The case for lost advanced civilisations

“Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth’s Lost Civilization” by Graham Hancock

They say he’s polarising. It’s always best to keep our skepticism intact when reading a book that contains bombastic claims, and this book probably has one of the grandest claims of them all: that there were advanced ancient civilisations before our supposedly “official” beginning roughly 6000 years ago, as agreed by the archeologists. But they’re all vanished due to an apocalypse. Which is an intriguing hypothesis to say the least.

Hence, the rabbit hole that I dug to eventually arrive at this book: Like many others in 2022, I first heard about Graham Hancock from his Netflix documentary, and then I saw that he was interviewed in the Joe Rogan Podcast so I listened to the 6+ hours of rich conversations spread among 2 episodes. Still not fully convinced by what I’ve heard, I then decided to dive deeper into this book, to see what he is talking about.

There’s nothing really new about the narrative that he hasn’t already elaborated in the podcast interviews, or summarised neatly in the Netflix documentary (especially episode 8). But the book does give a more detailed and in-depth explanations, as well as the interpretation of evidences (including several thorough chapters on Egypt that was not covered in the documentary, because he wasn’t given the permission to shoot there). And it is these voluminous explanation that makes reading this book so damn challenging due to the abundance of information that come flooding.

You see, for a long time I found Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero with a Thousand Faces to be the most well-researched and well-written book that is hard to emulate. But here in this book Hancock, just like Campbell, not only found the common themes of the myths and merge them into an insane single narrative, but he also takes the similarities into a more investigative mode and turned the stories somewhat into historical records.

At the core of Hancock’s argument is this hypothesis: like I said above, there once exist lost ancient civilisations that have advanced technology, living during the Ice Age. But then they all quite abruptly disappeared due to the end of the Ice Age that saw melting ice became floods. As Hancock remarks, “[h]ow different the world was during the ice age. The sahara desert was green. The amazon jungle lies under a deep canopy. 400 feet sea level rise at the end of ice age, the prime real estate 27 million square km were submerged.”

The floods were all actually told in the many mythology and religion around the world, from the flood of Noah in the Bible, to the story in Hindu scripture, to South American mythology, to Greek tragedy. Hancock believes that myths are not necessarily created by unsophisticated society trying to understand the world from a primitive point of view, but rather a historical record occurring in many parts of the world that have a similar storyline. To be exact, the apocalyptic event happened on Earth between 12800 and 11600 years ago, when during that 1200 years the Earth was an inhospitable place.

Another core hypothesis of his is the similarities among the records kept by ancient civilisations about the story that wise bearded men came to teach them how to re-build a society from scratch after the great disaster. “What is surprising,” Hancock remarks, “is that the myths not only describe shared experiences but that they do so in what appears to be a shared symbolic language. The same ‘literary motifs’ keep cropping up again and again, the same stylistic ‘props’, the same recognizable characters, and the same plots.” Literaly motifs, like the carvings they have in the temples that shows similar stories, such as the serpents from the sky.

What are these serpents? They were what Hancock believes to be the trigger that ended the Ice Age, which caused the melting of the ice and ignited the hell on Earth during what they called the younger dryas period where the Earth was so unstable and natural disaster occurred everywhere. The sky serpents in all ancient myths are the debris of a meteor, that came in the form of thousands of meteor showers into the Earth, whose impacts equivalent to atomic bombs and produced dusts, fire, and flooding, increased the Earth’s temperature and caused the ice to melt.

And thus another of his hypotheses: the many ancient monuments – like the Pyramids in Egypt, the monuments in Maldives, the Stonehenge – that are weirdly perfectly aligned towards the stars, and all that ancient obsession with astronomy. They are simply the ancient civilisations’ way to observe the skies to ensure that they will be more ready if another “serpents” striking down Earth and to also warn future generations.

Curiously, In 600 BC Plato mentioned about the disappearance of Atlantis 9000 years from his time. Which makes it 9600 BC, exactly 11600 years ago at the end of the younger dryas of the Ice Age, a period called meltwater pulse 1B where there were a single biggest rise in overnight sea level.

This is of course a separation from the generally agreed narrative by archeologists, where the academic consensus believe civilisation was first developed in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, in Mesopotamia. According to the “official” consensus, the development began after 4000 BC and culminated in the emergence of the first true civilisations around 3000 BC: Sumer and Egypt, followed by China and the Indus Valley, and civilisation took off spontaneously and independently in the Americas in about 1500 BC.

However, as Hancock shows repeatedly in the book, there are several evidence that refute this narrative – from the Piri Reis Map to Gobekli Tepe – which shows that there were already an advanced technology or advanced understanding of the world way before 4000 BC but all of which are ignored or dismissed by archaeologists simply because they don’t fit with the agreed upon narrative. As Hancock remarks, “[m]ore than 500 deluge legends are known around the world and, in a survey of 86 of these (20 Asiatic, 3 European, 7 African, 46 American and 10 from Australia and the Pacific), the specialist researcher Dr Richard Andree concluded that 62 were entirely independent of the Mesopotamian and Hebrew accounts.”

Naturally, this bold claim does not bode well with the archaeology community, and since 1995 (the publication year of this book) there were many that tried to discredit Hancock. But out of the many counter-argument articles from archaeologists that I’ve read so far – even the most credible ones like Flint Dibble from Cardiff University – none of them have convincingly debunk him.

Because, Hancock structures his arguments through the scientific method. So, at the very least give me a similarly neatly organised evidence on how he is a fraud, and I’ll believe you. But so far I haven’t seen a single counter argument that can manage to do that instead of calling him crazy, or pseudo this pseudo that, or picking just one or two claims and unconvincingly attack them. Like the most credible critic in Scientific American mentioned about his take on Gobekli Tepe, where the article defends archaeologists’ definition that it is a “ceremonial religious site, not a city” but fail to address the fact a civilisation much older than 6000 years can make such a temple and completely ignore Hancock’s finding that Pillar 43 at gobleki teppe leads to a particular date 10,900 – 10,800 BC.

I’m not saying that Hancock is 100% right, nobody knows this for sure because in the end his hypotheses are indeed speculations. But if we spend much time digesting his work, it’s all calculated speculations. He’s asking the right questions, questions that archaeologists refuse to entertain for some reason (and being so defensive about it. He definitely hit some status quo’s nerves). And this book in particular shows very strong arguments with meticulous detail, he keeps referring to data, data, and data. And if all of the findings and arguments in this book turns out to be wrong, then at the very least it has made some big narrative worthy of a Dan Brown novel. But if it’s true, then it can significantly change the course of history and our understanding of our civilisation, not to mention what they are trying to tell us so that we can be more prepared for the future.

At the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast episode 1897, Hancock and Randall Carlson mention about ancient technologies that are way different than ours, such as the technology of sound that was used by the Egyptians to cut and move stones, and that the technologies are being tested by scientists as we speak. But then again, Nikola Tesla once tried to re-create these ancient technologies but he was then quickly suppressed and labelled as crazy. By whom and why, we can only guess.

But according to Carlson this time is different, Mazda is already on board and lending their facilities for the testings, and the white paper of these technologies will be published for the public in February 2023. So, buckle up, a bombastic news might or might not come out very soon.

This is for boys of all ages

“How To Raise A Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men” by Michael Reichert

This one is personal, and I took as much time as needed to slowly digest the lessons in the book. Because my little boy is growing up fast, closer to his tweens now and along with it comes the growing dilemmas of all young teenage boys. So I need to understand more about his inner struggles and feelings and how to best help him and cater to his needs.

This book is a great source of information to learn just that. Written by an applied psychologist Dr. Michael C. Reichert who has studied and worked with children for more than 3 decades. To make his points across, apart from his own expertise in the field, Dr. Reichert also use a tremendous list of books, publications, huge amount of data, and most importantly real life cases of “troubled boys” and the responding approaches to properly solve the problems.

Here are the bottom lines: 1. be the boy’s safety net. Not necessarily to always rushing to rescue him, but to notify him that he is not alone and we will stand with him and provide a shield if necessary. 2. Offer relationship with a strong sense of self, that our relationship with him is their primary fortification, to prevent overcompromise. 3. Encourage emotional expression. 4. Exercise authority. 5. But also promote autonomy.

Now, here are few key messages from the book that I think worth a little elaboration:

Firstly, the vital importance of good communication. Such as listening without judgement or without adding any opinion, to make the boy felt heard and understood. As Dr. Reichert remarks, “[t]here are several rules to get the most out of special time: not giving advice, not dividing attention among other tasks, not talking to others or interrupting the time that’s been promised, and not modifying the activity the boy has chosen, no matter how hard it might be to see its point.” Or simply put, “boys want what everyone wants: to talk with someone who will listen, understand, and care.”

This includes the importance for us to acknowledge their feelings (and not being dismissive), and our reliability in their eyes: “Alone with their own feelings and reactions, children feel frightened and insecure. Research on secure attachments teaches that children who are able to depend on their caregivers are stronger, happier, and more confident.”

Secondly, on shame. The book addresses the brave “face” that boys are putting while having emotional turmoils inside, to hide shame. As Dr. Reichert remarks, “[k]eeping secrets is a normative part of boyhood. But bottling up feelings never works very well, often leaking into behaviour.” Dr. Reichert then added, “feelings of shame can cause a boy to isolate himself in order to still anxious self-criticism.” Again, just like the next two points, establishing a good rapport with the boy and a good communication are the absolute keys.

Thirdly, just like the rest of us, boys are the product of their environment. The many stories told in this book illustrate the behaviour change on them after a traumatic thing happened, whether domestic violence, bad neighbourhood, bullying, or many others, with them unable to properly processed what happened and instead resort to rebelliousness or sinking to a secluded depression. The key problem lies in the way they decide to keep the story and the emotions to themselves. As Dr. Reichert commented, “once the habit of keeping things to himself was established, it took deeper root.”

Fourthly, the pattern of male isolation. As Dr. Reichert remarks, “[t]he pattern of male isolation develops early. Normal feelings of wanting to be close with his mother, for example, become suspect when a boy receives messages that he should be tough, independent, and self-sufficient.” This is a crucial point in a boy’s transition from a young kid to a teenager (those difficult years), where according to psychologist William Pollack, “[t]his painful separation process by which many very young boys are shamed into withdrawing from their mothers more than they naturally want to, and then are only partially nurtured by their fathers, is a devastating disruption in a boy’s emotional life.”

Indeed being a boy is not easy, with all the pressure from society to “man up” or “rough it out” and trying their best not to be seen as a “mama’s boy.” And the book is not easy to read either, as it dived deep into the most chaotic and messy problems that boys have, but that’s exactly what the book is written for, to address all of the issues.

The book then proceeded to cover a lot of topics that expand from these 4 key messages, including popularity contest, romantic relationship, the awkward conversation about sexual desires, body and health, playing sports, drugs and alcohol, self harm, integrity, bullying, how to respond to violence, and so much more, including that delicate situation when our boy is starting to crave for more independence from us.

It’s heartbreaking to read all the struggles that the boys are having in the book, whether those who were successful on turning things around or those who don’t and became a cautionary tale. And to my surprise, I can identify some of those struggles in my own experience. Even today as an adult. I didn’t know this was a problem or that isn’t supposed to be the way we feel, and there’s actually a healthier way to express/solve them.

As Dr. Reichert remarks, “[i]t has surprised me how often, as boys grow into men with deeper voices and bigger muscles, parents forget that they still need care and protection. The myth that a man bears responsibility on his own seeps into relationships with boys as they grow.”

Like I said, this one is personal.

The perfect book to make me understand and appreciate literature more

“The Literature Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained” by DK

This book is the greatest hits of literature, arranged in a chronological order so that we can “feel” the literaly evolution and innovations alongside the social, economics and political environment of their time.

The literature works that are chosen in this book are not necessarily the ultimate must-read ones. But it was chosen due to their influence on society and other subsequent literary works. The fact that this book provides a list of 200+ more books for further reading in the appendix is a testament to this. Nevertheless, you can still find the “greatest hits” list of all the best of the best literatures from across the globe, from many different generations.

The additional context for these body of works are also very insightful, such as the inspirations for their stories, when then use satire, how they use paradox, what type of narration they are using, or the way they organise their chapters, not to mention the main point summaries of some of the biggest stories by legendary authors.

The book also analyses the writing style used by many different era, region, and type of society, which is so interesting to learn about the many different local touches. Perhaps it is like listening to many different types of music, from Baroque classical, to Reggae, to Jazz, in order to understand the many different influences in sound from around the world. Once you understand them all, you could easily spot, for example, an Arabic tune influence in a rock band, the same with different types of historical influences that made up a modern work of literature.

This interestingly shows the common psyche of the era, where the books represent the epitome of what the values and principles that the society adhere to, or conversely for some books they became the main source for the way people think in their respective eras. Moreover, this can also placed literatures in the context of their time, that we can easily predict the era that they came from, for example, from the dark tone of the narrative or the extravagance in the characters.

Indeed, the best literature are the ones who can capture the very essence of their respective era, complete with all the prevailing values, the injustice that people felt, the poverty, the tragedies, or the political uprising. Some emerge as a respond to a new social or political changes, filling the void that people are yearning for. And some even deliberately written as a social and political commentary towards the status quo.

It’s such a pleasant read, especially for me who is just learning to learn to read fiction and literature.

History’s all-stars

“The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time” by Will Durant

Will Durant is considered as one of the greatest historians that has ever lived, a Pulitzer Prize winner for literature in 1967 who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.

This book was published posthumously and contain a somewhat conclusion to his years of covering history: his best list of greatest minds and ideas from the past. Now the list of people here are amazing, but the best part is the reasoning behind his choice of people. The followings are the list, organized under several sub headers.

The 10 greatest thinkers: (1) Confucious over Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha because Confucious is a moral philosopher who is secular by nature but yet can have huge influences even towards nations. (2) Plato and (3) Aristotle, but not Socrates because unlike the half myth Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were real. Both wrote compelling books and had much direct influence towards the Western Society. Plato also created the Academy. (4) St Thomas Aquinas, for becoming the bridge between knowledge and faith. (5) Copernicus, on transforming our understanding of the universe.

(6) Sir Francis Bacon, the voice and symbol of the enlightenment age, who binds all of new knowledge together. (7) Sir Isaac Newton, on his role in science including the theory of gravity. (8) Voltaire, who ignited the age of enlightenment in France and eventually the Western civilisation and mankind. (9) Imannuel Kant, for restoring mind over matter in the days of religious backlash over logic. (10) Charles Darwin, whose work became the turning point of Western civilisation by introducing the theory of evolution.

10 greatest poets: (1) Homer, the pioneer (2) David, the Biblical character which is referred here due to his songs and lyrics expressed in the Old Testament. (3) Euripides, the Greek poet that was the first to tell stories as it is, without censor or propaganda. (4) Lucretius, a Roman poet, the greatest philosopher of Rome. (5) Li Bo, the multitalented Chinese poet with an incredible life story (told in the book).

(6) Dante, whose poem, the Divine Comedy, is among the greatest poems ever written. (7) William Shakespeare, for obvious reasons. But the gem in this book is his antics and shenigans that I have never heard before. That his best, more complex, works were produced after a dark period of time. (8) John Keats, which Durant said that he has left behind poems more perfect than Shakespeare. (9) Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poet with the most controversies. (10) Walt Whitman, the American poet in the revolutionary era, whose work captured perfectly the causes of the common men.

Durant then proceeded to what I think the best part of the book: his take on the best 100 books. He doesn’t list them all in chronological order anymore, but instead guide us through the importance of books and how to read them properly. Durant remarks “let me have 7 hours a week, and I’ll make a scholar and a philosopher out of you,” which is roughly 1 book a week and 52 books a year, broken down into just 1 hour a day. He teaches how to mix the reading list, how to endure a big book and topic, how we should take notes and avoid dwelling too long in a topic that doesn’t interest us, as Durant remarks, “there will be blocks along the line, occasionally you will come to an obscure or lengthy book, a bad upgrade, and all of your strength will need to be subpoenad to your task.” Skip few pages if you will, Durant elaborates, and if you find it irrelevant keep skipping until you find the sentences that speak to you.

It is an honest portrayal of the ups and downs of reading a book, where “you must not expect any material gain from this intimacy with great men.” “Indeed, you will be losing time from your profession or your business.” Moreover, Durant teaches us to read actively not passively, read with the intention of seeking knowledge that can be applied in our lives. If we find something that we disagree with? Read on, as tolerance towards what we disagree with is one mark of a gentleman. Make notes, and classify them.

And the mix of the best books are then mentioned in a manner so fast I swear it could easily get mistaken as a rap lyrics, containing his mashed up random thoughts on history, which is immense and incredible. The mix includes the topic of the latest science, astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, conflicting ideas about science, William James on psychology, read on how religion evolve into philosophy, a lot of Greek thinkers, learning from the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, religion and its political influences in history, and so, so much more.

Durant then continues with the 10 peaks of human progress: (1) Speech. (2) Fire. (3) The conquest of the animals. (4) Agriculture. (5) Social organization. (6) Morality. (7) Tools. (8) Science. (9) Education. (10) Writing and print.

And he concludes the book with 12 vital dates in history. While the majority of the dates are related with the death of an historical figure, it is not to celebrate the death of the person but rather to witness the continuity of their respective influences to the world or the evolution that the death ignited. Here are the dates: (1) 4241 BC: the introduction of the Egyptian calendar. (2) 543 BC: The death of the Buddha. (3) 478 BC: the death of Confucius. (4) 399 BC: the death of Socrates. (5) 44 BC: the death of Caesar. (6) Unknown BC: the birth of christ. (7) 632 AD: the death of Muhammad. (8) 1294: the death of Roger Bacon. (9) 1454: the first printed press by Gutenberg. (10) 1492: Columbus discovered America. (11) 1769: James Watt brings the steam engine to practical utility. (12) 1789: the French revolution.

Oh, that was so amusing to read.

A heartwarming little book

“Kahlil Gibran’s Little Book of Wisdom” by Neil Douglas-Klotz

This is a glimpse of Kahlin Gibran’s work, the gems of his wisdom. Some are one liners, others are more like his deep thoughts, and the rest are delightful short stories. It covers his thoughts from living in solitude to living in a community, from religion to government, from wealth to health. It’s compact enough to be read in one sitting, but impactful enough to inspire us for a long time afterwards.

The thin line between biohacker and broscience

The Bulletproof Diet: Lose Up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life by Dave Asprey

Dave Asprey used to be one of my role models. He got the ultimate stamp of approval from Dr. Mark Hyman, where Dr. Hyman said when he got ill he goes to Dave Asprey and not to another doctor. His wife is also a medical doctor, so it somehow gives him a little bit more credibility. So I began to follow his podcast (when it was still the Bulletproof radio) and I read 2 of his books, Head Strong and Game Changers, which were amazing.

But then Covid came. And his anti-vaccine stance bewildered me, he even opposed the mask mandate and went to his hysterical tantrum of “proving” that he cannot breathe when being forced to wear a mask, that the mask mandate was a “fear porn.” On top of this, he regularly mocks people who believe in Covid, take vaccines, and wear masks. He even teaches his followers how to “hack” covid, which resulted in FTC sending him a letter of warning about his unproven health claims. Needless to say, his credibility was tarnished in my eyes and I was done with him.

And so I thought. Here I am now just finished reading his 3rd book, as I’m looking to read another book on healthy living and biohacking. Well, I can’t think of another person when it comes to biohacking than Asprey, the guy who invented the phrase (scientific credibility or marketing genius?). And it’s available at the Audible Plus Catalog (i.e. free), hence I really had little to lose. So, what can I learn from a person that I have grown to disagree with? As it turns out, a little trip down to nostalgia lane.

The book, written in 2014, provides us with the main argument for Asprey and many biohackers ever since: that inflammation is the cause of nearly all modern diseases. It is filled with many analysis on the “technical details” about food, such as leptin, oxalates, insulin triggers, processed food, trans fat, MSG, fructose, gluten, good fat, GMO, sugar, salt, alcohol and sodas, having good bacteria, omega 3 and 6, list of good foods to eat, list of bad foods, and so much more including a long coverage on vitamins.

Asprey also addresses diet myths that are “wrong”, including caloric counting, everything in moderation, and the image that fruits are healthy. And he discusses the many different diet types and how to do it properly, from keto, to vegan, carnivore, to intermittent fasting, as well as how to cook them without turning them into a “kryptonite.”

Moreover, Asprey also mentions about sleep in the book, that, according to him, sleeping six and a half hours is better than sleeping 8 hours, or even sleeping 20 minutes every 4 hours (instead of the “conventional” 8 straight hours) is better. The book is also filled with hacks on exercise, where Asprey argued that exercises such as marathon running is harmful to the body and he instead recommended short burst of high intensity exercise, to gain the optimal benefits from the minimum effort (yes, exercises such as High Intensity Interval Training).

Mind you, they are not necessarily new information at this point, as the content of this book is similar with his 2 other books that I’ve read and his many podcast episodes that I’ve listened to. And as I have come to see Asprey in a different light the book does feel like a marketing campaign to sell his products, as accused by his many critics (my favourite got to be the label of “broscience”), with bulletproof this and bulletproof that are seemingly the only correct way when it comes to our health.

And in addition, many have since questioned and even dismissed some of Asprey’s hacks as wrong or at least partially true, like in the case of bulletproof coffee: other coffee companies are aware of mycotoxins and have the technology to deal with it, so the 4x overpriced bulletproof coffee is not unique, but Asprey hide that fact. And the deleted 3 episodes of Joe Rogan Podcast at Spotify that feature Asprey? Rogan later tested Asprey’s claims and concluded that “He used my platform in a way that isn’t totally ethical. It seems to be bullshit and I feel bad. He doesn’t have a formal education in nutrition.”

So, safe to say that now I’m taking any information from Asprey with a grain of [pink Himalayan] salt.

But overall, the book serves as a reminder of the good period of time when I had full control over my sleep, diet, exercise, and meditation. Hence, it is a good nostalgia that could kick off the familiar environment for my road back to healthy life. That in itself is enough. But man, the ego in this guy and the surprising lack of evidence to back up some of his biohacking theories. Funny how I didn’t notice this before when I was in awe of him.

The blueprint for spiritual warrior

“The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance” by George Mumford

George Mumford had a rough upbringing. As an African American kid living in the inner city, he got caught up in violence, drug abuse, and frequent encounters with the police. And like many before him he saw basketball as a way out of the slump, only for his dream to be cut short by a massive injury that derailed him and sent him to downward spiral.

Today he’s a top mindfulness and performance coach with more than 3 decades of experience, famous for coaching the Chicago Bulls and the LA Lakers, among many others from Olympic athletes to corporate executives, from Yale to jail, and most famously coaching Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and countless other NBA stars. So what happened with him that made him successful at turning his life around? Mindfulness meditation.

Just as it says in the title, this book is not about meditation per se. But this is a book about goals, determination and dedication to achieve high performance level, which uses mindfulness as the number one weapon. While every now and then it refers to the teachings of the Buddha – such as the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path – the book have more of an athlete development kind of feel, due to Mumford’s line of work especially in the NBA.

Hence, in a way this is like practical meditation lessons directly applied in the real world, rather than meditation taught in a zen place with cushion. It deals more with flows or “the zone” rather than chants, more focusing amidst the crowd noises rather than in a silent retreat. It is direct to the point, with clear scientific cause and effects, and written in a step by step manner with formulas that makes it easy to implement in training.

Moreover, as it is in a sport development plan, the book also filled with many tools, quotes, and sports science hacks, that eventually circle back to mindfulness. Which serve to demonstrate that if we implement it right, meditation could become the center of our wellbeing and progress. Highly practical book, so very recommended.

The battle of religious interpretations

“The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism” by Karen Armstrong

Writing a review for any of Karen Armstrong’s books is not easy. It is because the depth of human knowledge from the ancient past is written in such detailed and complete manner, while the range and the scope of it is also tremendously broad – from major and minor religions, to every mythology ever recorded, to philosophy, even atheism.

In an unmistakable Ms Armstrong’s style, her books cover the historical part of any occurrences, they also see them from the theological point of view and the human emotions side, and perhaps more crucially they cover the evolution of every religion. Any myth or any popular religious stories are analysed and explained. Any events are given the proper context and the long background stories. Whatever lost ancient civilisation, she would know about them, understand their place in the proper history, and their hidden influences to the world. Whatever misconception or false truth, she will know and will go to a great length to straighten them out.

The truth, it seems, will always come out from her. No matter how ugly. This makes me believe that somewhere between the passages in Ms. Armstrong’s books we can find the answer. While I don’t know exactly what the question is, but I bet she have the answer. Questions like what’s the meaning of life? Are religion man made? And perhaps the ultimate question, does God exist?

This particular book discusses about the evolution of interpretation over religion, with the focus on the Abrahamic religion of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Ms Armstrong uses the word fundamentalism for this, but this is not “fundamentalism” as we understand it in the mainstream media, which touches only the surface of what being discussed in the book. But instead, fundamentalism in this regard means the battle between many different strong-held interpretations of their respective religions, from liberal view to moderate, conservative, to hardliner.

This many different interpretations have resulted, for example, in a breakaway of sub-sects in Judaism or in movements like the secular Zionism. It can be found in the schism between Sunni and Shia within Islam, not to mention the emergence of Wahhabi interpretation. And it is the reason why we have many different kinds of Christian churches: from Catholicism to protestant, Calvinist, Anabaptist, Methodist, Jehovah witness, Mormonism, and many more.

Perhaps the most interesting revelation from the book is how historical events shaped and molded the many different interpretations, that the core changes of the religion were triggered by some very human occurrences such as the Spanish Inquisition, World War 1, the Holocaust, United States independence, or a coup in Iran and Egypt. It can ever evolved from existential crisis caused by the God-shaped hole in an increasingly atheist society, just like the emergence of the likes of Pat Robertson in the US. It shows that fundamentalism is really a response to a crisis or problem that appears in their environment, which provoked some kind of specific counter-hardline response for survivorship.

The book also addresses the challenges that fundamentalists are facing against secularism, nationalism, science, and atheism. Mix them with another complicated relationship between the many different interpretations within the same religion, and the interactions with other religions, will provide us with the full picture of multi-religious society that we have in the modern world. It’s really mind blowing to be able to see the world views of so many different religious sects, and for a few moment walk on their shoes.

This shows that fundamentalism is really relative, that one person’s extreme view is another person’s safety net, that it depends on who implement and use it as a tool and why (which can turn political real quick). And sometimes, the label of fundamentalist is imposed on a relatively mild one that just happen to live under a majority or ruler that have opposing views.

It dawn on me that in the end of the day us humans have the yearning to understand who we are and why are are here. And the need for certainty has produced so many different beliefs and myths under different environments, which are trying to explain our existence and role in this planet. And sometimes their many different interpretations can create frictions or conflicting views over the same subject, perhaps most notable in the case of the meaning of Jerusalem for many different faiths.

This is why religious conflicts will never die down, as different faiths have different interpretations and agendas. And today they are increasingly consolidating power up to the very top of the political chain, with the likes of the Republican party, Narendra Modi, Mohammed Bin Salman, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Ayatollahs, to name a few. And suddenly the world’s geopolitics makes a little bit more sense.

The Panglossian dilemma

“Candide” by Voltaire

This is an insanely rich story plot that includes many characters and adventures, in multiple countries across 3 continents, including one secret road to a hidden fabled city. It involves love, murder, chase scenes, perilous sea journeys and even a canibalistic tribe, and exposes the contrast between comfort and discomfort, riches and bankruptcy, freedom and slavery, beauty and ugliness, about trust from a stranger and betrayal by the most unexpected, and colourful friendships and enemies made along the journey.

It is a story set in a chaotic world filled with civil and religious wars, blatant prejudice, racism, slavery, despotic rulers, plague, sexual diseases, cruel capital punishment of innocent victims, just like it was in 1759 when the book was written. And the best part is? It is less than 180 pages, although I swear it feels much longer due to the magnanimity of the story. It’s astonishing how Voltaire could possibly wrote all of this in just 3 days.

With the attempt of not spoiling too much of the narrative, let me just say that the plot begins with a calm and friendly environment just like the situation with the Starks at the first episode of the Game of Thrones. The plot then progressed into a wild mix of Les Miserables + Around the World in 80 Days, with one distinctive philosophical question that has since entered the English language dictionary: Panglossian.

Pangloss was a mentor for Candide, and he taught Candide that he lived in “the best of all possible worlds,” and that “since everything is made for an end, everything is necessary for the best end.” But then the tremendously rich life journey that Candide eventually had, prove otherwise. That people are cruel and life is not fair, that the world was “very mad and very abominable”, according to an anti-Panglossian character named Martin (an eternally pessimistic person). And slowly but sure Candide begins to question Pangloss’ naive optimistic view on life, where he eventually said “it is the madness of maintaining that everything is right when it is wrong.”

But is it really naive? Over the development of the story we witness the philosophical interpretation about the nature of suffering, where Pangloss himself argued that all unfortunate events eventually led to somewhere more desirable and thus the suffering is a crucial stepping stone towards something more optimistic, a strength that can only be obtained through overcoming obstacles. Moreover, as the book makes it painfully obvious, it was not blind optimism but his naive judgements towards people’s intentions that led Candide into troubles. And so, being optimistic is one thing but risk management is another one, and we cannot blame optimism for the sorrow that comes from our poor risk management.

This, obviously, is not a definitive interpretation and this “Panglossian Dilemma” is what makes this book one of the most influential contributors to the Age of Enlightenment in France. It forces us to think and it is still open for a debate even today some 200+ years later.

And the conclusion that I get from what Voltaire is trying to say in this book is that we cannot be happy – even if we’re literally living in a paradise with all the riches – if we cannot spend it with the ones we love. All the luxuries and the beauty that we own will mean nothing if we can’t appreciate it, in fact it could become a burden of misery to us (just like the senator in Venice). And perhaps more importantly, in real life there is no distinctive black and white, as even a kind good natured person can kill few people under precarious circumstances, or we can still choose to be kind despite the awful things that happened to us (like the old lady).

Indeed, people are incapable of fully understanding the evil in this world and life can be cruel, but at the same time we also tend to forget that suffering is optional and temporary. So, in the end our happiness or misery really depends on our outlook in life: we can still able to be an eternal optimist even under the worst possible circumstances, or we can be miserable even when surrounded by all the goodness life has to offer. And all of these deep philosophical thoughts are illustrated in the most imaginative way possible by Voltaire. Incredible, incredible book.

100 Things I Learned and Did in 2022

  1. Stars are essentially the after-effects of the Big Bang. Hi there, welcome to 100 things 2022. I thought that I would start this year with a bang!
  2. So, you know during a bomb blast there’s a spark of fire for few seconds before the fire disappear? Well, according to Tim Urban the gazilion stars in the universe are just the residue fire from the Big Bang that haven’t gone out yet. In other words, in the condensed time frame of the universe, its entire 13.8 billion years of history exist only in the middle of the ongoing blast and its “short” aftermath of the Big Bang.
  3. And when the fire residues have all gone out? All of the stars will eventually disappear. Or as Urban puts it, “The last stars will die out 120 trillion years from now (at most) followed by 10^106 years of just black holes. Condensed, that’s like the universe starting with 1 second of stars and then a billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years of just black holes.” We just happen to live in that one bright second.
  4. Do you know how the common cold came about? Well according to a Korean folktale, there’s a male ghost with two genitals who died after an unsuccessful search for a wife. The ghost then fulfilled his lust by, uhm, releasing himself in people’s nostrils. So that slime in your nose when you’re having the flu? Yeah.
  5. 2 countries border are normal, 3 countries border are also in an abundance (150 of them). But can you point to a place on Earth where 4 countries’ borders met? It took me a while to discover it, but it does exist. It is called the Kazungula quadripoint, and it is that spot in the middle between Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Those hours spent staring at the world map didn’t go to waste after all.
  6. Have you ever watched a movie or documentary from the 1900-1920s in the US where all men in sight all wearing hats? It was so important that even homeless people wear them. But since the 20th century men slowly but surely stop wearing hats in a mass fashion kind of way. What gives? Since as early as 3200 BC hats have been a vital piece of clothing for humans, as hats fulfilled the need to protect their heads from sun rays while working on the fields. But starting in the 20th century Mr. Benz and Mr. Ford invented cars. Previously, the main means of transportation were on an open roof carriage such as horse, bike, or by foot, hence the importance of wearing hats. But as cars (with a closed rooftop) becoming more affordable for the common people, the need for hats declined. Another factor is the shift from agriculture to manufacturing, where men started to work indoors inside a factory more than out on the field.
  7. During emergencies, mammals can breathe through their anus. Technically, just technically, we’re humans are also mammals. So, is there a hidden feature in our body that we haven’t discovered yet?
  8. Have you ever noticed, in the grading system we use A, B, C, D, and then F instead of E. Do you know why? As it turns out, the creator of the grading system initially use E as the lowest grade, but many misinterpret E as “Excellent”, and thus they eventually decide to skip E and use F instead, for Failure.
  9. You know that comedic scene where a chicken lose its head and its body can still running around? You know how long can a chicken sustain that (continue living without its head)? A day or two. But there was one case where the chicken lived for 2 years. Meet Mike the headless chicken, who had his head chopped off on 10 September 1945 and lived for another 2 years. As you can tell, he then became a national celebrity, touring around America with his owner Lloyd Olsen charger 25 cents for a chance to meet the phenomenon, amassing $4500 a month and was valued at $10,000 at the height of his fame. He even featured in Time and Life magazines. This success resulted a wave of copycats, although the chickens people beheaded only lived for around one or two days. The funny thing about Mike was, he only died because he chocked to death after he accidentally eat an eye drops (hey he can’t see what his neck is eating).
  10. Speaking of death. I know that death is a taboo subject but everyone will eventually face it. I always thought that there’s something tragically beautiful about the way William Shakespeare died on his birthday, and that the best death in history so far for me happens to be my Stoic role model, Chrysippus, who died laughing at his own joke. But this year I think I found a close second: Al-Jahiz, the man who founded the theory of evolution over a thousand years before Charles Darwin was born. Al-Jahiz was nearly 100 year old when he was in his private library and some of his many large piles of books fell on him and instantly killing him. Now that’s one hell of an exit, killed by the things he loved the most.
  11. Well fine, perhaps that wasn’t the “best death”. Let me raise another one: the story of another Stoic, Julius Canus, whom was playing chess with a friend while awaiting to be executed by Emperor Caligula, when the guard came to execute him. He then joked to his friend saying “you will testify that I was one piece ahead” and calmly went on to his death chamber with no fear as if it’s just a regular daily task. Now that’s badass.
  12. Pub is short for public house. So, there’s your private house, and then there’s your public house that serves you drinks and everybody knows your name.
  13. In 1542 the Spanish found and claimed a territory in North West America. Some believe that the Spanish named the place after a romance novel “The Deeds of Esplandian” which was popular among the conquistadors. It features a rich island that is ruled by black Amazons and their queen Calafia. The novel was published in 1510 in Seville, a city that had until recently been part of al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) and under the rule of a Muslim Caliph. Hence, the fictitious name of the queen Calafia, which comes from the word Caliph, which some believe it then evolves to become the name of the place that they just discovered: California.
  14. Us humans can only see visible light, that’s 0.0035% of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. In other words, we’re actually blind to over 99% of the world. We cannot see microwave, we cannot see radio wave, wifi, ultraviolet, infrared, radiation, etc. Furthermore, with our human eyes we can only see about 5% of what’s out there in the universe. If by only looking from a metaphorical 5% keyhole we can see vast universe and its many galaxies and black holes, imagine what we’d see if we can also see the rest 95%?
  15. The Confucius family has one of the longest family tree track back to the Chinese philosopher himself. They have their own database, which currently consist of about 2 million descendants. And this is the cool thing about them: in 50 generations if we look at their names we will find a hidden poem. Curiously, just like Van Gogh who was not a successful painter when he lived, Chinese philosopher Confucius was also unsuccessful as a philosopher as nobody listened to what he said until centuries later. It is one of those classic case of a prominent figure being not appreciated in his time.
  16. Another case of genius not appreciated in his own time was William Shakespeare. But this time for a weird reason. Shakespeare was a relatively uneducated man, with no record to indicate that he ever read a book or wrote a letter, who had illiterate children, never traveled, and in his hometown he was known as a businessman. His life was so ordinary that he was not eulogized at his death, and he left no books or manuscripts in his will. Are you sure this is the right guy? Oh, it gets weirder. Shakespeare’s plays were not published as serious literature in his lifetime, even the famous portraits of him were not painted when he was alive (so a bit like Jesus, the real person may or may not resemble the portraits).
  17. Naturally, this creates a conspiracy theory about who William Shakespeare really was, where it is said that the real author wanted to keep his or her identity a secret, because writing plays was a disreputable occupation in those days. The speculative candidate of who Shakespeare really was includes the brilliant philosopher Francis Bacon, Shakespeare’s rival playwright Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere, and even Queen Elizabeth. But still, nearly all academic Shakespeareans believe that “William Shakespeare” was the same person who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 and who died there in 1616, aka the businessman.
  18. There is a spot in Antarctica that is snow-free and also free of ice. Known as the McMurdo Dry Valleys, it is located within Victoria Land west of McMurdo Sound that cover an area about 4800 square kilometers. The place has extremely low humidity, never rains at all, and has no flow of ice from near glaciers because of the surrounding Transantarctic Mountain Range blocking it. It is also one of the most extreme desert climates on the planet, a cold desert with mean annual temperature between -14 and -30 degree Celsius. Due to the uniqueness of the place unlike in anywhere else on Earth, the place has been used to test equipment intended for use on Mars. Makes you think doesn’t it? What if the Mars Rover just happened to land on this type of area on Mars?
  19. The word “lunatic” is derived from “lunar.” It is those lunar cycle every month that a person’s behaviour becomes lunatic-like. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just reporting it.
  20. Ever since Russia began to illegally invade Ukraine, the state of the world has become a continuous record high inflation. One of the earliest countries whose inflation have triggered a massive riot was Sri Lanka. The country was ruled by the Rajapaksa family for decades now, and that became the core resentment of the people (the inflation was only the trigger). But that’s not why I mention about Sri Lanka. During the protest, the protest leader’s name was Joseph Stalin. HA! You can’t make this things up. Imagine all the headline news.
  21. Now back to the universe. The observable universe is yuuuuge (like huge, huge) with diameter of 93 billion light years. Now, within the observable universe there are around 100-200 billion galaxies and approximately 200 sextrillion (that’s 200 billion trillion) stars within those galaxies. In our Milky Way galaxy alone there are 100 thousand million stars, with approximately 3200 of them so far have been identified to have planets orbiting them. So, do you really think we’re alone in the universe?
  22. Perhaps the next question becomes, is this proof that God doesn’t exist? Well it can all still created by God, can’t it? Pantheists believe that God is the universe and everything in it, and that God is bigger than us humans can comprehend. I can see why they think that way, we’re only a spec of atoms in the scale of the universe. When looking at it from this angle, should God care about what we – a bunch of mammals in a planet within 1 solar system (a star) that is located a little bit outside of the center of 1 galaxy – did when nobody’s watching? Do religious conflicts become a concern for God? Or does God even need defending?
  23. McDonald’s introduced the drive through service because of the military. So the rules in the US military forbade soldiers to wear their military uniform in public places. And they sure not going to change to a civilian clothes, go to a McDonald’s to eat, and go back to their base and have to change back to their uniform. But one day a restaurant manager at McDonald’s called David Rich came up with a solution: he create a hole in the wall of his restaurant so that soldiers can pick up their food without stepping out of their car. The simple but effective solution then quickly copied by others and the rest is history.
  24. The horror of leprosy isn’t like what we thought it was. It is a skin disease that shows our skin peeled off and our meat comes out, which basically shows a rotten flesh. But a world-renowned hand surgeon and leprosy specialist, Dr. Paul Brand, discovered during his work in India that the ravages of leprosy was not due to the disease organism directly causing the rotting of the flesh, but instead the disease causes the loss of pain sensation in the limbs.
  25. Hence, without the protection of pain receptors, the leprosy patients lacked the warning system against tissue damage. As a result, without pain leprosy patience can stick their hands in a fire and they wont even feel a thing, and it’s not uncommon for them to walk or run on limbs with broken skin or even exposed bones that caused continuous deterioration. Without pain sensation, there are even cases where rats can eat off the patients’ fingers and toes while they’re slept peacefully.
  26. So, you know that meme of a billboard that says “injured? Good.” Well as it turns out, they are right. Sort of. Pain is a good warning system to protect us against any additional danger and injury. Because according to Dr. Brand, the unpleasant sensation of pain forces the entire human organism to attend to the problem. Moreover, Dr. Brand also describes many reports of leprosy patients claiming that they cannot feel their hands and feet and gradually feel that they are not part of their body anymore but rather becomes just tools. Therefore, pain also unifies our body. This, of course, can be applicable for physical pain and emotional pain.
  27. Contrary to popular belief, chameleons don’t change colour to match their background. Instead, their colour changes due to different emotional states. That’s right, like one of those mood rings. For example, chameleons will change colour when frightened or beat another chameleon in a fight (is that ego?), when a member of the opposite sex is in sight (lust?), or simply by being picked up or when the light or temperature in the room fluctuates.
  28. The beaches in Ecuador are higher than the Himalayas and its peak Everest. In fact, the highest point in Ecuador, Mount Chimborazo, is the highest point on Earth, despite not being the highest mountain even in South America (there are almost 40 higher mountains in the continent, including the highest peak on the continent, Aconcagua). Confused? The key aspect is this: the Earth isn’t really round. Sure it’s round-ish, but not a sphere, due to the combined effects of gravity and rotational centrifugal force that have shaped the Earth into what is often called an “oblate ellipsoid” (slightly flat at the poles and bulgier at the equator). So, despite the Chimborazo tops out two miles lower than Everest (at 20,702 feet) if we measure them from the sea level, if we take the equatorial bulge into account (that is, if we measure what peak is the farthest from the center of the Earth) Chimborazo are 7000 feet father into space than the Himalayas, because they’re located thousands of miles north of the Equator (remember, it is bulgier at the equator).
  29. How many moons does the Earth have? At least 7. The obvious one is that moon that we see almost every night, the only celestial body that observe a strict orbit of the Earth. But there are 6 other “Near-Earth” Asteroids that also follow the Earth around the Sun, although they are invisible to the naked eye. The first of its kind was discovered in 1997, a three-mile-wide horses-shoe-shaped satellite that was named Cruitne. Since then more have been identified: 2000 PH5, 2000 WN10, 2002 AA29, 2003 YN107, and 2004 GU9. Catchy names.
  30. Contrary to popular belief, camel’s humps don’t store water. But instead they store fat, which is then used as an energy reserve. In fact, Camels can lose 40% of their body weight before they becomes affected by it, and they can go up to 7 days without drinking. So where do they stored the water that they drink? Throughout their bodies, especially in the bloodstream which makes them very good at avoiding dehydration. And speaking of avoiding dehydration, when camels drink they can drink up to 50 gallons at a time.
  31. History’s great figures aren’t always a great person in their private lives. Einstein was apparently a cruel husband to his first wife, Gandhi was a terrible father to his children, Mandela himself admitted that he did a lousy job fathering 6 biological children from 2 different wives. It makes you think doesn’t it? All that greatness comes with a cost. In this case, the cost of neglect to their family as their focus are in a much bigger thing. Or to look at it differently, they’re all humans with flaws after all, and just because they’re a maestro at one thing doesn’t mean that they’re a well-rounded human being.
  32. What’s that you’re thinking? More dirt? Ok: Alfred Hitchcock was famed for treating his female actresses like dirt, John Wayne (considered to be one of the best Western actors) was racist and homophobic, John Lennon was a serial cheater and a wife beater as well as an absent father, Woodrow Wilson was a big racist, Roald Dahl was a racist, Thomas Jefferson enslaved over 600 people, Mother Teresa had a massive corruption problem (in one US bank account alone, she had $25 million stacked up there), Elvis Presley was known for dating and sleeping with underage girls, Charlie Chaplin was also predatory towards little girls, Henry Ford was an anti-semite who inspired Hitler, while Steve Jobs is famed for being a jerk.
  33. The company name Yahoo is actually an abbreviation. It stands for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle. Let me give you a few seconds, to digest how mind blowing it is.
  34. Did you know why Pluto was omitted from the list of planets in our solar system? Pluto is smol (Like, small small). For a start it’s much smaller than all the other planets, but it is also a fifth of the mass of our moon, and smaller than 7 of the moons of other planets. And weirdly, it’s not that much larger than its own main moon. Moreover, Pluto’s composition is completely different. While Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are medium-sized and rocky, the next four Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune are gas giants. But Pluto is a tiny ball of ice, not unlike the 60,000 small comet-like objects forming the kuiper belt right on the edge of our solar system. And the icing on the cake for the omission of Pluto is its eccentric orbit, which is on a different plane to the other planets. In addition, there are some asteroids (like Eris and Ceres) that are bigger than Pluto, thus raising the question if we count Pluto as a planet, why can’t we consider these asteroids as planets as well?
  35. Interestingly, unlike the name of the Gods that are given to most of the planets in our solar system (e.g. Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn), Pluto got its name from an 11 year old Oxford schoolgirl called Venetia Burney. She mentions about the name in 1930 over a breakfast with her grandfather, where the grandfather then passed on the suggestion to his good friend Herbert Hall Turner, the Oxford professor of astronomy. By the way, Pluto will finally complete its first orbit around the sun since it was discovered (18 February 1930), on Monday…… 23 March 2178! Oh poor old Pluto.
  36. You must be familiar with the story that Eve was made out of Adam’s rib, right? But have you ever checked on the number of ribs that men and women have? It’s actually the same. This has led 2 scholars, Gilbert and Zevit in the American Journal of Medical Genetics in 2001, to suggest that due to the fact that Biblical Hebrew does not have a word for penis, Eve could arguably made out of Adam’s penis bone (but then this fact was lost in translation). This would explain why males and females have the same number of ribs but there’s no penis bone. Riiiight. You know what the worst part of this theory is? Nobody can debunk it for sure.
  37. You must know who the American continent is named after? Nope, not the Italian merchant and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, but it is arguably named after a Welshman and a wealthy Bristol merchant named Richard Ameryk. So this bloke was the chief investor in the 2nd transatlantic voyage of Italian Giovanni Caboto, whose voyages in 1497 and 1498 paved the way for eventual British claim to Canada. On his little ship in his 2nd Ameryk-funded journey, Caboto reached Labrador in May 1497 and became the first recorded European to set foot on that continent’s soil, predating Vespucci by 2 years. And his investor, Ameryk, apparently had the dips on the naming rights. A further argument for Ameryk’s case: Vespucci never reached North America and he never use the name “America” for his discovery. But even if he did, new countries or continents were never named after a person’s first name, but always after the surname (case in point: Cook Islands or Tasmania). Thus had he named his discovered land after himself, it would be called something like Vespucci Land or Vespuccia.
  38. The word slave comes from Slav (the ethnic group), because during the Middle Ages Slavic people were widely captured and often enslaved.
  39. I always thought that sign language is universal, and how cool it is that any deaf person can speak with anyone in the world using the same sign language. But the truth is much more complicated than that, where sign language as it turns out is not universally intelligible. For example, American Sign Language is totally different from the British Sign Language. It has a grammar structure that is so different that the American Sign Language has more in common with spoken Japanese than spoken English, and can find it much easier to make themselves understood in France than in Britain. Heck, it is even not uncommon for sign languages to differ from city to city in the same country, just like the case in Indonesia. What a missed opportunity.
  40. Did you know that out of the 266 Popes in history, there was once a gay Pope? Actually it wasn’t only one, not two, not even three, but ten suspected (some even openly) gay Popes. Here are the list: John XII (955-964), Benedict IX (1033-1045; 1047-1048), John XXII (1316-1334), Paul II (1464-1471), Sixtus IV (1471-1484), Julius II (1503-1513), Leo X (1513-1521), Julius III (1550-1555), John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli; 1958-1963) and Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini; 1963-1978). Indeed, Vatican hasn’t always be in the form that they are now, in fact their long and turbulent history is so very interesting.
  41. When people get married, what makes them take their husband’s name or decide to keep their last name? Well, when German film director Lotte Reiniger got married to her creative partner Carl Koch, she decided to keep her last name, so that her name wouldn’t become Lotte Koch. HA! That’s one hell of a legit excuse.
  42. The famed Swiss Bank secrecy was created for Europe’s rich who were reluctant to pay taxes. The law was first drafted in 1932, during the Great Depression when governments badly needed to collect taxes. And those wealthy people who were not willing to pay them were able to dodge their dues by entrusting their assets to Swiss Banks’ anonymized accounts. The origin tales of the banks got slightly edited along the way, making the main reason that Switzerland enacted the 1932 law that made it a crime to violate bank secrecy was to help persecuted Jews to protect their savings. Hitler, mind you, came to power only a year later in 1933.
  43. Have you ever wondered why a marathon run is exactly 26 miles and 385 yards? Actually, it got nothing to do with Ancient Greece but more to do with British royal family. In fact, at the first 3 modern Olympics, the marathon race was run over a distance of roughly 26 miles. But in 1908, the Olympic Games were held in London and the royals wanted to see the marathon race. So the starting line was put in a spot where one half of the royal family could watch from a window at Windsor Castle, while the finish line was put in front of the royal box in the White City stadium where the other half of the royal family was waiting. The distance between Windsor Castle to White City stadium was 26 miles and 385 yards, which became the standard length of a marathon run ever since.
  44. There were once exist 9-15 different species of human, but all of them mysteriously got extinct except us homo sapiens (nobody knows why for sure). And from about 200,000 years ago the modern form of human appeared, where between 70,000 – 100,000 years ago they began to migrate away from Africa. But why do they migrate? It was dubbed the African Humid Period (AHP), where Sahara desert as we know it today used to be a lush green jungle.
  45. The AHP was a direct effect of African monsoonal climate responses to periodic variations caused by the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, which recur around every 20,000 years. Thanks to the monsoonal climate, the Sahara was green and lush with freshwater lakes, fast-flowing rivers, dense forests, even thriving communities as well as flora and fauna. But then, the water basins dried up, the trees slowly died away and the green sceneries transformed into an inhospitable wasteland. That’s when our ancestors migrated.
  46. So, how did it go from being a paradise to a wasteland? It got to do with that Earth orbit around the Sun that I mentioned earlier, where every 20,000 years the Earth shifts its axis. This also means that the Sahara has gone through multiple periods of interchangeable dry and wet climates, with the last green period ended around 5000 years ago (meaning, we’re still in the middle of this dry spell – pun not intended – for at least 10,000 more years). So, maybe, just maybe, those 8-14 other human species once mainly lived in what now becomes the Sahara desert?
  47. Because, the second oldest boat in the world – the Dufana Canoe (measured 8m/26ft long) – was discovered in the middle of the freaking Sahara desert, which must be originated from the AHP period since the Canoe was estimated to be between 8500 to 8000 years old. God knows the possible technology that they use, the possible trade and wars between the inhabitants in the middle of the vast Sahara jungle. And another one, just imagine the scale of buried historical artefacts, cities, or civilisation beneath the now hot and unforgivable desert sands.
  48. Around 80% of weight loss occurs when fat is converted into carbon and released through the lungs. The remaining 20% is release through sweat, urine, and feces combined.
  49. You know that phrase “lightning never strikes the same place twice”? What about earthquake? On 19 September 2022 Southwest Mexico was hit by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake, on the anniversary of not only the deadliest earthquake in its history on 19 September 1985 but also a tremor that killed more than 200 people on 19 September 2017. Now that must be an improbable odds. But anyway, despite of the common myth, lightning actually can (and often does) strike the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall and isolated object like the Empire State Building (hit by lightning about 25 times per year).
  50. By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the Flat Earth theory, and even have read and/or watch the debunking. But have you ever heard of the Hollow Earth theory? The theory was created by Edmond Halley (of the Halley comet fame) in 1692. He based his theory on the [mis]calculation by Sir Isaac Newton that claimed the moon to be more solid than the Earth, as 9 to 5, which led to the speculation that the Earth is actually hollow/empty in the inside, that inside of our planet consist of concentric shells, and that in between each shell consist of space filled with luminous atmosphere that can sustain life. And the portal to this Hollow world? At the North and South Pole. To his credit, Isaac Newton later on revised his miscalculation on the density of the Moon, but Halley still adamant on his theory.
  51. In fact, he got a fanatic follower in John Cleves Symmes, Jr. who in the 1810s attempted to go to the North Pole and find the gateway to the other side of the world (but he failed to get a funding for the expedition). The Hollow Earth theory have also appeared in science-fiction books, such as in 1864 Jules Verne published “A Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, which used the theories of Halley and Symmes. And the 1892 novel “The Goddess of Atvatabar, or The History of the Discovery of the Interior World”, which used Symmes’ model as the basis of its tale. The modern belief in the Hollow Earth theory includes an escaping Hitler into the other side (of course).
  52. Croissant means crescent, as in the crescent moon. The shape of the bread was first inspired by the shape of the crescent moon in the Ottoman flag (which now becomes the Turkish flag). Funny how I first learned about this from my daughter, who observed that the shape of the crescent moon (or smiley moon) looks a lot like croissant.
  53. You know that Asian practice of palm reading? The practice simply suggest that our fate are already written from the lines in our palm. But since early 2010s people in South Korea have begun to “alter their lives” by burning some lines in their palms using laser beam. Talking bout taking matter into our own hands. The practice quickly spread to Japan thanks to Dr. Takaaki Matsuoka. So, did it work? One patient told the doctor that not long after they extended the marriage line, she got married. While another patient won the lottery post-surgery (although it wasn’t specified that these are 2 successful cases out of how many).
  54. But the most amusing clairvoyant for me is Jacqueline Stallone (Sylvester Stallone’s mum) who can perform a Rumpology. According to her website, it is “the art of reading the lines, crevices, dimples, and folds of the buttocks to divine the individual’s character and gain an understanding of what has occurred in the past and get a prediction of the future.” That’s right, she reads someone’s past and future through their butt. Specifically, left cheek butt for the past and right cheek butt for the future, naturally.
  55. You know that famous first words of Neil Armstrong, when he took the first step on the moon? “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Urban legend has it that his second words immediately after that was “Good luck, Mr Gorsky.” And the background story for this is so good. So, when he was a kid, Neil Armstrong was playing baseball with his brother in their backyard, when their ball got hit and landed beside the bedroom window of their neighbour, Mr and Mrs Gorsky. And as Armstrong snuck over to pick up his ball, he overheard Mrs Gorsky yelling to her husband “oral sex? You want oral sex? You’ll get oral sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!”
  56. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the record for the man with the most children in history (888 children) was an emperor of Morocco with an outlandish name, Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty. Safe to say that it is not only blood that Moulay was thirsty about.
  57. The 1918 flu pandemic occurred in the midst of World War 1, and thus the media generally censored the pandemic news in fear of further depressing the war-torn population. Except for Spain, which remained neutral throughout the war. And thus they managed to report about the severity of the pandemic, and hence it is wrongfully labelled as the Spanish Flu. While in reality, even today we still haven’t figured out the origins of the pandemic, and most probably never will.
  58. Cats don’t have 9 lives. That’s a proven fact. However they do seems to act as if they have, don’t they? The myth that cats have 9 lives may have been generated from the fact that they have a non-fatal terminal velocity. Or in plain English: due to the structure of their body and fur, during a fall cats can orient themselves, spread out their body, and freakin parachute to safety like a hilarious squirrel. That’s why we can see videos of cats falling from a ridiculous height like 30 stories and survived (or without any major ill effects). One cat is recorded to have survived a 46 story fall, and there’s even evidence of a cat deliberately thrown out (bruh) of a Cessna aircraft at 800 feet, and survived (but this is an outlier case, most cats won’t survive if falling from such heights). Or to put it in a more obvious perspective, humans that fall over 10 stories have a 5% chance of surviving, but at the same height cats have a 95% chance.
  59. Person of the year: Dr. Katalin Kariko. She is a Hungarian-American who came to America with $900 in her pocket, and she has since spent years grinding away in academic obscurity, she had to fight to keep her positions in countless occasions, and she never made more than $60,000 per year. But then suddenly, in 2020 her mRNA research became the most important discovery to the health and welfare of humanity in the fight against Covid-19, where her research directly led to the vaccines that have since saved hundreds of millions of lives. Moreover, mRNA’s approach is through a gene therapy, and this groundbreaking new method could someday lead to the gene therapy of cancer cells, and many other possibilities. And the reward for all of this quiet struggle and determination? She was just snubbed for a Nobel Prize. To be fair, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said that they need time for evaluation, and that she might have better chance to win it in 1-2 years. But, for now she’s the undisputed person of the year for me. Remember her name, she could someday change how we approach healthcare and humanity in general (if she isn’t already). Wanker of the year: Looks like the small village of Bell End in England is starting a tradition of Bellend of the Year award LOL, and from now on I think I will just stick with their winner.
  60. There’s a lost continent hiding beneath Europe called the Greater Adria. It had the size of Greenland, and it was initially a land mass that covered an area from northern Africa, Spain, and southern France around 240 million years ago, before it began to break away 20 million years later from Africa, then from Spain and France 40 million years later to form a separate land mass that became known as the Greater Adria. Now, as the planet’s rocky plates continued to move around, this continent crashed into several subduction zones and eventually sunk beneath Europe. Today, we can still see the wreckage from this crash in the form of mountains along the spine of Italy, Greece, Turkey, the Balkans, and the Alps.
  61. The number of wise men in the Gospel of St. Matthew is never actually mentioned. Moreover, Jesus seems not to be a baby but rather a young child, living not in a stable but in a house. While most scholars agree that the Magi were Zoroastrian astrologer-priests, the numbers varies from 2 to 20. it wasn’t until the 6th century that 3 was settled as the standard in the story.
  62. Remember the 2016 South Korean political scandal, involving the female president Park Geun Hye? To recap, the president was infamous for having Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of a shaman cult leader Choi Tae-min, as an advisor. But in late 2016 reports surfaced that Choi Soon-sil actually had more inappropriate influence over the president than previously thought, where she have access towards classified information such as schedule, speeches, and personnel arrangements, as well as access to classified information on secret meetings with North Korea. In the end Choi was indicted for extorting bribes, abusing power illegally, and leaking classified documents, while president Park was later impeached and convicted on related corruption charges.
  63. Which brings us to the Itaewon tragedy on 29 October 2022, where 156 people died after a stampede during a Halloween event. In previous years, there are easily 200,000 to 300,000 people coming out in Itaewon for Halloween party, with no incident. So what made around 100,000 people ended up on a stampede? According to police emergency call logs, multiple calls were already made even 4 hours before the tragedy unfolded, as the crowd in Itaewon became so packed that people started to unable to move or breathe. This realization turned into a rush of panic, which then spiraled out of control and ended up with a stampede. On Tuesday 1 November, the national police chief admitted that their response to the emergency calls had been “inadequate.”
  64. And this is where the problem lies. South Korea have a new president this year, Yoon Suk-yeol, the first president from the Conservative party since Park Geun Hye’s spectacular end to her reign. President Yoon took power in May in a razor thin electoral victory, and already had a low approval rating to begin with. But then things get weirder: He too have a special relationship with a shaman. Not just an ordinary shaman, but a fire-brand controversial one in Master Chungong. Master Chongong claimed, among others, that Cancer can be cured with his hands, COVID-19 is spread among those that live with evil thoughts, ghosts of criminals who get banished by the country are trapped in a different dimension. The master also revealed that he had advised Yoon Suk-yeol to retire as Prosecutor General (way before he run for presidency). The president also accused of deliberately missing the late Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral due to Chungong’s advice. But the most significant advice for this story is how Yoon Suk-yeol was allegedly convinced to move his presidential office from the usual Blue House to Yongsan district in Seoul. Itaewon, is in the heart of the Yongsan district.
  65. By the time of the tragedy, the chief of the Yongsan Police Station was busy controlling an assembly near the new presidential office, and it is said that the absence of a central “control tower” was the key culprit of the police’s failure in quick decision-making. And this is the end result of a situation where long before the Halloween weekend, Yongsan Police Station had already struggled with understaff due to the amount of police officers needed to patrol the area and escorting the president back and forth. And Master Chungong’s opinion of the tragedy? He sees the tragedy as an “opportunity” and that the lives lost as “a sacrifice.”
  66. The Wright Brothers are famous for invented, built, and fly the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane in 1903. But you know what is more impressive than that? They funded their experiments themselves as an amateur, while competing with Dr. Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian Institution who used a $70,000 grant from the US government. Yes, Samuel Langley was supposed to be the designated inventor of the airplane, but his invention crashed into the Potomac River and 9 days later the amateur Wright Brothers succeeded their flight using an airplane that cost only about $1000.
  67. One of the reasons why the original Sony Betamax video cassette eventually lost against the VHS format is that Betamax was slightly too short to record an entire basketball game. Sometimes the simplest thing can cause the most damage.
  68. This year New Zealand plans to tax emissions from, get this, livestock burps and dung. It got to do with gas emission and whatnot. Imagine how nervous herders are when looking at little Timmy the cow poops or burps (“gosh darn it Timmy, that’s another 10 buck” or whatever). Speaking of climate change, I read a very intriguing book called the Wizard and the Prophet, which pretty much sums up the clash of approach towards climate change, which could become problematic in the long run. The tl;dr version: when it comes to climate change, people can be divided into 2: an optimist wizard with technological advances to solve the problem, or a prophet of doom that encourage us to use less and get back to nature. One is trying to solve the problem by MORE consumption, the other by LESS consumption. Here’s the more complete review.
  69. The story of the name behind Chicago O’hare airport is so touching. So there was once a man called Easy Eddie, he was the lawyer of mafia Al Capone, a very good one at that because the mafia can kill people and he can somehow got them off. Indeed, no matter what charges they had on Al Capone or his people, they couldn’t put them behind bars thanks to Easy Eddie. So naturally, he became a very valuable member of the mafia and he got paid tremendously, lots of cars, the best of everything. But then he had a son. And he thought to himself, I’ve given my son everything that money can buy, but I haven’t given him an example of a good father that he can be proud of.
  70. So he had one idea that could make his son proud, something that money can’t buy: a legacy of a good name. Which he didn’t have. So he tried to turn this around by helping the government put the mafia in jail. Oh yeah, he turned his back on them. He testified and put the biggest names in the mafia to jail. Now Easy Eddy is not stupid, he knows very well that he would get killed by doing this, and it eventually happened when he was riding his car, another car came by and several people with machine guns started to shoot him, killing him instantly. He paid a very high price to give his son a father who he could be proud of.
  71. Fast forward to world war 2, in Pearl Harbor. There was a man in the US Air Force who took off from his ship and fight against 9 Japanese bomber planes that were coming towards the USS Lexington, where there were thousands of people. This crazy motherf*cker was alone, but still decided to fight these 9 planes alone. He shot down 2 of the planes, and then ran out of bullet. So he then fly around in difficult angles, passes the planes, and managed to knock off their wings sinking 3 more planes along the way. Finally, after 5 out of 9 planes sank, the remaining Japanese planes thought screw this, and they flew away. The US Air Force pilot became the 1st person in the US Air Force in World War 2 to get a Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor, due to his bravery and sacrifice for the greater good of others. His name was Butch O’Hare, which eventually became the name of the Chicago airport, in honor of his name. And Butch O’Hare, was the inspired son of Easy Eddie.
  72. Speaking of medal of honor, during World War 2 a dog named Juliana was awarded not one but two Blue Cross Medals. Her heroic action? First the Great Dane extinguished an incendiary bomb by peeing on it, and second she alerted her masters to a fire that had started in their shop. Who’s a good girl? Who’s a good giiiirl??
  73. This year is a weird World Cup year, where the tournament was hosted snap bang in the middle of the 2022/2023 season in November. But hot damn what a pretty memorable one, from Saudi Arabia defeated Argentina, Japan defeated Germany, South Korea defeated Portugal, the incredible run by Morocco (and their lucky charm mothers), and Lionel Messi finally lifts the World Cup after winning THAT epic final. They’re all oh so memorable. I wonder, is there a more memorable World Cup? Actually, the first World Cup in 1930 was pretty badass. It was hosted in Uruguay, and the European teams sailed together across the Atlantic Ocean aboard a Scottish steamship, picking up the Brazilians in Rio on the way, and they all trained together on the top deck. Jules Rimet himself also travelled with them, bringing the trophy in his suitcase. On the pitch, the refs wore suits, the Bolivians wore berets, and the Romanian team was selected by their king.
  74. The famous guitar riff on Deep Purple’s song Smoke on the water was actually the inversion of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Ritchie Blackmore even joked that he owes Beethoven a lot of money.
  75. On October this year, Liz Truss became a headline after she resign as British prime minister only after 6 weeks on the job. But 6 weeks is still a long time compared with the shortest presidency ever. Can you guess how long? 1 Month? nope. 1 week? Also no. 1 day? Not quite. The name was Pedro Lascuráin Paredes, who served as the 38th president of Mexico in 19 February 1913 for only 45 minutes. But his circumstance was very, very different compared with Liz Truss.
  76. So, Lascuráin was the mayor of Mexico City in 1910 when Francisco Madero began a presidential campaign against the incumbent Porfirio Díaz. And after Madero won the race and elected president, Lascuráin, a Madero supporter, served twice as foreign secretary in Madero’s cabinet. But then on 19 February 1913, General Victoriano Huerta staged a coup against Madero, where he was forced to resign while being held prisoner.
  77. Now, under the 1857 Constitution of Mexico if the president resigns, the next in line is the vice-president, then the attorney general, the foreign secretary, and the interior secretary. But the problem was, General Huerta also ousted the vice-president and attorney general, leaving the foreign secretary next in line, aka Lascuráin. For about 45 minutes. He then forced to appoint General Huerta as his interior secretary, making the General next in line to the presidency. Lascuráin then forced to resign after less than an hour. The coup had a brutal ending, where Huerta called a late-night special session of Congress to endorsed his assumption of power (under the guns of his troops), then a few days later Madero and his vice-president Pino Suárez were killed. The event became know as La Decena Trágica, the tragic ten days.
  78. Book of the year: It’s a sign of the pandemic nearing the end when I no longer have the luxury of time to read and run regularly. But that’s just life, a series of opportunity costs and compromises. At the start of the great lockdown 2020 I managed to read 62 books, in the depth of pandemic year 2021 I read 70 books, and this year? I mixed going out, playing football and watching live music with reading 56 books. And among them, here are my favourites for this year: The best story: The Storyteller by Dave Grohl, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman. The most eye opening: Kleptopia by Tom Burgis, Trust Me I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday. The most implementable: The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel, The Book That You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Philippa Perry. The most amusing: The Theory of Everything Else by Dan Schreiber, Zonal Marking by Michael Cox. The most moving: When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. And the winner out of these 9? Oh God, it’s like forced to choose a favourite kid. But When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi stands out the most out of the bunch. It is such a beautifully written memoir filled with hope, dispair, and insights about dealing with sickness and death. A rather sadonistic theme for me, as I read it during a quarantine period due to Covid.
  79. Why psychopathic killers are mostly men? Neurologist Jim Fallon (no, not the talk show host) studied the brain scans and genetic analysis of 70 different serial killers and discovered that they all have 2 things in common: they had damages in the orbital cortex part of the brain (causing poor decision making, impulsive behaviour, decreased emotional responses, personality changes) and they have the MAOA gene, making them more prone to violence as the gene exposed a person to too much serotonin early on, creating a some kind of tolerance that prevents people from feeling calm or relaxed later on in their lives.
  80. And here’s the interesting part: this MAOA gene is passed on only from the mother, through the X chromosome. So, while a daughter can get the X chromosome from her mother and father (and thus the chromosome from her mother gets diluted), a son only gets their X chromosome from his mother. Hence, the majority of men as a serial killer. Now, some people can have this MAOA and live a relatively normal lives, and so every psychopathic killers must need something that triggered their behaviour. Hence, the child’s brutal environment or upbringing also play a role as the trigger of the aggression. As Fallon remarks, “if you have that gene, and you see a lot of violence in a certain situation, this is a recipe for disaster. Absolute disaster.”
  81. There was once lived a woman named Rosemary Brown. She has a classical music album – a musical seance – that was recorded in 1970, and it’s actually available at Spotify. The album contains a collection of beautiful pieces composed by Debussy, Liszt, Chopin, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Schumann and Grieg. All played in piano. And all were composed post-humously by the composers. Wait, what? Yes, Rosemary Brown was not a pianist, but a simple dinner lady. And she claims to be a medium for these long-dead composers, who continued to write new pieces through her.
  82. While any skeptic naturally wants to immediately dismiss her as another wacko, her case is quite curious. Because none of the pieces appear in any other catalogues of published works by these composers, so even if she’s lying she has to compose these amazing music herself. She even became a star, making her debut on BBC TV in 1969 and then playing in venues such as Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and the Town Hall in New York, and appearing at Johnny Carson’s talk show (the biggest programme in America at the time). And what about the opinion of the classical music community? They loved her. Her album was performed by Peter Katin, a musician famous for his interpretations of Chopin’s [real] piano music, while other classical musicians were also happy to record the piano works composed by her, no, sorry, composed by the dead composers through her.
  83. So, let’s say that it’s true, what were the dead composers like? Well just tune in to track 10 of her album, where she commented “Chopin is not at all like I might thought he would be. He’s not melancholy at all. He’s quite light-hearted, his conversation is bantering and he often teases. And makes little jokes….” And you can hear the rest of it yourself. It goes on for 6 minutes, and she also mentioned Schubert, Liszt, and the others in a pretty detailed manner.
  84. Legend has it that there is an ancient curse associated with the tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs and its mummys. That whoever disturb the embalmed remains would get bad luck, illness and even death. Well, it can’t get any more mystical than this. And wrong. The truth is, a thorough research published in the British Medical Journal in 2002 has shown that of the alleged 26 deaths caused by Tutankhamun’s “curse”, only 6 died within the 1st decade of its opening. And the British archaeologist and Egyptologist who discovered the intact tomb of Tutankhamun, Howard Carter, he lived for another 17 years after that discovery.
  85. By the way speaking of ancient Egypt, archaeological findings suggest that, contrary to the common knowledge, the Pyramids were not built by 100,000 slaves in 30 years. Instead, it was built by 20,000 paid workers in 20 years, where 5000 of them were core workers and permanent technicians while 15,000 people worked 12 hours a day for three months before going back home to their villages and new builders would replace them (so in a way just like modern-day oil rig workers).
  86. There’s a dark theory that believes the Jetsons and the Flintstones exist in the same period of time, but just on separate sections of the planet. So, according to the theory, an apocalyptic event occurred on Earth and destroyed almost everything that it forced the surviving humanity to live in the sky (aka, where the Jetsons are set). But then, some people also survived down on Earth and had to re-do their civilization from scratch (aka back from stone age, where the Flintstones are set). This could explain why even in stone age the Flintstones already use modern concept or technology (albeit using dinosaurs rather than robots).
  87. The theory then elaborates why both civilizations live separately, with the sky people can escape before the apocalyptic event (hence, reflecting the wealthy and those who have leverage and means compared to others), while people with lesser means are doomed to live in a backward stone age. Indeed, this turns into a class-warfare, where the Jetsons represent knowledge, growth and complacency, while the Flintstones represent ignorance, primitiveness and hard work.
  88. Now, the official reason why people are living in the sky in the Jetsons is because due to the abundance of smog on the surface. But the theory argues that the excuse of smog could be a lie from those in power, to keep the high society from uncovering the dark truth on the Earth’s surface. One fun argument point is during a cross-over episode between the two families, where in that episode the Jetsons visited the stone age using a time machine. The theory suggest that it wasn’t really a time machine, but instead the Jetsons simply crossed the rich-poor barrier and come down to Earth. I know that this is just a theory, and over two cartoon shows, but damn that stuff is dark.
  89. Orcas are very intelligent animals, so intelligent that they can properly communicate with each others like humans do, but through pulsed calls and whistles. Orcas in different parts of the world even form different unique dialects, so just like us they have different cultural habits across the world that shaped their language. Moreover, Orcas (or killer whales) are not killer at all. They have never been recorded to kill humans in the wild. Yes they killed humans in captivity like in Sea World etc but that’s because they’re an intelligent animal being abused in captivity, just like those horrible human zoos just few decades ago.
  90. By the way, take a wild guess how many sharks do we kill each year? Not hundreds. Not thousands. Not a million. In average, every year we kill about 100 million sharks world wide. 100 million! And can you guess how many humans do sharks kill each year? 6 to 8 per year. Sure they bite more than 10 humans a year, but can you blame them with 100 million (or 11,000 per hour) of their relatives are being killed each year? Actually, let’s look at the stats once more just to be precise: sharks bite around 73 people unprovoked, and 39 people provoked. So instead, what they have is a poor PR problem, thanks to movies like Jaws.
  91. The colonisation of the Americas at the end of the 15th century saw a genocide at a scale that have never been seen before. In fact they killed so many people that it disturbed Earth’s climate. So, according to scientists from University College London, the slaughter that followed European settlement in America led to a huge swathe of agricultural land being abandoned and then reclaimed by nature. This development pulled down enough carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere that our planet began to cool down. In the history book, this cooling period often referred as “Little Ice Age”, where winters in Europe were so cold that the Thames in London regularly frozen.
  92. So, how many deaths are we talking about here? First, for comparison here’s the most frequently mentioned genocides: the Holocaust (around 6 million deaths), China’s cultural revolution (20 million), Soviet famine (7.8 million), Armenian genocide (1.5 million), Rwandan genocide (800,000), Cambodian genocide (3 million), Darfur genocide (500,000), Bosnian genocide (39,000). And the genocide on indigenous people in South, Central, and North America over 100 years? European settlers killed 56 million people in total.
  93. Mick Jagger turns 79 this year, still fresh and swagger-y. You know what’s kinda weird? He’s 3 years older than grumpy Donald Trump and 4 months older than grandpa-ish Joe Biden. So maybe, just maybe, the key to long and happy life is sex, drugs, and rock and roll after all.
  94. There are generally 3 types of lice: head, body, and pubic. And the lice in human is developed around 170,000 years ago and it came from gorillas, where early humans simply picked them up when sleeping in abandoned gorilla nests (and not through, uhm, mating). And ever since then we’ve been trying to eradicate them, with one of the efforts to avoid them led humans to wear clothes. But still, lice persisted to stay. Except for pubic lice: A scientific paper published in 2006 by 2 STI doctors in Leeds, England, argue that pubic lice are becoming extinct because people are increasingly having Brazilian waxes, making the pubic lice losing their, ehm, natural habitat. In a way, you can also say that they’re being deforested (no? Nothing? Not funny? Ok moving on). But the discovery was still met by skepticism and even rebuttal insisting that they are not endangered, and there’s little chance that we would 100% know because we can’t check everybody’s koochi and those who have lice won’t necessary admit it. But anyway, interestingly one of the oldest sentences known to humankind was written about, you guessed it, lice! It is from a Canaanite comb from 17,000 BC that reads: “May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard!”
  95. There’s a theory about how life on Earth began, and it’s a wacky one. It is called the cosmic garbage theory, it was first proposed by Professor Thomas Gold of Cornell University in the 1960s, which basically argues that life on Earth began because billions of years ago some aliens stopped by on our ancient planet for a picnic, but then they didn’t tidy up properly before they left. The bits of extra-terrestrial cookie crumbs, etc, landed on the ground and the microbes went on to spark the genesis of life on our planet. But, if cookie crumbs sounds ridiculous, maybe you agree more with scientist Arthur C. Clarke, who speculated that life on Earth came from a passing alien vessel, who dump their faeces into our planet. You know, it actually make sense now how some people can be assholes.
  96. By the way, in terms of alien life, there’s a measuring system called the Kardashev Scale, which measures a civilisation’s level of technological advancement based on the amount of energy that they are able to use, which divided into 6 types of civilisation: Type 1: Capable to control the entire energy of its planet. Type 2: Capable to control the entire energy of its host star (or sun) and able to travel around the solar system. Type 3: Capable to control the energy of its entire host galaxy. Type 4: Capable to control the energy of the universe, able to create galaxies and manipulate space time. Type 5: Capable to control the energy of the multiverse, and able to travel to parallel universes and simulate universes. Type 6: Civilisation that exists beyond time and space, able to create and destroy multiverses.
  97. You know that movie “The Terminal” starring Tom Hanks? Apparently it was inspired by a real man, Iranian refugee Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who made Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris his home for 18 years. He was granted a refugee status in France and lived at a hotel for a period of time, but recently returned to the airport. He passed away at the airport on 12 November this year.
  98. This year time move fast, but slowly. It’s quick, but not in a rush. And while in a blink of an eye we’re already at the end of a year once more, at the same time it feels like some of the occurrences this year have been going on for years. For example, the Russian invasion of Ukraine occurred only since last March, the global inflation problem just appeared since this summer, and in Crypto world Luna’s crash happened only last May and already we have another bombastic collapse of FTX on November. Things really drag heavy this year, aren’t they? But wait, even Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial, as well as the Wagatha Christie case all happened this year. Moreover, Covid has entered its 3rd year with a milder form of Omicron dominating the year, but don’t forget that the scary Delta variant also occurred until early this year. And while deaths and despairs and population problems are popping up around the world, just like that on 15 November the world hit 8 billion population.
  99. Blink, and you’ll miss it. Blink, and my babies are becoming a teenager right in front of my eyes. Blink, and I’m hitting late 30s with life, as they say, will begin next year. Blink, and my once superhuman and bulletproof body is starting to have minor injuries. They say that you become a generation older when an elder in the family passed away. To me this year, it’s my grandmother and all of my childhood memories that surrounds her. And just like that, I’m officially an adult.
  100. So perhaps if I learn anything this year it is this: Life really goes by in a flash. And just like the effect of the Big Bang, our time on Earth is nothing more than one second of a brief spark. As the Stoics and the Buddhists agree, everything is temporary and nothing last forever. Not money, not fame, not power. Loved ones born and die, friends come and go. And in the end of the day we came with nothing and go out with nothing. So I guess the most important thing is to just enjoy the brief spark you have in this world. Stay healthy, be kind, laugh often, experience everything, and also try to be a bright spark in someone else’s life. Stay safe and healthy everyone, put your safety goggle on, your shield, your red mouth ball, whatever. 2023 is going to be one hell of a ride!