History’s amusing lost stories

“When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain: History’s unknown chapters” by Giles Milton

This is a light reading from history’s lost facts and forgotten stories, from late 19th century until mid 20th century. Perfect for laid back weekend read.

It consist of 50 short true stories with pretty wide range of topics from forced-canibalism, to adventurer who bought his wife at a white-slave auction, the black people who became an attraction at their zoos, the kamikaze pilot who lived to tell his story, notorious jail breaks, bizarre murder trials, to the richest men in the world, and of course to what happened with Lenin’s brain and how Hitler’s erratic behaviour was caused by the 80-plus drugs he consumed daily.

The author, Giles Milton, is a bestseller author of narrative non-fiction books, which immediately shows since the very 1st paragraph. The true stories read like a gripping novel.

I’m already purchasing the sequal of this book as we speak.

The underlying problem with radicalism is ignorance

The best form of worship is the pursuit of knowledge – Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

The underlying problem that causes radicalism is not only poverty, but ignorance or lack of religious education.

We need to read the whole thing to fully understands religion, and oftentimes people just rely on a teacher to do the hard work for them. Sometimes they don’t even choose their own teacher, but someone comes along to teach religion for free, something that they might not be able to afford to begin with.

And that’s when the brainwashing begins, when ignorance or lack of religious education (a blank sheet) meets someone who is charming but with a radical agenda.

So I guess one of the main solutions for any country in tackling radicalism is to provide a proper religious education, before any nation is completely overtaken by the radicals.

The funnest, most out-of-the-box, analysis on the keys for success

“Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The surprising science behind why everything you know about success is (mostly) wrong” by Eric Barker

This is the 1st book I’ve ever pre-ordered. I am a regular reader of the blog Barking Up The Wrong Tree, and I once thought would it be cool if Eric Barker can make a book out of these gems? And my God he did, and it did not disappoints one bit.

Like Dale Carnegie, Eric Barker uses so many stories, book references and great quotations to make his points across. There are stories such as how a poor boy in Mexico can become a world class neuro surgeon, how a clinically crazy person can win the enduring Race Across America, or how can an illiterate person in a horrible time and place and without proper education can conquer more land in 25 years than the Romans ever did in 400 years. There are also eye opening stories of how trust is completely lost in a Moldovan culture, how crimes create street gangs (and not the other way around) for protection, and how surprisingly civilised and organised pirates were.

The author then back them up with numerous scientific findings to validate the points he is making, just like the approach of Daniel Kahneman. For example, there are scientific explanations on why some people never quit, why people have depression, and why people commit suicide. Moreover, there are explanations on why high achievers can sometimes have anxiety problem or even depression, why the number ones in high school (the valedictorians) so rarely become the number ones in real life, why beautiful people normally becomes more successful, why nice guys finish first and last (and not in the middle), and why high achievers are rarely active in their social media accounts.

Along the way we’ll learn so many amusing facts, such as how an IQ of 120 does not make much difference than 180, 2 and a half to 4 hours after we wake up is when our brains is at its sharpest, how Hedonic Adaptation explains why after a brief change everything change back to baseline (e.g. on diet and clean behaviour), how viagra started out as a medicine for angina that had a serendipitous “side effect”, that the US once had an (almost official) emperor, Emperor Norton I.

And we’ll also gain some great wisdom like “sometimes an ugly duckling can be a swan if it finds the right pond” or “life is noisy and complex, and we don’t have perfect information about others and their motives. Writing people off can be due to just lack of clarity”, or “things aren’t as scary when we have our hands on the wheels.”

All of these wealth of information are then knitted nicely to become the central theme of the book: to discover the core determinants of success, through considering both sides of the argument with extreme stories and scientific facts.

In each individual chapters the book then provide concluding analysis, such as the importance of quiting something that is not good for you to make room and time for something good for you, the scientific explanation on luck as a function of choice, the disadvantages dreaming will cause on your wellbeing, effort and reality, the best predictor of our child’s emotional well-being is whether they knew their family history, the importance of sleep and self-compassion, and many more.

The author also gives us so many practical tools for us to work out the determinant factors for succcess, on our own unique way, such as Shawn Anchor’s “twenty second rule”, Cal Newport’s “shutdown ritual”, how to skillfully and sincerely use our network, figuring out whether we’re filtered or unfiltered leader, the importance of setting a parameter in a negotiation, and the findings of Robert Epstein research on how to reduce stress, among many others.

All in all, this book is the most complete analysis for its subject, using unorthodox approach and very amusing wide range of information that makes it very fun to read. What Freakonomics did for economics, Why Do Men Have Nipples? did for medicine, and Moonwalking With Einstein did with memory, Barking Up the Wrong Tree does it brilliantly with exploring the keys for success in the real world. I couldn’t recommend it more.

This should be the 1st book anyone read to understand about Islam

“Lost Islamic History: Reclaiming Muslim civilization from the past” by Firas Alkhateeb

This is the clearest book I’ve ever read so far on the history of Islam. It is focused, it has a clear timeline, and it is very concise, with no distracting facts that are irrelevant with the narrative. It is detailed enough, but without being complicated.

As a result, we can easily follow the development of Islam since its birth in the 600s until now 1400 years later, spanning territory from Muslim Spain to the Middle East and Africa to India and South East Asia, complete with all the ideological debates, the spiritual struggles, and all the many political frictions and conquerings.

Indeed, it is a perfect book to understand the complete picture, before proceeding to other books with more in-depth topics such as the life of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslim Heroes, the Muslim Empires, Islam and Science, the interpretations of Al Quran, the validity of Hadiths, the theological debates between the Fiqh, Islamic fundamentalism and its terrorists, and so much more.

By the time I finish reading this book I have this great sense of clarity of what Islam is about, and why the many different beliefs, sects, organisations or customs – from the liberals to the moderates to the conservatives – behave the way they do, something that no other book on Islam have managed to summarise so far.

Sometimes great wisdom comes from the thinest books

“On Tyranny: Twenty lessons from the twentieth century” by Timothy Snyder

Every once in a while there’s a thin book appears before us that has an incredible wealth of information delivered in a concised manner, such as The Art of War, Book of Five Rings, The Richest Man in Babylon, even Who Moved My Cheese and One Minute Manager. This is one of those books.

This is a very straight forward book, written by a profesor of history from Yale who has written numerous books on the subject. It is as if Tim Snyder compiles the very essence of his books into 1 big summary.

The content of the book is exactly what the cover says it is: 20 chapters that consist of 20 lessons from the 20th century, which covers World War 1, World War 2 and the Cold War, with great emphasis placed on what Hitler and Stalin did.

These lessons then being compared with the current affairs of the 21st century, and show that they all have a striking resemblance. For example, what Hitler did with the Reichstag, Putin also did with Chechnya, and I might add George W Bush did with 9/11 and Erdogan did with the attempted coup on 2016. Whether they’re the mastermind behind it or not is besides the point, what’s important is what they did after as a reaction.

Indeed, the theories in the book can give us a much bigger understanding on the world we live in now, and all of that enlightments I can read it in less than half a day, on a busy day. Highly recommended!

Ahok the unreasonable man

George Bernard Shaw once said the reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. All progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Mandela was an unreasonable man when he challenged the status quo’s Apartheid system, and he was sentenced to 27 years in jail for it. Gandhi and Sukarno both refused to accept the normal situation of their day, both respectively tried to get rid of a colonial ruler, and as a backlash both were sent to prison numerous times.

Ahok is also an unreasonable man, who tries to make many positive changes in a bleak and very corrupted environment.

The fact that he had 70% approval ratings just months ago from the work he has done, but sentenced to 2 years in prison for blasphemy today, is a true testament on how strong (and effective) the corrupted power behind the black campaigns is.

Regardless of all the possible theories or political strategies behind this move, the simple fact remains: what little faith I had in the Indonesian justice system before, it’s all gone now.

Further readings:

The Guardian view on blasphemy in Indonesia: exploiting religion for political purposes [The Guardian / Editorial]

Watchdog warns of ‘frightening’ future for Indonesia after Ahok case [Asian Correspondence]

Harus diakui, hakim bekerja dibawah tekanan gelombang massa [Kompas / Fabian Januarius Kuwado]

Ahok’s satisfied non-voters: an anatomy [New Mandala / Marcus Mietzner and Burhanuddin Muhtadi]

Anti-Ahok protests: why were Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah sidelined? [The University of Melbourne / Ahmad Syarif Syechbubakr]

A sad reality: radical Islamic groups are the new kingmakers of Indonesian politics [The New York Times / Eka Kurniawan]

Cerita Ibnu Muljam, sangat pas utk menggambarkan para oknum yg dibayar utk menangin pilkada DKI [NU Kita]

Anies Sandi menggunakan Mesjid untuk kalahkan Ahok Djarot? [BBC Indonesia]

The Fall of Ahok and Indonesia’s Future [The Diplomat / Nithin Coca]

The rise of intolerance: Indonesia has been mercifully resistant to extremism—until now [The Economist]

It’s not who won the election, but HOW they won it [Time / Yenni Kwok]

Trump’s Indonesian allies in bed with ISIS-backed militia seeking to oust elected president [The Intercept / Allan Nairn]

Terima kasih Ahok

Selamat untuk Anies Sandi atas kemenangan nya. I sincerely wish you both the best di dalam mengemban tugas baru, demi maju nya kota kita semua.

Terima kasih Ahok, untuk 5 tahun yang singkat tapi sangat bermanfaat: 2 tahun wakil gubernur dan 3 tahun gubernur.

Terima kasih untuk berbagai infrastruktur baru yang penting kayak flyover Kampung Melayu-Tanah Abang, Flyover Tendean-Cileduk, pembangunan Simpang Semanggi, dan yang paling penting, MRT.

Terima kasih untuk puluhan ruang hijau terbuka seperti taman Jagakarsa, taman Sunter, taman Zodia, taman Tanjung 2, taman PPA, dan yang paling drastis taman waduk Ria Rio.

Terima kasih udah nutup tempat2 prostitusi, transaksi narkoba, perdagangan manusia kayak Stadium, Kalijodo dan Diskotik Milles, tapi nggak nutup Alexis (pesan titipan dari temen).

Terima kasih udah bikin Jakarta jauh berkurang banjir nya, penghuni2 ilegal di batang kali dikasih rumah tinggal susun yang manusiawi, dan rakyat menengah kebawah dibayarin semua dari sakit sampe sekolah dan di subsidi untuk kuliah.

Terima kasih untuk team oranye nya yang ngeruk kali2, melancarkan kembali gorong2, bersihin sampah yang bergunung2. Terima kasih untuk team warna-warni lainnya yang mengerjakan banyak fungsi penting masyarakat.

Terima kasih udah memajukan Masjid Jakarta Islamic Centre untuk etalase keilmuan keislaman dan wisata religi. Terima kasih udah membangun Masjid Fatahilah di Balai Kota, Masjid al-Hijrah di rusun Marunda, Masjid Al-Muhajirin di Rusun Pesakih dan yang paling penting Masjid Agung Jakarta seluas 2 hektar di Daan Mogot yang umat muslim Jakarta bisa banggakan.

Terima kasih udah memberi bantuan 15-75 juta rupiah untuk 118 musholla, mesjid dan Majelis Taklim (SK GUB Nomor 2589 Tahun 2015). Dan untuk 125 lagi mendapat bantuan 15-100 juta pada tahun depan nya (SK GUB Nomor 308 Tahun 2016).

Terima kasih udah mengumrohkan 30 orang penjaga Masjid/Mushola (Marbot) dan Makam (kuncen) pada tahun 2014, 40 orang pada tahun 2015, 50 orang pada tahun 2016 dan 100 orang pada tahun ini.

And last but not least, terima kasih udah beresin birokrasi yang ribet, udah meluruskan yang bengkok2 dan mengurangkan drastis benalu2 anggaran.

Thank you so much, we truly don’t deserve you.

Trump’s strike on Syria

Just in case you missed it: Trump gave the order to his national security team, to fire those 59 missiles at Syria’s airbase, just before meeting Chinese president Xi Jinping. Trump then sat through dinner with Xi as the strike was under way.

Now that’s cold blooded, because China is an Assad backer. Hence, is this action a provocation by trump or a leverage for Trump in his meeting with Xi?

Trump may be justified for condeming the chemical attack conducted by Assad on [rebel opposition] civilians, but he didn’t say jack shit when Israel (US proxy in the Middle East) did the same thing on the civilians in Gaza. So this “retaliation” is never about moral reasons.

So what is it about then? Whatever is going on in Trump’s head, in the first few weeks of his presidency he reduces State Dept budget, cuts foreign aid, closes borders and uses the fund allocations to expand his military. So take a wild guess on what Trump will eventually do in his presidency.

6 people are reportedly killed, the strike didn’t get through approval by congress first, not to mention that it violates international law. And with Assad’s Syrian government acting as the proxy for Russia in the Middle East, US directly striking Syria is equivalent to Russia directly striking Israel. And as you can guess, Putin is now pissed.

*Grabs popcorn

Tamasya Al Maidah

Tamasya Al Maidah: 1.3 juta “umat” dateng ke 13000 TPS di Jakarta di hari pilkada, jadi 100 orang di tiap TPS untuk “mengawal” agar orang2 “bebas memilih.” https://m.detik.com/news/berita/d-3474763/tamasya-al-maidah-jadi-digelar-diselenggarakan-di-seluruh-tps-dki

Segitu nggak pede nya kah sama kemampuan sendiri, sampe black campaign bawa-bawa agama dan suku aja udah nggak cukup, dan sekarang harus nerror?

I’m not going to be subtle, because I’m pissed, agama gua yang suci disalah gunakan untuk tujuan yang busuk: ngejatuhin lawan politik. You know exactly what I’m talking about: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/15/jakarta-election-challenger-anies-accused-of-courting-islamic-vote-amid-religious-divide

Just in case masih ada yang ragu kalo tim sukses nya Anies ada dibalik semua ini apa nggak, tau siapa sebenernya ketua panitia Tamasya Al Maidah ustadz Ansufri ID Sambo? None other than guru agama nya Prabowo http://www.gerilyapolitik.com/terbongkar-ketua-panitia-tamasya-al-maidah-adalah-guru-agama-prabowo/

Premanisme dan Islam emang beda tipis di kamus mereka. Sekarang siapa yang penista agama? How can any thinking Muslim be okay with this.

Further reference:

Ketua Panitia Tamasya Al-Maidah ustaz [sic] Ansufri ID Sambo dilaporkan ke Bawaslu DKI Jakarta https://m.detik.com/news/berita/d-3475347/panitia-tamasya-al-maidah-dilaporkan-ke-bawaslu-dki

Is Zakir Naik a radical, or a smart tolerant?

He says that music and dancing are haram, he says girls shouldn’t be sent to school, that it is not necessarily a bad thing to beat your wife.

He says that those performing sex outside marriage should be stoned to death, homosexuals should be killed, and he advocates chopping off hands as a punishment for stealing.

He supports wiping out other Islamic sects other than Sunni, and believes that other religion shouldn’t be allowed to build their house of worship in an Islamic country. He never condemns Osama Bin Laden, in fact he says that suicide attacks advised by clerics in not a bad thing.

These controversial comments made him banned from entering UK, Canada and Malaysia. ISIS use his “wisdom” to justify slaughtering minority Islamic sects, while the suicide bomber in Dhaka last year directly quote him as an inspiration.

So why do they embrace Zakir Naik here in Indonesia, and why do the govt let this Salafi ideologue preach to thousands of people?

But yet, when reading about what he said in Bekasi over the weekend, it’s actually mild. People who loves him often said that he’s smart and can provide a light on comparative work on different religions, that his work tries to straighten up the wrong image of Islam after 9/11.

So which one is it then, is he a radical or a smart tolerant? Both examples are out there in the media in almost equal measure. Am I missing something here?