Book Review: A great context of what’s going on in the 1880s

“Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883” by Simon Winchester

Came for the Krakatoa story, stayed for the brilliant history of Indonesia, the evolution of biology, and the progress of vulcanology, that were all served as the context leading up towards the day Krakatoa finally exploded in 1883.

It reads like an intense novel, based on an imense library of factual findings and the scientific arguments behind them. It’s also a book that suddenly clicks all the interconnected web of events proceeding the explosion, as some kind of cause-and-effect, like how the explosion triggerred the eventual independence movement in Indonesia. Fascinating book.

100 things I learned and did in 2018

  1. The wigs that the English judicial officials wear were first worn in the 16th century to cover up the baldness caused by syphilis. Hi there, welcome to 100 things in 2018, and yes I begin this year’s blog post with a syphilis.
  2. One day in ancient Egypt, a scribe looked at a cow and turned it into a hieroglyph. The hieroglyph was then transcribed by a Semite in Sinai into the letter of aleph. Aleph then travels with the Phoenicians and reached the European shores in Greece, where the letter became alpha. Alpha then eventually evolved into the Latin alphabet A. That’s right, the first letter of our alphabet is actually an Egyptian cow.
  3. More than 95% of the substance in the universe is in the form of “dark energy” and “dark matter”, which are still a mystery for us.
  4. In 1904 a Swedish sailor Carl Emil Pettersson shipwrecked his ship in an island called Tabar Island, in Papua New Guinea, an island populated by a cannibal tribe. To his horror, he was captured by the locals, and was taken to the king, when the king’s daughter then fell in love with him. What would you do if you’re in his situation? That’s right, he ended up marrying the daughter, had 9 children with her, and even became the King of Tabar Island after his father-in-law died. True story.
  5. Sandwich is invented by John Montagu, the 4th earl of Sandwich (a town In England) who lived in the 18th century. Montagu was a notorious profligate and gambler, and he invented this type of bread-enclosed food so that he would not have to leave the gaming table to eat supper. And he named his invention after his town, sandwich. Another case in point of “lazy people are the most creative” argument.
  6. There is an island in Hawaii that has been unchanged since the 19th century. The island is named Niihau, the 72-square-mile island is privately owned by the family of Elizabeth Sinclair since 1864, who purchased the island from King Kamehameha V for $10,000, where the king requested that the island to be preserved as it is. And throughout several generations the family have been true to their words and kept the island as it was in 1864. As a result, the island is a pristine, critical habitat for highly endangered species and for around 130 native Niihuans living in the village of Puuwai. And yes, as you can guess it is a private island and nobody can enter it, not even Mick Jagger (who requested access to it. Bro, nobody refuses Mick Jagger).
  7. Still in the Polynesia region, Moana is actually the name given to the Pacific Ocean by most Polynesian natives. Moana means “ocean” in Hawaiian, Maori, and most other Polynesian language. But unlike Mulan and Pocahontas (both of whom were real people, albeit their stories are massively changed in the Disney version), Moana is not real. But the demigod Maui is. True to Disney’s style of wrecking the real story, the real Maui is nothing like the big, tattooed, goofy, grown-up guy, who was abandoned by his human parents and raised by the gods. Instead, the real Maui is a son of a god and a human mother, a teenager on the verge of manhood, who has a powerful goddess wife (Hina) that gives harmony and beauty in the Polynesian folklore. You know the stuff Maui sang in the Disney movie, “you’re welcome”? Those achievements were possible thanks to the help of Hina.
  8. But the most inaccurate (and borderline offensive) part of the movie is when they depicted the “Kakamora” people as coconuts, while the real Kakamora people are short-stature people from the Solomon Islands (coconuts is a comedy staple depicted on the Pacific islanders since the TV series Gilligan’s Islands in the 1960s). But all in all, despite the wrong portrayals of Maui, Kakamora, and the fact that women (like Moana) can’t become chief in Polynesian culture, Polynesians still like the movie, they think Disney got the grandma, the community life, and the scenery right.
  9. OK is not short for Okay, it’s actually the other way around: okay is a stretch from OK. So the word OK traces back to an 1830s fad of intentionally misspelling abbreviation among the young, intellectually in-the-know people, in Boston. Some of the examples of this: KC (Knuff Ced), KY (Know Yuse), OW (Oll Wright), and the one that survive the stand of time, OK (Oll Korrect). All correct was the common phrase used back then to describe the state of various things, and its misspelled cousin started to gain recognition in 23 March 1839, when the slang language “OK” was first published in Boston Morning Post as a fresh joke. But soon other papers started to copy the misspelling joke, until everyone knew what it means and use it in daily conversations (similar like LOL, OMG, WTF in today’s slang language). OK even became a presidential campaign slogan for President Martin Van Buren. And then in 1844 the telegraph machine was invented (see 100 things in 2016 no. 21), and the easy-to-type word “OK” became the standard acknowledgement of transmission received. And the use of the word never looked back.
  10. There have been 5 mass extinction on earth to date, where more than 75% of species died. And I give you an early hint: they’re all got to do with rapid climate change. Here are the 5 mass extinctions: 1. End Ordovician (444 million years ago, 86% of species died). 2. Late Devonian (375 million years ago, 75% of species died). 3. End Permian (251 million years ago, 96% of species died). 4. End Triassic (200 million years ago, 80% of species died). 5. End Cretaceous (66 million years ago, 76% of species died, including the dinosaurs). Interestingly, between the first 3 periods (from 420 million to 350 million years) the earth was not covered by trees but covered by giant mushrooms, as mentioned in 100 things in 2015 no. 40. To put things in perspectives, “Ice Age” occurred from around 2.4 million years ago until 11,500 years ago, while that world famous skeleton of “early human ancestor” (Lucy) is 3.2 million years old (the archaeologists named her Lucy because in the celebratory party on the day the specimen was found, the song “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” by the Beatles was playing on repeat).
  11. Just in case you’re wondering, we now live in what scientists call the Meghalayan Age. And In her book The Sixth Extinction Elizabeth Kolbert is arguing that, yup you guessed it, we’re on a verge of another climate-related mass extinction (but most likely won’t be in our life time, so relax). The signs are already there: the most recent (October 2018) scientific findings by WWF suggest that global wildlife has declined 60% in 40 years.
  12. You know that scene in Homeland season 2 when Carrie explains to Brody why Al Qaeda tortured him but then its leader Abu Nazir took such a good care of him? Yeah I think that’s what Trump is doing to the world, destroying every country and then Putin will put all the broken pieces back together ON HIS TERMS. A case in point: when Trump impose a metal tariff on Turkey and destroying the Turkish Lira, in less than 2 weeks Russia came to the rescue with an aid, turning NATO-member Turkey into a Russian-Ally. New Statesman has a different plausible theory, where they are commenting that Trump’s project is “to dismantle the multilateral, rules-based system that holds the world together, and instead reorganise the Americas and Europe as tributary economies to the US corporations.”
  13. In the US, the Democratic Party’s symbol is a donkey because in 1828 somebody called Andrew Jackson a “jackass”, and his reaction was to make it the party’s symbol, as a way to retaliate. And the symbol remains till this day. It’s like what a wise man (Tyrion Lannister) once said: “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”
  14. Women can seek their biological match from just the way he smells. This might not be obvious and it’s working on a subconscious level. To oversimplify, let’s say there are 5 elements on your body, some people have strong element no 1 but weak element no 3, some have only 1 strong element with the rest 4 are weak, etc. Women with weak element no 2, for instance, will biologically seek men with strong element no 2, and they can [subconsciously] detect that from the smell. All of this are for reproductive purposes. The research conducted for this conclusion was mind-blowing: the scientists ask several men to use a plain-smelling t-shirt (without deodorant and washing scents) and then put the t-shirt on a zip-locked bag, so their natural scent are preserved. And then there are several women who had to guess which one of these men is the most attractive one, based on just their smell. The result: 80% of the women guess it right, meaning each one of those women respectively choose the man that has biological compatibility with her. And the 20% who got it wrong? They’re on a birth control pill.
  15. Some people know where the G-spot is. Some are still trying to find it. Whoever you are, do you know what the G in G-spot stands for? It’s Grafenberg, from Ernst Grafenberg, a German physician who wrote an article in the 1950s that discusses the “erotic zone on the anterior wall of the vagina that would swell during sexual stimulation.” Meanwhile, the kegel exercise is named after Dr Arnold Kegel, who, as you can guess, invented the exercise. I wonder who created “burpees.”
  16. You know that carrot is good for your eyesight, right? Well that’s actually a clever hoax, originated in World War 2. So during the war with the Germans, the British developed the radar technology to spot German planes. When the Germans realise of this new technology, they began to attack the British at night. The Brits then change its tactics too, placing radar at every warplanes to their success. When reporters ask RAF pilot and squadrant leader John Cunningham about the secret of their success in fighting the Germans at night, he was unable to disclose to the public about the radar technology, and so on the spot with his quick wit he said eating carrots with every meal has helped improved the eyesight of the pilots. And thus soon spread the urban legend that carrots is good for our eyesight (which is a damn good cover).
  17. Now don’t get me wrong, carrots are indeed rich in beta-carotene, and when we eat carrots our body converts the beta-carotene to vitamin A, which is essential for sight (extreme vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness). But we actually only need a small amount of beta-carotene for good vision, and unless you’re deficient in vitamin A, your vision won’t improve no matter how many carrots you eat. In fact, excessive vitamin A can cause hair-loss, unhealthy weight loss (no, don’t even think about it), fatigue, headache, and that symptom where you skin colour become yellow-orange-ish. This is by no means a smear campaign against carrot (for anyone identify as a carrot, it’s nothing personal against you), but there are other foods that also rich in beta-carotene like spinach, kale, cantaloupe, butternut squash, lettuce, apricot, broccoli, and the number 1 beta-carotene food (carrot is no 2): sweet potatoes.
  18. Rio de Janeiro means “January river” in Portuguese language. But here’s the thing, there’s no river in that place. So explorer Gaspar de Lemos departed from Portugal in 1501 and arrived at this huge bay in Brazil on January. He mistakenly think that the bay was a mouth to a river, so he named the place January (the month he “discovered” the place) river. And nobody bothered to correct this dude. Just in case you’re wondering, “January bay” in Portuguese is Baía de Janeiro.
  19. Still on the subject of giving a wrong name to a place. Sometimes people get credit not for doing the job, but for just by pointing out an error made by the other guy who did the job. I’m talking about Amerigo Vespucci, whom was an Italian sailor who took several expeditions to the New World within the years 1499-1504. In between 1502 and 1504 two texts attributed to Vespucci were published in Europe that described these expeditions, in which it argued that the new lands that was discovered by Christopher Columbus were not India (as Columbus though it was, hence what they eventually called the natives: Indians), but instead it was an entirely new continent. In 1507, convinced by the arguments set by the texts, a respected mapmaker named Martin Waldseemüller published an updated world map with a whole new continent at the west of Europe. As the person who draw the new map Waldseemüller had to give the continent a name, and he mistakenly believe that Amerigo Vespucci was the person who discovered the continent (as per the arguments in the text), and thus he named it America in Vespucci’s honor.
  20. The “freshly cut smell of grass” is actually an organic compounds called Green Leaf Volatiles (GLVs), which basically is a distress signal released by the plant when it’s harmed in any way. Oh God, we’re such a barbaric species aren’t we.
  21. The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by a Hungarian architect Erno Rubik, who designed the “Buvos Kocka” or “magic cube” (as he first called it) to be a working model to help explain 3-dimensional geometry. The cube has 43 quintillion possible positions and exactly 1 correct solution. I repeat, one. I dunno bout you, but the process of finding 1 out of 43 quintillion would probably make me question my judgements in life. And Erno Rubik has a philosophical approach to exactly that, when he said: “If you are not able to do something, that is true for the present, not for the future. All the time there’s a chance to go a step further. Not to be frustrated.” He then continues, “if something takes a while to be comfortable with it, that’s a much longer and valuable [goal] that you have achieved.” Wise, wise words. The current world champion (yes there’s a championship on Rubik’s Cube), SeungBeom Cho, can solve the cubes in record time 4.59 seconds. Also equally impressive, at a championship held in Poland in June 2015 Jakub Kipa can solve the cube in 20.57 seconds using ONLY HIS FEET. Wait wait, there’s more. In the same championship a year earlier Marcin Kowalczyk can solve it in 21.17 seconds while BLINDFOLDED. Wow, I can’t even solve it using my hands and eyes with no time limit. Now we move to the celebrity section: mock him as much as you like but Justin Bieber can actually solve it in 87 seconds. Will Smith can also solve it very quickly, in 55 seconds, while Spain footballer David Silva can solve it with 16 moves.
  22. Jesus Christ has brothers and sisters. The Gospel of Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56 actually name Jesus’ brothers: James, Joses, Judas, Simon, alongside at least 2 unnamed sisters. Moreover, the discovery of James’ casket (a casket with a writing of “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus”) was the 1st physical evidence that Jesus of Nazareth in fact exists. Before this, there’s no physical evidence that He existed, until the Gospels were written centuries later. Furthermore, while the childhood that Jesus spent with James (presumably whom Jesus was closest with) is described in the infancy Gospel of Thomas, in Corinthians 15:4-7 (which describe Jesus’ resurrection) the verse 15:7 particularly mentions “then he appeared to James…” He is also known in history as James the Just.
  23. Still in holy religious texts, in the Book of Jubilees (chapter 4) Adam and Eve are mentioned to have 4 children instead of only 2, Cain and Abel. The other 2 children were Seth and Azura (a woman), with Azura then became Seth’s wife. That answers a lot of scepticism from the atheists, about how can humans became the descendant from two boys Cain and Abel. According to Genesis 4:25 in the Bible Seth was born after Abel’s murder.
  24. Have you ever wondered why the “gentlemen way” of buttoning your suit is to leave the bottom one unbuttoned? So, in a 3 button suit we should only button the middle one (and the top one as well if you must, but not the bottom one), in a 2 button suit only button the top one (the same goes with waistcoats and vests). But why is that? It dates back to king Edward VII, who ruled England from 1901-1910. When he was the prince of Wales, suits were just beginning to become popular, but the problem was he has a rather large belly. To make himself more comfortable, he unbuttoned the bottom button of his waistcoat. Out of respect, everyone started to follow this “trend” he had started. And when the “lounge suit” jacket was introduced in 1906 (which had 3 buttons) and replaced the ridding coats, the undoing of the bottom button draped the jacket nicely when people were riding a horse, thus further sealing the trend. So bluntly speaking, this “gentlemen norm” we have today was to accommodate a fat king.
  25. Treadmill was originated in British prisons, as a torture device. It was invented in 1818 by British civil engineer Sir William Cubitt to “reform stubborn and idle convicts”, and they use the device as follows: prisoners step on the 24 spokes of a large paddle wheel (like how modern StairMaster works) and as they move, the gears will then pump water or crush grains (hence, the name treadmill). The prisoners would climb the equivalent of 7200 feet in an 8-hour shift (well ok that is torture). In the late 19th century the device was actually abandoned due to its cruelty, but in 1960s Dr Kenneth Cooper demonstrated the health benefits of aerobic exercise and the treadmill made a reformed return. And today we pay a shit load of money to use that torture device.
  26. On November this year missionary John Allen Chau illegally entered a tribal area in the Sentinel Island, Andaman Sea, and got killed by an arrow from the Sentinelese (that’s what we call them, not what they call themselves). As per Indian laws (who technically owns the island) this isolated tribe, whom has lived a relatively isolated life for 60,000 years, cannot be prosecuted, because any contact with them and/or entry into their area are illegal. The question is, what’s with the special law that protects their seclusion from the rest of the world? As it turns out the background story is pretty spectacular, thanks to a weirdo named Maurice Vidal Portman. Commander Portman was a black sheep third son of some minor British nobleman, and during the British Empire occupation of India he was assigned by the Royal Navy to administer and pacify the Andaman Islands, between 1880 and 1900. Here’s the catch, he was a pervert. I’m talking about erotically obsessed with the Andamanese, and indulging in kidnapping members of various tribes and take photos of them in homoerotic poses, measured and cataloged every inch of the prisoners’ bodies (focusing on, of course, genitals). Portman initially spent most of his time in greater Andaman Islands, but in 1880 he visited North Sentinel. The natives fled, but Portman managed to find and kidnap an elderly couple and few children, those of whom cannot outrun Portman and his troops. The elderly couple instantly died due to lack of immunity from outside diseases, while the children went through some gruesome sexual trauma, before they were released back to the island. The story of the died elderly couple and what weird things “they” did to the children were enough to make the Sentinelese become hostile to outsiders (except for very few instances).
  27. The longest recorded hiccups is 68 years, from 1922 to 1990, the poor guy’s name was Charles Osborne. Meanwhile, the longest recorded sneeze was a schoolgirl in the UK, she started sneezing on 13 January 1981 and didn’t stop sneezing for 978 days. For those who are wondering, it’s bloody hard to find one credible record for the longest orgasm.
  28. Speaking of orgasm, scientists found out that sperm actually carry some information about whether or not the person who, uhm, produce them, is overweight. So in a study published in cell metabolism, they found that spermatozoa from overweight or obese men have a different epigenic signature compared to those in lean men. More specifically, the genes that seem to be involved during those controling brain development and function are those same genes that also involved in appetite. I bet somewhere in the world there’s at least 1 maverick scientist who can accurately guess someone’s weight by just looking at their sperm (and I don’t know why I picture him like Rick, from Rick and Morty).
  29. Remember the Viagra joke I made in 100 things in 2017 no. 10? As it turns out erectile dysfunction does relate to heart attack more than I thought. So, the condition of our heart can be detected by the blood flows in our body. And when our flow is disrupted (for instance, by clogging at the artery) we usually wont know unless we conduct a blood test, medical check up, etc. Except, the signs of trouble can also appear in the most visible part of the body, you know where this is going right? Yes, if we (we?) can’t get an erection that’s actually a sign that there is a disruption in our blood flows and ultimately in our heart. So by all means take a Viagra if you must, but also check your heart to the doctor (but don’t do both within the same time frame. No, nothing medical, just, you know, that would be awkward).
  30. The reason why flags are flown half mast when somebody died is to make room for the invincible flag of death. Creepy.
  31. Speaking of creepy, let’s now talk about Satan. “The devil” that we generally know today has gone through numerous evolution, or editing. You know that red guy with tails and pointy horns, holding a pitchfork? That actually came out later in history. The idea of Satan first appeared vaguely in the Hebrew bible (the Old Testament) where there were many uncertainties because there were no concept of dualism (there’s good and evil, light and dark, etc). Instead, the early Jews believed that God is all things, including good AND evil, and is responsible for everything that are happening in the universe, including the bad things. So there’s no need for Satan.
  32. The need of the concept of Satan emerged later on, where religious thinkers started to picture God as an all loving deity, which called for the need for the “bad cop” figure. That was around 6th-3rd century BC where the lands were ruled by Persia, and Persia has Zoroastrianism which has a dualism concept. Hence, the idea of the devil was slowly introduced to the Judaism faith, and the evolution was strengthened in the New Testaments. Satan, it is believed ever since, was a rebel who defied God and was sent to the eternal fire of hell. But interestingly, according to Luciferian (those who worship Lucifer – I didn’t know that they exist either) Satan was actually the rightful ruler of the Kingdom of Heaven, and there was a coup and he was deposed by Jehovah (heaven politics, eh?)
  33. By the way, the many names of Satan have many different origins: Lucifer was originally the name of Latin god of light. Beelzebub was a name of a Philistine god (worshiped in Ekron). Another common name for Satan is Ba’al, which originally was a main deity of the Canaanites and Phoenicians, who were competing with the Christian faith in the region. And that image of Satan with a goat head? That’s supposed to mean Islam is the devil. That’s right, many of the names and images of the devil are actually smear campaigns by the Catholic Church to “demonise the competitions.” But nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that the stereotypical crazy devil worshipers doesn’t exist. Meet Anton Szandor LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satanism.
  34. The cartoon character Shrek is based on an actual person, a French wrestler named Maurice Tillet, whom married a beautiful woman. Yeah, ok, go google image him. I’ll wait.
  35. One day in the west coast of Africa, in Guinea Bissau, a bunch of fishermen found a stranded package on the ocean, filled with white powder. Didn’t know what the white powder is for, the fishermen first tried to use it as a washing soap, but it wrecked their clothes. Then they tried to use it as a fertilizer, but the plants died. And then, out of the blue, one day a Colombian gentleman approached them and offered to buy the package for millions of dollars. The fishermen obviously agreed. And excitingly, they wanted for some more. Yes, the packaged powder was cocaine, that was accidentally dropped from a small aeroplane.
  36. What proceeded since then was a tremendous amount of transformation of a country from virtually clean to become one of the largest drug hubs in the world. Due to Guinea Bissau’s unique visa status to the EU (they’re part of Portugal, so no need to apply for visa to go to the EU), the country became the easy entry-path to the untapped EU market, which was normally big on heroin but not cocaine due to hard access from Latin America. To make matter worse, the level of corruption in government officials became so rampant that one day there was a drug bust by the police, but was quickly interfered by the army (who works for the cartel). And when the president started to be anti-drug? The corrupt military staged a coup and shot the president. Today, Guinea Bissau is the only pure narco-state in the world, and nothing seems to stop them.
  37. In Stockholm, Sweden, there’s a “speed camera lottery.” Those who are eligible to enter the prize money are the ones who drive at or under the speed limit. The money comes from the fines paid by people who were speeding. You know what, with couple of tweaks, this concept could actually solve many problems in the streets of chaotic Jakarta.
  38. 90% of the sunglasses in the world are manufactured by 1 Italian company named Luxottica. Just in case you haven’t felt like being duped, the company have a business practice of selling a pair of sunglasses for $30 at one retailer, and put a luxury brand logo on that same model then mark up the price 300%, and sell them at high end stores. Now that’s the power of branding and, you know, blind consumerism.
  39. To be a Buddhist monk, the first thing they teach young children in the monastery is how to breathe. Because our breath is the only thing that stays with us from the very moment we’re born until the moment we die. All our friends, family, the country we live in, the stuff that we own, our physical appearance, all of that is going to change, but not our breath. So why do they teach this in the monastery, and why is it so important that it’s the first thing that they teach? Notice when we get stressed, what changes? Our breath. When we get angry what changes? Our breath. When we sad, happy, or whatever, every emotion is experienced with the change of our breath. So when we learn how to navigate and manage our breath, we can actually manage every situation in life (more on breathing technique later, with Wim Hof Method).
  40. The difference between Western religion (like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and Eastern religion (like Buddhism and Hinduism) is that Western philosophy focuses on the outside, on how to properly behave within the fellow-worshipers community, while Eastern philosophy focuses on the inside, on your inner well-being.
  41. Backstreet Boys and NSYNC were funded by ponzi scheme money that their creator, Lou perlman, have been doing for 20 years (he’s now in jail, just in case you’re wondering). So yeah, because these two boy bands somewhat pioneers in their group genres, the entire 1990s pop culture was pretty much ignited by a ponzi scheme.
  42. Speaking of the name “Ponzi” scheme, by now we all know who it is named after, but did you know that Sarah How was actually the first person who did the “ponzi scheme” 40 years before Ponzi did? But Charles Ponzi did it so well that people name it after him. It’s probably for the best, can you imagine the confusion that can be caused by “How Scheme.”
  43. What’s the difference between pleasure and happiness? This casual question is a big theme for me in 2018, it is what I’ve been spending most of my time on, it has opened a whole new floodgate of knowledge (with massive digital piles of research materials on Evernote), and led me to implement a healthier eating habit, made me more focused and composed, prompted me to physically meet more people, made me play 3 sports on a weekly basis (from virtually none in the past decade), and losing 9 KG (18 lbs) in the process (enough to downsize myself from overweight to normal BMI Index). I first heard about this seemingly trivial question at an interview with neuro-scientist Dr Robert Lustig on FT Alphaville podcast, and the scientific answer that he gave was mind blowing, so mind blowing it changed my attitude towards life (I have since listened to every interview he’s done in podcasts, watched his lectures on YouTube, and read his book on this subject).
  44. So what is really the difference between pleasure and happiness? Neuroscientifically speaking, pleasure comes from those activities that trigger the release of dopamine in our brain, and happiness comes from those activities that trigger the release of serotonin. So what triggers serotonin (happiness)? From giving, eating healthy food (meeting all the macro and micro nutrients that our body needs), doing physical exercise, doing meditation, sleeping well, things like basking under the sun, and physically meet and interact with people instead of in social media. What triggers dopamine (pleasure)? From receiving, shopping, scrolling down the social media, binge-watching TV, binge-reading news, eating junk food, too much sugar, too much salt, gossiping, sex, smoking, drinking alcohol, drinking caffeine, consuming drugs, gambling, basically all the instant gratifications that are not necessarily healthy for us.
  45. Spot the pattern yet? Yes, dopamine is generated by those things that make us addicted. And there’s a scientific explanation for that: the more pleasure we indulge in, the more the dopamine will drive down our neurons and receptors, increase cortisol (the stress hormone), and reduce serotonin. You read that last part right, too much pleasure actually reduce happiness. It gets worse. Because dopamine is addictive our brain naturally keep on wanting more hit, but the more hit you indulge in means that the dopamine also drive down your neuron and receptors even more, and over time you will reach a peak dopamine: 1. It is when the part of our brain that regulates self-control (the prefrontal cortex – which isn’t fully developed until we are 25 years old) becomes numb and we start to lose our self-control over our indulgence. 2. It is also when the thing that we indulge in no longer generate that much pleasure as it was before (due to damaged receptors), so our brain wants to indulge more of this stuff, up the dosage, up the frequency, so that we can still experience the same rush as the first time. Point no 2 is exactly why a lot of recovering drug addicts who want to “take a last blow” before quitting for good ended up die of overdose, because when they went to rehab their body’s tolerance level to the substance came down, but in the “last blow” they usually consume the last high dosage they took before they decided to quit, which was at the peak dopamine level. Or on a lighter note, this is why people who have been changing their diets to clean eating suddenly gets a stomachache when they eat junk food again. (Note that all the sciency stuff mentioned here are a gross oversimplification, to make it more concise and faster to read).
  46. Now it doesn’t really matter what the indulgence is, what matter is our dopamine-filled brain, that creates an addiction. That’s why a lot of smokers who quit smoking suddenly have a big appetite for eating, or why a quitting alcoholic suddenly love to indulge in sugary drinks (they just switch from one indulgence to the other), while an addict in one substance can easily adopt another addiction like gambling and drinking. But this is not entirely their fault, their numbed prefrontal cortex means that they really can’t control themselves, so it’s not about the will to quit but it’s the chemicals in their brain (but it’s their fault to start indulging). This is what modern corporations are now competing to produce, goods and services that are designed for dopamine: cheap and addictive junk foods, all the discounts groupons Black Friday Cyber Monday etc, fast fashion, happy hour at the bar, click-bait articles, those damn toy channels at YouTube, even the competition to keep our attentions in their social media platform – all of which are cheap, easy to get, quick fix, and makes our brain wanting more hits as we get addicted to their goods and services.
  47. So what happens next when we’re already an addict, and nothing seems to be pleasurable anymore? If we’re not overdosed yet, the next extreme stage then sets in: depression. Because all the money in the world can’t seem to make us happy (also remember that too much pleasure reduces happiness). So what’s the cure? One drug company thought that they had it all figured out: eliminate the dopamine. In 2006 a drug company Sanofi-Aventis developed a drug called Rimonabant, an anti-obesity drug that – a very technical long story short – kills off the dopamine receptor. The idea was if people don’t find pleasure in eating, they will see no point in indulge eating. And it worked very well: those who consume the drug lost their appetite, they stop eating junk food, they even lost all interest in food altogether, and a lot of people lost a significant amount of weight (if your spidey sense is tingling, you’re spot on). Indeed, they lost all interest in food but they also lost all pleasure from anything else because the dopamine hit was no longer there. The effect? European (they’re only allowed in Europe) post-marketing data showed that 21% of the people who consume the drug became clinically depressed and many of them committed suicide, because they lost the motivation to live (what’s the point of living when there’s no pleasure?). The drug was quickly withdrawn and banned.
  48. So, eliminating dopamine is not the answer, in fact in our brain dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter that control the brain’s pleasure and reward centres, so we need dopamine. The problem occurs when we have too much dopamine. A case in point: a while ago medical researchers have discovered the fact that Parkinson disease is caused primarily by low and falling dopamine level. So naturally the doctors’ response was to inject [too much] dopamine to the patients, and (you know where this is going don’t you?) the patients suddenly develop gambling habits that they never had before.
  49. So, if eliminating dopamine and too much dopamine are both not good, then what’s the correct cure for dopamine-induced addiction or depression? The short answer: cut off cold the dopamine-producing indulgence, change the environment (hence, the usually secluded area for rehab centres), and simultaneously add serotonin. Some rehab centres literally injects serotonin into the patients, while some give serotonin-filled drugs (one of the most well known drugs to cure depression is Prozac, and it is categorised in a class of drug called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)). But we don’t need to add artificial injection to practically be happy, we can instead obtain it through natural ways. To generate serotonin, Dr Robert Lustig focuses on what he called 4Cs (connect, contribute, cope, and cook) that covers all that has been mentioned above in no. 44. I personally have a slightly different model: after more research from many different sources and medical journals I narrow down most experts’ solutions into this particular order: 1. Sleep right (lack of sleep produce dopamine, that’s when you got the urge to eat junk food, drinking, binge scrolling social media, etc) 2. Eat right (plot twist: Serotonin is actually produced not in our brain, but in our gut. So we really are what we eat) 3. Exercise right (exercise raises Serotonin level, which in turn helps to improve sleep cycles and appetite for eating, and produces its cousin: endorphins) 4. Mindfulness (especially meditation: the auto-cleanup button for our cluttered mind, the mental gym of going back to focus, and most effectively – as mentioned in Bhagavat Gita 6:18 – meditation is a tool to withdraw the mind from [dopamine generating] selfish cravings) 5. And physical interactions (especially meeting those you love and trust. That warm feeling when hugging your loved ones, or talking to someone that you really trust? They produce another cousin of Serotonin: Oxytocin). Each single one of them have a massive amount of articles, books, podcast episodes, documentaries, seminars, etc dedicated for them. And the result? One of the many examples is what happened in Russia, where the trend of replacing heavy alcohol culture with healthy living have reduced the rate of male suicide, as their serotonin-generating new lifestyle make them happier.
  50. Do u know why they named the dating app Tinder? Because Tinder is a small spark of fire, and it can be ignited by a match. Clever. By the way, for those single people out there, who want to find someone: Here’s 36 questions that can make strangers fall in love with each other.
  51. Humans have always at war with each others. In the past 3500 years, we fought wars for 3270 years and has only seen peace for 230 years. But the present day, despite the availability bias on negative news presented by the media, is actually the most peaceful era humanity have ever had. We all have various occupations rather than the majority of military-focused job hundred of years ago, we have less wars than before, less population-to-death ratio: it was 524 violent deaths per 100,000 in modern hunter-gatherer societies compared with 60 per 100,000 in the 20th century. Here’s more by Steven Pinker, the Harvard professor and author of the book The Better Angels of Our Nature.
  52. We can see how serious a government is in implementing a cause or projects by the salary they give to the implementer. For example, during the Golden Age of Islam, scientists were paid as much as professional athletes in developed world would make today. No wonder plenty of scientific discoveries were made in that era.
  53. In Sanskrit language, gu means darkness or ignorance and ru means one who removes. So guru means the one who removes of darkness and takes towards the light. Such a poetic meaning.
  54. There is a little town in Mexico called Chamula, where shamans began to use Coca Cola as part of their religious rituals to heal their worshipers. When Pepsi heard about this they approached the shamans and offered commissions to them if they recommended Pepsi instead of Coca Cola. Alert of this move, Coca Cola began to do the same to counter Pepsi’s “invasion.” Long story short, there are now rival religious groups in Chamula based on which soft drink they use.
  55. That hilarious story is actually highlighting one of the main theses in one of the most brilliant books, Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens can rise to the top of the food chain and become the rulers of the world because of our ability to create fiction, fiction that can eventually unites us more than the maximum 150 member-band found in any other species. Unconventionally (or perhaps controversially) the fiction that Harari is talking about includes human rights charter, system of capitalism, system of communism, religion, caste system, border countries and its nationalism, and I may add sports clubs and international organisations, all of which are not part of nature, are actually made up by humans, but can bring a large group of people together in their respective names.
  56. This, of course, is only one of the many fascinating revelations, arguments, and explanations about human history from the book Sapiens. The book also provides the most concise history of the ancient era, polytheist religions, mercantilism, climate change, the science evolution, a very eye-opening history of capitalism, the condensed history of energy (which explains the industry better than Daniel Yergin’s long ass books), the most logical explanation on the current trend of consumerism which gives a surprise minimalism message, the best detailed explanation (and thus, the argument) on animal cruelty, it even covers about diet and exercise (e.g. what hunter-gatherers actually eat and why it’s different than the current crazed of paleo diet), one whole chapter on happiness that would make Gretchen Rubin proud, and gives a lot of new connections for previously thought separate occurrences, like how the Mississippi bubble eventually lead to the French Revolution, the 1821 Greek revolt against the Ottoman became the root of today’s Greek economic chaos, or who were behind the First Opium War and what the British initially use Hong Kong for, all of this in one book. Bill Gates and Barack Obama wasn’t kidding when they highly recommended this book. For all of these reasons, Sapiens is the best book I read this year (yeah, I know that I’m very late to the party).
  57. Another old-ish book that I read this year that are simply fascinating: Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith, a book that emphasis the importance of environments as the triggers to our subconscious mind and our habits, which serves as the core foundation for me that made adopting new healthy living habit relatively easy. 10% Happier by Dan Harris, which dismantles every wrong perception about meditation (like the classic “you have to empty your thoughts”), and shows the scientific data of the benefits of meditation that can turn sceptics into practitioners. Tribe of Mentors and Tools of Titans both by Tim Ferriss, which provide an abundant wealth of information on habits, health, exercise, lifestyle, start-ups, business management, attitude, etc from various successful people from different fields. And last but not least, The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, a massive book that shows (in great details) how every mythology, religion, and the forming of cultures all rooted to the similar (if not identical) story plot. The narrative in the book is 1 from beginning til the end, but Joseph Campbell really shows which mythology or religion or culture have a specific holy text for each step of the journey, and that is just mind blowing (no wonder it’s Ray Dalio’s favourite book). Each one of these books could have been my book of the year if it isn’t because of Sapiens (it’s like the many great TV series who lost the Emmy because Game of Thrones wipe out all the trophies).
  58. Bar code scanner actually scans the white spaces in between, and not the black bars. This reminds me of what Mozart said, “the music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”
  59. There’s a language that compose entirely of whistling. The language is called “sfyria”, and the last remaining people who can still practice it lives in a tiny village of Antia, in a Greek island of Evia. Here’s the fascinating story.
  60. Last October a Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the sea, killing everyone on board. It was personally devastating for me, as I know 1 victim very well. The crash then got me thinking, what actually happens if we got stranded in the middle of the sea with nothing to hold on to? Well, with the assumption that we’re an average swimmer, we could probably survive treading the water between 10 to 40 hours (which is relatively quite a long time for the search and rescue to find us). But, you know, after that we would black out from exhaustion and drown. That’s why the first 24 hours of search and rescue is very important.
  61. Person of the year: From all the many, many great individuals that I’ve read, listened, and watched about this year, I narrow it down into 2 individuals. Now, I really can’t choose between these 2 great people, so let me tell you their stories and judge yourself: Candidate no 1: Chuck Finney. He is the founder of Duty Free Shop, who does not own expensive cars or watches, and fly in economy class, because he has an aim to give away all of his wealth to charity and die with nothing. And so far he has donated $8 billion to charity. Yup he’s supposed to be a billionaire living a very comfortable life. His life story is very inspiring and timely for me, especially as currently I keep getting rid of my stuff to live a minimalist life (I may not have as much as him, but maybe someday I’ll eventually give away my most precious collections, my books, one book at a time to those who need that special book more than I do). Candidate no 2: Wim Hof. Nicknamed the “Iceman”, he holds 20 Guinness Book of Records, he climb pass the death zone altitude on mount Everest (around 7500 metres) wearing nothing but shorts and shoes, he dip into ice bath for nearly 2 hours and his body temperature didn’t plunge due to his breathing technique, he completed a full marathon above the Arctic Circle in Finland wearing, again, nothing but shorts and shoes despite the temperatures close to -20 degree Celsius (-4 degree Fahrenheit), he ran a full marathon in the Namib desert without water, he can run at altitude without suffering from altitude sickness. And the best part is, despite looking like a hippie and behave like a funny madman, he routinely asks scientists to measure and validate his methods (the Wim Hof Method) to withstand these extreme conditions, which comes out legitimate even for MIT scientists. He also speaks 10 languages. Here’s a VICE documentary on him. Now, can you see my dilemma? One is the most selfless person I’ve probably ever seen, and another is just the closest thing to a superhuman. You know what, let’s make them both joint persons of the year.
  62. Now suddenly I’m feeling mighty generous. In the spirit of Chuck Finney, I’m giving away a Rolex watch, you get a Rolex watch, you get a Rolex watch, everybooodyy get a Rolex waaatch!
  63. For a brief period of time, somewhere between 1805 and 1808, Trinity College at the University of Cambridge had a bear as its student. So there was a man who was born into an aristocratic family, a man named George Gordon Byron (most famously known as Lord Byron – whom would later become a famous poet). Lord Byron has always lived an unusual life, often breaking the rules and followed by controversies everywhere he went. One rule-breaking act in particular, though, stands out as legen-waitforit-dary. Lord Byron has always been an animal lover, especially dogs. And when he was accepted at Trinity College he initially wanted to bring a dog along with him, but the college regulation prevented him. But the regulation didn’t say anything about bears. Nobody knows how he got the bear, but he brought a freakin bear to Cambridge, treat it as a dog, and got into multiple arguments with the university. But because there’s no rule about owning a pet bear, they can’t do anything about it. That is, until one day the university eventually decide to recruit the bear as a student, then expel it. This story was so well spread within the university and was so amusing that many years later another Trinity College student began to write fictional stories about the adventures of the bear. The name of the bear? Winnie. And the writer? A. A. Milne. That’s right, the stories later evolve to become the many adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
  64. The defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in the battle of Waterloo was influenced by the explosion of mount Tambora in Indonesia. On June 1816 during the battle of Waterloo, the battlefield scene that was described as rainy and muddy was actually the effect of the explosion 2 months before in Sumba Island (modern day Indonesia) which killed around 100,000 people and sent huge plump of ashes up to 62 miles into the atmosphere. The electrically-charged ash then “short circuited” the ionosphere (the upper atmospheric layer responsible for cloud formation), which led to a cloud formation that caused heavy rain in Europe (and thus, in Waterloo). The explosion also caused the earth temperature to slump, and thus killing the crops that led to famine. In fact, 1816 was dubbed the year with no summer due to this slump of earth temperature.
  65. Another incident of climate creating a political situation is how the mafia became the most notorious criminal organisation. The mafia first appeared in the Italian island of Sicily in 1860. They were made up of unremarkable criminals around Palermo (the provincial capital), that run small local protection rackets that could be possible only thanks to weak regional government and the island’s distance from Rome. But then, in 1893 Sicily suffered from a severe drought. The drought cut the island’s wheat crop in half and crippled olive oil, barley, and wine productions, in some region agriculture production even dropped by 65%. This impacted the peasants the most, whom mostly rented small plots of land or worked as day laborers for the elites. As a result of the drought, most of them lost their jobs, and that fueled a socialist movement (the Fasci Siciliani dei Lavoratori) that quickly spread across the island, with the demand of longer-term contracts for land rentals, higher wages, and a shifting of tax burden more towards the landowners. At first, the landowners elites asked the Italian government to send troops to disband the protest, but the Italian Prime Minister at the time was sympathetic to the peasants.
  66. Cornered, the elites then turned to the local thugs for protection: the mafia. After months of clashes between the mafia and the Fasci protesters, a new Prime Minister was elected, and he declared the Fasci illegal in 1894 and implemented mass arrests and executions that ended the movement. By enlisting the mafia as a private militia, the elite landowners succeeded in preserving their status quo, but however, in doing so they emboldened the mafia into a vastly expanded criminal organisation, with big presence in all corners of Sicily. And the Pandora’s Box cannot be closed again.
  67. 80% of The Biggest Loser contestants gain back their old weight. The problem? After the boot camp they all go back to their old environment, the same environment that triggers or stimulates their binge-eating habits that made them fat in the first place (remember: we are the product of our environment). And those 20% who maintain their new weight? They change their old environment, get rid of the stuffs that trigger their old habits, and maintain the new healthy lifestyle through the discipline they learned at the boot camp (Also remember: we are the product of our environment, but we can control our environment. And that includes the inner environment in our body that we create through sleep, eat, exercise, and mindfulness).
  68. Modern computer was invented by a man by the name of Alan Turing. He was a brilliant man, he worked for the British government during World War 2 as a code breaker, he’s also a mathematician, logician, crypt-analyst, and theoretical biologist, who created the formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine (considered as the model for the first general purpose computer). However, despite all of these achievements Turing was never fully recognised due to his homosexuality, which was a crime back then in the UK. He was even prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts, and he accepted chemical castration treatment for those acts (as an alternative to prison). But eventually, deeply saddened by his situation, 16 days before his 42nd birthday Turing killed himself by consuming cyanide poison that he put in an apple. That apple with a bite mark logo on your Apple products? That’s Steve Jobs’ tribute to the founder of computer.
  69. You all know this saying “when one door closes, another opens”, but do you know the original sentence that follows it? It was first said by Alexander Graham Bell, in which he continued to say “but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” Now that’s deep.
  70. Do you know why Americans refer the game of football as soccer? Some forms of football game have existed throughout history as far back as 1004 BC, many of which had similar rules, but it was not until 26 October 1863 that the standard rules of modern football was created in Cambridge, England. The game was formally introduced as “association football” to distinguish itself from the other types of football games, like the also recently formalised “rugby football” (after a fall out with association football mentioned in 100 things in 2017 no. 7). Back in that day upper class British school boys like to give nickname on everything by adding “er” at the back, including rugger (from rugby football) and asoccer (from association football). By time the nickname asoccer shortened to soccer, and while in the beginning rugger and soccer were mainly played by upper class of British society, gradually these two sports spread to the lower social class, where “football” was the more popular name for “association football.” Due to the popularity of “association football” and the low interest on “rugby football”, the soccer game gradually switch name to just “football” as the masses call it, which was first documented in 1881 (and rugby football gradually became known as simply “rugby”). The game was then brought and taught throughout the British Empire by low social class sailors, merchants, etc under the lower social class name of “football.” That is, except in areas that becomes the modern day United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and some other, that already had a popular local sport that also called “football.” Hence, the upper class nickname of “soccer” then used in these countries instead.
  71. On this year’s Ramadan I read the Qur’an (M. A. S Abdel Haleem’s English translation) cover to cover, and it was a humbling experience and an eye opener. Al Qur’an contains some 6,200 verses and out of these 100 verses discuss about ritual practices, 70 verses deals with personal laws, 70 verses civil laws, 30 penal laws, and 20 judiciary matters and testimony. And after I finish reading it I realise that there have been so many serious damage done to the world (and to the sanctity of Islam as well) from those who simply misinterpret the Qur’an. Here’s my review on a great book that addresses these most common misinterpretations on Islam. By the way The annual Hajj pilgrimage is the largest Muslim gathering in the world. But did you know what the 2nd largest Muslim gathering in the world is? It’s Biswa Ijtema in Bangladesh.
  72. Meme is awesome. It serves as the glue of the global village, it brings a lot of hilarious joy, sometimes can teach us one thing or two, just like South Park. But do you know where the word meme comes from? It sounded more serious than I thought. The term meme comes from a study of information and culture called memetics. According to this theory, cultures are mental parasites that accidentally emerge and take advantage of everyone who are infected by them. It adopts the analogy of the biological evolution, where evolution is based on the replication of organic information units called “genes”, likewise memetics believe that cultural evolution is based on the replication of cultural information units called “memes”. They also believe that successful cultures are the ones that excel in reproducing their memes regardless of the costs and benefits for the humans. In other words, memes are the genes of our culture (testify). So keep up the jokes guys! And just in case you’re wondering, according to the Oxford English Dictionary and the BBC’s pronunciation unit, it is pronounced “meem” and not “may may” (yeah, I also pronounce it may may).
  73. Gunpowder was actually accidentally invented, by a Daoist alchemists that were looking for the ingredients to create immortality in humans. Instead, it became widely used to speed up enemy’s mortality. If that’s not ironic, I don’t know what is.
  74. The theory of evolution almost never existed. The British Empire loved to explore and codify everything under their realm, in fact thanks to them the world now have massive catalogs of species, geological features of the world, all the information of tribes and cultures living on the planet, etc. One of those exploration journeys was in 1831, when the Royal Navy sent the ship HMS Beagle to the coasts of South America, the Falklands Islands, and the Galapagos Islands, to map the area and study them. The ship’s captain was an amateur scientist, and he decided to bring along a geologist in the expedition to study the geological formations in those areas, while he draw military maps. He initially approached several professional geologists for this job but they all refused the invitation. Undeterred by these refusals, the captain eventually found someone who is willing to take the job, a 22 year old Cambridge graduate named Charles Darwin. This is where it gets interesting. Darwin initially studied to become an Anglican parson, but he was way more interested in geology and natural sciences than the Bible. So when this once in a lifetime opportunity arrives he took a leap of faith and joined the expedition, where Darwin collected the empirical data and formulated the insights that would eventually become the theory of evolution. Our understanding of the evolution would have been very different had he decide not to take a leap of faith, and became an Anglican parson instead.
  75. You know that large body of water between Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan, is it a sea or a lake? Despite being inland and has no access to the larger sea, when the Ancient Romans arrived there they discovered that the water was salty (although it is only a third as salty as regular sea water). Hence, the Romans called it a sea, and named it after the Caspian tribe that lived there. But it is actually not until this year that the five countries bordering the Caspian sea finally agreed that it is indeed a sea and not a lake. This finally allows them to define rules for fishing and shipping among them.
  76. Have you ever wondered why Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) became the official timekeeper of the world, and for how long have the world lived in a synchronized time? The earliest recorded weight-driven mechanical clock was first installed in 1283 at Dunstable Priory in Bedfordshire, England, to assist Roman Catholic Church with their strict observance of prayer times. By 1300 this timekeeping device was so successful artisans began to build clocks in churches and cathedrals in France and Italy (with the name clock derived from clocca, the Latin word for bell).
  77. Now in the early 14th century synchronized timekeeping was a mess, where the system that divided the day into 24 equal parts varied for different countries according to the start of their count: Babylonian hours began at sunrise, astronomical hours at midday, Italian hours began at sunset, great clock hours (used mainly in Germany) at midnight. But eventually these systems were replaced by French hours, which split the day into two 12-hour period which commences at midnight (the system we use today). Note that at that era the clocks still only use the hour mark, and it was not until the 1660s, when the pendulum clock was developed, that minutes and seconds were introduced, using the sexagesimal partitions of the degree introduced by Babylonian astronomers (the word minute derived from prima minuta, the Latin word for the first small division, and the word second derived from secunda minuta, the Latin word for the second small division). It’s interesting to point out that this sectioning of the day into 24 hours and minutes into 60 parts was not accepted by everyone, with several efforts were made to change this arrangement, most notably the French whom break the day into 10 hours and each hour consists of 100 minutes that splits into 100 second. But as the Babylonian system was so well established in Western culture, all attempt to change the system eventually failed (the French system only lasted for 16 months).
  78. By 1780s each British city and town had their own clock, and more notably they also have their own local time that could differ from London time by up to half an hour (since there were no telephones, radio, or television that can verify the time). For instance when it was 12:00 in London, it can be 11:50 in Canterbury and 12:20 in Liverpool. And in 1784 a carriage service with a published schedule began operating in Britain, with the timetable only state the hour of departure, and not the arrival time. This constantly created daily chaos due to the different times at destination cities/town. This chaos became more severe when 10 years after the first commercial train service began to operate between Liverpool and Manchester (in 1830), the first train timetable was issued. To solve this headache once and for all, British train companies agreed that all train timetable will be henceforth calibrated to Greenwich Observatory time, rather than the local times. And this synchronizing was then followed by other institutions, until finally in 1880 the British government created a legislation that make it mandatory for all timetables in Britain to follow Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
  79. But why GMT? Because at the International Meridian Conference in 1884, Greenwich Meridian was established as longitude zero. And thanks to Nevil Maskelyne’s method of lunar distances (popular among mariners for navigation at sea) which based on observations at Greenwich, the longitude zero eventually also used as the standard time. And as the British Empire stretch its domination into the world, just like the spread of football, the usage of GMT as the standard time also spread along across Britain and the world.
  80. We are indeed the product of our environment. At the early stage of his showbiz career in the 1980s David Letterman experimented with the room temperatures and found that his jokes worked best at a chili 55 degree Fahrenheit, where the sound is crisper and the audience are more alert. He has since use this “magic temperature” in every single one of his shows.
  81. Over the past couple of years I’ve been reading numerous books and countless articles on parenting. But the simplest and most effective wisdom that I’ve learned actually only appeared this year, two of them actually: 1.Your first duty as a parent is to enjoy your children (by Rob Bell) 2. The best gift you can give to your child is your full attention span (by Derek Sivers).
  82. Chuck Palahneuk books are banned from several prisons in big states in the US, because they are too stimulating for the criminals. Now that’s dark AF. Make sure to check out his interview on the Joe Rogan Podcast.
  83. Wanker of the year: oh where do I begin. Separating migrant children from their parents and put them in cages, cutting federal funding to California forest management (98% owned by the federal government) and then blaming the California forest fire on bad forest management (just because they didn’t vote for him), defending the NRA and his solution to the mass shootings is to have MORE GUNS, destroying a lot of bilateral and multilateral deals (and re-negotiate them for the benefit of US corporations), all those crazy high turnovers at the White House, including deliberately choosing Attorney General that will derail Mueller investigation on him, choosing a fellow wanker as a SCOTUS under a dodgy deal to ensure that when impeachment comes that wanker will save him, all that assaults on women, the way he put his daughter and son-in-law as “senior” member of the White House (with Ivanka ALSO violating protocol like Hilary Clinton by using private e-mails), constantly supplying false rhetoric and fake news to embolden the rise of white supremacist movements, the 547 people places and things he has insulted, and many many many more shit he’s done. I dare you to name anyone worse than this douche to be the wanker of the year. Can things get any worse than this in the US? Consider this quote by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction and the distinction between true and false no longer exist.” Yeah I also get a feeling that 2019 will be a massive political year (just look at how Trump throws a big-baby tantrum of threatening to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his wall, and the fact that the last “adult in the room”, Jim Mattis, has also recently resigned).
  84. The technique of pasteurization is named after Louis Pasteur. His research on the micro-organisms that cause food to go bad was one of the most important discoveries for humankind, and the pasteurization technique he developed to preserve food and illness saves a lot of lives ever since. Another genius invention named after its inventor is the Röntgen machine, invented by Wilhem Conrad Röntgen, a Germany mechanical engineer and a physicist.
  85. Sometimes too much of a good thing can be disastrous. And that it how the Sovereign Wealth Fund was initially created. In the 1960s the Netherlands was increasingly becoming a major natural gas exporter, but as the profits from gas flowed into the country the economy began to suffer. It’s the same effect like what happened in Egypt in the year 1324 when Malian Emperor Mansa Musa visited the country while bringing along all the golds (as mentioned in 100 things in 2011 no. 4). Like in medieval Egypt, the gas wealth that entered the country created inflation in the Netherlands, the currency became overvalued, and in turn the domestic businesses became less competitive compared to cheaper imports, exports became more expensive (and thus eventually declined), jobs were eventually lost and businesses closed down. This phenomenon came to be known as the Dutch disease. The solution for this disease? The segregation of the gas earnings into a new pool of funds to prevent the earnings to spill over to (and disrupt) the economy, which became known as the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
  86. You think the Middle East or Africa is violent? Latin America accounts for around 1/3 of global homicides, despite residing only 8% of the world population. In fact four countries – Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela – account for almost 25% of all the murders occurring around the world each year.
  87. We all have a general idea of which men were the most violent in the world (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Genghis Khan, etc). But do you know which woman is the most violent? It’s Countess Elizabeth Bathory, whom was named by Guinness World Records as the most prolific murderer. She got this notoriety by killing at least 80 women between 1585 and 1609, although people at her trial estimated that 200 bodies were removed from her castle, while other testimony claimed to be north of 650 people.
  88. Can you believe it, but it has been 10 years since the economic crisis 2008 occurred. Today, Trump boasted that the stock market keep on breaking new highs, the economy is getting better, and the last possible market crash was in crypto currency but that too only a secluded crash in the crypto-world. So is the market really safe right now? Enter Paul Wilmott, who holds a doctorate in applied mathematics from Oxford University. Wilmott says that the world’s derivatives market has now reached $1.2 quadrillion (that’s $1200 trillion), which is 20 times larger than the world economy (around $60 trillion). This size is 20% larger than the derivatives market 10 years ago, the last time we had a financial crisis involving derivatives. And what about the bank exposure to this derivative risk? JP Morgan Chase has $2 trillion in total assets (and its exposure to derivatives: more than $52.9 trillion), Citibank asset: $1.3 trillion (exposure: more than $52 trillion), Bank of America asset: $1.6 trillion (exposure: $26.6 trillion), Goldman Sachs asset: $143 billion (exposure: $44.4 trillion), nope that’s not a typo error, I repeat that again, Goldman asset $143 BILLION exposure $44.4 TRILLION. Now here’s the fun part, the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market is completely unregulated, and it’s very mind-numbingly complex (and this comes from a person who holds a doctorate in applied math from Oxford University). And better yet, the banks’ traders basically rule the roost: anytime the US government even give a slight hint that it will regulate derivatives trading, an army of lobbyists will swarm down upon Washington DC and stop whatever they’re trying to do by reminding the members of Congress who’s the boss. And here’s the kicker: in Wilmott’s words: “there is no one—that’s right, no one—in government, in academia, or in the banks themselves who has a real grasp of all the dangers that lurk inside the largest financial bubble the world has ever seen.” Tick tock, motherf***er.
  89. Remember Pablo Picasso’s long-ass name (in 100 things in 2016 no. 32)? There’s a person who has 25 middle names, and all of them tributes for boxing legends. Classy.
  90. The name for the colour “orange” actually taken from the fruit. Previously, the colour had no specific name. Oranges (the fruit) was brought by Portuguese traders in 16th century from India to Europe. When the European first saw the fruit they were incapable of expressing in words on the brilliant colour of the oranges, that is until the colour simply adopted the fruit’s name. Still in oranges, the name of House of Orange (the name of the royal family of the Netherlands) actually did not come from the fruit nor the colour, instead it comes from a region in southeast France called “Orange” (no I don’t know how the French pronounce it, but yeah you’re most likely correct) where William of Orange came from, a commune in the Vaucluse Department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France, about 21 km north of Avignon.
  91. Still in the name of colour, the name of the colour “magenta” was taken from a town in northern Italy, near the spot where Napoleon’s troops (no, not that Napoleon, but Napoleon III) defeated an Austrian army in June 1859, during the Second Italian War of Independence.
  92. Do you know why barber shop pole colour is red white and blue? Some said it was the colour of the American flag, which was the place where barber shop was first invented. But that’s a misconception. Besides cutting hair and massaging the neck, the early barber shops also did bloodletting, that’s where the name “barber-surgeon” came to exist. With this in mind, the colour red in the barber pole represent the blood, the white represent the tissue, and the blue represent the veins. That’s pretty messed up.
  93. There’s a difference between an atheist and an anti-theist. Atheists don’t believe in God but still respect those who believe. Some atheists like Alain de Botton even argue that religion is useful for humanity, they acknowledge all the great progresses in humanity that are caused by religion, and they think that we should apply some of the good principles that all religion teach us in our daily lives (de Botton calls this philosophy atheist 2.0). Anti-theist, on the other hand, don’t believe in God, and they are determined to destroy religion because they think that it’s so damaging to society, and attack those who still believe in religion (not much different than any religious hardliners who think that their ideology is the most correct one and attack others for not believing the same thing). A prominent example for anti-theist is Richard Dawkins, whom secular religious scholar Karen Armstrong refer as a militant atheist. So, if you don’t believe in God be an atheist 2.0, don’t be a dick (Richard joke pun intended).
  94. Now, for those who are confused about where I stand in religion, since I’ve mentioned quite a lot about them this year while simultaneously mentioned about science, then about atheism, and seems to be respectful and agreeing with their conflicting findings, my answer is this: Nobody (and I mean nobody, not even the Pope, the Dalai Lama, the king of Saudi, Richard Dawkins, Karen Armstrong, Tom Cruise, or Yuval Noah Harari) knows with 100% accuracy of who we really are, and why we’re here on planet earth. For a start, the universe is 13.8 billion years old, while our planet earth is 4.54 billion years old. If the 1st mass extinction End Ordovician only occurred 444 million years ago, what’s going on with earth between big bang and 4.1 billion years later? (This makes the thought of us living in the “year 2018”, in the current Gregorian Calendar system that we have adopted since 24 February 1582, looks mighty small in comparison). Now atheists argue that scientific findings debunk the biblical story of Adam and Eve, but what if the entire 4.54 billion years of evolution were created by God? (that was one of the main theses of Isaac Newton, told brilliantly in the book The Clockwork Universe). But if God does exist, then which religion is the correct one? If God Almighty intended all humans to submit to just 1 religion, wouldn’t He just created us homogenically? Listening to that question, ancient Greeks, Norsemen, and modern-day Hindus will probably ask, sorry dude which god (out of many) are you talking about? And what if God really doesn’t exist? Then holy crap there are loads more questions than we’ll ever get any answer back.
  95. Moreover, it is said that early humans first created primitive religion to make sense of all the things happening around them that they don’t really understand, and to create rules and customs to protect themselves from harms way. Even though it was man-made, did ancient religion help to keep order out of chaos and preserve well beings for its believers? Hell yeah they did. So does it matter if it was fake (for modern standards)? Because the truth is, what you believe doesn’t really matter, you can even invent a hilarious religion (like the book of Arnold, in the musical play Book of Mormon – highly recommended if you haven’t seen) or join a Jedi cult, if those made up thing can help you to become a better person for yourself and for others, and live a better life, who am I to judge? Because the most important thing for me is respect to others, respect what others believe, and just be a decent human being no matter how you try to justify it. And the second most important thing for me on this matter is to keep an open mind in the quest for truth and learn about every single religion and scientific progresses, as David McRaney mentioned in his book You Are Not So Smart: “in science, you move closer to the truth by seeking evidence to the contrary. Perhaps the same method should inform your opinions as well.”
  96. By the way, religion if done right will produce serotonin in our body, if done wrong will produce dopamine. And if we put religious extremists and zealots on a brain scan, we’ll see that their brain is full of dopamine. Patrick McNamara, the director of the Evolutionary Neurobehaviour Laboratory at the Boston University School of Medicine, even argues that “should dopamine spike too high, murderous impulses like terrorism and jihad could rear up…”. And yes, dopamine high is also found in far-left aggressiveness, far-right aggressiveness, in fact it is found in all forms of extremism (my best bet, the dopamine high comes from the constant doctrines).
  97. Story of the year candidates: 1. Panda poop is turned into tissue in China. 2. Camel disqualified from Saudi beauty contest over Botox. 3. A man shocked to find out that not everyone uses a poop knife 4. Scientists confirm that Uranus smells like fart (the planet, that is) 5. Klepetan and Malena, the stork bird love story, the most famous love story in Croatia. 6. The extraordinary story of a man who was raised by wolves for 15 years 7. In Peru, Hitler is competing against Lenin in an election to be a mayor. 8. In Kosovo, Tony Blair is a freakin hero. In fact plenty of kids are named Tonibler, after the former British PM. 9. Millennials are starting to have plastic surgery to appear like their filtered pictures in social media. 10.YouTube star became a mayor of Hell and was impeached within an hour after he ban “heterosexuals”. If you have watched the Academy Awards, you know that the one that got the award is always the one with the heavy drama? Yes, story of the year is wolf man. No wait, I change my mind, it’s gotta be the scientific finding for Uranus.
  98. This year feels long for me (in a good way), thanks to the amount of time I’ve saved by drastically cutting down those things that generate dopamine (i.e. spending a little too much time in social media, binge watching TV, etc). And instead I get to use the extra time for more quality time with my kids, to do sports, physically meeting with friends, to listen to podcasts on the go, and most surprisingly for me, more time to read books: I normally read 25 books a year – that’s around 1 book every 2 weeks – targeting for 30 for this year, which I achieved by June, and ended up reading 45 books with no 46 and 47 still ongoing, at leisure speed (books in average take 5 hours+ to read at normal speed, that’s around 30 minutes per weekday for 2 weeks, or, as I have achieved this year with my extra time, around 1 hour per weekday for 1 week (just 30 minutes more time). And yes, judging from this I could’ve read more books if I wanted to, but as I said, at leisure speed). It’s true what Seneca once said, “life is long if you know how to use it.”
  99. As a result of this newly-found efficiency, I’ve learned quite an abundant amount of wisdom and perspectives this year. Without elaborating on their respective back stories (it will be a seriously long blog post) these are the top 10 most helpful perspectives for me this year, in no particular order: 1. Excess is a sign of instability 2. When you’re cut off from your emotions, they often manifest in your body 3. Sometimes the hardest things to do are exactly what you need to do, like in muscle building (if you can’t do it, that’s exactly why you need to do it) 4. What we can do or finish under 1 minute, finish it quickly, that way we become productive and avoid unnecessary backlog and clutter 5. Worrying about the past creates regret, worrying about the future creates anxiety 6. If you attempt to achieve 700 it’s important to train for 1000, so that you’ll have a buffer 7. When there’s anger, there’s pain underneath 8. It’s important to form a habit on the small things to build up your mental muscle. For example, if you don’t practice being punctual to small unimportant appointments, you won’t be comfortably ready for being punctual to big important appointments 9. Want to cut off some habits? Make them 20 seconds harder to reach / play / activate / etc 10. And last but not least, after all the deaths and tragedies occurring this year, including a sudden death of a friend, and helping to take care of two of our family members who got ill: life is short, be nice.
  100. And so, as I began this blog post with a syphilis, I’m ending it with something that should potentially prevents it: a modified, harassment-free 2018 version, of the song Baby it’s cold outside. Have a great 2019 all!

Mujahid 212

Atas arahan HRS hari ini Reuni 212 berubah nama jadi Mujahid 212. Kata jamak nya mujahid? Mujahideen, nama yang dipake oleh Taliban di dalam perang mereka.

Istilah Mujahid bisa multi tafsir, kata “perang” bisa multitafsir. Tapi yang dateng hari ini Prabowo, Amien Rais, Anies, Ahmad Dhani, Djoko Santoso, Hidayat Nur Wahid, Zulfikri Hasan, Fadli Zon, Fahri Hamzah, Titiek Suharto, semua yang dari kubu pemenangan Prabowo. Mereka cuma datang tanpa atribut partai dan tidak kampanye pilpres.

Tapi simbolisme nya jelas, atas arahan HRS mereka semua yang di Monas sekarang menjadi mujahideen. Pertanyaan nya, mereka semua deklarasi “perang jihad” lawan siapa?

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.

Propaganda G30S PKI

Jangan lupa sejarah, tapi jangan maksain juga nonton film propaganda yang meng-edit sejarah.

Jadi apa yang sebenernya kejadian di 30 September 1965? Here’s the findings from award-winning investigative journalist John Pilger: http://johnpilger.com/articles/spoils-of-a-massacre

Atau nonton cuplikan documentary nya John Pilger (9 menit 14 detik – subtitle Indonesia): https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=X7Fbmy3V0hs

Findings nya John Pilger sejalan sama beberapa findings berikut ini:

  • “The Shock Docrtine” by Naomi Klein, chapter 2, sub-chapter: Lessons in regime change: Brazil and Indonesia.
  • “Indonesia: archipelago of fear” by Andre Vltcheck, page 16-38.
  • “Indonesia Etc” by Elizabeth Pisani, chapter 1 page 27-28, chapter 11, page 289-291
  • “A brief history of Indonesia” by Tim Hannigan, chapter 9 and 10.
  • “Understanding Islam in Indonesia” by Robert Pringle, chapter 3, sub-chapter: failed coup and bodies in rivers: the trauma of 1965-1966.
  • “Asian Godfathers” by Joe Studwell, page 27-30
  • “How Asia Works” by Joe Studwell, part 3, journey 5: Jakarta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book review: Veteran traders telling their fascinating war stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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