100 things I learned and did in 2020

  1. During the Black Death in Europe (1346 – 1353), incoming ships to Italy were required to wait for 40 days before the people on board were allowed to disembark, to prevent further spread of infection. The Italian word for 40 is “quaranta”, and that’s where the word quarantine came from. Hi there, welcome to the end of the Great Quarantine year of 2020. Hope you guys are ok!
  2. In the Victorian England era, there used to be a lowest form of accommodation where people could sleep for the night at a barrack by bending over a rope and hang by the mid section of the body for the night, at the price of a penny. This form of accommodation was a hit for drunken sailors who had spent all their money drinking. Drunk + hanging over? Yes, it is said that this is the origin of the term “hangover.”
  3. Can we time travel? All lines of longitude in the world converge at the geographic South Pole, and so if we stand there we’re literally standing in all 24 time zones. We can then step from today, to yesterday, and back to tomorrow. It is the only place on earth that we can technically time travel. But for real, can we time travel like the sci-fi way? According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, if we can travel faster than the speed of light we can also travel back in time. Aha, so there IS a quantifiable target! But before you’re having any wild ideas, the speed of light is 300,000 kilometres per second (that’s approximately 7.5 times circumnavigating the world in, wait for it, 1 second!)
  4. The world was created through one delicate act of masturbation. I have a feeling that this statement needs elaboration. So according to the Egyptian cosmogony, before there was anything there was Atum, the creator God and main deity of the Egyptian pantheon. Atum existed by himself and surrounded by nothingness, but one day he decided to put an end of this long solitude and he created the world and the rest of the Egyptian gods through, you guess it, the act of masturbation. From his ejaculation then born the first pair of twin gods, Shu (air god) and Tefnut (moisture goddess – not fire, not wisdom, but moisture), and the rest, as they say, is history.
  5. Oh but we’re not done yet. To honour Atum’s ejaculation as the source of livelihood, Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt would perform a ceremony to thank their main god by, yup exactly, masturbating at the riverbank and making sure that the semen followed the flow of the river’s waters. Dude. Ancient Aztecs also have high regards with the sacred act of masturbation, where they believed flowers and spring were born from the semen of Quetzalcoatl, the god creator.
  6. According to Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656), no no no it’s not another masturbation story, we’re done I promise. Ok let’s restart, according to Bishop James Ussher the book of Genesis placed the beginning of time exactly on 22 October 4004 BC at 6 PM. Meanwhile in 1704, using the Bible (the book of Daniel) as his source, Sir Isaac Newton calculated that the world would end in 2060. Are they correct? Well the Earth is definitely much older than 6000+ years, so that part is not true. But about the world would end in 2060? Who knows. Interestingly, there is for once a scientific theory of how the end of the universe could take place, it’s not something written by religion or even conspiracy theories, but by science. The thesis is called The Big Crunch theory. While the Big Bang is where the universe expanded from a tiny dot of matter into the vast huge thing we have now, the Big Crunch is a hypothetical scenario in which the expansion of the universe eventually reverse, started to shrink, and the universe eventually re-collapses. So what happen after the Big Crunch? Another Big Bang will take place immediately for a proceeding universe.
  7. The English word “sophisticated” is derived from “Sophist”, the Athenian intellectual group that became famous and wealthy very quickly from being an orator. Like rock stars on tour, they would go from one town to another delivering speeches (mostly on wisdom) to thousands of audiences that consist of wealthy young men. Their demeanor is, well, sophisticated, making them the poster child for sophistication. Socrates hated them, though. He claimed that the Sophist are not philosopher, they kept “borrowing” other philosophers’ wisdom to get applaud from the crowd, they even competed with one another to get the most applause from the crowd. Yes, according to Socrates they only interested in the appearance of wisdom and not the real pursuit of it. According to historian Donald Robertson, if the Sophist exist today, they would be self-improvement gurus, motivational speakers, and social media influencers (hey it’s Donald Robertson’s opinion, not mine).
  8. Have you ever think why people ride horses but not zebras? Well for a start, zebras are not horses. Sure, they belong to the same Equidae family that include horses, zebras, and donkeys, but zebras are different than horses like tigers are different than lions. Zebras are also smaller than domestic horses, with their backs not as strong. But still, donkeys are even smaller but why do we ride them? While humans have been taming horses for at least 5500 years, humans actually have spent way more time alongside zebras, dating back millions of years since the time of homo sapiens in Africa. But sapiens saw zebras as food, and thus the animal had developed fear over humans since that early age. Moreover, zebras live in the nasty natural surroundings that were also filled with predators such as lions cheetahs and hyenas wanting to eat them. This made zebras adapted by becoming a wild beast themselves with well developed fight or flight responses in order to survive. And this is why we cannot ride zebras like we ride horses, because they’re very difficult to tame.
  9. A study by Korean researchers in 2005 concluded that optimistic people and those who laugh more were less likely to suffer from a stroke, and thus outlived those who didn’t laugh as much. Two Norwegian studies confirm this findings, in which they also conclude that laughter and having a sense of humour help people live longer by 31% and increase the probability of people with end-stage kidney failure to live into retirement by 35%. Did you just say kidney failure? Indeed, laughter therapy has shown to cure or reduce kidney failure, heart disease, arthritis, Parkinson’s Disease, anxiety, depression, and even insomnia. It is also beneficial for social relationships, memory, learning, and it has been shown to produce the same gamma wave in our brain, the same wave produced by experienced meditators.
  10. One extreme example for this occurred in 1979, when a political journalist Normal Cousins suffered from an auto-immune condition in his spine (ankylosing spondylitis). When none of the medicines worked, he then proceeded to lock himself in a hotel room, took massive intravenous doses of Vitamin C, and watch 500 hours of comedy. And would you believe it, after nearly 3 weeks he came out of the hotel cured from the illness. This obviously sparked a great deal of interest and scrutiny in the medicine world, but it shows that laughter is indeed a good medicine. It surely made the lockdowns and social distancing easier for me.
  11. In the Old Testament there’s a particularly intriguing story that is just brilliant. Isaac’s son Jacob has a daughter named Dinah. One day Dinah was kidnapped and raped, which was an odd customary form of courtship in those days as the rapist’s family then offered to purchase her from her family as a wife for the rapist. I dunno how I would respond to that, but Dinah’s brother answered by saying the transaction cannot go ahead because one tiny moral principle: the rapist was not circumcised (sure, that’s the only wrong thing in this whole scenario). So the family made a counter offer, if all the men in the rapist’s hometown cut off their foreskins, Dinah will be theirs. Now, this is the brilliant part, when the men in that town were all incapacitated with bleeding penises, the brothers then invade the goddamn town, plunder it, destroy it, massacre the men, and carry off the women and children. LOL I’m sorry, but that’s just genius.
  12. When someone says “don’t be a pussy”, it usually refer to the slang language for female genitalia. But the original usage for “pussy” in this context comes from a shortened word for “pusillanimous”, which means showing a lack of courage or determination.
  13. According to Pythagoreans, when we fart we lose a part of our soul. Don’t you just love the unverified science old days? These bunch of people were a mystical cult of ancient Greeks that settled in modern-day southern Italy in the 6th century BC. Their cult leader was, you guessed it right, Pythagoras, that math triangle dude. This cult fittingly worship math, believed in transmigration of souls, didn’t eat meat, and for some reason didn’t eat beans as well (probably to avoid farting so they don’t, you know, lose their soul). But I’m writing about them to discuss their practical tool to live a life, namely the Golden Verse: each night before they went to bed they ask 3 questions: 1. What did I do? 2. Where did I go wrong? 3. What duty is left undone? These 3 simple questions can make such a big difference on the way you review your day (to take it up a notch, the Stoics incorporated this habit into their whole day routine that structure our lives from the moment we wake up till we close our eyes at night).
  14. Easter was originally the celebration of the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex, Ishtar. Her symbols, the egg and the bunny, were and still considered as sex and fertility symbols. After Roman Emperor Constantine decided to Christianise the Empire, Easter (which is how we pronounce Ishtar) was changed to represent Jesus. But the eggs and the bunny sticks, and that’s how they fit into the narrative of a day now more commonly associated with resurrection.
  15. When someone talks about wanting to lose weight, I used to joke that it’s actually pretty straight forward: just stop eating. But can we actually do that? As it turns out, someone did just exactly that. In 1965 in Tayport Scotland, an overweight man by the name of Angus Barbieri was told by doctor to do fasting for a couple of days for health benefits. After successfully fasted for several days he thought maybe I could do this for a year? And so he did, setting a record along the way for the length of a fast. While absenting from eating food, he still take vitamins and all the necessary supplements and electrolytes, and lived on zero calorie beverages such as tea, coffee, soda waters. To be very careful of his health, he also routinely visited Maryfield hospital for medical evaluation. The result? He weighted 207 kg before the fast, and after 382 days ending in 11 July 1966 he weighted 82 kg. So it does work! He died at a young age of 51 though, due to heart problem that may be influenced by the unusual way he lost almost 2/3 of his weight.
  16. There’s a new ocean forming in the middle of Africa and the continent will split into two. But no need to panic, as the “split” is going in a veeeeeery slow rate of 7mm annually, which would approximately take tens of million years for an ocean to eventually be formed. The split will occur somewhere in the East African Rift, which stretches from the Afar region of Ethiopia down to Mozambique, with regular eruption of volcanoes along the region and new insights into the break up of continents confirm scientists prediction. Did I say East Africa? That’s right, the split could occur with the entire East Africa region splitting from the mainland Africa just like Madagascar-Antarctica-India did 135 million years ago from Africa-South America landmass.
  17. Wouldn’t it be neat for once to live in a place where time does not exist? Well there’s a place in Norway that deliberately turn off its clocks. The small island is named Sommarøy, and during the summer the sun rises from 18 May and do not set again until 26 July, while between November to January they live in total darkness. Needless to say the 350 residence in the island always have a weird relationship with time. So one day they decided to formalise it, by sending a petition to the Norwegian parliament for them to be a time-free zone. The island’s main source of income is fishing and tourism, and visitors have reportedly embraced the idea by taking off their watches and attaching them to a bridge leading to the island (presumably not Audemars Piguet or Rolex, perhaps Boy London – remember them? Ah good old simple days).
  18. Speaking of time that doesn’t exist, if ever we can have the ability to completely freeze time, we actually won’t be able to see anything when it happens. Because light protons will also freeze and they won’t hit our retina, thus it will all be only darkness. Wow so much for that fantasy since watching “Out of this world” when I was little.
  19. A large study by Harvard and funded by the Centers for Disease Control plus the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation conclude that if people drink water instead of sugary soda drinks, they would consume 225 fewer calories a day (that’s equivalent to about 1 soft drink). Translate that to 1 year, that’s potentially 82,125 fewer calorie intakes, or about 24 pounds (12 kilograms) of weight loss by just opting out from sugary drinks. But of course it still depends on your net calorie intake and, other things being equal, you need to be a regular sugary drinker in the first place to lose this weight.
  20. Do you know how much blood humans have in their body? It depends on how much we weigh, our sex, and the climate where we live in, but generally it is equivalent to 7% of our body weight. For instance, a 4 KG baby will have about 270 ml of blood, children with 40 KG weight will have about 2650 ml of blood, and adult weighting 75-80 KG should have about 4500 to 5700 ml of blood. Now’s the fun part (fun?), how many blood loss do you think our body can handle? Losing an excessive amount of blood is known medically as hemorrhagic shock. And doctors categorize hemorrhagic shock into 4 classes: 1. Blood loss of 15% 2. Blood loss of 15-30% 3. Blood loss of 30-40% 4. Blood loss of greater than 40%. Our blood pressure and heart rate will stay close to normal when we lose up to 30% of our blood, but above that we will start to have a rapid heart rate more than 120 beats/minute, our blood pressure will drop, and our breathing rate will go up. If we lose more than 40% of our blood? We will die.
  21. Which brings us to George Washington. You’ve probably heard about his heroic battle tales, his contribution in forming the Declaration of Independence, and his role as the 1st president of the United States. But did you know how he died? Plenty of historical accounts mention his cause of death as epiglottitis, which is a fancy name for a some kind of sore throat. But actually the cause of his death was not the sore throat, but the method to cure it: the doctor drained the total of 2365 liters of his blood (that’s 40%, the magic number) over 12 hour period in order to reduce the massive inflammation on his windpipe and to constrict the blood vessels in the area. This massive blood loss, along with the accompanying electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, and viscous blood flow, is what eventually killed him.
  22. Is it too nauseating for you? No? Ok let’s talk more about blood. Let’s start with the basics, our blood consist of: 1. Red blood cells, which deliver oxygen to the tissues in our body and remove carbon dioxide 2. White blood cells, that act as our shield, they destroy invaders and fight infections 3. Platelets, they helps our body to clot 4. Plasma, a fluid composed of proteins and salts. So far so good. Now, everyone’s blood is different due to a unique combination of protein molecules called antigens and antibodies, and the combination of antigens and antibodies in our blood is the basis of our blood type. Blood groups were discovered by an Austrian scientist named Karl Landstiner in 1901. Before his discovery, doctors thought all blood was the same and thus so many people dying from blood transfusion, because if we mix blood from 2 different blood type the blood can clod, because the person receiving the transfusion has antibodies that will fight the cells of the donor blood and hence causing a toxic reaction.
  23. Now that we know different blood type consist of different combination of antigens and antibodies, this next bit should becomes clear. Blood type O has lower risk of coronary heart disease, because they likely have lower amount of protein and cholesterol compared with other blood types. Blood types A AB and B have more risk of pancreatic and stomach cancer, especially for type A because the blood cell helps H. pylori bacteria to grow in the stomach and cause inflammation and ulcers. Blood type AB have more memory problems than others, and higher risk of stroke. People with blood type A tend have more cortisol (stress hormone). People with blood types A AB B have higher risk of having a blood clot. Blood type A and B have higher chance to get type 2 diabetes. If you think blood type O is having a huge lead right now, you’re right. We have higher chances to live longer life if we have blood type O due to lower risk of heart disease and blood vessels. But of course everything depends on our lifestyle and how we nourish our body.
  24. The Nintendo game “Kirby” was created in honour of Nintendo’s lawyer. So in the 1980s when Nintendo penetrated the US market, their game “Donkey Kong” became a massive hit. But later on they got sued by Universal Studios because they claim that the Donkey Kong character is a plagiarism of their franchise “King Kong”. If the lawsuit was successful, Nintendo would have to cease operating in the US. So it was a big deal. In the end Nintendo won the lawsuit, thanks to their lawyer. His name? John Kirby. And his appearance? He’s a bald white man with pinkish skin tone. And the rest is history.
  25. If you go to Korea, you won’t find a deodorant. Or if you can find one, it’ll be hella expensive. What gives? There’s actually a gene inside our body called ABCC11, which basically determine whether someone is smelly or not. And the vast majority of Korean descent have this particular gene somehow mutated that it basically disappears in them. So they literally wont produce body odor, even in a scorching hot and sweaty day. Yes it applies for Koreans in both North and South. And no, I won’t discuss the races that have excessive ABCC11.
  26. According to a study by Albert Mehrabian, which has since confirmed by other studies, our communication is conveyed through 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and only 7% of the actual words. The percentages vary in different situations, but the general guideline remains around 50-40-10 and that most of our communication is actually non verbal. This also applies with our communication with animals. In fact, try it out on your pet if you have one, and see their instant reaction: talk to them using the nastiest insults on them but with a loving and caring tone. And then try shouting at them with an angry tone but containing a very pleasant and loving words.
  27. If you and I shake hands for 2 minutes and then you get a knife to murder someone, the DNA that is in the murder weapon would be my DNA. What’s more creepy, if you get a bone marrow transplant from other person your DNA will change into that person’s DNA (and also blood type). So before getting a transplant make sure that the person is not a serial killer or a rapist and what not. As you can imagine, this DNA change to the donor’s has caused a number of false imprisonments and inaccurate paternal and maternal DNA tests.
  28. There once exist a cult solely dedicated to coconut, founded by a German cocovore August Engelhardt. A coco what? It is by definition a person who live purely from coconut, where they eat only the “meat” of the coconut and drink only the water from a coconut, and believe that coconut is the panacea for all mankind’s woes. Is that healthy? Hell no. And Engelhardt proved the danger of it when at the end of his life he was mentally ill, suffering from rheumatic, and severely malnourished with ulcers on his legs. And he was only 44. But this is not the interesting part of the story, the interesting part is how he can build a freakin cult out of it. So in 1902 Engelhardt left all of his Earthly possessions and sailed to paradise (the German-owned South Pacific Bismarck Archipelago), where using his inheritance he bought a 75 hectare coconut and banana plantation on the Kabakon Island (now part of Papua New Guinea), where the remaining 50 hectares of the island were a protected nature reservation inhabited by the natives.
  29. Engelhardt believed that human is a tropical animal and not intended to live in caves (i.e. houses), but instead people should wander around free and naked like Adam did, with exposure from sunlight as the ultimate immunity for our bodies. He wrote his philosophy with his mate August Bethmann, in a book entitled “A Carefree Future: The New Gospel” 4 years before he set sail to paradise. And as you can imagine, the book was obsessed with everything about coconut. There were even poems about coconut. In paradise, he was joined by some 15 German disciples, all long-haired, all hanging brain, all became a sun-worshippers and they only consume coconuts. The cult has a bizarre ending though, filled with dramas and infightings and diseases, lot’s of diseases. So much so that at one point the German government had to issue a ban to prevent people to join this cult.
  30. The word vaccine was coined by English physician and scientist Edward Jenner in 1796, and the word comes from the Latin word variolae vaccinae which means smallpox of the cow. I’m sorry, cows? Yes, the immune enhancing technique was first developed using cowpox to cure smallpox. And what better way to create the cowpox vaccine than from extracting the virus from cow poo? Smallpox was a very deadly virus in those days, killing 10-20% of the population, so cow poo had pretty much saved humanity. Oh yes of course, Edward Jenner played a massive role as well. And just in case you’re wondering, yes Edward Jenner is the ancestor of Caitlyn Jenner.
  31. Mike Tyson never had coffee. That’s it, that’s the whole story. Don’t get me wrong, he smoke weed, did drugs and alcohol, but never consume coffee. And no, there’s no deep meaning or tragic story behind it, he just never wanted to. Meanwhile, George Soros doesn’t drink or smoke, neither does Donald Trump. Yeah I also sense that there should be a bigger story behind all this, but no, just random stand-alone facts. But anyway, Mike Tyson has a podcast (who doesn’t these days) you should check it out, it’s surprisingly interesting. My favourite so far is his interview with former mafia captain Michael Franzese.
  32. Is Adam really the first human? The Christian Bible surprisingly did not specify that Adam was indeed the first man ever to walk the Earth. Another argument says that Adam and Eve might just be the last humans standing in their 7000-year cycle (the Bible state human existence operates on a 7000-year cycle), after an event similar like the one happened with Noah in the Great Flood where all humans were wiped out except Noah, his family, and the animals that he saved. This idea that there are early humans before Adam and Eve fits perfectly with the narrative circulating among the Muslim circles, with the myth of the early humans even have a name: the Nisnas civilisation. They are a half-man-half-beast (man-bear-pig? Only for the cultured) Homo Sapien-like society with advanced technology (from alchemy to airplanes) and perfect city planning, who lived up north near the North Pole. Apparently they have telepathic ability and some have wings, some have animal heads (which would explain all the cave paintings with human body with animal heads – not as an analogy, but a literal painting of someone), and most have taller and bigger posture than modern humans. However, they got too greedy and egoistical that they started to wage war against each others, and eventually they were all wiped out from Earth by Azazel as commanded by God due to their out of control un-Godly behaviour. Meanwhile, the conspiracy theorists believe that these people are an alien race that came to Earth to escape their dying planet, which explains why we’re humans are different than Homo Sapiens, Neanderthals, Homo Erectus, etc. So, the big question. Are they real? Well that’s the fun of it, nobody knows for sure.
  33. On a lighter note, Adam’s apple got its name from Adam’s forbidden apple. It was believed that this bump in male’s throat was caused by the forbidden fruit getting stuck in Adam’s throat after THAT sin in the Garden of Eden (not sure why there’s no Eve’s apple though). Interestingly, in contrast with the Christian belief that the forbidden fruit was an apple, some Hebrew scholars believe that the fruit was pomegranate, while the Al Qur’an claims that the fruit was a banana. Yeah, “Adam’s banana” gives a whole different connotation.
  34. You know we can set our phones to automatic lockdown/shut off if let’s say unused for 15 minutes? Well our body actually works the same way: if we lay down and stay absolutely still for 15 minutes, we will automatically go into sleep mode. I’m talking about no slight repositioning of posture, no change of breathing pattern, not even – gasp – ball scratching.
  35. The Seven Deadly Sins was standardized by Pope Gregory I in the year 590 AD. But did you know that there are actually a specific punishment in hell for each one of the sins? Anger: dismembered alive. Pride: broken on the wheel. Envy: put in freezing water. Greed: put in cauldrons of boiling oil. Gluttony: force-fed rats, toads, and snakes. Lust: smothered in fire and brimstone. Sloth: thrown in snake pits. Yikes.
  36. The single most important biological function that causes aging is the diminished energy production in our mitochondria. So what the hell is that? Mitochondria is like little factories in our cells that turn calories and oxygen into an energy molecule known as Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) that fuels every cell in our body. We have more than 100,000 trillion of these “energy factories” in our cell, and each contains 17,000 little assembly lines for making ATP. They use over 90% of the oxygen we breathe, and they exist in greater amounts in active organs and tissues such as the heart (take up 40% of the space inside the heart cells), brain, and muscles.
  37. Now as you can guess, when our “energy factories” are not working properly we’ll suffer from all the symptoms of low energy, such as fatigue, memory loss, pain, weight gain, rapid aging, and more. And just like an aging factory, a slower mitochondria will make our body’s metabolism running less efficiently or shut down completely. Diminished energy production in the mitochondria also results in the development of insulin resistance. In fact, the “disease” of aging is pretty much the disease of accelerated insulin resistance, as, for example, people with diabetes don’t produce ATP in their mitochondria as well as healthy people do. But if we fix that, we can reverse the aging process. Yes, reverse.
  38. So what can cause mitochondria to deteriorate? Often the cause of damage is something we call oxidative stress, a state that occurs when there is an excess of free radicals in the cells. It is that thing we see as rust on a car, an apple that turns brown in the air, and wrinkles on our face. But we can also wrinkle on the inside too, including in our “energy factory.” And this largely occurred from lack of sleep, eating too much sugar, too much processed foods, obesity, environmental toxins, smoking, alcohol consumption, exposure to radiation, and anything that causes inflammation. So what’s the cure? It’s kinda a no brainer answer, but to fix our deteriorating energy factory we need to carefully balance, repair, and rebuild the factory.
  39. And for deteriorating mitochondria, that can be done through countering our oxidative stress. Our body naturally produces antioxidants to counteract the free radicals, but to aid them this is the usual magic formula: sleep well, eat well, fasting (which can trigger the autophagy process as discussed in 100 things 2019 no. 18-21 that replace damaged cells – along with its mitochondria – with new ones), exercising regularly (or if you want to take it up a notch, fasted running has shown to increase the generation of mitochondria quicker than regular exercise), reduce stress (for example through meditation), avoiding exposure to all sorts of pollution, quit smoking and drinking, and maintaining a healthy body weight. What’s in the “eat well” category? Limiting (or abolishing) intake of processed foods and sugar, reducing insulin production (through low-glycemic-load carbs), optimizing protein (through organic or grass-fed animals) and amino acid intake (through healthful diet rich in fruits and veggies, preferably organic), eat healthy fat (such as avocado and olive oil).
  40. Take a guess, how old do you think is the youngest mother in history? 14? 10? You sick bastard, 8? No, it’s actually even younger. The youngest mother in history is Lina Marcela Medina, who gave birth at the age of 5 years, 7 months, and 21 days. So Lina was born on 23 September 1933 in Peru, and during those days many of the remote villages in Peru held regular “religious festivals” that lead to group sex or even rape, which, as you can guess, including young children such as Lina. But how can a 5 year old get pregnant? When Lina was 8 month pregnant, her mother confessed to the media that Lina started her menstruation at the age of 3, a medical condition know as precocious puberty in which her sexual organs and hormones would develop at a very early age (the exact cause of this condition is still unknown). The baby was born on mother’s day 14 May 1939, and the child was named Gerardo Medina after the doctor who helped Lina through labor. The father’s identity still remains a mystery till this day.
  41. Last summer me and my brother taught my little girl how to ride a bike, and I wondered why once we learn how to ride a bike we will never forget it again ever, even if we learn it in childhood and didn’t ride anymore for 30 years? As it turns out, different types of memories are stored in different regions of our brain. Long-term memory is further divided into 2 types, declarative and procedural. Declarative memory consist of episodic memory (recollection of our first kiss, the feeling of that day our sports team won the league) and factual knowledge (like what is the capital city of Indonesia), both of whom have one common thing: we are aware of the knowledge and can communicate them to other people. Meanwhile, skills such as riding a bicycle and playing a musical instrument are stored in procedural memory, it is the type of memory that is responsible for performance. Procedural memory does not interfere with our consciousness, and it is also essentially a motor skill. I.e. once we learn how to walk, open a fridge door, or ride a bike, the memory will go to our subconscious mind and never disappear (unless we get a brain damage).
  42. Wrigley’s was initially a company that produced soap. They gifted a baking powder alongside their soap, and through time the baking powder became more popular than the soap that they switched to selling baking powder with chewing gum as a side gift. The gum then became more popular than the baking powder that the company then switched to selling gum.
  43. According to science, being prone to anger is a better predictor of dying young due to heart disease compared to smoking, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. Of course, anger alone is not the sole cause of coronary artery disease, but for a person who repeatedly gets angry each episode of anger increases their blood pressure and heart rate and that adds an additional stress to the heart. If that is repeated over and over again, it could cause damages because the turbulence of blood flowing through the coronary artery with each heartbeat can cause micro-tears in the vessel, where plaque develops. Hence, if our blood pressure is higher and heart rate is faster due to constant anger, then over like 30 years that may lead to a faster buildup of plaque, which could lead to coronary artery disease.
  44. But don’t try to suppress your anger just yet, because trying to suppress such emotions in the heat of the moment could actually results in magnifying the body’s agitation and might even raise blood pressure. And if you do suppress your anger, it will manifest somewhere else both physically or mentally. So, what the hell should I do?? Well, instead of pushing down your anger, learn how to contain it and channel it well. Contain it, as in don’t let it ruin you mood, your relationship, or let you say something that you will later regret. But then channel that energy to something else or something useful. Abraham Lincoln famously wrote many angry letters (that he never send) just to get his anger out of his chest, some use the anger into fuel to work their ass off for a cause they believe in, and some channel it to sports or making music or choreograph an interpretative dance, you know whatever floats your boat.
  45. The word “spam” was adopted by the creator of the internet trash from a Monty Python sketch, where in the sketch a restaurant serves nothing but SPAM (the canned meat). The association of the two meanings goes even weired, when in 1945 just after the war the son of the founder of SPAM was interviewed by the media about their huge contribution on feeding the US troops in the war, in which he then complained about the many spam-like angry letters he received from troops that didn’t like the taste of the food but had no other option. HA! Coincidence? Moreover, in another level of weirdness, there’s actually a huge festival in Hawaii solely dedicated to SPAM. Inside the festival they have spam burgers from the likes of McDonald’s and Burger King, there’s even SPAM sushi and any other fushion between local dishes and SPAM.
  46. You’ve probably heard that the world is in a short supply of fresh water, that the next world crisis would be on water. But there’s also a alarming crisis on the 2nd most used resource in the world: sand. It’s a long story, and this BBC article explain it best.
  47. When watching a sports game, have you ever wonder just how much “home game” advantage really counts? Well, as a blessing in disguise during this pandemic, we actually have the stats now. Thanks to social distancing restrictions, games are now being played without fans present in the stadium. And yes, the loud chants and reactions from the fans do influence the game. One study shows that in European football matches referees give more yellow cards to visiting teams when the home crowd is present (compared with when the stadium is empty). Another study shows in a Major League Baseball games where home teams typically win 53-55% of their games, they found out that while during the pandemic the winning stats has dropped to almost even 50-50. Hence, the weird sporting matches results in the age of coronavirus.
  48. The Garden of Eden arguably does exist, it is in modern-day Turkish city of Urfa. Like the Biblical Eden, Urfa is located between four rivers, including the Tigris and Euphrates, and the city is also located in what the Bible terms “the east” – that is, west of ancient Assyria. But the main reason why so many people believe that this city rests upon the ruins of Eden is what lies just 10 miles to the northeast, atop a high mountain ridge, a place called Göbekli Tepe. It is recognized by archaeologists as the earliest religious temple ever constructed, and it was there that the birth of farming took place. So is this one of those moments where archaeological science goes in tandem with religious texts? Does it matter?
  49. I’ve learned in the past few years that religion is more about faith than facts discovered by us mere fallible humans, a sentiment best expressed by none other than Karen Armstrong herself: “It is no use magisterially weighing up the teachings of religion to judge their truth or falsehood before embarking on a religious way of life. You will discover their truth—or lack of it—only if you translate these doctrines into ritual or ethical action.” So does historical accuracy in religion matters? As it turns out, not really. What matters more is the message and the subsequent actions that comes from it.
  50. Which brings us to Alain de Botton. The contemporary British philosopher is the founder of a movement called New Atheism, but in his brilliant book Religion for Atheists to my surprise he argued that yes religion is man made (in his view) but there are so many wonderful customs, culture, and inventions that come out from religion that are very useful for mankind. And thus atheists doesn’t have to believe in God to pay respect to religion and its devotees, and they should even implement religion’s values and routines as a secular practitioners. Reading this book fits Seneca’s teaching to read the book of an author you disagree with, in this case for me is someone who is championing atheism. And as it turns out, I don’t have problems with atheists like I don’t have problems with people practicing their different religions peacefully (they even fascinates me), and de Botton could serve as the model citizen for how atheists should respectfully behave. Not sure though if I will have the patience and energy to read books by extremists Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Maybe next year, along with reading books about Wahhabism and the dark history of the papacy.
  51. Diabetes is actually NOT a genetic disease. In fact 90% of our risk of getting the disease comes from differences in environment and not our genes. While the genetic code of the human population changes only 0.2% every 20,000 years, those genes are expressed in an environment that has changed more in the last hundred years than in all of previous human history. That changed environment includes bad lifestyle factors such as poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, stress, and exposure to environmental toxins. But conversely, if we can get a type 2 diabetes from our environment, we can also avoid getting them from controlling our environment. This includes how we eat, how much we exercise, how we manage stress, and how we contain our exposure to environmental and food-based toxins. Don’t get me wrong, it is still true that the genes we inherited may put us at greater risk, however it doesn’t necessarily mean we will get diabetes and it all depends on our lifestyle. In fact, diabetes is also reversible through lifestyle intervention, nutritional support, and the right medications, especially through dramatic changes in diet (a very low-glycemic, low-calorie, plant-based diet).
  52. The moon is 386,400 KM away from Earth, which takes approximately 3 days of rocket trip to reach. Now, NASA is planning to have astronauts back on the moon by 2024 (including the first woman on the moon) and a permanent settlement there by 2028, to learn how to live in a different planetary body before we can even think of going to Mars. This is because the current outpost in the space is the International Space Station, which is only a 4 hour flight away from Earth. Meaning, if shit happens in the space station there’s always a Soyuz aircraft ready to bring the men and women back home to Earth. That would be a different scenario if something happens on the moon, or in the long term in Mars that is 65.507 million KM away that would take months to reach from Earth.
  53. According to the legend, there once lived a widowed father who was so poor that he feared his daughters could never marry and would have to downgrade themselves to prostitution to survive. Wanting to help, one night St. Nicholas slid down their chimney, saw the girls’ laundered stockings hanging by the fireplace, and filled them with gold. This act of charity saved the girls from the dark world of prostitution, and since then people started to hang stockings at Christmas. But that red and white colour? There is a common misbelief that it is a product of an ingenious Coca Cola advertising campaign in 1933, but prior to that the modern image of Santa Claus as we know it today was already established by cartoonist Thomas Nast in the 1870s.
  54. Do you ever feel that 24 hours a day is never enough? So, as we all know Earth’s gravitational interaction with the moon causes ocean tides to form. But little did we know that the moon also stabilizes Earth’s tilted axis and more crucially slows down its rotation. Let me repeat that again, the moon is slowly decelerate the Earth’s spinning motion, about 17 milliseconds per hundred years. So it will take around 140 million years, but there will be a time when the inhabitants of the Earth will start to experience 25 hours a day. Speaking of 24 hours, sleep scientists have discovered that human body’s natural circadian rhythm is actually closer to 24 hours and 15 minutes. This can explain why when we have absolutely nothing to do (no school, no work to go to, no fixed social gathering times, or like now staying at home) we will eventually start going to bed later and later each night.
  55. Speaking about going to bed, our sleep cycle consist of several “waves” with each wave last for 90 minutes, where people normally sleep in between 4-6 waves (6 hours – 9 hours). Sleeping and waking up at exactly 1 cycle (90 minutes) would refresh our body and mind, while sleeping more or less that the wave would make our body tired and/groggy. For example, we would be more refreshed if we sleep 7.5 hours (5 waves) compared with sleeping 8 hours. If we can only sleep less than 7.5 hours? It is actually better to sleep 6 hours (4 waves) than 7 hours.
  56. Moreover, after just 24 hours of sleep deprivation, we will experience an overall reduction of 6% in glucose reaching the brain, with our parietal lobe and prefrontal cortex (the brain function responsible for thinking, temperance, social control, differentiate between right and wrong) can lose as high as 12 to 14% of glucose. This quite literally makes our brain dumber, with our judgements and decision making abilities impaired. In response, our brain’s built-in survival mechanism will try to search in our memory what kind of food that can get those glucose back the quickest? Sugar. That’s why if we’re sleep deprived we always crave for some candy, doughnuts, ice cream, and any other sugary stuff. So it’s not always about the epic battle between our will power and our “cravings”, but instead it’s simple science. Sleep well, and you’ll eliminate your will power’s biggest nemesis.
  57. Still on sleeping, men who sleep 5 hours a night have smaller testicles compared with men who sleep 7 hours a night. Right. Meanwhile, deep voice in men indicates more testosterone. Of course correlation does not mean causation, but is it safe then to conclude that men who sleep 7 hours a night have deeper voice? Well why don’t we check the science: some studies have suggested that larger testicles among some mammals are associated with higher testosterone levels. So technically, yeeeah. You know who will benefit from more sleep? Buahaha ok let’s not go there.
  58. One more thing, there’s a peptide hormone in our body called Human Growth Hormone (HGH) that plays a key role in growth, cell repair, cell reproduction, body composition, and metabolism. It also boost muscle growth, strength and exercise performance and help us recover from injury or disease. HGH is produced by our bodies at normal levels during our younger years, which contributes to our youthful look (i.e. young-looking skin, less body fat). And as much as 75% of HGH in our bodies is released during sleep, where the highest burst of HGH occur between 10 PM and midnight. That’s where the phrase “beauty sleep” comes from. But if you’re no longer young, there’s no need to worry because we can increase our HGH level naturally: 1. Optimising sleep, as discussed 2. Don’t eat 2-3 hours before bed time 3. Intermittent fasting 4. Reducing our sugar intake (increase in insulin is associated with lower HGH levels) 5. High intensity exercise 6. Lose body fat. If at this point you notice some similarities among seemingly every “health solutions”, you’re absolutely spot on. The key to health is actually pretty straight forward. It’s in the implementation where we often struggle.
  59. Have you ever wondered what will happen if a commercial airplane flies too high to outer space? The short answer is, it can’t. Airplane can fly due to the air moving along the wings to hold them up, which with sufficiently large wings of a cleverly designed shape, our planes can rely on our atmosphere to do the job properly. But the higher the altitude the thinner the oxygen level, hence planes can only go as high as their technology allows. For example, large passenger planes can’t fly much higher than about 12 KM, because the air is too thin above that altitude to be able to hold the plane up. So, the next question would be, how do spacecraft fly into the outer space? Unlike planes, they don’t need air to lift them up. And instead, they use high-speed exhaust gases from burning rocket fuel to proper themselves out from Earth’s surface to the vacuum space. Like everything else that burns, rocket fuel cannot burn without oxygen, thus a rocket carries its own oxygen in tanks and mixes it with the fuel just before it is burned.
  60. I forget who said this, but wouldn’t it be nice when we die and go to heaven (or hell, or valhalla, whatever) they would show the highlights of our lives, complete with the top 5 near death experiences? And you thought, I nearly died eating that? Holy crap I was just one step away from falling down. Wow that jealous ex was really psycho.
  61. The loudest sound ever recorded in human history was the explosion of mount Krakatoa in 27 August 1883. For context, the threshold for human hearing is at 0 decibel (1000 Hz), silent study room is 20 decibels, a whisper is 30 decibel, construction site is 100 decibels, night club with music 110 decibels, ambulance siren 120 decibel, the loudest recorded human screaming was 129 decibel (as of March 2019), jet taking off 130 decibels (from 200 feet / 61 KM away), and the loudest rock concert ever recorded was Mötorhead concert at a 1984 gig in Cleveland Variety Theatre where they registered 130 decibels. Meanwhile, our threshold of pain is 140 decibels where at 150-160 decibels our ear drums can start to rupture (but a safe level is below 70 decibels, a sound above 85 decibels is likely to damage our hearing over time). A gun shot is around 140 and 165 decibels, and interestingly the loudest fart ever recorded was 194 decibels (“normal” fart is around 80 decibels) by a certain legend from Madeline, Texas, named Alvin Meshits whom in 16 May 1972 maintained the “blast” at that sound level for one third of a second (I wonder if anyone went deaf after that fart). And the explosion of Krakatoa? 310 decibels! It is said that the explosion was so loud that a sound of 174 decibels was registered by barometers within the radius of 100 miles (161 KM), meaning people within that radius would have been deafened by the explosion. Meanwhile, the loudest sound ever created by humans, and not by natural causes, was yo mama’s moaning last night (I’m sorry, I saw an opening and I took it). Where were we? Oh right, loudest sound ever created by humans were the atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, at around 250 decibels. Interestingly, scientists predict that if we or something can produce a sound louder than 1100 decibels, it would create a black hole and destroy the galaxy (I wonder if Alvin Meshits is still alive and up for the challenge).
  62. Still on sound. The speed of sound in a normal oxygen air is 350 m/s, while the speed of sound in a helium air is 900 m/s. In other words, helium is lighter than air and consequently sound travel faster in a helium environment. So that high pitch voice we make when we inhale helium gas? That can occur because the helium environment makes our vocal cord to vibrate faster, hence the higher, and hilarious, pitch.
  63. I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this before. But, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is actually a 1944 marketing campaign launched by General Foods, the manufacturer of Grape Nuts, to sell more cereal. In fact, eating the likes of sugar-filled cereal, toast with sweet jams, and pancake with its syrup in the morning will ensure our body to experience sugar crash later in the day (that sleepiness at noon, rings a bell?). But it’s not all bad. Breakfast could indeed be the most important meal of the day if we do it right, namely eating proteins and good fat to fuel the upcoming day.
  64. The expression “God bless you” after a sneeze can be traced back to the 14th century when Pope Gregory VII asked for the phrase to be said after every sneeze to protect against the plague.
  65. The 10 days between 5 October 1582 until 14 October 1582 never exist in our recorded history. how did it happen? First, a quick recap on the calendar system, from our previous series of 100 things: Septem, Octo, Novem, and Decem are Latin words that means 7, 8, 9, 10. As you all know, when Julius Caesar created the first modern calendar, the Julian Calendar, in 46 BC he inserted July (from his own name) and August (from the first Caesar) in the nicest warmest months in summer, and thus September, October, November, December have since become the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th month of the year. Now, roughly 1600 years later, astronomers discovered that a year has 365.2425 days in it and not exactly 365 days, that came from the realisation that the summer and winter solstices were occurring 10 days earlier each year than they did in the Roman Empire times.
  66. So, in 1582 they proposed a new calendar, which would run in 400 year cycles. Every 4 years a day would be added at the end of February (the leap year), while in this 400 year cycles every 100 years we will skip a leap year, except for the 400th year when we keep the leap year (just in case you’re wondering, the next time we skip a leap year is in 2100). The Church was satisfied with this new arrangement and Pope Gregory XIII decreed it to be used effectively immediately (and named this new calendar system after himself, the Gregorian calendar – ego much?). So, to adjust the transition from the Julian calendar to Gregorian calendar, in 1582 they skipped from 4 October straight to 15 October to get the solstices lines up again, and hence erasing 10 days from history.
  67. Speaking of calendar, have you ever thought why do we use BC and AD in our historical records? The terms Anno Domini (AD) (a medieval Latin word that means “in the year of the Lord”) and Before Christ (BC) are used to label years in the calendar where AD counting the years from the start of the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and BC representing years before the start of the era. There is no year zero, however, so the year 1 BC immediately turn to year AD 1 (which is weird, as we immediately lost 1 year). This dating system was created in the year 525 AD by Dionysius Exiguus of Scythia Minor, but was not widely used until after 800 AD when Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne adopted the system to dating acts of government across Europe. By the 15th century all of Western Europe had adopted the system, and it became a key feature in the 16th century introduction of the Gregorian calendar mentioned earlier (a calendar system that we use today after it became an international standard as recent as in 1988). Interestingly, according to historians Jesus Christ was actually born somewhere between 6 and 4 BC. Let me repeat that again, Jesus was born 6 or 4 years Before Christ. If this is not the most epic calculation error in history I don’t know what is.
  68. There’s actually a calendar system that makes perfect sense for me. It is named the International Fixed Calendar, which was created by Moses B. Cotsworth (thus also dubbed the Cotsworth calendar) and it was first presented in 1902. The calendar system is very simple: we have 28 days a month and 13 months a year, which makes it a total 364 days. One extra day is added at the end of the calendar year as a holiday (29 December, or 31 December in our current calendar system) to make it a nice 365 days, so 1 January in Cotsworth calendar will be the same as 1 January in our Gregorian calendar. The 13th month will be inserted in between June and July, and it is named Sol (after solstice, in homage to the sun). Moreover, 28 days a month means every day is fixed to the same weekday of the month (e.g. 1 January is always Monday, 7 March and 7 June definitely Sunday, and 20 any month any year are always Saturday) and that satisfies the mild OCD in me (LOL, mild). But of course I cannot begin to imagine the chaos for our historical archive, and the sheer thought of having to re-memorise all the significant dates in history is just too much burden to bear. For the simplest example, what’s 11 September 2001 in the Cotsworth calendar? 17 August 1945? What about the greatest night in my life 25 May 2005? (Watching Liverpool come back from 0-3 defeat to win the Champions League, with me jumping up and down hugging with crowds of strangers in a pub remain the most exciting memory – sorry kids).
  69. The longest walkable route on Earth is about 22,500 KM long (14,000 miles), from L’Agulhas in South Africa to Magadan in Russia. It takes about 3 years to complete the journey. Alright, that’s one more added to the bucket list.
  70. The poultry industry in the US began thanks to an error. So there was once lived a woman named Cecile Steele. Each year Cecile ordered 50 chicks from a Dagsboro hatchery owned by Vernon Steen to restock her small laying flock, but one day in 1923 Vernon mistakenly adds another zero behind the usual order and ended up sending 500 chicks instead of 50. Cecile then decided to raise the chicks instead of returning then, in a 16-by-16 shed. After 18 weeks, as the chicks have grown to weigh just above 2 pounds (1 KG) Cecile sold the meat for 62 cents a pound (or $5 a pound in today’s money). Realising that they could live off the income from this arrangement, Cecile and her husband David Wilmer Steele decided to pursue it further and before long they were raising as many as 10,000 chickens a year. Looking at their success many people in the area started to emulate them, and by 1928 there were 500 chicken growers in Sussex County. And that’s how a clerical error gave birth to a $3.5 billion Delmarva poultry industry. Today Delmarva is home to 10 processing plants, 13 hatcheries and 10 feed mills. And Sussex county is ranked no 1 in the US for meat chicken production at 200 million pounds per year. And that first 16-by-16 shed is now an historic relic at the Delaware Agricultural Museum in Dover.
  71. By now you might have heard that vitamin D is good for Covid-19 prevention. This is the scientific explanation for it (it’s a relatively long explanation but trust me it’s worth every minute of your time, it might even save your life). The too long didn’t read version of it: what we need is Vitamin D3, and the best natural way to get it is from direct sunlight for at least 30 minutes. But this is where it gets tricky. Our body clock is most responsive to sunlight in the early morning hours, between 6 AM and 8:30 AM. An exposure to direct sunlight after these hours is still beneficial but would give less benefit. And note the emphasis on direct sunlight. The sun has a plethora of wavelengths that could impact our bodies, but the main two are UVA and UVB with UV stands for ultraviolet. The only wavelength that triggers our body to produce vitamin D is UVB, this is what we want to get every morning (UVB interact with a protein in our skin called 7-DHC, which turn the UVB into vitamin D3). But the problem is UVB has a shorter wavelength than UVA where UVA can penetrate through various materials more easily such as ozone layer, clouds, pollution, and glass without being filtered out that much while UVB cannot go through glass very effectively. This is why it is important to get a direct sunlight outdoors, because not only we won’t get UVB from indoors or inside our car, we could get too much of UVA, the sunlight responsible for skin cancer. So, direct sunlight between 6 – 8:30 AM. Or if you must, you can take a vitamin D supplement but don’t take vitamin D3 without having enough K2 in your diet or without consuming vitamin K2 as well, because taking D3 without K2 will calcify tissue over decades. And note that vitamin D temporarily pauses melatonin production, so make sure to consume the vitamin in the morning and not at night where we need melatonin for good sleep. More on Vitamin D.
  72. By the way, if you’re vegan you need to pay attention to this one. While a totally plant-based diet provide so many benefits for our body in the short term, over a long term period it could carry significant risks for the brain and nervous system. This is because the diet is naturally deficient in several essential nutrients that we normally get from meat and its derivatives: Vitamin A, B-2, B-3, B-6, B-12, D3, and K-2, and then cholesterol, iodine, heme-iron, zinc, and the fatty acids DHA and EPA. As a solution, you can “take a break” in between your vegan diet so that you can still get the required nutrients intermittently (like a whole week of eating big juicy steaks, or maybe, just maybe, go to the SPAM festival in Hawaii), or if you go vegan due to animal rights concerns you can replace the lost nutrients with supplements.
  73. By the way, have you ever thought why doctors and health practitioners discourage us from eating some things? Like why we should avoid sugar or food with lots of omega 6, or why seed oil or trans fat bad for us, or why we should eat grass-fed beef instead of corn-fed beef? The answer lie in one word: deuterium. The problem is not deuterium itself, because young children animals and plants all use deuterium for healthy natural growth and deuterium is also involved in our metabolism and energy storage. The problem occurs when there is an excess deuterium. There are at least 4 vital ways excess deuterium can negatively affect our bodies: 1. Creating unhealthy growth (which becomes obesity if it’s excess outward growth, or cancer / tumor if it’s excess inward growth) 2. Altering the 3-dimentional shape and function of the molecules in our body (examples of biomolecules that won’t function properly when deuterated: hormones, cholesterol, cellular receptors, neurotransmitters) 3. Slowing down chemical reactions 4. Damaging mitochondria and breaking ATP nanomotors (in turn we will experience fatigue and its relation issues).
  74. So if the problem is too much deuterium, the solution then is to lowering our deuterium. Lowering our deuterium levels can increase survival chance in cancer patients, slow or reverse tumor development, and improve mood and mental health. How to deplete Deuterium? You already know where this is going, don’t you? Quality sleep in darkness, sunlight, cold exposure, fasting and low-carb high-fat diet such as keto, exercise, and breathwork. And oh, why grass-fed beef is healthier than corn-fed beef is because corn-fed cows have more deuterium in their bodies as a result of the corn, and you know what they say “we are not only what we eat, but we’re also what we eat ate.”
  75. Warren Buffett is arguably the greatest investor in the world, and when asked about his number one rule in investing his answer was short and simple: The 1st rule of investing? Don’t lose money. The 2nd rule of investing? Don’t forget rule number 1. This risk-management approach is in the core of every successful investors no matter their style and strategies, from value investors like Buffett himself, to Paul Tudor Jones, Ray Dalio, every single “Market Wizard” interviewed by Jack Schwager, to speculator George Soros. But what I just realised is, this simple and captain-obvious rule can also be applied in other areas in life: the 1st rule of saving up? Don’t buy shit you don’t need. The 1st rule of weight loss? Don’t eat shit you don’t need. The 1st rule of trust? Don’t tell someone’s secret to other people. The 1st rule of health? Don’t consume or do anything that are bad for your health. The 1st rule of relationship? Don’t do anything stupid that can damage the relationship. I dunno, the 1st rule of winning a football match? Don’t allow your opponent to score a goal against you. And so on. It is only after we get the 1st [defensive] rule right, we can then go to the offensive: budgeting, eat healthy food, exercise, be attentive, score a goal, etc.
  76. There’s a hypothesis that argue human spirituality is actually hereditary and influenced by genetics, with a specific gene called Vesicular Monoamine Transporter 2 (VMAT2), or often dubbed “the God gene”, predisposes humans towards spiritual or mystical experiences, including the presence of God. VMAT2 is an integral membrane protein that transports monoamines (such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and histamine) from cellular cytosol into synaptic vesicles. These transmitters are in turn play an important role in regulating the brain activities associated with mystic beliefs. It is important to point out, however, that this does not explain all spiritual or religious feelings, but instead it explains how our neurobiological pathway operates during a spiritual or religious transcendence. I get to learn about VMAT2 after seeing a [hoax] video circulating at the start of the pandemic, during that hype of Bill Gates conspiracy. Although the video was obviously not Gates, the message that this guy is trying to send is very intriguing: that we can eliminate VMAT2 using vaccine to cure religious fundamentalists. Is that true? No idea, but it’s the stuff that makes James Bond movies.
  77. Test this real quick, try eating something while holding your breath. Can you taste the food? Humans can recognize as many as 10,000 different scents, but only 4 basic categories for taste (sweet, salty, sour, and bitter). So that amazing meal you had or that awful taste of expired food all comes from our sense of smell and not taste. So, here’s a very sad idea, if you’re struggling with your diet just smell the food and not eat them, or just do what this lad is doing.
  78. Speaking of smelling, our breath is a very powerful tool and if we can learn how to utilize it properly we’ll tap into a hidden superpower that we never knew existed within our body. So, neuroscientists have found that every inhale that we take nudges our sympathetic nervous system (which will increase our heart rate, dilating our pupils slightly, heighten our alertness), and every exhale prods our parasympathetic nervous system (which will slow down our heart rate, constricting our pupils, and calming us down). While normally every inhale is matched with an exhale, by spending more time exhaling and less time inhaling we can produce a net change towards our parasympathetic nervous system. And conversely, if we inhale more than we exhale we’ll create a fight-or-flight condition within our body, where the sympathetic nervous system is activated by the hypothalamus by sending signal through the autonomic nerves to the adrenal glands. These glands will then respond by pumping epinephrine (or more commonly known as adrenaline) into the bloodstream, which will prop up our immune system, produce anti-inflammatory effect, give us the boost of energy, and trigger the redistribution of blood to the muscles that will keep us warm. This is basically the key premise of the Wim Hof breathing method that made him a superhuman, which was brilliantly told in this book.
  79. Another useful breathing technique is one that is developed by Emily Fletcher, the founder of Ziva meditation, that balances the left and right side of the brain. A little background: to oversimplifying it, the left side of the brain is in charge of analytical thoughts, critical thoughts, the past, and the future, while the right side of the brain is in charge with present moment awareness, problem solving, creativity, and intuition. Now, one of the key benefits of meditation is to thicken a part of the brain called corpus callosum, the thin white strip connecting the left and right hemisphere of the brain, where the thicker the corpus callosum the better able we are to bridge the gap between the left and right side of the brain.
  80. But you don’t need to meditate if you’re skeptical about it, instead, do this simple breathing technique: the balancing breath. So use the thumb and ring finger of your right hand, gently close down your right nostril with your thumb and exhale completely through your left nostril. Then inhale completely through your left nostril and close your left nostril with your ring finger. Release your thumb and exhale completely through your right nostril. Then inhale completely through your right nostril, press your thumb again and open your ring finger and exhale through your left nostril. And that’s it, that’s the whole sequence, and do this repeatedly. Emily Fletcher said if you’re feeling tired and need a hit of energy to focus, do this fast. If you’re feeling nervous or need to relax, do it slowly. Also check out 100 things 2015 no. 74 for how to cure headache through simple nostril breathing.
  81. You know that urban legend that if the world ever going to have a nuclear war the only surviving beings are Keith Richards and a bunch of cockroaches? No wait, that’s a Robin Williams joke. Sorry, the urban legend only said cockroaches, but it actually has a degree of truth about it. So humans will mostly die if we are exposed to radiation in excess of about 800 rems (with rem being a dosage of radiation that will cause a specific amount of harm to our tissue). But cockroaches? The killer doze of American cockroach is 67,500 rems, while German cockroaches for some reason can withstand until 100,000 rems (that’s German quality right there). The reason is because the more complex and longer living an organism is, the more vulnerable they are to the effects of radiation. So besides their simplicity, the reason cockroaches can withstand such high amount of rems is simply because they don’t live long enough to develop the cancers associated with radiation exposure. (But then, you would argue, yeah sure nuclear explosion, just flip them up side down and they’re done! Starve the death!)
  82. Our body is basically an ecosystem. Almost 1% of it are human, and 99% are from 40 trillion organisms living inside us (the bacteria, virus, yeast, fungus, mold, etc). Sexy! If we don’t “feed them” right, they won’t take care of us. Moreover, women have a far better “gut feeling” than men, because women biologically are far better able to listen to their gut microbiome. And you know what they say, our gut is our second brain. Yeah, science bitch!
  83. The Beatles help to create the CT scan machine. So the story began with the record label EMI, where the name stands for Electrical and Musical Industries. As the name suggest, apart from dabbling around the music industry the company was also an industrial research company. And back in the 1950s there’s a researcher in the company by the name of Godfrey Hounsfield, whom did some pioneering work on computers by helping to build the first all-transistor computer. However, the division wasn’t profitable for EMI and they sold its computer business in 1962, just right when they signed the Beatles. Godfrey Hounsfield remained with the company, and thanks to the massive success of the Beatles in the 1960s he still got a funding from the Beatles money at the company to conduct independent research, which he then went on to invent the CT scanner. The machine was first released in 1972 by EMI, and in 1979 Godfrey Hounsfield and EMI shared the Nobel Prize for medicine for this invention.
  84. In the 1980-1990s scientists conducted an experiment in the Arizona desert by building a huge steel-and-glass enclosure with purified air, clean water, natural light, nutrient-rich soil, and they fill it with flora and fauna. The project was called “Biosphere 2”, and it was intended to provide ideal living conditions for the inhabitants within. The project was successful in some ways, but when the trees inside the Biosphere grew to certain height they would fall over. This occurred over and over again until the scientists discovered that the Biosphere lacked 1 key element necessary for the trees’ health: wind. In their natural element, trees grow strong by withstanding the pressure and agitation from winds, in which they respond by growing stronger bark and deeper roots to increase their stability. This is obviously not only a lesson learned for scientists but it is also a philosophical one, where instead of living inside our own Biosphere we should not be afraid to get out and face the wind, as that is the only way that will make us stronger and a better human being.
  85. In fact, if I can take only 1 lesson from this pandemic year, it would be this: choose your own stress, for the greater growth in the future. We put stress into our body when we’re lifting weight, so that our muscles are teared and prompt our body to generate new and stronger muscle tissue. We put stress into our respiratory system when training for running, so that our body will respond with generating a stronger stamina. We put stress into our body when we do calorie restriction or do intermittent fasting, which prompted our body to release a small doze of cortisol (the stress hormone) and free radicals which like a vaccine will train our cells to cope better with stress. Indeed all of this have the same logic with injecting ourselves with a vaccine. In medicine this concept is called hormesis, where our body has a potent damage-repair capabilities that can be beneficial when activated, which is the key to healthy aging.
  86. But the trick is to not overdoing it. Just like giving our body a small doze of vaccine we can train our body to develop means to fight it, but give our body way too much of the virus? We’ll get sick. Or like the consumption of alcohol, it is often said that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol is healthy for us, like Queen Elizabeth II with her daily gin consumption, but a heavy doze of alcohol? It is dangerous for our health and can damage our liver and/or nerve system. A small doze of radiation is also good for our growth, but a large doze can kill us. Heck, even drinking a small doze of potion can build our immunity towards the poison, like what happened with king Mithridates VI as mentioned in 100 things 2016 no. 23. This is also why the bones and muscles of astronaut can get seriously weakened after a long period of time in space, due to the lack of gravity as the mild stressor. We need a stressor to grow stronger.
  87. The Stoics are right, the obstacle is indeed the way, it is only after we overcome the obstacle that we get to grow better and stronger. The same concept also applies in social situations. We get an abundant experience after we tackle the most difficult tasks at work or school or after we move on from a hard breakup or loss. Hence, subjecting ourselves with a controlled stress is the key to growth, and that comes in many forms like training, committing to a challenge, or in the age of the pandemic, practicing discipline to stay safe and healthy. Every single one of those things need “muscle”, a reading muscle (if you want to read 50 books a year), an empathy muscle, a discipline muscle, or of course a literal muscle. And the good news is, every muscle is trainable. So you’ve having a difficult time during this pandemic? Treat this temporary period of time as a small doze of stressor that will train you to become stronger.
  88. The sun is about 150,000 million KM away from Earth, and yet its sunlight can reach us and warm us or even burn us (in 2019 Kuwait registered a temperature of 63 degree Celsius). But what baffles me is, if sunlight can give us light and warmth from that distance, presumably the outer space will be so damn hot. But that’s not the case, as the outer space remains dark and cold. Why is that? As it turns out, the sunlight that we get on Earth first hit the atmosphere before it then bounced off from many different objects within the atmosphere. Meaning, the sunlight was “captured” by the atmosphere, while in space there is no particle that can become the medium for the sunlight to illuminate. Hence, the void darkness (This is also why the outer space is dark and not full of shining start). Moreover, heat travels through the cosmos as radiation, as an infra red wave of energy that migrates from hotter objects to cooler ones. But the key thing here is, radiation only heats molecules and matter that are directly in its path, with everything else that doesn’t “catch” it stays cold.
  89. When we talk about smart people we often refer to the knowledge and information that they possess. Another common way to measure intelligence is to take an IQ test, which assess factors including crystalized knowledge (that shows more of a person’s experience than abilities). What we often fail to look, however, is HOW we get our knowledge and information. For example, if a group of people sit in a class for the same amount of time studying the same amount of information, they would end up getting different grades on a test. This is because they have different levels of fluid intelligence, and this is the key to how we obtain knowledge and information. Previously psychologists who studied intelligence all agreed that fluid intelligence are fixed, but then a group of scientists figured out in 2008 that we can indeed improve our fluid intelligence by boosting our working memory (a part of short-term memory). Their method was pretty simple, using a 2 minute test “game” called the Dual N-Back, and they can improve people’s fluid intelligence by 40%. It’s the closest thing to a gym workout for our brain. Sounds fantastic? Try it on yourself, now there are numerous Dual N-Back available in app store or google play but bio hacker Dave Asprey recommend us to use the app developed by Mikko Tyrskeranta (it’s a real brain stretcher).
  90. One of the most effective methods to calm down a dementia patient is to have a familiar schedule day-in-day-out without a change. Because even though they still feel lost, the familiarity of the routine can give them a sense of controlled chaos. In fact in the brilliant book The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg, there’s a story of a person who literally lost some parts of his brain but yet can still function independently through implementing his detailed daily routine. He can even walk outside and come back alone to his home (although he doesn’t know why he has to enter what seems to be an unfamiliar house but he knew he had to walk into that particular house).
  91. This is because in a stressed state, as levels of the stress hormone (cortisol) increased following a challenge or a thread or in a state of deliriousness (such as in the case of dementia), our brain will prioritize old habits and routines over purposeful and deliberative action, in an effort to save energy and cognitive resources. “Habits demand less cognitive effort, and thus become our default mode of behavior when stressed,” explains Tom Smeets, PhD, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, and the co-author of a 2019 study in the journal Brain and Cognition, which examined the brain’s response to stress. This findings also confirmed by a 2013 study in the journal of Personality and Social Psychology, that concluded stressful experiences are a drain on willpower and motivation, and as a result people fall into “automatic” and habitual pattern of behaviour. Thus, it is crucial to establish a good habit to fall down to. Or another vital takeaway from this is we can automate our lives into a chains of habit and can still function well even though we lost parts of our brain.
  92. Sharks do not have a gas-filled ballon-like organ called “swim bladders” like any other fish, that enable most fish to stay afloat and upright in water. Hence, because shark’s body is heavier than water, the poor geezers will sink when not swimming. But wait, there’s more. Some sharks like the great white and hammerheads even have to keep swimming to breathe (they need to constantly move forward to pass oxygen-bearing water over their grills, in a process called obligate ramjet ventilation). So, how do they sleep? It’s still debated among marine biologists, but the general consensus believe that sharks do slow down their brain function and go on an autopilot (autopilot? Yes, they’re still swimming while sleeping). No wonder they’re vicious, they’re knackered!
  93. You know that incident in 2001 when the Taliban destroyed two famous 4th century giant statues of Buddha (Buddhas of Bamyan)? In what becomes a blessing in disguise, the excavators of the site discovered 50 new cave networks filled with 5th-9th century artwork, wall paintings in 12 of the caves, and, get this, another giant statue of Buddha inside which was previously unknown. I think this is a perfect metaphor for what’s going on this year, where behind the catastrophic Covid-19 Pandemic there must be several silver linings somewhere. For instance, Shakespeare wrote the King’s Lear and Macbeth during the Bubonic Plague, while Isaac Newton created calculus during his lockdown due to the same Plague. It is what Robert Greene refer as dead time or alive time, where we can choose to spend our time passively (dead time) where we just let life happens to us directionless, or we can spend our time actively (alive time) like learning or trying new things or achieving some goals.
  94. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been an easy year for me too. I’ve lost 6 extended family members this year (1 of whom from Covid), 3 of my best friends’ dad also passed away (1 from covid), not to mention several number of people in my close proximity that were infected by the coronavirus (with 2 colleagues died from the virus), and ultimately my dad’s quickly degenerating health that leaves us just counting days now (post script: my dad passed away on Christmas day). It’s tough, very tough. But as Tim Ferriss put it best on his most vulnerable and moving podcast episode: [on having an obstacle] you’re dealing with it, whether or not you choose to deal with it. You can prioritise it and seek help or therapy, etc, or you can ignore it or suppress it and it will manifest in different ways. So it’s up to you whether to get pushed around by it, or to make the most out of it. Shakespeare and Newton obviously spend their days making the most out of their situation (alive time), what about you?
  95. At the beginning of the Pandemic in March, people around me gets really creative: starting with home-making dalgona coffee, then Korean garlic bread, then the many wonderful home-made cooking that my friends sold, accompanied by the ever hilarious memes using the format of Ghana funeral dance, and don’t forget binge watching Money Heist and the many Korean dramas on Netflix. Not coincidentally this period of time was also when TikTok started to get really booming, where a lot of my friends show some serious dance moves. Then somewhere after 6 months of lockdown people starting to go out cycling, climbing up mountains, even “outdoor” traveling, with the idea that outdoor and away from people are safe (but ended up created some serious Covid clusters along the way). And me? I can’t cook, I can’t dance [well], I don’t bike, and asking me to climb mountains? F-off. But I do keep my running routines, and even earned medals from 4 virtual races along the way. And thanks to no activities outside work and family, I can achieve a reading goal of 50 books a year. By mid October. And will finish the year with 62 books.
  96. Which brings us to the long road to book of the year. I start 2020 with Epictetus (enchiridion) along with the 3 modern Stoic masters in between: Massimo Pigliucci, Donald Robertson, and 2 books by Ryan Holiday (in total I read 7 books on Stoicism this year). Read several biographies and semi-biographies such as Phil Knight’s, Tuesday’s with Morrie, The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness, a book about George Soros AND by George Soros, a book about Wim Hof AND by Wim Hof, and naturally a book about jurgen klopp after Liverpool won the league (booyah!). I also picked the brains of influential thinkers from different fields: Steven Pinker, Stephen Hawking, Charles Duhigg, Daniel Goleman, Benjamin Graham and Robert Greene. During this challenging year, I first find comfort in “Things you see only when you slow down” at the beginning of the lockdown period while simultaneously read “Spillover” to get to know what we’re dealing with. moreover, I read 2 books on running to keep me focused on this year’s goal of winning a medal, I resort to two of the best people on health: functional medicine Dr. Mark Hyman and bio hacker Dave Asprey, and seek refugee in my podcast all stars throughout the year: Vishen Lakhiani, Jim Kwik, Jay Shetty, Shawn Stevenson, Tony Robbins, Jocko Willink, Rich Roll, Lewis Howes, and re-reading Tim Ferriss. Moreover, I read 8 books on religion: including the NIV Bible, Karen Armstrong, and Reza Aslan, while I finally finish the distinguishable the hero of thousand faces. And while spiritual comfort is very much present, I balance it with some f*cked up books such as “Hitler’s Charisma” “Better Angels of Our Nature” and “the big book of Crime.” (For my review on most of these books, please visit here).
  97. So which one is the best? It’s really difficult to choose just one from a pile of fantastic books, especially when each book serves different purposes, tells different stories, or share different knowledge. So it’s not really an apple to apple comparison. But among those I read this year, these are the stand out ones: Lives of the Stoic by Ryan Holiday was superb, while 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene is just top notch (I expect nothing less than my 2 favourite authors). God: a human history by Reza Aslan is the most eye-opener this year. Run Fast by Hal Higdon, The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg, and Game Changer by Dave Asprey are the most directly influential for my daily routine. The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel Ben Izzy is the most moving book, really at par with Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking is the smartest book this year. Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty is the most wholesome, while Hitler’s Charisma by Laurence Rees is the most disturbing (which makes it a great book). But if I have to choose one out of the bunch? It’s got to be God: A human history by Reza Aslan, as it ticks all the boxes for me: eye opening hypothesis, science-based facts, balanced argument from many sides, amazing historical stories to back up the arguments, and wrap them all up in a great style of writing.
  98. Wanker(s) of the year: Convidiots, convidiots everywhere. I mean, the sheer audacity of their ignorance, inconsiderate nature and stupidity are just unbelievably frustrating to witness. Person of the year: Jonny Kim. He’s a former Navy Seal, a Harvard Medical doctor, and a NASA Astronaut (Yeah, I know, what have YOU done with your life?). But what makes him my person of the year is his 4 hour podcast interview with Jocko Willink, his former commander at SEAL (the most profound conversation I’ve listened to this year), where his life’s story is even more admirable, with the humility, the strength, and the clarity that come out from his rough childhood is nothing less than incredible. To me his demeanor and attitude are much more inspiring than his credentials (which makes him successful at many things), and in this especially hard year his whole approach on life becomes the perfect role model for me.
  99. Stories of the year: the contenders: 1. The world was disappointed when the 2020 Olympics was cancelled, but the mood was almost immediately saved by the name of the IOC dude who made the announcement: Dick Pound. Instant legend 2. Durian caused a German post office to evacuate, with 6 hospitalized (oh c’mon) 3. Hold up, Lock Ness monster is real?? 4. An elderly mathematician hacked the lottery for $26 million 5. Human’s mastery over poop may be one of the most important achievements in the rise of civilisation. And the winner is: yeah hacking the lottery is mighty impressive, but if you know me I’m all about trashy jokes. So, you gotta hand it in to Dick Pound.
  100. And so, as we’re ending this great year of uncertainty, the big question we all have is surely this: will the pandemic be over in 2021? All the vaccines look set to be out and distributed worldwide, from Pfizer-BioNTech, to Sinovac, Moderna, and even the questionable Sputnik V, to name a few. But will they be absolutely safe? Will vaccine eventually eliminate the high risk of the virus? Will this be one of the shortest pandemics, shorter than Spanish Flu (2 years with 4 waves infected a third of the world population)? Or could it be longer than the Antonine Plague (14 years – oh God no, I hope not)? And ultimately will things go back to normal pre-covid conditions or can we use this 2020 stressor to become a much better society and individual human beings at the end of the tunnel? Well, I don’t know the answer to all of them, nobody knows for sure. But I can help you with the last question by giving you the tools to work with: a series of more questions (how about that for a Socratic dialogue). Questions that should make you think and re-asses your values and priorities, which hopefully can guide you all into a much clearer insight into your own respective struggles. Ciao, and stay safe and healthy wherever you are. Bella ciao ciao ciao.

Book review: Cara kerja pemerintah di balik layar

“Biografi Tursandi Alwi: Dekat pak JK dekat pak Boed” by S. Sinansari Ecip, Edi Sudarjat, Yadi Sastro

Bagi orang awam sosok Tursandi Alwi mungkin terdengar asing, tetapi di kalangan elit politik beliau sudah sangat dikenal sebagai orang “dibalik layar” untuk banyak hal penting di negara kita.

Memulai karier birokrasi nya dari posisi sangat bawah, Tursandi berhasil menduduki 22 posisi jabatan di dalam 40 tahun masa pengabdian nya terhadap negara, dari juru foto di suatu kabupaten di Lampung, hingga camat dan wakil walikota di Jakarta, gubernur PLT di 3 provinsi, hingga masuk ke ring 1 RI menjadi Sekretaris Wakil Presiden untuk orang terkuat nomor 2 di Indonesia, Jusuf Kalla dan penerus nya Boediono.

Prestasi di dalam setiap jabatan yang dijalankan nya juga tidak sepele: memenangkan penghargaan juara kecamatan seluruh Indonesia, mengubah Litbang menjadi efisien, merampingkan kementrian sekretaris negara, membangun provinsi baru Gorontalo dari nol, mensukseskan pilkada di Lampung dan Kalimantan Selatan di keadaan politik yang panas pada saat itu, hingga berperan besar di dalam menciptakan undang-undang otonomi daerah Aceh (yang berkontribusi besar di dalam menciptakan damai antara pemerintah dengan GAM).

Di buku inilah terpapar bagaimana mekanisme di balik layar untuk hampir setiap fungsi level jabatan di pemerintahan sebenarnya berkerja, dimana seluk beluk birokrasi dengan segala kelebihan dan kekurangan nya diceritakan dengan jelas dan lengkap dengan konflik dan rekonsiliasi nya. Buku ini juga menggambarkan bagaimana networking serta kompromi dari berbagai pihak yang berkepentingan berperan sangat kuat untuk mencapai hasil yang optimal untuk sukses tidak nya suatu wacana pemerintah. Dan disinilah dimana Tursandi menjadi salah satu ahli di dalam hal berdiplomasi, yang berhasil membawa perubahan yang substansial.

Semua ini bisa dicapai dengan watak dan karakter Tursandi yang apa ada nya, yang menghargai semua orang dari level bawah hingga pejabat ring 1, yang bekerja serba cepat tanpa ber tele-tele, disertai persiapan dan perencanaan yang sangat matang untuk mengetahui amanat penugasan nya luar dalam sebelum memulai, yang bekerja sangat keras dan menjadi contoh untuk diikuti oleh para anak buah, serta membangun struktur organisasi yang ramping untuk mengakomodir cara kerja beliau yang prakmatis ini.

Selanjutnya, yang menjadi ciri khas Tursandi adalah beliau tidak pernah memakai fasilitasi ketika menjabat sebagai gubernur, tidak dikawal vorijder, tidak menggunakan mobil pejabat gubernur (kecuali ada tamu), tidak tidur di kamar gubernur tetapi di kamar tamu, dimana jawaban Tursandi selalu “saya mencintai pekerjaan, bukan jabatan.” Tursandi juga tidak menggunakan jabatan nya untuk me mindah-mindahkan pejabat dari satu posisi ke posisi lain untuk kepentingan sendiri (kegiatan yang sering membuat masalah baru bagi banyak instansi pemerintah). Beliau juga tidak segera mengisi posisi kosong di suatu jabatan, tetapi membiarkan gubernur terpilih yang mengisi nya (untuk menghindari KKN). Dan beliau pun menghindari hal-hal yang berbau uang, seperti pelicin, uang sogok, dll.

Kebiasaan inilah yang membuat Tursandi dapat dengan mudah merangkul seluruh lapisan masyarakat tanpa terikat atau tanpa beban, yang akhirnya mengubah opini publik di setiap daerah yang beliau kembangkan dari menolak keras hingga menghargai nya sebagai salah satu “putra daerah.”

Buku ini juga menjelaskan aktivitas dibalik layar untuk wakil presiden Jusuf Kalla dan Boediono, yang menjadi akses langka untuk melihat bagaimana 2 wakil presiden menjalankan tugas nya dengan cepat, rapi, dan efisien, yang digambarkan dari kacamata staff nya dan tentu saja seswapres nya Tursandi Alwi. Bagaimana rapat non-formal dijalankan sebelum rapat resmi, bagaimana hasil rapat di tindak lanjuti dan siapa saja yang dilibatkan, peran komunikasi dengan presiden SBY, hingga bagaimana kompleks nya pengaturan jadwal wapres lengkap dengan perubahan-perubahan last minute nya, semua dijabarkan secara detail di buku ini.

Akhir kata, membaca biografi Tursandi Alwi itu sama seperti membaca perkembangan birokrasi dan struktur pemerintahan dari jaman presiden Suharto hingga SBY. Dimana banyak pelajaran berharga bisa kita dapatkan untuk mengerti urusan dapur negara kita ini yang jarang diperlihatkan di media masa. Dan seiring dengan reformasi birokrasi yang terus di kerjakan oleh pemerintah, Tursandi Alwi, sesuai cerita di buku ini, berperan besar didalam kesuksesan dalam me-modernisasi negara tercinta kita.

Book review: The master of the dark arts

“33 Strategies of War” by Robert Greene

Robert Greene is the only author that I hesitate to reveal too much in my review, due to the immense amount of tricks he teaches us in order to thrive in this rough world. His lessons are so valuable and directly applicable it feels like I’ve been given the cheat code in the game of life, one that I’d rather put in a metaphorical safe box rather than give away for nothing.

At many points in my life I can see his theses and examples from the many wars in history get analogically implemented by the most successful people and the best of the best around me, which prompted me to wonder whether they all read Greene’s books? Nah, some of them don’t even like to read books. Or do they, secretly? Even if I don’t implement them all, the book gives me so much insights from all the tricks that may be used by others, and that’s really useful.

Now, the fact of the matter is the majority of human existence are spent in wars. And this book selected some of the best stories from wars, diplomacy and many other confrontational nature throughout history, to learn from their strategies, the implementations, and the philosophies behind them. And in the world according to Robert Greene, there’s no time to be kind and be genuinely nice as it is a rough dog-eat-dog world out there, which as you can imagine have drawn many criticism from the “world peace” crowd.

But he’s a no-bullshit realist, whom approaches life as it is with no sugar coating or hope for an ideal circumstance. Indeed, instead of thinking like a religion and preaching people how to live perfectly and be naive with our imperfect surroundings, Greene acknowledges the chaotic reality of daily lives and teaches us the tools to function well in it. Some are subtle, some are even decent, but many are viciously effective.

In this regard, he’s like the master of the dark arts to the other side of the coin: Greene’s own protege Ryan Holiday’s meditations on Stoicism that approaches the chaos of life from the calm and thoughtful side, one that provide us with inner strength. Combine this with Greene’s array of strategies for our outer strength, and you’ll get one mighty set of survivor tools at your disposal in the journey of life. Ok I should stop, I’ve said too much already.

Book review: A calming perspective on living and dying

“The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche

I read this book while sitting beside my terminally ill father, and it gives me a sense of unprecedented calm and control over the scary process of dying.

Chapter 10 and 11 in particular tremendously help me to get new perspectives on letting go and being at peace with the whole process. One particular quotation sums it up nicely in my opinion: “Imagine you are standing on the deck of an ocean liner, about to set sail. You look back on the shore and see all your family and friends waving goodbye. You have no choice about leaving, and the ship is already moving away. How would you want the people you loved to be saying goodbye to you? What would help you most on your journey?”

The book itself is more than just a guide to cope with death, which is the 2nd part of the book, where the 1st part of the book focuses on how to life well. Afterall, just like what HH The Dalai Lama said in the foreword of the book: “Naturally, most of us would like to die a peaceful death, but it is also clear that we cannot hope to die peacefully if our lives have been full of violence, or if our minds have mostly been agitated by emotions like anger, attachment, or fear. So if we wish to die well, we must learn how to live well: Hoping for a peaceful death, we must cultivate peace in our mind, and in our way of life.”

The book also provide a window into the wonderful world of pre-1950s Tibetan Buddhism and its very rich local culture. It is an illustration on how life is approached very differently compared to the majority of the rest of the world, even in exile, a world that I would want to someday visit at least once in a lifetime.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with my dad. But thanks to this book, I’m ready for whatever outcome.

Big Personal Questions

Anthony Robbins said the quality of your life is a direct reflection of the quality of the questions you are asking yourself. But often the problem for us is, we don’t know what questions to ask ourselves, or worse, we are not aware of the [bad] questions we unconsciously ask ourselves repeatedly.

Don’t fret. The following is a list of questions that are designed to provoke, to ignite, to direct or re-direct, or simply to clarify your thoughts. There are no right or wrong answers but only personal answers, which could provide us with a better sense of who we are, what we need, what we want but not need, what we can tolerate, what we cannot tolerate, etc.

The constantly growing set of questions are not mine, instead I encountered them from several thought-provoking people (including the world-famous Marcel Proust’s 35 Questionnaire), and they have helped me think clearer about my life. I hope it can give the same effect on you (feel free to copy-paste them to your own notes and answer them).

Here are the questions:

Jay Shetty: [insert your name] loves….

Jay Shetty: I have no tolerance for…..

Jay Shetty: what questions do you ask yourself the most?

Jay Shetty: the accomplishment you most proud of and why?

Jay Shetty: what question do you wish people ask you more often?

Jay Shetty: [ask that question]

Jay Shetty: what have been the greatest lesson you’ve learned in the past 12 months?

Jim Kwik: if you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Vishen Lakhiani: what experiences do you want to have in this lifetime?

Vishen Lakhiani: How do you want to grow?

Lewis Howes: What is your definition of greatness?

Shane Parrish: Am I living the life that I want to live?

Shane Parrish: What would I regret if I died today?

Marcel Proust: what is your idea of perfect happiness?

Marcel Proust: what is your marked characteristics?

Marcel Proust: What is your greatest fear?

Marcel Proust: What historical figure do you most identify with?

Marcel Proust: Who are your heroes in real life?

Marcel Proust: Which living person do you most admire?

Marcel Proust: What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Marcel Proust: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Marcel Proust: What is your favourite journey?

Marcel Proust: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Marcel Proust: Which word or phrases do you most overuse?

Marcel Proust: What is your greatest regret?

Marcel Proust: What is your current state of mind?

Marcel Proust: If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Marcel Proust: What is your most treasured possession?

Marcel Proust: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Marcel Proust: Where would you like to live?

Marcel Proust: What is your favourite occupation?

Marcel Proust: What is the quality you most like in a man?

Marcel Proust: What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Marcel Proust: What are your favourite names?

Marcel Proust: What is your motto?

Anthony Robbins: What am I happy about in my life now?

Anthony Robbins: What am I excited about in my life now?

Anthony Robbins: What am I proud about in my life now?

Anthony Robbins: What am I grateful about in my life now?

Anthony Robbins: What am I enjoying in my life right now?

Anthony Robbins: What am I committed to in my life right now?

Anthony Robbins: Who do I love? Who loves me?

Tim Ferriss: What can you learn from the people you hate the most?

Tim Ferriss: What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

Tim Ferriss: What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.

Tim Ferriss: How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

Tim Ferriss: If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?

Tim Ferriss: What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.

Tim Ferris: What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

Tim Ferriss: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Tim Ferriss: What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

Tim Ferriss: What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

Tim Ferriss: When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

Jay Shetty: if you could create a law based on the teachings you’ve learned for the world to follow, what would it be?

Tom Bilyeu: What impact do you want to make in the world?

Lewis Howes: I want you to imagine that you are the great person that you dream of being, and you’ve created everything you wanted to create everything you wanted to create in your life. You’ve accomplished all the dreams, all the big goals that you’ve set. You’ve made them happen. You’ve got the family of your dreams. You’ve done it all. But you have to take everything with you. Everything you’ve created, your books, your movies, you have to take everything with you so that no one has access to your information anymore… all your social media content, it’s all gone. But you get to write down the three things you know to be true about your life, the lessons you would leave behind. All people would have to remember you by are these lessons. What would you say are your three truths? From the top of your head…. what lessons would you want people to take away from your life?

Shane Parrish: You’re 100 years old, sitting in a porch alone, and it’s your last day on earth. You started to reflect on your life and every little moments in it. What would you see? What would your eulogy say about you?

And what would be the perfect eulogy?

Book Review: The enigma of Jokowi

“Man of Contradictions: Joko Widodo and the struggle to remake Indonesia” by Ben Bland

What kind of politician who can do so much by saying so little? Who can play both ends between the elite and the ordinary people? Whose unpredictability can consistently surprise his strongest critics and disappoint his most fanatic supporters? The answer: a good one. This trait is in fact one of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power: assume formlessness.

In that case, is Jokowi a good president? Well, not so fast.

This book does a great job on depicting the hard-to-define enigma of Indonesia’s 7th president, Joko Widodo, or belovedly nicknamed Jokowi. He was a simple local furniture businessman in small town Solo, whom the book then cheekily portray as “accidentally on purpose” at becoming the most powerful man in Indonesia in less than a decade later.

The author of the book, Ben Bland, certainly have the right credentials to be able to write a full picture of the president. He was the Indonesia correspondent for the Financial Times (2012-2015), whom was very much present from the time Jokowi was a mayor of Solo, to when he was running to be the governor of Jakarta (2012), until when he was elected as the country’s president (2014).

It is by far the most honest portrayal of the man, without hidden agenda and without partisanship bias, with the good, the bad, and most importantly the contradictive nature of Jokowi all presented within the context of complicated Indonesian political environment. Remember that crucial last point.

Along with the presidential vote, 16 parties were competing in 2014 election with 9 parties secured power in the 575-seat main parliamentary body (DPR). When Jokowi won the race, he showed his knack as a master in transactional politics where he can increase his coalition from 40% control of the parliament into 70% in just 2 years. But this move came with a heavy price tag. With patronages and compromises mean his choice of ministers were not entirely up to him, that the best of the best people for the job often overlooked to make way for the choices made by his party’s chairman Megawati, the wider coalition, and the tycoons that back him up financially.

The complication exacerbated by the fact that there are no well-defined ideology in Indonesia, no left wing or right wing, no liberals and conservatives, with the only differences between the parties are Islamic parties or nationalist parties. And even then the nationalist parties promote syariah regulations and the Islamic parties support secular policies change such as abolishing motorcycle tax. Bland also remark “[the parties] operate more as a vote-getting machines at election time and patronage distribution machines once on power. It is little wonder that Indonesians consider their political parties to be among the nation’s most corrupt institutions.”

Moreover, the book brilliantly capture one of the core problems in the country’s political environment, where “many decisions, in any case, are made in backroom deals on issue-based parliamentary committees, rather than majority votes of the whole DPR. This reflects a political culture that prioritises musyawarah and mufakat – ‘deliberation’ and ‘consensus’ – over sound policymaking” in an environment where money is the only real ideology.

It was in this context, in an environment where the elite dynasties are dominating Indonesia’s political parties (and hence political landscape), that Jokowi emerged as a fresh hope, as one of us the people. His folksy charm of blusukan (direct visit to the slumps) – where he told the author that the idea was ridiculously simple: “go to the people, ask what their problems are, and then solve them” – has since copied by seemingly all politicians in the country.

But by being constantly on the road meeting people he often criticized for always in a “support rally” mode and not working as the actual leader, a problem most obvious during his short 2 year tenure as the governor of Jakarta. And as a president with politically-appointed ministers this problem escalated into the national stage: with the absence of clear guidance from the president, our daily news are filled with shenanigans made by some rouge ministers while others became a media darling with little effectiveness, where the book commented that “Jokowi prioritised action (and PR stunts) over quality and planning.”

Jokowi also has the tendency to disregard experts’ advice and has the unwillingness to listen to analysis, and instead rely more on snap judgements and act upon stubborn desires, which also contribute to the chaos of his presidency, for better or for worse, whether it is wrecking havoc industries or become a good catalyst for change. “Well-intentioned but poorly executed, it was a metaphor for the way Jokowi’s government managed the economy”, as the book put it.

And while as a mayor of Solo it was relatively easy to get every fraction of society to be more or less satisfied, as a president it became increasingly difficult for him to please everybody, which is very apparent in, among many others, his policy on Foreign Direct Investment: Promising foreign investors for better and more relaxed regulations to attract investments, at the same time promising local businesses to protect them from foreign competitions. A man of contradictions.

However, when it comes to political maneuvers, he’s the chess master. Chapter 5 was particularly hard to read, as the scar from the event still feel very fresh and left me with a bitter reminder of the rotten world of Indonesian politics, with Jokowi’s backstab at his loyal partner (for the safety of the nation) simultaneously opened the gate for the flood of hardliners to grab power in Indonesia. But few people can arguably handle it as well as him, with the relative peace (and not civil war) we all get to enjoy since 2016 until now is a testament of his mastery.

So, is Jokowi a good president? The book finally answers the dilemma I had on my president. I voted AGAINST his opponent (not necessarily FOR him) for reasons exactly like the book says in page 108. And as you would see throughout the book, in a diverse country of 273 million people spread across 17,000 islands, 1300 ethnic groups, 300 languages, and 6 official religion, the complex political environment in Indonesia constrain him (and would also constrain anyone after him) from fully implementing his vision of the country, and perhaps had even turn an idealistic man into a pragmatic one.

So in that sense, he’s not an effective Indonesian president, nobody could be. But love him or hate him, or indifferent about him, one thing can’t be denied: he may be an ineffective president, but he’s a damn good politician.

Book review: The notebook of the concierge of knowledge

“Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss

I’ve never been a proponent of re-reading books, because there are so many great books in the world and so little time to read them all, why waste it by reading something that we’ve already read? But every once in a while there’s a book that’s truly worth to be read and re-read multiple times due to the immense info we can learn from them at different stages in our lives. This book is one of them.

The first time I read this book 3 years ago I was just at the beginning of my transformation journey, from more than a decade of unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle into a habit evolves around 5 pillars: sleep well, eat well, exercise, meditate, and healthy social connections. And this book greatly helped me to set the foundations for those transformational contents, and became like the main hub of information for me to dig deeper into the 5 pillars.

This time around, the 100+ titans listed here became not just another faceless teachers but actually turn out to be the big names that I have since read their books, read their articles, or listen to their podcast interviews (most of whom are in the Tim Ferriss Show, naturally). And the knowledge I have gathered and the lessons I have learned directly in the past 3 years have made me understand some of the things that I missed or didn’t understand in the first reading of the book.

This is not the first time I revisit this book, however, as every once in a while whenever I need to find specific info within the scope of the 5 pillars, chances are I will find it in this book or at least I will find a link or reference that can kick start my research mode (heck, I even bought 5 books as a result of the recommendations from this re-reading). This is how resourceful this book is, a testament to Tim Ferriss as whom I consider as the concierge of knowledge.

And so I digress, if there’s one book that deserves to be read and re-read it’s this book, the compilation of notes from the concierge of knowledge himself.

Book review: An intelligent way to look at Star Wars

“The World According to Star Wars” by Cass R. Sunstein

The phrase “don’t judge a book from its cover” rings true for my experience reading this book. Judging from the brilliant cover and title alone I thought the book was a fun book on the world of Star Wars (it is), a book that is light enough to be read on a chilled weekend (it totally can). But to my pleasant surprise, it provides so much more.

To my error (hey it’s lazy weekend after all), it took me several chapters to finally get curious enough to look at who the author was, since the book is filled with so many solid social and scientific findings. And would you believe it, it’s Cass R. Sunstein, the American legal scholar and behavioural economics expert, the author of several interesting books including the co-author of the best-seller “Nudge.”

With that in mind, in a Malcolm Gladwell-esque kind of narrative, this book is the social science about the whole phenomenon of Star Wars, from the obscure beginning where all of the actors and even George Lucas himself believed that the first (and only) movie would flop, to the mega success of the franchise, to the cult-like followers the movies have created in our pop culture around the world.

Moreover, in a Freakonomics-like approach, the book also provides the analysis of the world through the lens of Star Wars, including comparative studies with Martin Luther King Jr, Jesus, Buddha, Thomas Jefferson, Oedipus, Vladimir Putin, even Stoicism, among many other surprisingly random but relevant examples. It has several current affairs arguments as well such as on US supreme court justice system using the analogy of the Empire vs Republic, or Jedi mind control for advertising industry, or one very beautiful illusionist woman who can make tables and chairs fly (relevant to using “The Force”), while the author uses best of the best scientific explanations or concepts to make his arguments (such as using Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, the invincible gorilla experiment, and referring to Influence by Robert Cialdini).

Some intriguing revelations also come up every once in a while, such as the fact that Harrison Ford was merely a 35 year old carpenter making a door on the set of the movie when George Lucas decided to cast him as Han Solo! Or the journey inside George Lucas’ train of thoughts when creating Star Wars, where the fact that Lucas highly adapt the hero’s journey from Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and put them in an unfamiliar context (the outer space, in a galaxy far far away) and add some twists along the way, can shed a light on how the whole saga were and are being created.

All in all, it’s a fun read, it’s light but intriguing, and we can still learn a lot from the struggles and successes of creating one of the most recognisable brands in the world. I just cannot believe that I can learn a lot about the psychology of the crowd from a fun book about Star Wars.

Book review: Bio hacking in a nutshell

“Game Changer” by Dave Asprey

It’s always intriguing to read or listen to anything presented by the father of bio hacking, Dave Asprey. And this book is no different, it is a summary of some of the most important interviews he conducted with experts in different fields on his podcast Bulletproof Radio.

The range of topics are pretty diverse: from the science behind “willpower muscle”, to the “codes” we insert into our supercomputer brain, to neuroplasticity, meta moments, stem cell, minimalism, a super weird chapter on LSD, the 4th state of water after liquid solid and vapour, the importance of recovery, “mindfulness masturbation”, the science behind shamanic medicine, a very useful fear-happiness spectrum, to human zoology (yes that exists).

The book also analyses fluid intelligence and how to raise our memory capability by 40% using scientifically-proven methods, altered state using breathing meditation, the fact that “porn is the high-fructose corn syrup of sex”, why celebrating failures is a great bio hacking tool, why violent criminals have very high level of trace metals in their blood, a simple breathing technique to connect the left and right hemisphere of the brain, all the way to an interview with a dominatrix on BDSM as a flow-state-generating bio hacking tool. Fun!

It’s weird, it’s nuts, but it works, and scientifically proven. I guarantee that your reading experience won’t be a dull one, and you might just learn one or two new tools to hack your life with immediate effect.

Book review: Finally, a proper biography for all the Stoics

“Lives of the Stoics” by Ryan Holiday

I began reading this book with a relatively good knowledge on Stoicism, after reading the 3 “main books” of Meditations, Discourses, and Letters, while adding Enchiridion and On the Shortness of Life into the “ancient” mix. For the modern Stoicism I have read books written by several authors including what many consider as the “main 3 modern philosophers” of Donald Robertson, Massimo Pigliucci, and of course Ryan Holiday with his Obstacle, Ego, and Stillness, while I have been reading The Daily Stoic in its 4th cycle for this year. This, of course, not to mention all the Daily Stoic e-mails, all the podcasts on Stoicism, and the many wonderful articles on Stoicism on Medium.

Hence, when I start reading this book immediately after its release date on 29 September 2020, my instant reaction was finally a biographical book on the lives of the Stoics that I’ve been reading so much about! A book that shows how the Stoic practices were being implemented by the greats. I cannot help but feeling like Star Wars fans when watching Episode 1 for the first time and saw that many Jedi Warriors in action, or more precisely, when I open the book I feel like a little girl wearing princess dress in Disneyland.

I took my time reading it though. Oh no no no, I’m not going to read it like the last time I read Ryan Holiday’s book (devoured it in 4 days and poof the magic was over before it even began). So I savour it, pace it, and enjoy slow reading it very much. And 26 Stoics biographies become 26 days of different role models to meditate from, with one Stoic philosopher a day inspiring me in more ways than I had imagined.

First and foremost, there’s Zeno’s acceptance on destiny and how to make the best out of his situation. Cleanthes’ hard working ethic, industriousness, quick wit, and integrity. Diogenes’ diplomatic skills. Antipater’s kindness and personal approach to his surroundings, and his philosophy on marriage and kids. The awesome Scipionic circle and the way Panaetius embedded Stoicism into the Roman Republic life. And Helvidius Priscus’ bravery to speak his mind.

Then there’s the unflinching moral standing of Rutilius, “the last honest man in Rome”, despite his corrupted surrounding in the Roman high rankings (one virtue that bite him back real hard, which is even a greater lesson to learn on how to deal with personal injustice). Thrasea’s steely courage as an opposition senator to Mad dictator Nero, and the way he deals with the grave injustices around him. Cato’s daughter Porcia, whom as a Stoic herself can withstand so many losses and uncertainties with only her philosophy as her bedrock of sanity. And ultimately for me, how Chrysippus developed his Stoic mentality from his running days (which, as a runner my self, makes him the perfect role model for me) and ever the great researcher and writer, how he codified all the Stoic lessons as well as diligently learn from rival schools to perfecting his defend of Stoicism. The fact that Cornutus inherited a full 700 of Chrysippus’ books when Persius died speaks volume on Chrysippus’ industriousness.

While Chrysippus remains my favourite Stoic, there are some others that really at par: The brilliance and endless curiosity of polymath Posidonius and the way he makes observations, gather data and use the data, while especially useful for me is his views on the corrupted world of politics (he advised many great men, including the great Roman general Pompey whom even travelled to Rhodes to meet Posidonius for advice). Moreover, there’s everyone’s favourite philosopher Cato, with his integrity, brevity, oratory brilliance, and the way he live his life that embodies the perfect Stoic character whom practices Aristo’s idea of being indifferent to everything but virtue.

There are also Athenodorus and Arius whom become the advisors of Rome’s first emperor Octavian, which thanks to these men’s advises Octavian was able to turn Rome from bricks to marbles. There’s Musonius Rufus, “the Roman Socrates”, a great embodiment of the four virtues of Stoicism whom teaches the importance of hard work and endurance, and always try to find opportunities to do good wherever he was and no matter the circumstance (which serendipitously, the very morning I read the chapter about him was the day I had to make one of the most defining decisions in my life, and it could not go any smoother thanks to the brief but powerful lessons about him). And of course everybody’s favourite teacher Epictetus, whose biographical chapter I highlighted the most, and the embodiment of Plato’s philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius.

But then there’s Cicero. While he never claim to be a Stoic, he trained under one (Posidonius), he took care of the blind Stoic Diodotus, commented in one of his writings that the Stoics are the true philosophers, and it is through his writings that much of what we know about Stoicism in the ancient world survives. And it shows how much influence he had on Stoicism just by the long coverage in this book as the only non-Stoic Stoic biography that could easily mistaken as one of Robert Greene’s coverage. What’s with all the associations but never the actual label of a Stoic? It is simply because he also studied under teachers from every school during his 2 years in Athens, to gain wisdom and knowledge from all of them. And it shows immediately from reading this chapter that his behaviour is nowhere near Stoic-like.

The book also perfectly illustrate the conflicts and infighting within the school of Stoicism, with the argumentative and boldness of Aristo challenging the very cornerstone of Stoic philosophy established by Zeno and solidified by Cleanthes. And I love the fact that the Stoics were not perfect human beings whom also struggle with their own demons just like the rest of us, just like the story of Diotimus, or the one error of judgement that made an otherwise flawless Junius Rusticus forever remembered in history as the Stoic that prosecute a Christian, or the un-Stoic like advice by Stoic philosopher Arius to emperor Octavian to kill his enemy’s child to secure the throne (but then again Arius provide us with the best summary of Stoicism’s 4 virtues). 

I also find hard to digest Plautus’ non-action against Nero’s smear and aggressive attacks, confused whether that’s a very Stoic temperance for something outside his control or a lack of courage and a passive acceptance of Amor Fati. And of course there’s the ever conflicting Seneca. While his thinking reflect a Stoic way of thinking, his actions proof otherwise. For example, being a disciple of the frugal school once led by Cleanthes he can throw lavish parties using money he get from his murderous boss.

Of course, Ryan Holiday never claim that the Stoics were perfect human beings, and in fact one way or another all of them eventually violate the lessons of Stoicism to varying degrees. That’s just the imperfect human nature. Nevertheless, for every flawed Stoic there are several tremendous ones that reflect the four virtues of wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice.

Two biographies stands out for me as badass examples of this attitude. First, the story of Agrippinus, with his bravery in the era of 2 corrupt and violent emperors Claudius and Nero, which become one of the role models for none other than Epictetus. His clear principles are indeed admirable, and his temperance in facing his own injustice and banishment is one of the most memorable key moments in Stoic history. He indeed did not add to his troubles by bemoaning them, nor did he compromise his composure or his dignity for any matters whether big or small. And second, the story of 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.

Ultimately, the Stoics were not some people wearing robes sitting idly talking about theories. But they’re merchant, long distance runner, wrestler, senator, military general, slave, governor, teacher, mayor, even emperor. They were real people with real-life jobs trying to function in a broken and chaotic society. This is where this book stands out from the rest of the pact, as we get to see the Stoic philosophy directly implemented in action, through 26 different personalities in an environment not that different than ours.

I have a bucket list to someday travel from Cyprus to Greece all the way to Rome following the steps of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Stoa. I expect to found almost no statue or historical artifact of Stoicism, however, as that would not be very Stoic of them (no ego-boosting statues, no trail of extravagant riches, etc). But instead I would be walking in the streets where these great philosophers once walked, and inspired the way they were inspired in their own respective times. And when that faithful day comes, what better book to bring and re-read along the journey than this one? A pure masterclass by Ryan Holiday, as always.