100 things I learned and did in 2016

  1. Ahoy! What a weird year 2016 has been. The Brits actually voted to exit from Europe, Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes but won the electoral college vote, Leicester City won the English Premier League beating a 5000-1 odd, Golden State Warriors also had a phenomenal run in the NBA, and even far-faaar-right nut job Geert Wilders is somehow leading in the Dutch polls. Yikes!
  2. There’s actually a 4th wise monkey. In addition to Mizaru (see no evil), Kikazaru (hear no evil) and Iwazaru (speak no evil), there’s Shizaru that symbolises the principle of “do no evil.” Can you guess where his hands are in the statue? that’s right, in the crotch.
  3. A lot of people assume that 1 GB is equal to nice round 1000 MB. But 1 GB is actually equal to 1024 MB.
  4. British author Christopher Booker argues that every single human story, and its subsequent moral stories, are based on 1 of only 7 templates: 1. Overcoming the monster 2. Rags to riches 3. The quest 4. Voyage and return 5. Comedy 6. Tragedy 7. Rebirth. He obviously hasn’t watched the Game of Thrones.
  5. Alcohol has not always been banned in Saudi Arabia. In the early days of oil boom in 1930s-1940s alcohol was a part of life in the kingdom, until one day a British oilman named Usman threw a party where a Saudi prince got drunk, got angry and managed to obtain a gun and shoot dead Usman. Ever since that episode, king Ibn Saud declared alcohol forbidden. So it’s actually not about the religion.
  6. In other news, in the chicken and egg argument, scientists finally concluded that chicken came first and not the egg. Because the shell of the egg is made from protein, and the protein can only produced by a hen. Well that settles it then.
  7. If you scale down the sun to the size of a white blood cells (7 micrometers), and brought everything else down the scale with it, our galaxy the milky way would be the size of continental US.
  8. European astronomers have discovered a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri (the closest star to us) that has Earth-like features, including water which could potentially sustain life.
  9. There’s a thin strip of land between Ukraine and Moldova that is home to more than 500,000 people. It has a constitution, a parliamentary government, a flag and coats of arms, a standing army and even has its own currency. The self-declared country declared independence from Moldova in 1990 when Moldova itself was declaring independence from Soviet Union, but it is not recognised by any single member of the UN. The country is called Transnistria.
  10. Russia’s military bought 5 dolphins this year and it won’t say why. My money is on cool dolphin assassins.
  11. Have you ever wondered why the “teens” numbers are called thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, etc but 11 and 12 are not oneteen and twoteen? Eleven and twelve comes from old English words endleofan and twelf, which were developed from older words ainlif and twalif, with lif means “leave” (i.e. leaving after ten).
  12. Now, the next question becomes if we have ainlif and twalif why don’t we have threelif, fourlif, fiflif, etc? Because when the names for the numbers were being formed humanity only counted as high as 12, using the method I (sorry, we) learned in 2013 (#63). Hence the names for numbers after 12 – which began using teens – were only formed a long time after people have gotten used to eleven and twelve. So the two names stick.
  13. There’s an Islamic tribe in the Sahara Desert, the Tuareg Tribe, that have a unique tradition. The family lines are traced from the women side, women own the tents and animals, and the men wear veil, instead of the women. Such a beautiful tribe.
  14. Still in the unique tribe department, there is a tribe in West Africa where the warriors are all women. They are called The Warrior Queens of Dahomey. You do not want to mess with them.
  15. Since the 1950s the term “Third World Countries” has become synonymous with “poor countries.” But did you know who are the “First World Countries” and “Second World Countries”? It’s NATO (1st) and the Eastern Bloc (2nd).
  16. Human muscles are controlled by our brain and are limited by it. In fact we actually have the extraordinary strength to lift even cars if we need to. So, for our muscle to contract it requires electrical signals from our brain, but scientists discovered that the brain cannot produce enough electrical signals to contract all the muscles at once: the average human being can only activate up to 65% of their muscle cells, while a trained weight lifters can activate 80%. Even for weight lifters they can output an additional 25% more force by activating the remaining 20% of their muscle cells. In other words, it is literally about our mental strength.
  17. Of course, however, if we do push it we can tear apart our tendon. In fact, there’s an organ called the golgi tendon whose purpose is to send negative feedback to the brain, to inhibit muscular movements. If the golgi tendon is pulled, it will tell the brain to explicitly stop the muscular contraction.
  18. Mother Teresa amassed a huge sums of charity money, that in one bank account only in New York City she had $50 million. But still, when she died in 1997 her clinic was still a basic and medically backward place before she became rich and famous.
  19. The people in Kyrgyzstan know so much about their horses that Horse Whispering is officially listed as the 3rd national language after Kyrgyz and Russian. You can’t make these things up.
  20. The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 helped spark the Silicon Valley. So immediately after Titanic sank US Congress passed the law that all ships are obliged to have a ship-to-shore radios, and the fledgling radio businesses in what became Silicon Valley began to boom. In other words, if the Titanic did not sink technology would have been very different than it is today.
  21. Another invention made as a response of a tragedy: The telegraph machine was invented by Samuel Morse because of a heartbreak. So one day Morse left town to paint a portrait, when his wife suddenly fell ill and died. It took days for him to finally found out that she had been sick, and he was so devastated that he abandoned his art career and focused on creating a fast method for long-distance communication.
  22. The term “holy city” was originally meant a city belonged to God, hence nobody could own it. Not even a government. Please take note Saudi and Israel.
  23. In around 120-63 BC once lived a man named Mithridates VI. He was the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Mithridates VI was a paranoid person, and he was so scared of being poisoned that he began to take small doses of poison throughout his life to build up an immunity. And then war broke with the Romans, and when he was finally captured by the Romans he tried to kill himself with poison, but failed because he was actually immune.
  24. We couldn’t walk on the surface of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus, because they have no solid surface.
  25. Nobody knows who name our planet “earth.” That’s very irritating isn’t it? We know why it is called earth, but not who gave the name.
  26. For divers out there, there’s a place in Iceland territory called Silfra. It is a diving spot where the Eurasian and North American continental plates are divided, literally become the crack or the border between Europe and North America. Each year these two plates drift apart for about 2 cm.
  27. There’s actually a good reason why the east sides of cities like New York, London and Paris are poorer that the west sides. It is simply because winds in the US and Europe are typically blown from west to east, and during the Industrial Revolution the winds make air pollution in the east were much worse than the west. Hence more people from the affluent class of society tend to chose to live in the less-polluted west.
  28. You know what the shortest joke in the English language is? It’s this: “pretentious? Moi?” Get it? Because only a pretentious person whose daily life doesn’t require French would actually say “moi” and mean it? Yeah, it’s not funny for me too. And explaining it only making it worse.
  29. My new year resolution for 2016 was to read all of the books I’ve purchased on Kindle. Firstly because I have the habit of buying many books without having the time to read them all (the Japanese has a word for this: Tsundoku). Secondly, because slowly I’m repeating that habit on Kindle! Hence I forced myself to read them all, and man what a journey it has been, though in the end I only managed to finish 92% of the task.
  30. But I have a good reason for missing my goal: I blame Netflix. And when they made downloading possible for offline viewing, that’s pretty much game over for me! I bet all of the historical figures who have read like 10,000 books+ in their lifetime would read much less if they already have Netflix back then.
  31. But I did have one moment of harmony between Kindle and Netflix, when I was reading the brilliant book ZeroZeroZero by Roberto Saviano (on coccaine and criminal underworld), which perfectly complements the TV series Narcos I was watching. It was like reading the back stories for what happened in the series.
  32. Do you know which famous people have the longest name? I don’t either. But Pablo Picasso is definitely a serious contender: his full name was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. Now try repeating them without reading.
  33. There’s a village in the Netherlands, Giethoorn, that is dubbed “the Venice of Netherlands” for the obvious reason: the village has no road, it has only canals and 176 bridges. Founded around 1230 the village still use no modern transportation till today, instead the people there use “whisper boat” which have noiseless engine.
  34. 2016 is the year when the world was (briefly) crazed by Pokemon Go. A lot of hilarious stories emerge from the hype, but this got to be one of the best: Husband caught by wife in Geylang: “But you said I could go catch Pukimon.” Nope, I’m not going to explain a joke for the 2nd time. Just open the link.
  35. You may have the flair for the dramatic, but you can never be Ludovico Einaudi playing a piano with glaciers crashing in the background dramatic. He’s doing this to show how fast the ice in the Arctic is melting, and how alarming global warming has become.
  36. Global warming has indeed become more alarming in 2016. For a start, 2015 itself broke all sorts of bad climate records. And in 2016 in every single month we broke record temperatures, including the hottest month in recorded history on July, which in some part of the world reached as high as 60 degree Celsius. In fact, the last time summer was that hot human beings hadn’t left Africa yet. NASA even warns that the earth is now warming at a pace “unprecedented in 1,000 years.”
  37. Now cloud analysis suggests that the global warming may be far worse than we have thought, and could result on the increasing of temperature by 5.3 C. This is a bad thing, because even a difference of only 0.5 degree warming could lead to catastrophic impacts. Indeed, global warming won’t just change the weather, but it could trigger massive earthquakes and volcanoes, it could also increase the risk of war.
  38. For now, the first major casualty caused by global warming is the Great Barrier Reef, where 93% of the corals are dying due to warming temperature in the waters. And just in case you still think that climate change is a hoax, right at this moment there’s snow in the freakin Sahara Desert.
  39. The longest train journey we can take is the 17000 KM journey from Portugal through Europe via Russia then down to China with (current) final destination in Vietnam. More railways are being built to connect Vietnam to Singapore.
  40. The “evil number” 666 is really mysterious. In Roman numerical, the number 666 translated to DCLXVI or represent every symbol in its numerical system. Furthermore, if we add every number in roulette table it will sum up to 666. In ancient Greek the number 666 translated to XES (sex in reverse). Coincidence? Yes, most likely yes.
  41. Albert Einstein have a picture of Isaac Newton in his bedroom like teenagers have posters of LeBron James. For me, during my uni years, one of the posters I had was Native American 10 commandments.
  42. The most oppressed women might not be Afghani or Saudis, but Berber. Berber women only leave their home twice in their lives: first on their wedding day when they move out from their father’s house to their husband’s house. And the second time is when they leave their husband’s house to the grave. They don’t even go out to the market to buy food, the men do all of it for them.
  43. Jellyfish and lobster are biologically immortal. They don’t age and will never die unless they are killed (and then being eaten. Humans are savages, aren’t we?).
  44. Doppelganger alert: Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, looks exactly like Brazilian football legend Pele. Go on google him, I’ll wait…………………….. Right?! The resemblance is uncanny. Meanwhile, Pele is also the name of a Hawaiian goddess of volcanic fire.
  45. Speaking of volcanic fire, in Indonesia there’s a volcano called Kawah Ijen that erupts electric-blue flames. The unusual colour can be produced thanks to the hydrochloric acid found in the water. Here are the stunning pictures.
  46. From 4 May 1970 until 17 November 1970, for 6 and a half months the banks in Ireland shut down due to a dispute between the banks and its employees. And during that period people use cash, and more interestingly use cheques as a new highly personalised credit system (without any definite time horizon for the eventual clearance of debits and credits) but it worked. That, in a sense, is how money works.
  47. The legalization of marijuana in the US has destroyed the profitability of the Mexican drug cartel in the billions of dollars. So much so that the cartel was then trying to find an alternative to make up for their losses, and found it in heroine. They increased production by almost 70%, raised the purity level from 46% pure to 90% pure and most importantly dropped the price from $200,000 / kg few years ago, to $80,000 in 2013 and finally to $50,000 today. As a result, because of the marijuana legalization, the US is currently suffering from major heroin epidemic.
  48. The microscope was founded by an unlikely inventor, a Dutch merchant named Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who began tinkering with lenses to originally check for defects in swatches of cloth. Naturally, he’s also the first person to ever see sperm cells. Naturally.
  49. All of that antioxidant smoothies or meals are actually a waste of money. An investigation by the BBC concluded that from all the full amount of extra antioxidant that enters our stomach only 1% of them get into our blood system. In reality our body always regulate the proper amount of anti oxidant, and those 1% that do get through become excess antioxidants which will be thrown away wasted. The same logic applies to multivitamins, which will only make our urine more expensive.
  50. And if it’s hydration you’re looking for, milk is a better long-lasting source of hydration than water. Even orange juice and coffee have similar effects on hydration as mineral water. The BBC investigation also concluded that eating healthy food have more benefits than those crazed detoxing diet. Wow, so much for those “healty living meal” crap.
  51. There’s a tribe that live in the middle of ocean between Malaysian Borneo and the Philippines, they called Bajau. Also known as the “sea gypsies”, the Bajau people are originally nomads, they don’t know their age and don’t understand the concept of reading and writing. They often live in house boats or more recently reside in wooden houses built on top of coral reefs, and some are able to free-dive down to 20 metres to search for fish, in which they have an enhanced underwater vision due to their extended time spent under the water. When they do go to land they often report feeling “land sick.” This is the amazing pictures of the Bajau people.
  52. During the Roman times, soldiers were often paid by salt because salt was worth its weight in gold. That’s also where we get the word “salary.”
  53. Wide-spread public opinions that are just recently confirmed this year: 1. Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq 2. Declassified 9/11 documents may show connections between low-level Saudi officials and a terrorist support network 3. Tony Blair will not go to The Hague and be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for the Iraq War. But there’s a reason for it: The International Criminal Court will not prosecute leaders from permanent member countries of UN Security Council 4. Indeed all war criminal that happens to be a head of state has rarely been prosecuted: The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has quietly cleared Slobodan Milosevic of war crimes 5. The FBI has been developing all sorts of malware to break into digital devices for years.
  54. Now for the rich-poor inequality gap update: Now the richest 1% people (roughly 70 million people) are wealthier than the rest of the world (roughly 6.93 billion people). Among those 1%, 62 billionaires are as wealthy as the poorest half of world population combined, that’s roughly 3.5 billion poor and struggling people.
  55. If the slum dwellers in India were to form a separate country, it would become the 13th most populous country.
  56. Still in India, there are more citizens in India who have an IQ above 120 than the whole population of the US. And every year, there are more births in India than there are people in Australia.
  57. Muslim calendar year started in 622 AD, they conquered Mecca in 630 AD and began to expand their empire shortly afterwards. When they conquer a territory they didn’t change the government structure, didn’t force people to convert to Islam and didn’t even abolish the Christian and Jewish laws. For example, when they conquered Syria they use the st John the Baptist Church for prayers on Fridays but then still let the Christians use the building for prayers on Sunday, hence these 2 religions use the same building for prayers, peacefully.
  58. Have you ever wondered about the ending of the cartoon series Tom & Jerry? They both committed suicide. Wow, talking bout anti-climax.
  59. The power of prayer: Zambia’s currency is the world’s best, six months after the president led a national prayer. Who said prayers don’t work?
  60. Wanker of the year: I can’t really decide between Donald Trump or his British BFF Nigel Farage (and his annoying smile). Or both. You know what, let’s make it a joint-wanker-of-the-year. On an unrelated matter, the word pencil comes from Latin word that means small penis.
  61. Earlier this year a software engineer analysed the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Quran to see which is more violent. The engineer said “the project was inspired by the ongoing public debate around whether or not terrorism connected with Islamic fundamentalism reflects something inherently and distinctly violent about Islam compared to other major religions.” It took only 2 minutes for the software to scan through all of the 3 books. And the result? Compared with the Quran, the Bible scored higher for anger and lower for trust. The Old Testament was more violent than the New Testament and twice more violent than the Quran. And killing and destruction occur more frequently in the Christian texts than in the Quran. Here’s the complete findings.
  62. Meanwhile, a leaked ISIS documents reveal that their recruits actually have poor grasp of Islam. They even ordered “The Koran for Dummies” and “Islam for Dummies” to prepare for their jihad. This shows that these terrorists have nothing to do with the religion and Islam is only a political tool for them. Independent journalist Garry Leech also pointed out that “Islamic extremism was virtually unknown fifty years ago and suicide bombings were inconceivable. And yet today it seems that we are confronted with both on a daily basis.” And don’t forget, Islam has existed for more than 1400 years, not merely 50 years.
  63. And so, is religion really to blame for all of these violence? Nobody is more qualified to answer this question than Karen Armstrong.
  64. Speaking of which, my book of the year: Fields of Blood by the one and only Karen Armstrong. In the rise of extremists attacks in the name of religion, and the rise of Islamophobia, antisemitism, even extreme-atheist attacks on religion in the whole, this book serves as a vital enlightenment. I couldn’t recommend this book enough. Here’s my full review.
  65. But for those who are still thinking screw this, I’m choosing a completely different religion! May I present “The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster“, or Manichaeism, the only world religion to have believed in the redemptive power of farts.
  66. The stereotypical “heart shape” is actually 2 real hearts merged together.
  67. Between 1946 and 2000 the US interfered 81 times in foreign elections, and that’s not including the military coups they notoriously sponsored. Moreover, US does 1/2 of all World’s Arms Sales. But yet they’re apparently still surprised by the awful state of global violence ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  68. Banging your head against the wall actually burns 150 calories / hour.
  69. I hate mosquitoes. They often bite when I’m sleeping, waking me up in the process and making me stay up late hunting for revenge holding an electric racket (that’s a thing in Indonesia). Not to mention that they’re officially the most dangerous animal in the world, which brings deadly diseases like Malaria, Dengue and earlier this year Zika. Malaria alone kill about 725,000 people a year (humans can “only” kill 475,000 people per year) So it’s only natural for me to think, what if mosquitoes are wiped out off the face of the earth?
  70. As it turns out, there are 3000 different types of mosquito in the world, and only 200 of which bite, So in theory we shouldn’t discriminate (but in practice, can you seriously differentiate them?). And as you have probably guessed, in a lot of environments mosquito (and more specifically, their larvae) is a vital source of food for animals higher up in the food chain, such as birds, fishes, bats, frogs, turtles, dragonfly and spiders. Well, I guess I just have to stick with the electric racket for now.
  71. Person of the year: the late Abdul Sattar Edhi. He was the founder of the Edhi Foundation, a philanthropic foundation that do humanitarian work. They call him “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa” for a good reason: between 1928-2016 the Edhi Foundation have saved 20,000 abandoned babies, housed 50,000 orphans, and trained 40,000 qualified nurses. Moreover, He founded the largest charity-based ambulance network in the world, founded 8 hospitals that provide free healthcare, founded eye hospitals, diabetic centers and surgical unit, and its Edhi Maternity centers have delivered over 1 million babies. Abdul Sattar Edhi died this year, and this is how much he is loved in his native Pakistan.
  72. Do you know how North Korea get the funding for its missile and nuclear projects? Apparently one of the ways is to literally send some guys to Japan to play Pachinko, and then bring the profits back to the Fatherland!
  73. This year I learned one interesting theory from the internet called the Mandela Effect, which basically suggest that parallel universes exist because of the mystery that large group of people have similar alternative memories about past events. The name of the theory comes from the weird collective memory of many people that feel certain they remember Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s, and even watched his funeral on TV. Madiba was of course died on December 2013, which made some people believe that they have gone into a parallel universe, or some time traveller have gone to the past and changed the course of history.
  74. The legendary sword in the stone, often linked to King Arthur, does exist. Not in Avalon though, but in Italy, in Montesiepi Chapel. Still in Italy, did you know that there’s a Free, 24-Hour wine fountain? The fountain is located at the Dora Sarchese Vineyard in the town of Caldari di Ortona. Ah the good life.
  75. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered as Christianity’s holiest shrine. It is located in Jerusalem’s Old City, and at the heart of the church there’s a rock-cut tomb where the body of Jesus Christ once lay. Interestingly, this holiest Christian shrine is guarded by two Muslim families.
  76. So the Church has been shared by 6 different Christian congregations: Roman Catholic, Egyptian Copts, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox. But as they all are different religious sects with different customs and rituals, disputes among them were inevitable, which linger until today. The disputes include the right of walking in procession to the Edicule, on placing carpets in front of altars, on different ritual methods of sweeping of steps, etc. And it’s not a rare scene for the dispute to escalate from argument to fist fighting to throwing candle sticks, crucifixes, incense burners and even woods from the sacred shrines.
  77. Hence, due to the intractable nature of the disputes among the 6 Christian congregations, since the 12th century 2 Muslim families were entrusted to be the neutral gatekeepers of the church: The Nuseibeh family who opens up the church every morning and locks it in the evening, and the Joudeh family who keeps the key.
  78. For a guy who learns his parenting methods from reading a random French book and watching Cesar Millan taming dogs, there’s another theory that have become my new ammunition skill this year: Game Theory. Speaking of weird (but effective) parenting methods, for many generations Icelandic babies have napped outside in freezing temperatures.
  79. There is only one person who survived both the 2 nuclear attacks on Japan in 1945, his name is Tsutomu Yamaguchi. When the nuclear bomb strike Hiroshima he was there on a business trip and was 3 kilometres away from the explosion site, and was seriously burned but survived. 3 days later he went back to his workplace in Nagasaki, feeling low, and can you believe it the 2nd nuclear bomb exploded there! Talking bout bad luck. Or good luck since he survived both times.
  80. Antarctica was not always cold, dry and covered in eternal ice like it is today. According to some researches a long, looong, time ago Antarctica was located farther north and thus experienced a temperate or even tropical climate. This means that there’s a big chance that the continent once covered in forests and inhabited by various life forms that were disconnected from our history. There’s an interesting theory that people might even have lived in that kind of environment, and have developed a form of society with their own religions, temples, etc just as we did in Africa, Europe and Asia.
  81. Some conspiracy theorists even suggested that these lost civilisations still exist till this day, and all hidden beneath the eternal ice. Including an ancient alien race that have blended with these societies.
  82. 2016 is the year of fake news. They’re everywhere, from blogs, fake media, Facebook posts, to hoax broadcast messages in the likes of WhatsApp. Seems to me “don’t read the corporate media” is the 21st century’s equivalent of book burning.
  83. For those who are constantly waiting for World War 3 to start, relax it’s not going to happen. World War 1 occurred when Europe was still filled with Monarchs who fight against each others, and World War 2 occurred when Pax Americana was just forming and we didn’t have the likes of UN, APEC, etc. Now every country are so interconnected in trade, formed many alliances and perhaps most significantly merged in global pop culture and world sporting events. And however big they are wars tend to occur regionally now, since there’s no colonial subjects fighting in the name of their masters like in Word War 2. Worst case scenario we could have a global-scale tension between the countries, and it’s most likely about water (please mind the article’s title though, it’s designed to grab attentions. But the content is really good).
  84. Remember that infamous Nigerian e-mail scam? Have you ever wondered who is behind all of this? Well believe it or not Interpol arrested a man they believe is the ring leader behind the massive Nigerian email scam network!
  85. Now for the story of the year. The contenders are: 1. Thai AirAsia flight delayed in Chiang Mai after sex toy mistaken for bomb. 2. A new device allows cows to text message their farmers when they’re sick or pregnant 3. A nationwide blackout occurred in Kenya, after one monkey fell/jumped onto a transformer in Gitaru Power Station 4. Scientists may have found an incredibly effective, all-natural mosquito repellent: the scent of a chicken 5. The Bolivian president advised the Pope to consume coca.
  86. And the winner is: I’m gonna go with the sex toy bomb scare! Considering the level of tension occurred among the staff and with all the bomb squad delicately opening the suspected bomb, and turns out to be a vibrating dildo, man, that’s gold.
  87. This year’s Grammy Awards has one interesting nominee: A group of inmates from Malawi’s Zomba maximum security prison. This is their story.
  88. “Planet” is Greek word for “wanderer.” And the story of how Neptune was discovered by a mathematical deduction shows why they are called wanderer.
  89. So in 1846 a French mathematician named Urbain Le Verrier take a look at the unusual orbit of Uranus, and he and some other astronomers of the day concluded that the orbit did not comply with Newton’s laws. The reason was that some unknown planet must be tugging Uranus’ pattern off its course.
  90. Using Newton’s law, Le Verrier then calculate the mass, the position and path of this mysterious planet, and he then sent his calculations by letter to the German Astronomer Joseph Galle. The letter arrived on 23 September 1846, and on the same evening Galle directed his telescope to the coordinates that Le Verrier gave, and there, just barely visible, he found Neptune.
  91. In the last two years, China has produced more steel than the UK has since the Industrial Revolution. If you think that’s insane, a Chinese company has agreed to buy 1% of Australia, that’s an area bigger than Ireland!
  92. First there’s Christopher Columbus. Then the Chinese was claimed to set foot earlier than Columbus, and then Leif Ericson and the Vikings before the Chinese. Now another dude named Abu Raihan al-Biruni, an Islamic scholar from Central Asia, may have discovered America centuries before Columbus, and even before the Vikings. But this time, he discovered it without even leaving his desk. A very interesting story.
  93. You know that tiny metal button on your jeans, do you know what it is for? They are known as rivets, and rivets are placed on areas in the jeans that are prone to be ripped apart by strain or movement, and thus help hold the fabric together.
  94. The usage of rivets was actually how jeans was first created, where in 1870s labourers wore denim trousers at their hard labour work but were often ripped apart due to the physical activities. Then one day a wife of a labourer went to a tailor named Jacob Davis to ask for a work trousers that can not disintegrate so easily. Davis then use rivets on the areas that prone to most strains, and his creation worked, and became popular among labourers. Davis then contacted the supplier of the fabric that made the trousers, to team up as business partners to mass produce the trousers. The supplier’s name was Levi Strauss.
  95. For those who are tired at the end of this year and are looking for an excuse to have a well-deserved break: A science backed guide to taking truly restful break. You’re welcome. Or as the meme of Jesse from Breaking Bad said, yeah science bitch!
  96. Did you know that there’s a some kind of Instagram for drones? They are called Dronestagram. And their pictures are awesome!
  97. So VICE started to set up shop in Indonesia this year, and continues to produce delightful and bizarre articles, now with local contents. And true to their nature, recently VICE Indonesia asked a bunch of Indonesian physics about their predictions for 2017, and the result is gloomy.
  98. No matter if the psychics’ predictions are true or not, 2017 looks pretty gloomy indeed: the unpredictable Donald Trump‘s inauguration will kick off 2017, followed by the Brexit process that should officially begins, followed by the Netherlands that will have its election on March, with neo-Hitler Geert Wilders can surely cause some Islamophobic chaos if he’s ever elected. Indeed, Europe is on the verge of shifting towards the right on this election year, with German far-right is currently gaining momentum by exploiting the Berlin lorry incident, just like French far-right is increasingly significant in the polls by exploiting the several terror attacks occurring in their country.
  99. Furthermore, the Fed has pledged to implement 3 rate hikes on 2017, so that’s going to be nerve wracking, while Greece is on the verge of having yet another drama with its new bailout. Meanwhile China’s quest in South China Sea + Duterte + anti-China Trump with his anti-China head of US trade council and some other cabinet members will surely make East and South East Asia a potential conflict zone. And Syria will once again become a battle ground for Proxy war for the New Cold War. Or maybe not. Trump and his choice for Secretary of State are good buddies of Putin, and due to the far-right alliance that endorses Trump in Europe, are we going to see the rise of a terrifying axis of evil?
  100. And we thought 2016 was full with challenging events, looks like 2017 is going to be more interesting! Have a great year ahead guys!

On praying for Aleppo

Another failed truce on Syria between proxies Russia and US has made headlines all over the media, and has sparked the public outcry on the civilians trapped in Aleppo. Indeed the inhuman conditions they are experiencing are unacceptable, let’s pray for Aleppo and donate however we can. But please don’t forget about the other Syrian cities also devastated by the war.

Pray for Madaya, where people are starving to death right in front of international NGO’s eyes, in which they can’t do anything about because there’s no safe access for the humanitarian convoys. Also pray for people in the likes of Homs, Kobane and Idlib province, whose homes are also flattened to the ground. Pray for people in Raqqa and in border towns near Turkey, who have experienced hell on earth under ISIS occupation. Pray for those Syrians managed to get out from the country, but have to accept the harsh reality as an unwanted refugee in Europe.

While we’re still talking about the region, please pray for the opressed native in an Apartheid state which I dare not say its sensitive name. And please pray for Yemen, which has been suffering from multiple airstrikes by Saudi Arabia and experiencing ongoing destructions as severe as in Syria. Up to 10,000 people have died in Yemen, and according to a UNICEF report nearly 90% of its population (around 21 million people) are in need of humanitarian assistance, where 14 million of them lacked sufficient food and more than 320,000 children under 5 are at risk of extreme malnutrition.

Now if you’re serious about donating, please make sure that the organisation you’re donating to have a very clear method to deliver your donation to its intended recipient. Because in order for any of the NGOs to do something in a particular area, they have to gain permission from whomever control that area at the time (Assad / Kurds / ISIS / one of the many rebel armies), and the controllers keep on changing. And due to the constant fire exchanges among them, a lot of access to that area are blocked.

I’m not going to give any link or recommendation for the NGOs because I’m no better. I sent a humanitarian donation to Syria in 2011 at the start of Arab Spring, for “the people” of Syria who were under attack by the Assad government. As we all know, some of “the people” then broke into many little rebel armies who fight against Assad, fight against ISIS, and even fight against each others, with no report of any humanitarian aid ever sufficiently recorded. Hence, my donation can easily be used for military equipments and thus becoming a part of the problem.

But still, some humanitarian aid do go through, and do help the civilians a lot, we just have to find the right brave men and women that have the best channels on the ground.

We as a private citizen can only do so much, but we can also contribute to pressuring the proxies that have the real power to stop all of this chaos – the US, the Russians and the UN. Pressure them to form a long-lasting peace agreement, via human rights NGOs like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Avaaz, etc. But remember to pressure both sides not just one, because in Syrian conflict there are no heroes, just complicated vested interests in both sides with civilians trapped in the middle.

The men who bring out humanity from the dark ages

“The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the birth of the modern world” by Edward Dolnick

There was a time when London was a filthy town, a smelly feces-ridden place filled with people who thought the Great Fire of 1666 was God’s wrath. It was a time when the majority of the population in Europe were dying fast due to the Plague, when medicine was still experimental and even worsening the conditions, when life expectancy was ridiculously low. It was a time when freaky autopsies on rabbits, dogs and even dead fetuses were conducted, while prosecuting and torturing criminals were the highly anticipated public attractions. Curiosity was a sin, and proof-testing God’s creation was almost considered as an insult to our Creator.

In the middle of this chaos exist a group of men who think differently. Who think that God is a mathematician, and the universe operates in precise mathematical codes and moves like a clockwork. These men conducted experiments, made many breakthroughs in human knowledge, and challenged the bleak perception of the world they used to live in. This group of men was called the Royal Society, and one of their superstar members was Isaac Newton.

This book is the history of science, an incredible story of several brilliant minds “cracking the codes” that God has created masterfully. It is the evolution of scientific knowledge from the times of Aristotle, Copernicus, Pascal, Kepler, and Galileo, which have paved the theoretical background for the brilliant story of our protagonist Isaac Newton.

It is the story of the long struggle to proof, for instance, that the world is round, that it is spinning on its own axis and it is rotating the sun. About how the planets in our solar system were discovered. It is about the origins of many mathematical tools, such as how Descartes came to create the X and Y graph we frequently use today. And it is also about the true account of the discoveries, instead of the myth, of the famous eureka moments like Newton’s apple tree and Archimedes’ bath that was actually untrue.

The theoretical debates were intense, the rivalries were bitter, the struggles were human, and the failed experiments even the public reactions were all narrated into an intriguing story of origins for every physics laws. Ultimately, this book is the journey about how humanity came out from the dark ages, and how these gifted men sparked the beginning of the modern world that evolves around scientific discoveries, which last till this day.

Fidel Castro

Since the 1950s, in Latin America socialist revolutionaries often become the overcompensating remedy for CIA-backed dictators like Fulgencio Batista. Fidel Castro is one of them.

Just like in Orwell’s Animal Farm, many of the socialist leaders ended up becoming brutal dictators themselves, but they’re not the antagonists in a clear line between good and evil. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, Castro is merely the response to what Naomi Klein refer as the “Shock Doctrine”, which have created open veins in the region.

Rest in peace, or rot in hell, Fidel Castro. Whatever.

Hillary won the popular votes

Just in case u missed it: HILLARY WON THE POPULAR VOTE

Hillary 59,483,240 votes

Trump 59,294,288 votes

The “people” elected Hillary

But “the system” elected Trump

How did that happen? The answer: The electoral college.

Americans did cast their votes for a new president, but the electoral college eventually made the final decision: 538 electoral voters represent 50 states and District of Columbia. And the candidates need 270 votes to win.

Trump won because he got 289 electoral college votes, even though Hillary won almost 200,000 more popular votes than Trump.

In the 2000 US presidential election, Al Gore also received 543,000 more votes than his rival George W Bush. But Bush was still declared the winner because Bush won the electoral college votes.

That’s why there were riots when Bush became president, and that’s why there are riots in many cities now in the US. Their vote do not matter.

Democracy? What democracy?

Further readings:

The troubling reason the electoral college exist [Time / Akhil Reed Amar]

The Rakai Pikatans of Indonesian history

“A brief history of Indonesia: Sultans, Spices and Tsunamis: the incredible story of South East Asia’s largest nation” by Tim Hannigan

There once lived a man named Rakai Pikatan. He was the man who puts an end to the mighty Sailendra dynasty in Java, and in the year 856 he ordered his men to build a temple that match Sailendra’s masterpiece, the Borobudur. The temple has since been known as the Prambanan.

Few centuries later in 1357, Majapahit’s king Hayam Wuruk appeared to attempt to forge an alliance with the Pajajaran kingdom in West Java, by promising to marry princess Pitaloka, the daughter of the Pajajaran king. But when the Pajajaran wedding party arrived in Majapahit’s capital, prime minister Gajah Mada informed them that the princess would merely becomes a concubine and that they should surrender to their East Java overlord. Surrounded by hostile Majapahit forces, the Pajajaran men bravely refused and put up a fight, but they were all eventually slaughtered, including the princess.

Meanwhile, by the mid 15th century the spread of Islam had reached as far east as the eastern islands in the archipelago. With so many Muslim chiefs rulling so many tiny islands at the time, Arab spice traders began to call the area Jazirat al-Muluk (the islands of kings) – a name that eventually became Maluku.

Moreover, in 1811 the archipelago almost had its independence from the colonial Dutch. Following Napoleon’s attack on the Netherlands, the British decided to consficate and disband Napoleon Dutch’s colonial grab in the East Indies. The British originally gave the order to British governor-general in Calcutta, Lord Minto, to “overwhelm the Dutch forces, destroy their fortifications, dish out their guns and ammunition to the locals, and hand the island over to the Javanese.” But what prevent the independence was one act of disobedience by Lord Minto. He dismantled the Dutch forces within a few weeks, but then installed Raffles as his lieutenant-governor in the archipelago with free rein to rule the colony as he pleased. And the rest, as they say, is history.

History is messy, brutal, and oftentimes blurry. For many centuries to come the temples of Prambanan were buried and the locals only know the folktale version of its history – where a man built a thousand temples overnight as a condition to marry princess Roro Jonggrang – and they do not even know who Rakai Pikatan is.

Students of history in Indonesia would also likely to learn Majapahit as the peaceful empire that unite the whole archipelago. While in reality, they obtain the majority of their territories by force and in some instances even only claim them without ever setting foot on the land. And just like Srivijaya before them, Majapahit was more of a powerful kingdom claiming control to a small population of traders and port cities beyond their stronghold capital, rather than an empire.

And these misconceptions of history sums up how historical accounts are being perceived in Indonesia.

This book is about the Rakai Pikatans of Indonesian history, and not the Roro Jonggrangs. About the likes of kingdom of Majapahit (not the empire) and its day to day struggles and ugly realities. It is about the intriguing origins of many historic names, the lost opportunities and the very human decision made by the likes of Lord Minto that changed the course of history. It is in short an attempt to straightening up the facts of Indonesia’s past.

The book is also about the forgotten truth. About the equally important role Sutan Sjahrir played beside Soekarno and Hatta in the independence movement for Indonesia. About Budi Utomo that began as an organisation to lobby for more education for Indonesia’s elite class in a Dutch-controlled government, and not an anti-colonial revolutionary organisation as they usually perceived. It is about how the Japanese was sympathetic with Indonesian independence movement and was actually administering towards an independence for Java in September 1945 (with the rest of Indonesia follow suit shortly), before Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed a month before that and Indonesian revolutionaries had to take matters into their own hands for independence.

Perhaps the best feature of the book is how Tim Hannigan can bring the complex stories of Indonesia’s past into a gripping narrative. The book indeed reads like an epic novel, and it filled with deliciously detailed accounts that constantly intrigue as we read on, such as how the country’s motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is a fragment of a 14th century poem celebrating the unity of Shiva and Buddha, or the story of how 4 ways conflict made Jakarta the capital city of the Dutch colony, or the fact that Zheng He’s magnificent fleets that came to the archipelago were commanded by 7 eunuchs.

But most of all, it is a book that explains every sequences that lead to many different realities in Indonesia today. For instance, contrary to popular believe, the Dutch were actually respectful to the local royal kingdoms during their occupation, they even forged useful alliances with some of them that mutually benefit everyone. And it was exactly these alliances that caused these kingdoms’ eventual demise, with the simple fact that since almost all of them were allies with the Dutch they resisted the national independence cause that was centered in Jakarta, that is, apart from Yogyakarta. Which is why after the independence only Yogyakarta’s sultanate survived and go down in Indonesian history as one of the heroes.

All in all, it is a well-crafted and very well-researched book, written in a careful ways so that the facts, the speculations and the myths are clearly distinguished. It is the most complete historical account on Indonesia that I have read so far, and it is the number one book I would recommend to anyone who wants to know about Indonesia.

Just be a decent human being

Ada video Buni Yani mengakui kalo dia salah karena udah edit video Ahok yang di pulau 1000, dan tulis caption yang provokatif diluar context yang akhirnya memicu amarah.

Dan ada article yang bilang Buni Yani juga udah beberapa kali memelintir perkataan ulama-ulama terkenal lain nya, seperti kata-kata Quraish Shihab yang dipelintir sehingga seolah-olah beliau bilang Nabi tidak dijamin masuk surga karena amal atau perbuatannya.

Ada juga video Ahok di interview di Berita Satu, yang menjelaskan tentang insiden “penistaan agama” tersebut dari sisi dia.

Nggak sedikit juga beredar article dan foto-foto forward-an yang menunjukkan bahwa aksi demo kemarin emang benar damai, dan yang baru rusuh setelah jam 6 malem itu bukan karena mereka.

Dan hari ini juga mulai banyak foto-foto, broadcast messages dan articles di media yang secara spesifik membahas gelagat aneh satu politisi baper, dan strongly implying kalo dia “aktor politik” yang disebut sama Jokowi kemarin.

Gua pingin posting semua itu satu per satu, tapi akhirnya nggak jadi abis nyadar this one ugly truth: people only see what they want to see.

Yang nggak suka sama ormas-ormas kemarin nggak bakal percaya kalo mereka bisa jalani demo damai. Yang judging kalo Islam itu brutal dan barbaric bakal nggak percaya kalo yang bikin rusuh itu dalang politik, bukan agama.

Yang nggak suka sama Ahok juga nggak bakal mau abisin waktu cuma 5 menit untuk nonton penjelasan dia. Yang nelen mentah-mentah editan propaganda nya Buni Yani nggak bakal terima kalo dia ternyata salah. Dan yang genuinely percaya kalo demo ini tentang agama dan nggak ada unsur politik dibaliknya, nggak bakal berubah pikiran kalo dikasih banyak bukti politisasi.

Churchill once said “a fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”, while psychologist Leon Festinger said “a man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.”

So why bother posting hal-hal yang supporter udah bakal langsung setuju dan oposisi bakal langsung bilang itu sampah? We have better things to do than arguing sama temen dan keluarga, over something yang kita nggak punya direct influence anyway other than voting di Pilkada nanti.

So please chill, tranquillo. It doesn’t really matter who you support and what you believe in, just be a decent human being. The next 2 weeks won’t be easy for us, and we all need to stick together.

Kemerdekaan Nusantara 1811

Did u know? Nusantara hampir merdeka dari penjajahan Belanda pada tahun 1811, waktu French Revolution nya Napoleon Bonaparte nyebar sampai ke Belanda.

Pada saat Belanda lagi diserang abis-abisan oleh Perancis, Inggris memutuskan untuk merebut koloni-koloni Belanda di Nusantara. Untuk eksekusi rencana ini, Inggris memberi tugas perebutan tersebut ke governor-general Inggris di Calcutta, Lord Minto, dengan rencana awal untuk melumpuhkan para pasukan Belanda, menghancurkan senjata persediaan dan pertahanan mereka, dan mengembalikan Nusantara ke penduduk lokal (sultan, raja, dll).

Akan tetapi Lord Minto nggak mematuhi perintah pusat, dan setelah berhasil melumpuhkan Belanda Lord Minto memasang Thomas Stamford Raffles sebagai leutenant-governor (atau wakil nya Minto) di Nusantara, dan Raffles diberi kekuasaan penuh untuk lakuin apapun yang dia mau.

Kalo Nusantara merdeka tahun 1811 mungkin kita masih terpecah-pecah sampai sekarang, mungkin antar kerajaan masih berantem dan asimilasi antar suku dan budaya nggak pernah kejadian (alias banyak dari kita yang nggak bakal lahir). Kalo Nusantara merdeka tahun 1811 Sumpah Pemuda 1928 mungkin nggak kejadian dan Soekarno mungkin nggak pernah menyatukan seluruh Nusantara menjadi negara Indonesia. Funny how one act of disobedience can change the entire history of a nation. And here we are now.

Dirgahayu RI ke 71!

Erdoğan’s coup

And so we’re finally here, an attempted military coup during Erdoğan’s peak madness. Fasten your seatbelt, coz it’s going to be a really bumpy road ahead for Turkey.

Note that Turkish military coups occurred in 1960, 1971, 1980, 1993, and 1997. So just like in Thailand, Pakistan and many Latin American countries, it’s sadly a bit like business as usual. But this time around on 15 July 2016, it’s not a question of if, but when. “Sultan” Erdoğan had it coming.

Guest writer Michael Rubin sums it all up nicely in ZeroHedge few months ago:

“Could there be a coup in Turkey? The situation in Turkey is bad and getting worse. It’s not just the deterioration in security amidst a wave of terrorism. Public debt might be stable, but private debt is out-of-control, the tourism sector is in free-fall, and the decline in the currency has impacted every citizen’s buying power. There is a broad sense, election results notwithstanding, that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is out-of-control. He is imprisoning opponents, seizing newspapers left and right, and building palaces at the rate of a mad sultan or aspiring caliph. In recent weeks, he has once again threatened to dissolve the constitutional court. Corruption is rife. His son Bilal reportedly fled Italy on a forged Saudi diplomatic passport as the Italian police closed in on him in an alleged money laundering scandal. His outbursts are raising eyebrows both in Turkey and abroad. Even members of his ruling party whisper about his increasing paranoia which, according to some Turkish officials, has gotten so bad that he seeks to install anti-aircraft missiles at his palace to prevent airborne men-in-black from targeting him in a snatch-and-grab operation.”

But hang on a minute. Wild speculation spread among Turkish people on the streets that the coup was actually masterminded by Erdoğan himself, to justify the drastic actions that he would make next. And sure enough, after declaring that the coup attempt has failed, Erdoğan dismissed 2,745 judges and prosecutors, and arrested nearly 3000 military personnel. He also said that the coup justifies further consolidation of power, while providing questionable evidence on thousands of perpetrators that were miraculously collected in less than 24 hours.

The EU commissioner dealing with Turkey’s membership bid, Johannes Hahn, even suggested that “the swift rounding of judges and others after a failed coup in Turkey indicated the government had prepared a list beforehand.”

Meanwhile, the coup is officially blamed on Fethullah Gülen, which according to Dylan Matthews in his brilliant explanation on the Gülen Movement, “it’s very possible that Erdoğan would target Gülen even if he played no role in the events.” The allegation is of course denied by Gülen, where he said “the uprising by members of the country’s military could have been “staged” by the government”, echoing the speculation on the streets.

Regardless whether the speculation about Erdoğan’s mastermind is right or wrong, in the end he really did take advantage of this attempted coup and create himself a stronger counter-coup to obtain more power than ever, something that Vladimir Putin would’ve been proud of.

Some European leaders have already expressed their concern over the scale of Erdoğan’s purges, which seems to escalate by the day and nowhere near to be stopped: just 72 hours after the attempted coup, 103 generals and admirals in total have been detained, while 7,899 police officers, 614 gendarmerie officers, 30 provincial governors and 47 district governors have all been suspended. Even the finance ministry has suspended 1500 employees. As arguably the last obstacle for Erdoğan to become an absolute ruler, the Turkish parliament is the only institution left standing. And as we speak, it is under a total lockdown due to an imminent security threat.

And so it appears that we’ve actually seen nothing yet, and the crazy ride with Erdoğan is only just beginning.

Post-72-hours updates:

• The purge continues to education (get ready for a massive propaganda): The government revoked the licenses of 21,000 people working in private schools, fired 15,000 people working in the education ministry and demanded the resignation of 1,577 deans.

• 20 news websites are blocked.

• 492 people from Religious Affairs Directorate, 399 from Ministry of Family and Social Policies, 257 from the prime minister’s office, and 100 intelligence officers are all sacked.

• 20 July: Erdoğan invoked “emergency powers” under the constitution, which will last for 3 months. This allow Erdoğan and his cabinet to enact laws without the approval of parliament. God knows what kind of laws they’re going to change (presumably, a lot). And 1 day later he told Reuters “No obstacle to extending Turkey’s state of emergency beyond initial three months.”

• 21 July: From the Associated Press: “Turkey deputy prime minister says his country to suspend European human rights convention under new state of emergency.”

• 23 July: Erdoğan shuts down 1000+ private schools, 1200+ charity organisations, and 15 universities.

• 26 July: Turkish government ordered the closure of over 130 media outlets (3 news agencies, 23 radio stations, 16 TV channels, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishers and distributors). The government also dismissed 1684 military personnel, including 149 generals and admirals (“amounting to nearly half of the high-ranking officers in the entire Turkish military” as Reuters reported). In return, 99 colonels have been promoted to the rank of general and admiral.

• 31 July: The government has cancelled the passport of around 50,000 people, to prevent them leaving the country. And Erdoğan give himself and his [puppet] prime minister the power to issue direct orders to military commanders.

• 2 August: Turkey’s football authorities have fired 94 people, which include referees, assistant referees, regional refereeing committee members and national and regional observers.

• 3 August: Now it’s actors’ turn, they are suspended from City Theaters.

• 12 August: the government issued an arrest warrant for Turkish football legend Hakan Sukur.

• 16 August: Turkish police raids 44 companies and had warrants to detain 120 executives, over their suspected links to the failed coup.

• 17 August: justice minister Bekir Bozdag said that they “will grant early release to some 38,000 prisoners who committed crimes before July 1”, to free space for alledged coup plotters.

Further readings:

Turkey’s ideological debate [Bloomberg QuickTake / Onur Ant and Caroline Alexander]

Sultan Erdogan: Turkey’s rebranding into the new, old Ottoman Empire [The Atlantic / Cinar Kiper]

The madness of Turkey’s “sultan” Erdogan [The Daily Beast / Maajid Nawaz]

Emperor Erdogan: why an increasingly authoritarian Turkey poses a danger to the region [Politico / Steven A. Cook]

Turkey’s baffling coup [Project Syndicate / Dani Rodrik]

Was Turkey’s coup attempt just an elaborate hoax by Erdogan? [Al Monitor / Cengiz Çandar]

Very good lessons in business, from unusual trades around the world

“The Adventure Capitalist: Camels, Carpets and Coffee: how face-to-face trade is the new economics” by Conor Woodman

Conor Woodman left his job at the City of London, sold his flat, put all of his belongings in a storage, and converted his £25,000 profit from selling his flat into $50,000 (the GBP/USD rate at the time). He then use the money to invest and trade while circum-navigating the world, with one objective: to find out whether we can still trade the old way: to buy something in one country, travel with it, and sell it in another country.

His trade routes and its commodities were quite unusual, which make the book interesting: Selling carpet in Morrocco, camel trading in Sudan, selling Zambian coffee in South Africa, selling South African chilli sauce in India, horse trading in Kyrgyzstan, buying jade in Kashgar, selling Taiwanese oolong tea in Japan, selling Mexican tequila in Brazil, and more.

This in not your typical round-the-world adventure book, however, this is not even a backpacking story. Instead, this is a trained economist doing real business trade with real professional businessmen in their respective fields, making long term business connections in the process between the buyers and the selers that he has helped to establish.

Indeed, to my (pleasant) surprise, the entire book has the feel of a business book. It’s the economics of pricing, the art of negotiation and salesmanship, the power of branding, the importance of contracts and licensing, the ancient business tricks by different cultures, how to extract the real market price from traders, the highs and lows of exporting and going through customs, and how to recover when your plan A doesn’t work out and you really need to get rid of the commodities before leaping to another quest.

But of course, since this is a round-the-world trip to mostly unusual places and meeting unusual people, the high-and-low tales of adventures were (thankfully) not lost: horse racing in Uzbekistan border, getting slammed by Mexican waves, stranded in a Sudanese desert, fishing race in Japan with a wager to marry the fisherman’s daughter if he lost, to name a few, and of course the thrills of negotiations and risk takings.

All in all, I began reading this book with the expectation of a light reading on amusing adventure tale. But instead, I got so much more from it: the adventure story, the local insights and the very good lessons in business. And just in case you were wondering, yes, this is the same Conor Woodman that would eventually host the brilliant National Geographic show “Scam City.”