeys experiment” conducted a while ago: so a group of experimenters put 5 monkeys in a cage, with only a basket of bananas at the top of a ladder. Seeing the bananas the monkeys naturally climb the ladder to get them, but every time any one of them tries they will all be sprayed with cold water. After a few times getting sprayed, they all get the message and won’t climb the ladder anymore. The experimenters then take 1 monkey out and replace it with a new monkey. And when seeing the basket of bananas the new monkey naturally would want to climb and get it, but before it can climb the other 4 monkeys immediately pull it back because they don’t want to get sprayed by cold water. The experimenters eventually replace the original 5 monkeys one by one (with every new monkey tempted to get the banana but always pulled back by the others) until the 5 monkeys in the room are all new. These 5 new monkeys never get sprayed by cold water, but they all comply on never climbing the ladder and getting the basket of banana, without really knowing why. This, in essence, is how an outdated wisdom remains in place, without us knowing why it was there to begin with, and just being automatically applied in daily life without question despite the fact that it is no longer relevant.

55 2 PM is the latest time sleep experts recommend us to consume caffeine.

56 When Tylenol manufacturer changed its packaging from bottles to blister packs, suicide deaths from tylenol overdoses declined by 43%. The quantity in the package is still the same, but those who want to consume 50 pills will have to work a little bit more and push them out one by one from the blister pack instead of dump them all out straight from a bottle. That, essentially, is the gist of the 20 second rule: to change a habit, an intention, or a behaviour, just make it 20 second harder to reach / do / make.

57 Amelia Earhart was on a round-the-world flight when she mysteriously vanished in July 1937, with her body and plane never found. But now a photo believed to be taken in the same year 1937 shows a woman who closely resembles Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, in a dock in Marshall islands. The investigation then took an odd twist involving a capture by the Japanese, and it is worth reading the entire piece.

58 The capital city of Liberia, Monrovia, is named in 1821 after US president at the time, James Monroe. The piece of land that to become Liberia was bought by the American Colonization Society. Harvard created their constitution, Washington elected their government, and they even created the country’s flag with design created similar like the American flag (but with only 1 star instead of 50). And the citizens? They were the slaves that had been expelled from Southern Plantations, and they and their descendants have since controlled the tiny nation.

59 Speaking of tiny nations. There’s a proposal to create a new nation Asgardia. The thing is, the new proposed nation is in outer space, and would be free of the control from any existing nation! The idea is proposed by Igor Ashurbeyli, the founder of the Aerospace International Research Centre and Chairman of UNESCO’s Science of Space Committee (so, not a nutjob) (we’ll worst case scenario he’s a CREDIBLE nutjob). As we speak, there are 270 thousands applicants who want to live in Asgardia.

60 And speaking of things free from government control, we need to talk about Bitcoin. It took Bitcoin price 1789 days to rise from $0 to $1000, which was roughly the price at the start of 2017. And then it started to take off. Between January and October the price rise from $1000 to $5000, it took 13 days to rise $6000-7000 in October, 14 days $7000-8000, 9 days $8000-9000, 2 days $9000-10,000, less than 1 day $10,000-11,000, 6 days $11,000-12,000, a whopping 17 hours $12,000-13,000, 4 hours $13,000-14,000, 10 hours $14,000-15,000, 5 hours $15,000-16,000 and as I write this, the price is hovering around $17,000 with everybody in the media and mom and pops are all talking about it. If this is 1929 shoeshine boys would probably give “hot tips” on Bitcoin as well. Oh if only Hal Finney (A.K.A my best bet on who Satoshi Sakamoto is) is still alive to see this.

61 Now some observers point out the signs of a bubble in this insane Bitcoin rally, and from any bubble checklist it’s not hard to see that we’re in the “mania” stage of the bubble. However, although any mania always end up in a crash, any crash needs to have its trigger(s). The billion dollar question is, can we see the potential triggers for Bitcoin crash? In 2014 venture capitalist Marc Adreessen (one of the early titans in Bitcoin world) argued that Bitcoin most closely resembles the early commercial internet. The boom of the internet caused a dot.com bubble with any half-baked internet companies rise in astronomical values (the same manner as ANY crypto currency today, even the most ridiculous ones like CryptoKitties, Dogecoin and Okoin), which the bubble eventually burst and wiped out a lot of the dot.com companies. However, the function of the internet remain solid after the crash, and those who truly serve a vital innovation now become the giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple.

62 So perhaps this in not like the Dutch tulipomania of 1630s afterall, where tulip prices rise astronomically based on pure speculations. Instead, Bitcoin has emerged as the thing of the future, particularly the blockchain technology, and the utopian idea of a universal currency that would make John Maynard Keynes proud. And although a crash is inevitable it won’t wipe out crypto currency alltogether, because just like the commercial internet, and other peer-to-peer concept like Uber and AirBnb, blockchain technology and its crypto currency will be the thing in the future. But still, all we need is the trigger and the current bubble is ready to burst. The real question then becomes, how protected are you when the [healthy] crash comes? Anyway, these are the questions you need to ask before investing in crypto currency, these are some of the potential risks, and this sums up your friend who just bought their first Bitcoin.

63 Take a guess, where did chocolate milk first invented in? No not Switzerland, Belgium is also a good guess but still wrong, not the Ivory Coast either, the no 1 producer of cocoa. It was first invented in Jamaica. Yes, chocolate milk was invented in Jamaica by Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish botanist who spent some time in the island in the 1700s. One day local Jamaicans gave him cocoa to drink which made him nauseous, that is, until he decide to mix them with milk. Eureka!

64 The difference between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians initially was a difference in politics between Latin-speaking Western Rome and Greek-speaking Eastern Constantinople.

65 The name Byzantine was actually first appeared in the 16th century after the empire was long gone, when a German historian described the Eastern part of Roman Empire as “Byzantine.” Hence, the people who lived within its 1123 years of rule never claim to live in a place called Byzantine.

66 The founder of jazz is a mysterious man named Buddy Bolden. His life story is insane, quite literally, and very tragic. Nobody tells the story better than Eduardo Galeano: “It was 1906. People were coming and going as usual along Perdido Street in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans. A five-year-old child peeking out the window watched that boring sameness with open eyes and very open ears, as if he expected something to happen. It happened. Music exploded from the corner and filled the street. A man was blowing his cornet straight up to the sky and around him a crowd clapped in time and sang and danced. And Louis Armstrong, the boy in the window, swayed back and forth with such enthusiasm he nearly fell out. A few days later, the man with the cornet entered an insane asylum. They locked him up in the Negro section. That was the only time his name, Buddy Bolden, appeared in the newspapers. He died a quarter of a century later in the same asylum, and the papers did not notice. But his music, never written down or recorded, played on inside the people who had delighted in it at parties or at funerals. According to those in the know, that phantom was the founder of jazz.”

67 The origins of the nickname of London’s clock tower “Big Ben” is still debatable until today. Some suggest that it is named after sir Benjamin Hall, who supervise the installation of the clock tower, while other argue that it is named after English heavyweight boxing champion Benjamin Caunt.

68 In other news, there’s an exact replica of the Big Ben in Kolkata, India. It is officially named “Kolkata Time Zone”, and it is 135 ft. tall, with an additional 80 ft. of concrete piling below ground zero. This is much shorter than London’s Big Ben, which is 315 ft. tall (nope, I’m not going to do a racial dick joke).

69 There’s a house in Nunukan, North Kalimantan, Indonesia, that is built snap bang in the middle of the Indonesia-Malaysia border. Their living room is in Indonesia, while their kitchen is in Malaysia.

70 Wanker of the year: Harvey Weinstein is definitely a class-A wanker but he’s not my wanker of the year. And with all the unbelievable shit Trump has done since becoming a president you would think that he’s got to be the biggest wanker this year. But he’s not. My wanker of the year is closer to home and you’d probably never heard of his name, in fact not all Indonesians realize who he is and what he’s done. But since Indonesia in practice rarely protect free speech, and since this person is powerful and Indonesian law can criminalize what we write on the web, I won’t mention his name.

71 But let me tell you what this wanker has done. Bear with me, because this is going to be the longest post I’ve written in 100 things so far. Religion is sacred, while politics is inherently dirty. And in Indonesia where general education level is still low, religion becomes the sole guiding principle in life for a good majority of the population, which is fine when unexploited. But this reality also means that religious leaders have a unique access to the masses as some kind of guidance counselors, that can almost dictates them on what to choose or what not to do. This wanker saw this as the perfect opportunity, control the religious leaders = control the masses. So, on behalf of the political godfather who hires him, he began to mastermind (behind the scene) the massive campaign of reaching out to the many community-level religious leaders (through bribes, perks and other dodgy deals), to achieve 1 goal: for the godfather’s proxy to win a regional election, by beating the very popular incumbent (70% approval ratings). That’s right, this wanker’s job is like Alastair Campbell or the fictional Olivia Pope.

72 What proceeded after this was the dirtiest exploitation of sacred religion I’ve ever seen, for political gain. They use sacred text from the Holy Book to justify voting against the incumbent (who has a different religion), which was spread by the bribed leaders across a lot of House of Worships. The incumbent, to his fault, catch the bait and gave a speech that said don’t get fooled by those who use the [specific text] to NOT vote for me (and instead, vote for anyone you think can work well). The wanker saw this as a brilliant opportunity and he organised several massive protest rallies (via his already-established network of religious leaders and their masses) to pressure the law authorities to criminalize the incumbent on the grounds of religion blasphemy, and turned the incumbent’s “blasphemy” into a justification to spread MORE religious doctrines to vote only for fellow-worshipers and not the guy who taint their religion.

73 The rallies and constant doctrine in House of Worships successfully tarnished the incumbent’s image, and because the wanker ultimately use the “service” of a leader of the most radical religious organisation (a recidivist criminal with big extreme followers, the best money can buy) as the face of the protest, this campaign essentially broke the whole nation into 2 sides: those who know the truth and unaffected by the nasty doctrines, versus the suddenly awakened religious fundamentalists (sometimes the opposing sides are within the same family, social circles, work environments, etc). And the fights were nasty, and still very sensitive until this day.

74 The result? The approval ratings of the incumbent drops to merely 42% and he lost the election, while the pandora’s box of hardliners Muslims have now been opened. Moreover, all the good system that the incumbent puts to ensure clean, transparent and efficient governance was stripped down, all the places he cleaned up are now back in the hands of the mafias (they even officially get paid now), the budget has exponentially bloated with blurry details, and this is only just the 1st month. And oh, the once-very-popular incumbent (the winner of governor of the year award, and best city award) is now in jail, for blasphemy.

75 Now that the floodgate of hardliner Muslims have been opened, a lot of instant “scholars” (claiming to be ulama, without a formal training) suddenly pop up everywhere, spreading radical messages to the indoctrinated masses, shifting the country dangerously away from the tolerance that once made Indonesia the model Muslim country. Some analysts even say that if the government lost in fighting this spread of radicalism, in few years Indonesia will have the same problems as Pakistan. Meanwhile, in his inauguration speech the proxy talked about how people from “local race” are now free from colonialism (the incumbent is from a minority race), which re-ignite another fights between the 2 sides. But perhaps the worst of all is the fact that this wanker is still employed by the godfather, for the next bigger stage: the godfather’s own ambition in presidential election 2019. And the current president (who is up for a re-election) has an approval ratings of 68%. I’m afraid we’ve seen nothing yet.

76 “Money” is named after the Roman god Juno Moneta, in whose temple coins were minted.

77 A name of a country is only derived from 1 of 4 types: 1. A directional description of the country 2. A feature of the land 3. A name of a tribe 4. An important person, most likely a man. For example: Norway means “Northern Way”. Australia got its name from a Ancient Greek theory of a southern island, Terra Australis Incognita (Unknown Southern Land). France got its name from a Frankish tribe. Montenegro (or black mountain in English) named after, you guess it, a black mountain. Philippines named after king Philip II. Bolivia after Simon Bolivar.

78 Us humans discovered sugar way early in history, in around 8000 BC, in today’s New Guinea. The local mythology said that sugar was first accidentally produced after a man have sex with a stalk of a sugarcane. I know what you’re thinking: the thing accidentally produced, are you sure that’s sugar?

79 Who’s the richest person in the world? Jeff Bezos temporarily became the richest on August for only a few hours before Bill Gates overtook him. But 1 fund manager argues that the richest person has twice the wealth of Bill Gates. Can u guess who? it’s Vladimir Putin with $200bn. This is his argument.

80 Leonardo da Vinci was the ultimate Renaissance man that can do it all. He invented the first submarine, the first sketch of helicopter, the parachute, the deep-sea diving suit. He produced accurate cartographies, the anatomy of human body. He made a lot of progress in math, geometry, engineering, and many other area of interests. He painted the Mona Lisa, and the male Mona Lisa, among others. And he was a damn fine wedding planner. Wait, what? Indeed, between 1489 and 1493 Leonardo from Vinci was a wedding planner, and this is the impressive story.

81 Now let’s learn how to count to 10 in Latin: 1. Unus 2. Duo 3. Tres 4. Quattuor 5. Quinque 6. Sex 7. Septem 8. Octo 9. Novem 10. Decem. Notice anything familiar? Yes the month September used to be the 7th month, align with its Latin numeral prefix of Septem (7th), the months of OCTOber (8th), NOVEMber (9th) and DECEMber (10th), also have their names aligned with their Latin numeral prefix. But when Roman leaders Julius Caecar and Augustus came into power, they added the month of July (for Julius) and August (for Augustus) in the middle of the calendar (during the nicest weather of the year), and screwing up the numbering in the calendar. Holy crap, as an OCD this revelation really bugs me.

82 A long time ago Echo was a nymph, a beautiful creature who can speak with such grace. But then one day the jealous goddess Hera cursed her, and Echo was deprived of her own voice, and since then forever can only repeat what others are saying.

83 There’s an interesting concept called Antipode. It is a point in earth’s surface that is diametrically the opposite to another point, where if we draw a straight line connecting the two points the line would pass through the earth’s centre. For example I live in Jakarta, the antipode location is Encino, Colombia. Find your Antipode point here: www.antipodesmap.com

84 Have you ever travelled carrying a heavy luggage and thought for a second who had the idea to put wheels in this heavy thing? Well, you can thank Robert Plath, a Northwest Airlines Pilot, who invented wheels on luggage on 1987.

85 The epic of the Wild West, complete with the cowboy stories, and train robberies, etc is actually a fiction. The whole story was originally the invention of a handful of Eastern European immigrants with a keep eye for business: The Warner Brothers, Carl Laemmle, Adolph Zukor, William Fox, and Louis B. Mayer all cooked up this most renown myth in the studios of Hollywood. Again, I can’t stress this enough, never ever learn history from Hollywood movies.

86 The first ever recorded diamond engagement ring was the one given by Archduke Maximilian of Austria to Mary of Burgundy, in the year 1477. On an unrelated fact, the most expensive price for a diamond (nay, for a jewel) ever paid was $71.2 million, for a 59.60 carat “pink star” diamond, sold in Hong Kong on April this year.

87 Book of the year: First, let me quickly describe how I usually screen the books I eventually read: 1. I normally get a book recommendation from trusted reviews/ from the author of a good book/ Amazon recommendation/ recommended by a friend/ approached by the author itself and the abstract looks interesting 2. Then I further research about the book, by reading the reviews on Amazon (the 5 stars and the 1 stars) and other media reviews to get the general feeling about the book 3. If I’m convinced, I’ll either put it in the wishlist (to buy it later when the price drops – yes I buy books like I buy stocks, and if you’re patient enough the prices in Amazon fluctuates) or I immediately buy it if the momentum is urgent to read the book now, like when I bought Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper right before I jump into the Bitcoin rally.

88 With this screening process I almost end up reading only the best of the best books, with this year in particular the threshold keeps getting higher (every time I thought this got to be the best book I’ll read this year, boom!, the next book I read is even better, and the next, and the next after that). Now, thanks to Kindle I am reading books twice the rate of my normal speed, and this year I have managed to complete my 1 year goal of “do a Mark Zuckerberg”, on October. My aim is to eventually “do a Bill Gates” in the next 3 years, with the ultimate aim of “do an Elon Musk” on reading books in the future.

89 Anyway, among the best “Zuckerberg” amount of books I read this year (not necessarily a new book), Hedge Fund Market Wizards by Jack D. Schwager, and University of Berkshire Hathaway by Daniel Pecaut and Corey Wrenn stand out as the best finance books. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance and the Everything Store by Brad Stone are the best biographies I read this year. Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker, The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday, Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie are the best self-development books. Moreover, Warren Buffett said that if we want to fully understand something we need to read at least 20 books on it, and so every year I usually read 1 book on Islam. This year I read 3, and they’re all really good, covering 3 different angles on the religion: Lost Islamic History by Firas Alkhateeb, A World Without Islam by Graham E. Fuller, and Misquoting Muhammad by Jonathan A. C. Brown. All of these books are phenomenally great at their own categories, but I guess my book of the year should be the most influential one: Stoicism is the best thing I learned this year, and thus The Daily Stoic would be a prime candidate for book of the year. But to be fair, I first learn about stoicism from Barking Up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker, and I learn a whole lot of other things from this book, as well as leading me to read more phenomenal books like Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris and indeed The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. So book of the year is Barking Up the Wrong Tree. This is my review of the book.

90 Fish tends to travel around in a group with fishes that look like them, i.e. the same species, size and age. This is because if they all look alike, a predator would not be able to differentiate and pick them out of the group. This is, in effect, a form of safety by number.

91 Two-thirds of Earth’s surface is covered by water. But 97% of them is salty, while only 3% is fresh water, the kind of water that can be used to drink, wash, produce food and make things. Out of the 3% fresh water, about two-third is locked in ice caps, glaciers and permafrost, leaving only less than 1% of the Earth’s water easily accessible in rivers, lakes or aquifers. This means that useful fresh water is scarce to begin with, and with the rise of global warming it is going to be much harder to find, while human population keep growing – potentially the next source of crisis and conflict.

92 Urdu has an interesting story of origins. It is a language commonly spoken among India’s Muslims, which comprise of a mix of Arabic, Persian, Turkic and Indian influences. This is because the language is formed by these 4 intermingled languages in a Turkic Ordu (meaning army) camp. This reminds me of a question I read a long time ago: if two healthy babies got stranded in an island with sufficient food and water, will they eventually create a new language as they grow up together? Some dude in Quora said yes. Yes they will.

93 According to historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, Jesus of Nazareth was a student of the Jewish Prophets, where his every act was a conscious fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel and others. When Jesus was crucified at the age of 33 (I thought He died older than that, and now I feel old) He left no writings behind, and after He died the Christians kept praying at the Jewish Temple, that is until in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the Temple. Interestingly, Jesus saw himself as a Jew and not the founder of a new religion. The Gospels were in fact written around 40 years after he died, and it was actually Saul of Tarsus (who became Saint Paul) who made Christianity a world religion.

94 Aldous Huxley, the writer of the dystopian novel Brave New World, died just few hours after JFK was assassinated. The most interesting part was, just before he died (on his death bed) Huxley asked his wife to inject him with LSD. That’s right, Aldous Huxley died tripping.

95 Person of the year: I agree with Time’s Person of the Year, it’s the brave women who come forward on the sexual misconducts #MeToo. How convenient it is, by the way, for the sexual perverts to get away that easily by just resigning or getting fired from their jobs, without having to face legal consequences for their offences?

96 The symbol “#” was originally called the pound sign, a name derived from Roman term libra pondo, which in the year 1600 was used as a measure of weight. The # sign then evolved into a bookkeeper’s tool as a short symbol for number (as in #2 pencil = number 2 pencil) which began to appear in 1850, then evolved into a programming language in the 1970s, a symbol for channels on Internet chats (ICQ and IRC) in 1991, and on 23 August 2007 an IRC veteran Chris Messina send a tweet suggesting the “#” sign as a grouping for a subject matter, in which 2 days later Stowe Boyd joined up and coined the term “hashtag”, a British word for the symbol. On 20 October 2007 web developer Nate Ritter (a friend of Chris Messina) started to use hashtags to spread news about a wildfire in San Diego and was followed by journalists and media, and then in 2009 Twitter finally introduces a tool that automates hashtag searching. It is not until 2010, however, that hashtags was truly booming, when Instagram was launched and use the # function to another level, and in 2011 when people use hashtags like #Jan25 in Twitter for news of the Arab Spring.

97 The inventor of the IQ test is a guy named Alfred Binet. According to him an IQ of 120 is the threshold for someone to make something groundbreaking, and an IQ after 120 does not make any more difference than an IQ of 180. What matters after 120 is the hours we put to do the hard work. Interestingly, India has more citizens with IQ over 120 that the entire population of the US.

98 Human body parts are actually designed for us to be herbivores, not carnivores. The type of jaw, the length of intestine and the level of acid in the stomach are designed for plants, just like the body parts of our closest cousin, the monkeys. That’s why consuming plant-based diet can cure a lot of diseases like diabetes, heart problem, cancer, auto-immune, etc or at least improve our health just after 2 weeks. The facts that we need meat for protein, the common saying of egg is a healthy breakfast and milk gives calcium, they are all misleading taglines instilled in our minds by the food corporations. So, they might be smug, but vegans are actually on the right diet path. (Ok now I want to eat big juicy steak, what is wrong with me).

99 Before I wrap things up, I want to share the top 3 lessons I’ve learned this year, all of which get into the list of my guiding principles (oh yeah I have a list, I’ll share it with you someday). Anyway, these are the simplified lessons: 1. One of the tools of success is being able to measure risk/reward well, and having the strategies to minimise the risk 2. Get rid of the things that don’t matter, so that you can focus your time and energy on the things that do 3. Anything that happens to you has a relative effect, it all depends on how you perceive it. So instead of dwelling on the things that are beyond your reach, focus on what you can control, and that’s including your perceptions.

100 And so, risk taker or risk averse, vegan or meat eater, high IQ or low IQ, whether or not your name is Nguyen, still drinking coffee after 2 PM, dog lovers, chocolate milk drinkers, hashtags users, ethics books stealers, everybody, just everybody, I wish you all the very best year ahead!

Israel’s puppet

According to UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, Jerusalem was to be an international area managed under UN supervision, due to the Holy Sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Israeli government, however, is very clear about claiming Jerusalem as their capital city: today Israel’s PM office, the parliament, the high courts, and most government ministries reside in [west] Jerusalem.

But UN General Assembly Resolution 478 make it clear that Israeli occupation on east Jerusalem (officially owned by Jordan) after the 1967 war is illegal, and thus Jerusalem cannot be their capital city. Hence, the embassies of other countries are all in Tel Aviv, the de jure capital city.

Then, enter Donald Trump. The US president has just announced that he is going to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, potentially igniting yet another Trump fire in the world.

Previously, in 1995 US Congress passed a law to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by 1999, but provided a 6 month waiver that can be constantly renewed, which every single president has renewed ever since, including Trump himself on June 2017. So what’s the difference now? Why on earth would he do the thing that analysts say as a political suicide with no upside?

The most immediate answer is Trump is appealing to his base of evangelicals and pro-Israel American Jews. But there’s more to it. Just few days ago former national security adviser Michael Flynn confirmed that Donald Trump’s inner circle colluded with a foreign government before entering power. The twist was, it was not Russia as everyone had expected (not directly anyway), but Israel. This did not cause an uproar as it should, because it’s Israel, the little brother. But this move to Jerusalem is the direct result of this illegal collusion.

Trump knows that moving the US embassy to Jerusalem will practically put a death sentence on the “peace process”, at the loss of the Palestinians and at a huge gain for the Israeli government. And that’s the whole point. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never gives a shit about the two-state solution, he keeps on building illegal settlements in east Jerusalem (some of which were indirectly funded by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner) while “trying to negotiate” with the Palestinians, and now he seems to be enjoying his return on investment on Trump.

It is a sign of a demise when the empire that used to have “friendly dictators” across the globe to protect their interests, now have a leader who himself is a puppet to another state.

 

Further readings:

A Guide to the dispute over Jerusalem and Israel’s capital [Bloomberg QuickTake]

A good long read to understand the big context [Informed Comments / Juan Cole]

An Israeli dream might come true if Trump declares Jerusalem the capital – but so will an Arab nightmare [The Independent / Robert Fisk]

What a US embassy in Jerusalem means to Palestinians [Al Jazeera English / Farah Najjar]

World leaders condemn Trump’s Jerusalem plan [Euronews / Alasdair Sandford]

Netanyahu left without any cards to play [Al Monitor / Akiva Eldar]

The Jerusalem announcement won’t really hurt America’s Arab alliances [The Atlantic / Shadi Hamid]

Is Sheldon Adelson behind Trump’s decision on Jerusalem [+972 Mag / Eli Clifton]

A matter of debate: the sickest, and scariest, reason why Donald Trump is moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, is to cater the end-of-days scenario long dreamed by his far-right followers [Twitter / Diana Butler Bass]

Some facts about Israel that you may not know [Edwin Setiadi]