R.I.P. the people killed in an attack on Charlie Hebdo

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it – Voltaire

Say what you want about Charlie Hebdo being a “defender” of free speech, but their aim was and is always to insult with cheap jokes, hide behind the rhetoric of free speech, laugh about it, and increase sales in the making. They’re not a nice bunch of people. Here’s a reminder of who they are and what they did.

But still, this by all means doesn’t justify killing them. R.I.P. Charlie Hebdo’s editor, cartoonists and journalists. And R.I.P. the Muslim police officer Ahmed Marabet, who was also executed by the gunmen while trying to protect the people at Charlie Hebdo office.

In a moving tribute to him, Ahmed Marabet’s brother reminded us that “one must not confuse extremists and Muslims. Mad people have neither colour or religion.” Indeed, it was another Muslim, Lassana Bathily, an employee at the Paris Kosher market, who saved a lot of Jewish customers during the siege by an extremist that killed 4 people there.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Gunman Amedy Coulibaly took hostage at the Kosher market by threatening the Paris police that he will shoot the hostages, unless the Charlie Hebdo killers Sharif and Said Kouachi (both of whom at that point have been surrounded by the police at Dammartin-en-Goele) were released. The 3 extremists were eventually killed, and later on we learned that Coulibaly and his girlfriend Hayat Boumeddiene have actually spoken more than 500 times with the Kouachi brothers over the phone, thus establishing their direct link.

The problem is Sharif and Said Kouachi were radicalised by Bush’s Iraq war and Abu Ghraib torture, and claimed to be trained by Al Qaeda in Yemen, while Amedy Coulibaly claimed to be from ISIS, two terror groups who are supposed to be at war with each other. Did these two incidents just mark the terrifying joint forces of Al Qaeda and ISIS?

Meanwhile, under the French law Charlie Hebdo could formally run cartoons mocking Islam without getting any trouble from the authority, but NOT cartoons mocking the Holocaust. So, freedom of speech my derriere! Furthermore, while they claim to have mocked every religion equally and any political establishment equally, the truth is Charlie Hebdo did not offend with equal frequency, where for the past 15 years Islam have been their primary target to offend.

With so much Islamophobia in the air, it’s sadly not surprising that since the Charlie Hebdo attack the French Muslim community, despite universally and repeatedly condemning the attack, has suffered from a wave of “misguided reprisal attacks“, while the mainstream media focus their attention on the “anti-semitic nature” of the hostage taking in the Jewish supermarket. Meanwhile, less than a week after massive rallies “defending free speech” the French authorities have arrested a youth for, guess what, posting a cartoon on facebook mocking Charlie Hebdo.

With this in mind, here’s Ezra Klein on why you should stop saying that you’re Charlie Hebdo (Jesuis Charlie), and here’s the reaction of Charlie Hebdo’s surviving prominent cartoonist on the sudden support and friends from around the world.

And just in case you didn’t already know, here’s what the Qur’an said about the mighty pen, the percentage of terror attacks in the US and Europe that are committed by Muslims? 2%, Pope Francis is also critical towards Charlie Hebdo, Muslims can take a satirical joke, and this might actually surprise some people, but Muslims condemn terrorism.

100 things I learned and did in 2014

  1. Each day is longer than the previous one by 0.00000002 seconds, which makes it 13 seconds each century.
  2. The root of nearly half of world’s languages is Central Asian language, simply because they were the first to ride horses, thus helping the spread of languages quicker.
  3. This strengthen the claim by the “Sun Language Theory” that all human languages were descendants of one Central Asian primal language.
  4. The national anthem of south Africa is uniquely sung in 5 languages: Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English. Here’s the music video of the national anthem.
  5. The first people to invent bread were the people in the ancient site Göbekli Tepe (present-day Southern Turkey). While the wonderful flavour of vanilla was first discovered by the Totonac people in present-day Mexico. Thanks guys.
  6. Early on January this year my lovely wife gave birth to our 2nd child, and it’s a baby girl! Before she was born I thought that I could never share the love I have for our son to another person. But as it turns out the capacity to love is not some storage that can be filled into its full capacity, but instead we can grow an entirely new capacity equally side by side.
  7. Her first name is Kirana, here’s a short legend on where the name came from: Once upon a time, in the 13th century Mughal Empire, there once lived a man named Gopal Nayak. Gopal was a dhurpadiya singer and a Hindu court musician turned Muslim convert, and he became an influential figure in Indian classical music by founding one of the most prolific Hindustani Khyal Gharanas: the Kirana Gharana. Kirana means a ray of light.
  8. Her second name is Hagia, here’s a short tale of where we got the name from: Few thousand miles west in Asia Minor, the Latin Empire just captured the city of Constantinople and converted Hagia Sophia into a Roman Catholic Cathedral in 1204, which lasted until 1261 when the Byzantines re-captured the city and turned Hagia Sophia back into Eastern Orthodox Church. In 1453 this sacred place was converted once again, this time into a grand Mosque, when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople. This lasted for 482 years until in 1935 Turkey’s founding father Kemal Ataturk transformed Hagia Sophia into a museum, and thus it became a testament to interfaith tolerance and respect for many different religions. Appropriately, its full name in Greek translates to “shrine of the holy wisdom of God”, with Hagia means holy. Hence, our little baby girl is our holy ray of light. The history and the meaning of her name are fully implied.
  9. Golf was born in Scotland around the year 1000 by shepherds, who ease their boredom knocking stones into rabbit holes.
  10. The mammoths were still around when the Great Pyramids in Egypt were being built (c.2550 BC – 2490 BC). In fact, when the last Wooly Mammoth presumed died around 1650 BC on Russia’s Wrangle Island, the great Pyramid of Giza has already existed for 1000 years, with the ancient Egyptian culture was already an advanced civilisation.
  11. There’s a theory that suggest the Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra was actually black, as her father was an ethnic Nubian.
  12. “Bluetooth” is named after a 10th century king Harald I of Denmark, in which the name is the English translation of “Blåtand”, an epithet of Harald I (Harald Blåtand Gormsson). Legend has it, he received this name due to being extremely fond of blueberries, and he ate them in such volume and regularity that they stained his teeth blue. “Bluetooth” is named after him because of his ability to unite warring Scandinavian factions, just as “Bluetooth” is able to unites various wireless devices.
  13. On a slightly unrelated matter, here’s a music video of a regional Indonesian singer (apparently he’s famous in the island of Madura) showing how to spell “Blue Tooth” in his local dialect, among others.
  14. The reason why we know so little about the Mayan civilisation is because in 1562 Bishop Diego de Landa, in the name of the Spanish Crown, burned thousands of Maya hieroglyphic books, which contained 8 centuries worth of collective memory. The bishop burned the sacret texts with the excuse that they were filled with superstition and lies of the devil.
  15. As at December Ebola has infected more than 16,000 people and has killed more than 6500 people, in what can only be described as a tragedy for humanity. The deadly virus was given its name by scientist Peter Piot in 1976 after the Ebola River, near the town of Yambuku, in present-day Democratic Republic of Congo, where the virus first infected humans.
  16. Denmark’s top 3 exports are: Lego, beer and sperm. Yes, sperm. How do you measure sperm into the GDP and trade balance? And what an easy way to maintain positive trade balance: export figures a little low? Jack off a little bit more!
  17. The first ever sperm bank in history was created in 1952 in Iowa, US, by two doctors who had figured out how to freeze sperm, thaw it back to life, and use it to help families to conceive. At the time the national poll suggests that only 28% of Americans approve of artificial insemination, nevertheless the year after these men began the implementation of their discovery 3 babies were born from thawed sperm.
  18. The Moroccan Wall (2700 KM long) is claimed to be the 2nd longest wall after the Great Wall of China (3460 KM long plus 3530 KM of branches and spurs). Stretched from southeastern portion of Morocco and Western Sahara, the wall was build in 1981-1987 by Moroccan forces, and it acts as a separator barrier between Moroccan-controlled area in Southern provinces and the Polisario-controlled free zone, to prevent Saharawi people for entering Morocco, specifically to exclude the guerilla fighters of the Polisario Front that seek independence for Western Sahara.
  19. But there is actually a longer wall than Morocco’s, the 3200 KM long border wall between India and Bangladesh, what described as the most abusive border in the world. Here’s the full story.
  20. According to Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, half of the population of India (that’s a whopping 600 million people) don’t have access to toilet, a basic everyday human need. According to Sen this is a result of “a combination of class, caste and gender discrimination.” Even in Bangladesh, which is poorer than India, only 8% of its population don’t have access to a toilet.
  21. In the Indian Rupee banknotes there are words written in 17 languages. The languages are: 1. Assamese 2. Bengali 3. Gujarati 4. Kannada 5. Kashmiri 6. Konkani 7. Malayalam 8. Marathi 9. Nepali 10. Oriya 11. Punjabi 12. Sanskrit 13. Tamil 14. Telugu 15. Urdu 16. Hindi 17. English.
  22. There’s a new kind of premium coffee, originated from Thailand: Black Ivory Coffee. Similar like Kopi Luwak (where the coffee beans went through the digestive system of luwak cats), Black Ivory Coffee beans came out from the digestive system of elephants, with the end result “presented” in its poo, before someone pick up the beans. Why, and who the hell came up with the idea of selling them?
  23. The first ever recorded striptease is in the Sumerian creation myth that explains the four seasons. So one day the goddess of fertility, Inanna, makes a journey to the underworld, during which she is forced to remove one clothing item at each of its 7 gates until she arrives at the destination stripped naked. Sexy!
  24. Remember the “origins of beer story” I learned in 2012? Well, after the Sumerian empire collapsed, the Babylonians became the rulers of Mesopotamia. And they also mastered the art of beer brewing, making 20 different varieties. King Hammurabi of Babylon established a daily beer ration for his subjects: 2 litres a day for the worker, 5 litres a day for the high priests. What a good time it was to be a priest.
  25. The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius was a divorced single dad.
  26. There were actually many US presidents before George Washington. Under the current United States Constitution George Washington (who served in 1789-1797) was indeed the 1st US president, but before the US constitution came into being there was the Articles of Confederation, which went into effect in 1781 to serve as a loose alliance that held all 13 states as a single country since their proclaimed independence day on 4 July 1776. This Articles also defined the role of Congress and the office of president, with the role of president was extremely limited in power and scope, was not a paid position, with primary roles of the president to simply preside over meetings, handle state correspondence and sign official congressional documents.
  27. The 1st president under the Articles of Confederation was John Hanson of Maryland (served 1781-1782), succeeded by Elias Boudinot of New Jersey (1782-1783), Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania (1783-1784), Richard Henry Lee of Virginia (1784-1785), John Hancock of Massachusetts (1785-1786), Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts (1786-1787), Arthur St. Clair of Ohio (1787-1788) and Cyrus Griffin of Virginia (1788-1789).
  28. One of the main reasons of the 1776 revolution in the US was the prohibition by Britain to set up manufacturing industry in its American colonies, especially on masts and tar that were needed by the British. Meanwhile, 3 years earlier the American Revolution was first sparked after the British impose tax on tea imported to Britain, which prompted the Boston Tea Party movement. So in a sense, it’s all about economics.
  29. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew cannabis sativa (marijuana) on their plantations. Hence, the second amendment?
  30. Contrary to popular belief, Cannabis is not toxic. No death have been recorded from overdosing. It had been suggested that it would take 800 joints to kill, with the death coming from carbon monoxide rather than cannabinoid poisoning. By comparison, 300 millilitres of vodka or 60 milligrams of nicotine would be lethal.
  31. Opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar and Laos rose in 2014, and it has risen for the 8th consecutive year, and has tripled the amount of cultivation in 2006. I wonder what’s going on in that underworld part of the world.
  32. Humans can survive living without food for 8 weeks. But only 3-5 days without water.
  33. Britain’s population in the late 1800s grew from 1.5 million to 22 million, simply because their newly-found addiction to tea. They drink more tea hence boil more water, while previously they never boil their water, making survivor chance against bacterias thinner. Yes, as simple as that.
  34. The name earl grey tea comes from the 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister in the 1830s. According to the Grey family, the tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin to offset the preponderance of lime in the water at Howick Hall, the Grey family’s seat in Northumberland. When entertaining guests at a political events Lady Grey used this blend of tea, and it became so popular that she was asked if it could be sold to others. Hence, the Earl Grey Tea branded “Lady Grey” began to be marketed by Twinings.
  35. In the Victorian Era, they used to serve tea in special tea cups which protected gentlemen’s mustaches from getting wet from the tea, and to keep the tea unspoiled as it was an era where oiling one’s mustache was popular. Classy!
  36. The practice of nail manicuring has actually been around since 3200 BC, where ancient Egyptians were painting their nails according to their social classes: the richer the class the darker the colour.
  37. Long before Christopher Columbus [re]discovered the New World in 1492, the French called syphilis “the Italian disease”, and the Italians called it “the French disease.” The Dutch and the Portuguese called it “the Spanish disease”, while the Japanese called it “the Portuguese disease.” For the Polish it was “the German disease”, but for the Russians it was “the Polish disease.” The Persians, on the other hand, believed that it came from the Turks. After the [re]discovery of the New World, however, everyone seems to agree that syphilis is an “American curse” that come to Europe from the Indians of the Americas. Which is also a false myth.
  38. Argentina has the world’s highest rate of breast enlargement. Just FYI.
  39. One day on October I was sitting at my trading desk having a lunch break, when I read an article that says people who have their lunch breaks at their desk would have higher risk of diabetes and a whole other list of diseases. Holy crap. I shared the article with my colleagues (whom also having their lunch break at their desk) and we decided to change our habit. The following day we went out to eat, but it was a heavy doze of Padang food (equivalent to Indian food). Feeling guilty, we decided to join the office gym, in a similar way a group of people apply for a micro-loan where if one person bails the rest of the group will also take the blame. 2 months on, we haven’t break any gym session. Yet. We’ll see.
  40. Interestingly, the modern word “gymnasium” and “gymnastics” comes from a Greek word γυμνός (gymnos), which means “naked.” Yes, naked. And in Ancient Greek people commonly exercise in the nude.
  41. Still in ancient Greece, whenever there’s a storm coming it is said that women would expose their vaginas to ward off the storms. I bet I would enjoy living in Ancient Greece.
  42. Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia believed that the Bible had curative powers, and he would actually eat few pages of it whenever he felt sick, in order to get better. In a spectacular tragedy, in 1913 he ate the entire Book of Kings and died as a result.
  43. This year the price of oil started to drop significantly from a high of $115/barrel in August 2013 to under $60/barrel in mid December 2014, with Saudi Arabia boosting their production by half a percent to 9.7 million barrels/day since September 2014 and offerring increased discounts to major Asian customers. The intention is pretty clear, it is similar like in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan encouraged Saudi Arabia to boost up oil supply thus weakening its price, leading to depleting hard currency earned by the Soviet Union that led to its collapse. This time around it is believed that the US made a similar arrangement with Saudi Arabia, with the US pledge to fight ISIS in return for cheaper oil, which so far have destroyed Russian ruble, and seriously diminish the economic power of Iran and Venezuela, among others, all of which just happens to be US’s nemesis.
  44. I bet if law enforcements stop using water cannon to break up protests, and start using one of those septic tank trucks that can fire shit into the crowd, a lot of protest will end before it even began. What? It’s just a random comment, not a suggestion.
  45. The number of Chinese killed in WWII by the Japanese is greater than the number of Jews killed in the holocaust.
  46. Similarly, under King Leopold II Belgium actually murdered 10 million Africans in Congo, but yet for some reason it was not categorized as genocide.
  47. Leonardo Da Vinci was an illegitimate son born out of wedlock. His name is literally translated as Leonardo from Vinci, a place just outside Florence.
  48. I started to watch the brilliant TV series “Da Vinci’s Demon”, and delightfully discovered that the TV show is actually one of the most historically-accurate shows. Of course, aside from the intentional fictional elements.
  49. The gold at the top of Jakarta’s Monas was a donation from an Acehnese businessman Teuku Markam. The gold came from a village named Lebong Tandai, in northern Bengkulu, a location so rich in gold and silver that it became the biggest gold and silver exporter for then-colonial-Dutch East India in 1896-1941. As the gold and silver reserves were depleted, this area were then abandoned and became isolated, where today it took 9 hours to go there from the provincial capital Bengkulu City.
  50. Another forgotten place in Indonesia that has a huge impact in its history: Penyengat Island. Penyengat Island is only 240 hectare wide, it is located near present-day Bintan Island, Indonesia, and it is where Raja Ali Haji wrote his masterpiece “Gurindam Dua Belas” in 1847, which became the basis of the Indonesian and Malayan language. Raja Ali Haji has since became the father of Indonesian language.
  51. There’s actually a weird place with weird looking plants like in the movie Avatar: the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean, officially owned by Yemen. Here’s the National Geographic coverage on this mysterious island.
  52. The name “gorilla” was applied to the animal in 1847 by missionary Thomas Savage. But the original meaning of the word comes from the Greek word Γόριλλαι (Gorillai), which was originally applied as a reference to an African tribe noted for having very hairy women, as recorded in 500 BC by Hanno the Navigator during his travels along the coast of Africa.
  53. In parts of rural Nepal, women are forced to isolate themselves in huts or caves during their menstruation period. It’s not as convenient or as funny as it sounds, though, as this custom often criticised as inhuman.
  54. On 26 February 1885 a General Act of the Berlin conference was signed by European colonial powers, which divided African land, jungle, mountains and ethnic population into several countries. The General Act was signed “in the name of God Almighty”, they did not mention any of the prized gold, oil, diamond, timber, cocoa and other commodities that lies beneath the continent, and they even outlawed calling slavery by its name, and instead refer companies that provide slaves as “charitable institutions.” There was no single African presence in the conference, but these colonial powers can almost swear that they were acting for the moral and well being of the natives.
  55. And so Africa was divided into several fictitious countries, with no regards whatsoever to ethic and religious differences that became the root-cause of violent clashes in nearly all African countries, such as in Rwanda, DR Congo, Mozambique, Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria and most recently Central African Republic. And what began as an inconsiderate divide and plunder among European colonial rulers have since evolved into a legitimate recognition enforced under the international law, with these made-up countries became 54 legitimate independent states recognised by the UN and international community today.
  56. Cocoa trade sums up to $30 billion worldwide, with Cote D’Ivoire (1.23 million tonnes) and Ghana (0.73 million tonnes) produce more than half of the world’s cocoa (35% and 21% respectively). But yet, have you ever wondered why these countries and its people remain relatively poor, especially compared with chocolate producing countries like Belgium and Switzerland? Hint: it’s more than just a simple value added.
  57. As my Kenyan friend once said in Africa to have commodities is a curse rather than blessings, an estimated $400 billion have gone missing from oil revenues in Nigeria over the last 50 years – arguably the root-cause of nearly everything that are currently wrong in the country, including the birth of Boko Haram.
  58. In Greece there’s an awesome hidden city in a tiny island of Monemvasia. If we look at the island from mainland Greece, all we will see is a huge rock that dominates the landscape of the island. However, behind the huge rock there’s an ancient city, which is preserved at its original shape since Medieval time. Here’s some pictures of the magnificent place, via Google image.
  59. Meanwhile in the weird fish department: there’s a fish called African lungfish that can live both in sea and land. Everyday for 30 minutes they step out of the water to get some oxygen, or else they will actually drowned. During the summer they would go out and basked.
  60. The Black Death that killed 30 million Europeans was the ripple effect caused by fanatical custodian of the Catholic faith, whom in the 14th century declared war on cats in Europe’s cities. Cats were crucified, skinned alive, skewered and burned into bonfire because these men believe that these diabolical animals were the instruments of Satan. With cats nowhere to be found rats came out to rule the cities in Europe, and transmitted diseases.
  61. An olive tree can live up to 1500 years. Well, at least the one in Ionian Island of Ithaka, the home of hero Odysseus who returned there after the Trojan War.
  62. When I was a teenager my blood thrombosis level was way higher than normal at 986,000 (normal range 100,000 – 400,000) and thus I was technically immune to a dengue fever, as my thrombosis level would go down to a normal range if I ever catch one. A lot of doctors I’ve consulted with all said that this is incurable except for a high risk bone marrow surgery, no thank you. And so I learned to live with the blood abnormality. But then during my uni years my thrombosis levels was miraculously decreased down to the normal range simply because one simple thing: I didn’t like the milk in England. As it turns out for my blood type drinking excessive milk could somehow lead to blood thinkening and higher thrombosis level, and growing up I drink my milk like normal people drink water. Safe to say right now I drink my milk in moderation.
  63. This summer a semi-outbreak of dengue fever occurred in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, with 12 people caught the disease in my social circle alone, including my dad, my son, my nephew, 2 of my work colleagues, my colleague’s mom and dad, some of my neigbours and indeed myself. It was crazy! As I lie there at the hospital bed, I felt like that episode of Superman movie where he gave up his powers and became a normal human being, I was no longer immune!
  64. Anyway, here’s a brief history of sliced bread.
  65. The friction match was invented by an English pharmacist named John Walker in 1826. No, not the scotch, that’s Johnnie Walker.
  66. The first female admiral in history was Artemisia I of Caria. She became admiral during the battle of salamis in 480 BC, where she originally warned King Xerses of Persia that the heavy Persian ships should not battle the agile Greek triremes at the Strait of Salamis. The advice was ignored by Xerses, and his fleets was then surrounded and got badly beaten. Desperate to save at least some ships and some remaining honour, Xerses then put Artemisia in charge and thus saving the remaining survivors.
  67. Book of the year: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century got to be the “it” book of the year, with so many reviews, debates and summaries surrounding the topics of the book. The smartest book I’ve read this year is The Body Economic, that brilliantly link changes in health statistics directly with economic policies. But my personal favourite this year is After Empire by Dilip Hiro for its condense and detailed history of the current ruling empire. Why Nations Fail is also very impressive.
  68. The greatest slave uprising in the history of man occurred in a stormy night of 22 August 1791, in the depths of the jungle of French colony Saint-Domingue. The revolution was led by a former slave and the first black general of the French Army, Toussaint Louverture, who managed to defeat the mighty army of Napoleon Bonaparte and transformed an entire society of slaves into an independent country by 1 January 1804, in the name of Republic of Haiti. Till this day the Haitian Revolution remains the only slave revolt which led to the founding of a country.
  69. I had that “oh crap I’m an history geek” moment when I was looking at pictures of past British Monarchs, then stumbled upon one picture and I went “hey I know this guy, he’s Phillip II of Spain, what is he doing here?” And as it turns out the dude’s married to Queen Mary I of England. Talking bout hot gossip!
  70. Went to Bali for our office outing this year, and for some reason the organiser didn’t book a hotel in places like Kuta, Seminyak, Ubud or Nusa Dua, but instead we got to stay at Sanur’s haunted hotel Inna Grand Bali Beach. Formely known as Bali Beach Hotel, back in 1993 the hotel experienced a massive fire for 3 days and 3 nights, with everything burned down to ashes, except for 1 room: room 327. Legends has it that when the hotel was built by Indonesia’s 1st president Soekarno in 1962 he dedicate room 327 for Nyi Roro Kidul, the mythological underwater queen-ruler of the south seas of Java. And after surviving the great fire, the room was preserved and became a semi-shrine for Nyi Roro Kidul.
  71. Hotel guests were allowed to visit room 327 upon request, so naturally, along with few of my colleagues, I went for it. First I requested the concierge to see the room, who then escorted us towards the room, where in front of the room he then use the telephone line there to call a “gatekeeper” who has the key to the room. Once the room was opened the gatekeeper ask us to remove our shoes and sandals, and then we’re in. We had instant goosebumps, and I instantly recalled the moment I stepped in to Vietnam’s notorious ex-prison Hanoi Hilton where the room was empty but feels like very full with people. The whole room in 327 was covered in green (Nyi Roro Kidul’s favourite colour), it was dark and had several framed pictures of Soekarno and 1 large painting of Nyi Roro Kidul, who is really pretty. It was quite bizzare and amusing at the same time.
  72. This year we’ve once again witnessed what apparently becomes an annual thing during the holy month of Ramadan: Israel bombing Gaza. Here’s the chronology of the event that I summarised in my opinion blog.
  73. This year, though, we’ve seen a tremendous people movement in protesting Israel’s illegal agression, including Israeli citizens themselves, which I compiled here.
  74. And most importantly, if we can’t do anything about it politically, seems that we’ve found a good way to punish Benjamin Netanyahu’s government: hit him where it hurts, boycott the economy. There’s actually an app to help us with the boycott, and a feedback on whether boycott movement works: in 2009 Israeli exports was hit by European boycotts after Israel attacked Gaza.
  75. Wanker of the year: seriously, need I say more? Israel is much better off without him.
  76. Speaking of boycott, the name boycott came from a 19th century Englishman captain Charles C. Boycott, whom became rather unpopular with the masses one day in September 1880. At the time, in Ireland 0.2% of the richest people owned almost every square inch of the land, with the majority of these people didn’t even live in Ireland, but instead they rented out their lands to tenant farmers generally in a one-year leases. Unhappy with this situation, in mid-nineteenth century many of these tenant farmers band together and demand 3 things: fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale, with one of the leaders of the protesters Charles Stewart expressed that it would be more Christian if instead of killing any tenant farmer who bids on an evicted neighbour’s land, they would shut him, ignore him and isolate him.
  77. In 1880 Captain Charles Boycott, now retired from the military, was working for the third Earl of Erne John Chichton as a land manager. The harvest that year was bad for many farmers, and so as a concession to the tenant-farmers Boycott decided to reduce their cost of rent by 10%. However, the tenants demanded 25% cut instead, which Boycott’s boss refused. In protest, 11 tenants didn’t pay their rent at all, and thus Boycott had no other choice than sending the Constabulary to give eviction notices to them. This move didn’t go over pretty well with the angry masses, and they began to use social ostracism against Boycott and anyone who worked under him.
  78. Soon those who worked under him began to leave him and had to join the ostracizing of Boycott for them to be acknowledged again. The social out-casting of Boycott even spread to other businesses, carriage drivers, ship captains and letter handlers, whom all stop doing businesses with him. He even couldn’t buy food locally anymore, and after couple of months this led Boycott being forced to leave his home and move to Dublin, where he still met with hostility. Poor chap, he’s just doing his job.
  79. There’s a town in New Zealand named “Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu.” Say again?
  80. The town is in Hawke’s Bay, and the name means: “the brow of the hill where Tamatea, the man with the big knees who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as the land eater, played his flute to his loved one.” What a poetic town name.
  81. According to Dr Mark Galeotti, a professor of Global Affairs at New York University, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year has shaken up the global criminal underworld, with Crimea now offers a game changing alternative from Odessa, as the hub for global criminal activities.
  82. Story of the year: the story of footballing nation of Germany, the first European country who are able to win the World Cup in the Latin American soil. From the awesome performance of underdogs like Chile and Costa Rica, to the spectacular rise of James Rodriguez, to the whopping 7-1 defeat of the host by Germany, the Brazilian World Cup was such a joy to watch! And as it was broadcasted late at night in Indonesia, I always ended up watching the matches with my baby girl who’s always up – bonding time, just like I bonded with my first born watching Euro 2012 matches.
  83. According to Greek mythology the crow, the bird, used to be white. So once upon a time there’s a beautiful women named Coronis, she was a princess of the Thessalian kingdom of Phlegyantis. Coronis was loved by the god Apollo, whom then sent a white crow to look after her, to safeguard her frim any harm. But then one day when Coronis was pregnant with Apollo’s child, she committed adultery with another man named Ischys. The white crow informed Apollo of this event, and angry with this news Apollo then commanded his sister Artemis to kill both Coronis and Ischys, and while still upset Apollo then turned the crow black for being the bearer of bad news. Poor bird just doing his job, this is Charles Boycott all over again.
  84. This year we have witnessed the rapid rise of the so-called terrorist organisation ISIS. For those who are still trying to figure out who they are, here’s an excellent summary of their facts that are broken down into just 20 information cards.
  85. The game of chess is believed to be originated in the Gupta Empire, Eastern India, c. 280-550 AD, with its early form called Caturanga, a Sanskrit word literally means four divisions (of the miltary) that consist of infantry (evolve to be modern pawn), cavalry (modern knight), elephants (modern bishop), and chariotry (modern rook). However, no actual hard evidence has ever been found of its origins, with the earliest evidence of the game is found in nearby Sassanid Persia c.600 AD where the game was known as Chatrang. After the Islamic conquest of Persia (in 633-44) Chatrang was taken up by the Muslim World, and the game spread to Europe with the help of Muslim traders. The modern-rule of chess was started to be modified in Southern Europe in 1200 and was completed around 1475 where the game became essentially as it is known today.
  86. The first important big game in the history of chess was arguably fought in 19 August 1575 with Leonardo da Cutri won the game and received a prize of a thousand ducats, an ermine cape and a letter of congratulations from King Phillip II of Spain. However, the first official World Chess champion is Wilhelm Steinitz, who claimed his title 3 centuries later in 1886.
  87. Hottie of the year: Got to be Kazakhstan’s volleyball athlete Sabina Altynbekova. She took the internet by storm, well at least among the Indonesians.
  88. DNA fingerprint technique was invented in 1984 by British geneticist Sir Alec Jeffreys, a professor at the University of Leicester, my Alma mater.
  89. When I was at Leicester, the view from my accommodation window was the Walkers Stadium (now named King Power Stadium), home to Leicester City football club, back in the days when they were playing in the Championship. If only they were in the premier league like this season, I would’ve bought the home match season ticket!
  90. Since 1984 the country Upper Volta changed its name to Burkina Faso, which means “land of the upright people.” Tragically, the country has experienced 5 coups and 1 internal power struggle, with the 4th coup occurred on 1987 where Thomas Sankara was ousted and killed by his close aide Blaise Compaore. Compaore then cling to power for 27 years, that is until October this year where mass protest led to violence then ultimately the ousting of Compaore.
  91. They have actually found the cure for AIDS as far back as the 1990s, but the drug giant Pfizer patented the drug and thus prevent it to be mass-produced as a generic drug or sold at an affordable price, and instead they are sold at a very expensive price. Check out the documentary Fire in the Blood.
  92. If you want to help cure AIDS, don’t donate money to AIDS charity, but fight for the drop of patent for Pfizer aids drug, to make them way cheaper and affordable for everyone.
  93. As the world’s largest country, spanning across 9 time zones, Russia covers more surface area than Pluto! But perhaps what’s more bizarre is the fact that the tiny nation of Bangladesh actually has more population (156.6 million people) than the whole of Russia (143.5 million people).
  94. Person of the year: can’t think of a better person right now than Pope Francis, for the 2nd consecutive year. He can even be an excellent mediator in the trickiest diplomatic relationship between the US and Cuba, that are now in the path of recovering after more than 50 years in tension, thanks to the Pope.
  95. Several Popes were actually married before receiving Holy Orders. Pope st. Hormisdas (514-523) was married and widowed, his son also became a Pope: Pope st. Silverius (536-537). Pope Adrian II (867-872) live in the Lateran Palace with his wife and daughter, before the Church’s chief librarian killed them both. Pope John XVII (1003) had 3 sons who all became priests. Pope Clement IV (1265-1268) had 2 daughters who both entered a convent. The last Pope to have been married was Pope Honorius IV (1285-1287).
  96. 2014 has been a sad year for airline travels, with MH370 missing on 8 March with 239 passengers on board, MH17 shot down on 17 July with 295 people died, TransAsia Airways flight GE222 crash on 23 July with 48 people died, with the following day 24 July Air Algerie flight AH5017 crash killing 116 people, and 39 people also died in an Iranian plane crash on 10 August. And then at the time of writing, 28 December, Air Asia flight QZ8501 with 162 passengers on board are currently missing. Hope everyone in the Air Asia flight are safe and will soon be found.
  97. The Barbarian king, Alaric, was actually an honourable man who got betrayed by the Roman Emperor. Only when he was betrayed that he decide to invade Rome, in retaliation. But as always, history is written by the victors, and the phrase “barbaric” has since been associated negatively.
  98. After a seemingly long process of legislative election, many weekly TV debates, presidential election, election result dispute that was ended in a highest court drama: Indonesia finally has a new president! President Jokowi is by far the only Indonesian politician that rise up from nowhere: a furniture businessman turned small city mayor who gained a clean reputation, then elected to be the governor of Jakarta, and then elected as the nation’s leader.
  99. Continuing his fast and efficient work ethic, as well as his clean-guy image, the first few months of his presidency are marked with a lot of cleaning up and reforming a lot of inefficient sectors, including the bold move to cut oil subsidy. Religious harmony is back after 10 years of indecisive leadership, border sovereignty is strengthened, while the new president seems unafraid to be a leader that focused on self-sufficiency while at the same time trying to maintain a healthy balance between protectionism and Foreign Direct Investment. Looks really good on paper, hope his plans and implementations can prevail despite the limited quality resources and the many potential setbacks from powerful oppositions.
  100. And so, to wrap things up, here’s some of the best reviews for this year’s major events: The year 2014 on Al Jazeera English, The Guardian’s eyewitness accounts on the year’s defining events, The Economist’s 2014 in charts, New York Times’ 2014 the year in pictures, Top 14 Mother Jones long reads of 2014, and Nat Geo’s top 10 photos of 2014. Have a great 2015 all!

Some facts about Israel that you may not know

For those who are wondering why Israel can always get away with their massive crime, and why Gaza doesn’t have the proper military equipment to fight back, here’s some facts about Israel that you may not know:

Israel receives $3 billion aid from the US government each year since 1985, the majority of which goes into military.

The majority of UN member countries have tried to sanction, condemn or label Israel’s action as illegal at the UN Security Council, but the US (with their veto power at the UN) has vetoed every single UN resolution that are critical to Israel, which let them to get away with every crime they conducted. Here’s the full list of the vetoes on Jewish virtual Library.

Every single US president and politician have pledged their undying commitment for Israel, simply because in US politics Jewish Lobby (called AIPAC) is very powerful, the king maker. To go against Israel and AIPAC is a political-career suicide. So the real criminals behind the Apartheid state of Israel is AIPAC. “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt is one of the best books that explains AIPAC.

Now this is very important: not all jewish people in Israel (and all over the world) support this aggression. The problem is not with jewish people, but with Zionism. The movement began to get a serious boost ever since the Balfour Declaration 1917, where the British government declared their support for Zionism, in order to gain counter-support from the large Jewish community in Britain for their increasingly unpopular military actions during World War I. This is one of many jewish movements that are against zionism: True Torah Jews.

Some media try to portray the Gaza aggression as the clash of two equal powers between Israel and Hamas (from inside Gaza). However, while just few miles away Israelis live in a 1st class world, Gaza has been shut down from the outside world by Israel since 2006 and has been deliberately kept close to malnourishment (so they become weak and unable to fight back).

And this is how the very core of the Palestinian economy is destroyed by Israeli and US neoliberal policies.

Israel has top class military equipments, including nuclear weapons, while Hamas has to smuggle their weapons and small rockets into the open-air-prison of Gaza (smuggled from the Rafah Crossing in Egypt border). Israel has iron dome to shield itself from these rockets while Gaza, as we have seen, can be bombed easily.

And then there’s Egypt’s role in all of this. The rise of Hosni Mubarak to power in Egypt through CIA-engineered assassination of president Anwar Sadat in 1981, has made Egypt the bodyguard for Israel (US pays Egypt $1.3 billion annually to safeguard their bordering neighbour). When Mubarak stepped down in 2011 Egypt had a glimpse of democracy, with Mohamed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood was democratically elected as the new president. The problem was, Muslim Brotherhood had ties with Hamas and tend to be pro-Palestine, and so after a brief experiment with democracy Mohamed Morsi was ousted by a military coup and jailed for life. And the newly-installed dictator General Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi is, surprise surprise, pro-Israel.

In theory, Israel and Palestine have made several peace agreements in the past, with the Oslo Accord 1993 as the most serious one. Here’s Israel’s many violations of the Oslo Accord.

The quickest way to destroy a country is through a direct war and through destroying its economy. If you want Israel to be hold accountable for its violation of International Law, this is what you can do. There’s actually an app to help you with the boycott.

Just a feedback on whether boycott movement works: in 2009 Israeli exports was hit by European boycotts after Israel attacked Gaza.

What the world media say about Indonesian election

When reading any last-minute news about the election tonight, just remember that despite the claim of free press since 1998 Indonesia is ranked 132 out of 180 countries in World Press Freedom Index 2014, with limited news selections from either biased tycoon-owned media, or conspiracy theorists on their social media accounts / Kompasiana.

There’s often no distinction between facts, opinions and interpretation of facts (which is an opinion), where we often ended up reading viral info that are almost impossible to verify the authenticity. Black campaign, especially tonight, is spreading like wildfire.

Don’t buy into it, be much smarter than that. Instead, here’s what some of the most respected media from around the world have to say about tomorrow’s election, to help us have a better judgement:

The Guardian

Al Jazeera English (video report)

Bloomberg

The Economist

Mother Jones

WikiLeaks Cable

The New York Times

South China Morning Post

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Time Magazine

The Wall Street Journal

Financial Times

Foreign Policy

And concluded by the ever brilliant

New Mandala

Indonesian presidential election: the candidates in a nutshell

The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him – Niccolo Machiavelli

Remember that by voting for 👆Prabowo or ✌️Jokowi, we’re not only voting for the presidential candidate but also their coalition. Here’s 10 pointers to consider for tomorrow:

1. Among those behind Prabowo there’s the likes of Hatta Rajasa, Aburizal Bakrie and PKS. So for example if you want Ical to be the main minister (as per their coalition arrangement) and PKS’ Tifatul Sembiring to potentially remains as Menkominfo, vote for Prabowo.

2. Among those behind Jokowi there’s the likes of JK, Anies Baswedan and Alwi Shihab. So for example if you want Anies Baswedan to potentially becomes education minister and Alwi Shihab potentially back as a minister, vote for Jokowi.

3. Despite their carefully-crafted populist image, both candidates still have an unavoidable list of “rent-seeking” businessmen’s interests behind them. It’s how democracy really works in the past 30 years, from Koch brothers in the US to Roman Abramovich in Russia, where they “purchase” national regulations that benefit their businesses and tend to win projects without tenders. Just look at the current richest person in Indonesia right now, and you’ll see why he jumped the wealth ladder during SBY’s presidency and was chosen to fill a strategic ministerial position.

4. Although both coalitions have Islamic party backing, their interpretation of Islam are slightly different. In Jokowi’s side there’s the slightly more liberal PKB with their Nahdlatul Ulama base. While in Prabowo’s side there’s PAN which inclined to a more conservative Muhammadiyah and PKS with its more hardline Wahhabi ideology, with PPP as the complicated exception.

5. Jokowi may be a proxy, or even a puppet, for Megawati. But the worse political godfather is arguably in Prabowo’s camp, in the name of Amien “poros tengah” Rais. Conversely, Prabowo is accused of being a human rights violator based on what happened in 1998, but if the accusation ever to be proven then his superior Wiranto (in Jokowi’s camp) should be prosecuted too due to his position during the “operasi mawar” and his role in Timor 1999. On that last note, if Jokowi wins, the riot 1998 case (on Wiranto) would likely to remain silenced. If Prabowo wins, the following cases would likely to remain untouched: riot 1998 (on Prabowo), Hajj fund corruption (Suryadharma Ali), beef import scandal (PKS), Lapindo brantas (Aburizal Bakrie), Oil Mafia (Hatta Rajasa), Bank Century (Demokrat).

6. When reading any news about the election, just remember that despite the claim of free press since 1998 Indonesia is ranked 132 out of 180 countries in World Press Freedom Index 2014, with limited news selections from either biased tycoon-owned media, or conspiracy theorists on their social media accounts / Kompasiana. Remember that opinions are not facts. An interpretation of facts is also an opinion, not a fact. And remember that even facts can be manipulated, e.g. All of these polling numbers that rarely disclose the data number of respondents and their demographic compositions that could reveal their bias.

7. Prabowo declares his commitment to continuing the programs of SBY’s government, which prompted the late official support from the Demokrat. This coincidentally includes how the ministerial positions are distributed among the coalition partners, while conversely Jokowi declares that he will appoint professionals in each posts. Hence, in short, if you like the way things are under SBY’s presidency, vote for Prabowo. If you want change, whether for the better or worse, vote for Jokowi.

8. As they say in Uganda, the flies may change but the shit remains the same. Remember that both coalitions still have some New Order regime people in it, a hint that Indonesia might not have a regime chance after all, only a “change of clothing.” This may explains why Suharto was never really prosecuted and why the truth about the dark history of our nation during the New Order (1965 coup, 1998 riot, etc) never truly revealed. For a comparison, there’s no Saddam’s people in the current Iraqi government and we wouldn’t dream of having Gaddafi’s people in the new Libyan government, both of whom were ousted and didn’t step down like Suharto or Mubarak.

9. Whoever you vote for, and whoever wins, the new president will inherit a tough budget and would likely to have a hard time in fully implementing his plans due to no majority seats in the parliament (353 seats for Prabowo camp, 207 seats for Jokowi camp), which would ensure another DPR freak shows. So this election outcome would probably not be the “quick fix our country urgently need”, but instead it’s another one step forward on a long and complicated journey.

10. But most importantly for me, for die hard supporters out there please win with humility and lose with dignity. And keep calm. There’s nothing more effective for a ruthless/incompetent leader, and nothing more disastrous for the majority of the people, than fiery blind followers. Be it Al Qaeda militants, Nazi soldiers, North Korean citizens or presidential supporters who worship their candidate as some kind of god who can do no wrong. Switch-on your bullshit alarm, always be critical to every candidate and for the love of our nation please don’t get easily provoked. With election outcome likely to be won in the tiniest of margins, high tension and clashes amid election result are highly possible.

Indonesian presidential election: When 9 July comes

He may not be a philosopher-king, but when 9 July comes I’ll vote for Jokowi. It’s not that I blindly adore him and got carried away by all of the PR-engineered hype of him, but because to me he’s a better option than the other candidate: a coalition of hardliners led by 3 psychopaths.

Let me explain what I meant by psychopaths. Psychopathy is defined as “a personality disorder characterised by enduring antisocial behavior, diminished empathy and remorse, and disinhibited or bold behaviour”, and each one of the main individuals in Prabowo’s camp, with their own problems, show these tendencies. First there’s Prabowo himself, an alleged human rights violator with mafia-esque short temper. Then there’s Hatta Rajasa as his VP, who’s involved in oil mafia (one of the biggest corruption acts in the fuel-subsidised country) and Aburizal Bakrie, who’s responsible for Lapindo mudflow disaster and who has a bad reputation in business, including that famous case where he duped Nat Rothschild.

Behind them lies 3 Muslim hardliner parties, where PPP’s chief Suryadharma Ali is involved in Hajj fund corruption scandal, PKS (a Wahhabi hardliner) is guilty of beef import corruption scandal that made beef prices expensive in Indonesia, and PAN with godfather Amien “poros tengah” Rais arguably the most backstabbing politician in the republic. Speaking of hardliners, the religious thugs FPI and “former” Jakarta gangster Hercules also declares their support for Prabowo, with the latter even runs Prabowo’s campaign operations on the street levels together with other network of gangsters. It seems that all the crooks and the thugs somehow found each others in this coalition.

Furthermore, Prabowo’s coalition is fundamentally based on money politics and political contract that ensures ministerial and province-level jobs are distributed among the parties (with Golkar party reportedly will get 7 ministerial positions). This is the same kind of disaster occurring right now in the incumbent Yudhoyono’s cabinet, where the majority of ministerial positions are not filled by professionals but rather controlled by coalition party members, which as a result our internet is among the slowest in the world and our once mighty sports national teams now’s a joke, to name just two cases out of many. And FYI the absolute majority of Yudhoyono’s current coalition members are all in Prabowo camp, with Jokowi’s PDI-P serves as an opposition party.

By contrast, Jokowi promises that if he gets elected all of the ministerial positions will be filled by professionals only (though some degree of ministerial post distribution among his coalition partners is still highly expected). Moreover, I like the people in his campaign team, with the likes of Anies Baswedan (an education reformer) and Alwi Shihab (a brilliant ex minister). His coalition’s economic plans is also more realistic compared with the unrealistically ambitious plan by Prabowo’s coalition who will increase the country’s debt-to-GDP level from around 28% right now to 50% to pay for all of their plans, but then at the same time vow to pay-off all of Indonesia’s debts (down to 0% of debt-to-GDP) by 2019, exactly the time his potential 1st term would have ended.

Moreover, Jokowi’s nomination of Jusuf Kalla (JK) as his running mate helps, just look at the incumbent Yudhoyono’s presidency when JK was his VP: his 1st term was highlighted with great reforms, swift decisions and conflict solutions; which granted Yudhoyono with high approval ratings and re-election. But then he dumped JK as his no 2, and his 2nd term has since regarded as a national joke with all the religious violence, damn slow decisions and the worse bunch of ministers.

Just like the way Jokowi runs his governorship of Jakarta – where his no 2 man Basuki Tjahaja Purnama runs the city while Jokowi tours around and meet the people (the well-known “blusukan” style) – as far as I’m concern Jokowi can do blusukan for 5 years if he needs to, while JK and the professional ministers run the country.

Indeed, if we’re talking solely about the individual, I have doubts with Jokowi. His rise to power was too damn quick: he hasn’t finished his term as the mayor of Solo before PDI-P party endorse him to run for Jakarta governorship, and he’s only 1 1/2 years on the job as Jakarta’s governor before PDI-P took his momentum and hype and endorse him as a presidential candidate. He may be fresh and idealistic but he hasn’t really been tested yet, he might be out of depths in high politics, while it is still remains unknown how big of an influence the grande dame Megawati has over her alleged puppet. And of course, Jokowi is not that clean either. Behind him, just like behind Prabowo, still lies the interests of “rent-seeking” businessmen, 3 of whom even allegedly pay for all of Jokowi’s top notch PR campaign.

Nevertheless, when 9 July election day comes the choice is pretty obvious for me: voting for Jokowi is indeed a gamble, but I’d rather vote for a coalition of a puppet backed by professionals than a coalition led by 3 psychopaths backed by troubled hardliners.

The ugly truth on how to become wealthy

“Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia” by Joe Studwell

What makes a billionaire? When I was a teenager I voraciously read endless business and personal finance books from ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ Series and ‘Think and Grow Rich’, to the psychology of millionaires, to the big-ass reference ‘Business: the ultimate resource’, while closely following Forbes billionaire list. I was obsessed on learning what they’re doing to earn a place in that list, read their biographies extensively and dreamt that someday somehow I too could make it into the list.

Among those on the list, at one hand there’s a group of billionaires that Donald Trump called “the lucky sperm club”, those who were born into an already wealthy dynasty like the billionaire children of Wall-Mart founder Sam Walton. On the other hand there are those extra ordinary people who build their businesses from their dorm room or garage like Bill Gates and Michael Dell, or stories of ordinary professionals that left their day job to build Coffee Republic and The Body Shop, among others, or those who started their business only after they got fired from their job like Michael Bloomberg.

And of course there’s the ultimate entrepreneur Richard Branson, who has built around 350 diverse companies under one brand name Virgin. Branson and others got me convinced that getting the right idea at the right time and place, combined with all the right entrepreneurial zest are the only recipe for success. But what these business books didn’t tell us is what the book ‘Fooled by Randomness’ describe as “survivorship bias”, where numerous failed attempts in the same narrow field by many other people are left unexposed, hence these stories only biased towards the survivors of the game.

That might partly explain why these billionaires are so extra ordinary. But what makes them really different from the rest of the herd? Given the same time, space, education and opportunity would anyone be as successful as them? Could anyone copy what these billionaires do in another countries? As I grew older the answer became clearer: not really.

And then reality check kicks in. As an Asian, watching the news about the “untouchable” moguls-turn-politicians and reading about the insanely rich conglomerates with a relatively unknown company(ies) before they became wealthy, are all just an everyday routine. It doesn’t add up, it doesn’t make sense. Until I read ‘Asian Godfathers.’

So what makes a billionaire? The book explains how far political and economic landscape of a country can be pushed to the limit, to play a highly significant factor in shaping a “friendly business environment”, though “friendly” is subject to whom enjoy it the most.

This is the ugly truth of most of the so-called Godfathers’ wealth in South East Asia. Most get a monopoly in certain business fields by their close and personal links in political power, some even get a position in politics, and it’s not uncommon for these Godfathers to pay for certain regulations to be designed for their huge benefit.

The book exquisitely describes the socio-political landscape of the South East Asian countries, through a detailed historical account. How these countries operate during colonial times, the political and economic structures during their independence and how it is gradually changed and shaped into the countries we know now, one regulation change at a time.

The book also briefly describes the socio-political landscape of Europe and the US for a relative comparison, which rings a bell to my ear with the book ‘Death of the Banker’ – the stories of the wealthy financial dynasties of the Morgans, the Rothschilds, and the like, who are wealthy beyond measure at their time – with a conclusion that they, just like the Asian Godfathers, also generate their wealth through their political and economic leverage.

In the end, having the right idea at the right time and place, with the right entrepreneurial zest are still crucially important. But the business environment in which we conduct business in plays a huge factor on becoming a billionaire, especially when the rules, regulations, taxes and tariffs are all in favour to boost your business and/or kill your competitions.

Read this book if you want to know the history of South East Asian countries in a more practical way, the complicated political stories, the ugly truth about its business environment and why these countries developed to become the way they are now. Simply impressive.

A Rosetta Stone on the complex theological debate during the Golden Age of Islam

“Averroes: On the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy” by George F. Hourani

Averroes, also known as Ibn Rushd, was a legal scholar of the Maliki school of Islamic law. He inspired St Thomas Aquinas and many Muslim, Catholic and Jewish scholars alike, while at the same time regarded as the “founding father of secular thought in Europe.” He is the only Muslim painted in the Sistine Chapel (the guy with the turban in the “Scuola di Atene” painting), and grouped by Dante in his 14th century masterpiece “Divine Comedy” among great philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle.

Famous for bringing back the almost vanished teachings of Aristotle through his commentary work, he was trained in law, medicine and philosophy, and became the chief judge of Cordoba during the Golden Age of inventions in the Muslim world in the 12th century (that brought us al-gebra, al-chemy, al-gorithm among many others).

His life story alone reveals so much about the lost Islamic history and the rich culture Muslims had way before the Renaissance (which started to civilise the West 2 centuries later). And his resulting thinkings are the product of the advanced knowledge during that Islamic Golden Age, which would make today’s Islamic culture (with de-facto caliphate of the descendants of Muhhamad bin Saud and Abdul-Wahhab) looks medieval and simplistic by comparison. But yet, just like Ibn Al-Haytam who wrote the theory of gravity 600 years before Isaac Newton, and Al-Tusi and Al-Gazali whose work on free-market economy were copied by Adam Smith, the work of Averroes remains unknown in our modern world.

This well-researched book (written in 1960) is the attempt to bring back the stories of the complex theological debates between Muslim scholars during the Golden Age of Islam. The book is divided into 3 parts: 1.) The fascinating introduction that sets the intellectual scene of c. 10-12th century Muslim world. 2.) the translation on Averroes’ own writings. 3.) the brilliant elaborating notes on the translation. And central to all of this is Averroes’ superb thoughts on the question of the era – the harmony of religion and philosophy – that may have already settled the age-old debate between religion and philosophy around 900 years ago.

An impressively researched book, with a relaxed style of writting and humour that makes it a delightful read

“Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine” by Scott Korb

Life in year one provides the historical context on what daily life was like in the 1st century Palestine under the Roman Empire control, from 5 BC (which is believed to be the year Jesus was born) until 70 AD (the year the Romans destroyed Jerusalem’s Second Temple).

This isn’t a book about Jesus though, instead it’s more about his neighbours, his fellow Bethlehemite and Nazarene, the politics and economics in his area, the origin of the language he uses (a form of Greek known as Koine), the food, the health, the local customs, the traditions, the war and the death, even the way people flirt back then. I’m absolutely hooked, a really good read.

Pizza analogy for Israel-Palestine peace process

You have a whole pan of pizza, and you’re going to eat it. But then a stranger suddenly comes and claim that your pizza is his pizza, and take them all.

You naturally gets angry and start fighting back and managed to get only 2 slice out of the bunch, when other people arrived at the scene and mediate both of you. These people claim to be neutral but they are in fact that guy’s cousin and his friends.

And so a discussion takes place to determine who’s the rightful owner of the pizza. But while the conversation is ongoing that guy is starting to eat your pizzas slowly, while still clinging on the rest of the pan.

When confronted, he shouts back and claim his right to eat your pizza because he owns the rest of the pan, and he demands recognition from others that the pan that he holds is rightfully his.

Meanwhile, his cousin happens to be the biggest bully in the neighbourhood and he and his friends declare their undying support for this guy and his “right” to hang on to the whole pizza pan, ignoring the simple fact that the pizza is originally yours.

That is Israel-Palestine peace process in a nutshell.