Monday, 19 March 2018

Book review: The perfect introduction to Stoicism

"The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living" by Ryan Holiday

Stoicism is not a religion. In religion the sacred texts lay out the ideal way of life and guide us to try our best to live a sinless (perfect) life. Stoicism sees the world completely the opposite, it acknowledges the harsh realities of life, the chaotic mess of the world that is filled with imperfections. And instead of demanding us to live up to a certain perfect standard, it gives us the tools to handle the real broken situations on the ground.

Founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in 3rd century BC, this branch of Greek philosophy got big in the Roman Empire, with its principle philosophers of Epictetus, Seneca, and ultimately Marcus Aurelius with his most-quoted memoir “Meditations.” The author of this book, Ryan Holiday, reads and re-reads Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations for 100+ times, which was the main reason why I choose this book as the 1st book I read on Stoicism.

At its core Stoicism gives us clarity on what we can and can’t control. It teaches us that although we can’t control what happen to us, we can control our perceptions about it. It teaches us that even though we can’t control how we feel, we can control how we react to it. It teaches us that all emotions are generated from within ourselves, and what comes out from us can be controlled by us.

As Ryan Holiday sums it up “[t]he three most essential parts of Stoic philosophy worth carrying with you every day, into every decision: Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control.” Indeed, focus on the things that we can control, as Holiday elaborate “[i]f we can focus on making clear what parts of our day are within our control and what parts are not, we will not only be happier, we will have a distinct advantage over other people who fail to realize they are fighting an unwinnable battle.”

And suddenly the things that matter and the things that are insignificant become abundantly obvious. If we spend less/no time on the things that don’t matter and won’t make any difference, we will have more time for the things that we do have an influence over. Getting emotional over an injustice, for example, is being human. But unless we direct our grievances to something that fix or expose the injustice, getting overly emotional about it with no action won’t do any good. Another example is when we get ill. Don’t moan about the illness, but focus on how to cure it: figure out what the illness is, what’s the cure, and focus on the curing process. Dwelling on how ill you are won’t accomplish anything.

This simple but powerful philosophy is what kept Nelson Mandela sane during his 27 years in prison, as he reads and re-reads Marcus Aurelius’ book “Meditations” in Robben Island. Bill Clinton also read “Meditations” once a year, while Thomas Jefferson had a copy of Epictetus’ book “Discourses” on his bedside. Furthermore, Stoicism is also highly popular among Silicon Valley people and dilligently used to set the mental state of numerous pro athletes. And reading Seneca’s “Letters From a Stoic” was what prevented Tim Ferriss from killing himself during his darkest period of time, and turned his life around into becoming a successful author and investor, among others.

Indeed, Stoicism is not a religion, but if it were its 3 main gospels are Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditation”, Epictetus’ “Discourses” and Seneca’s “Letters from a Stoic.”

And being the ultimate compilation of Stoic wisdom, if Stoicism is a religion this book would be its book of hadiths, the book that compile the sayings of the prophet(s). It spreads over 366 mini chapters that comprise a year, which makes it easy to digest and can be learned one day at a time. In fact, this is the first time that I re-read a book straight after I finish reading it cover-to-cover, which I digest the 2nd cycle of reading according to the date of the year, one chapter each morning as a part of a new daily routine.

I could not recommend Stoicism enough, and this book is a perfect introduction to it.

For more reviews, please visit my book review page on Amazon

Monday, 5 February 2018

Book review: A vital book to understand political Islam

This is an absolute important book to understand today's current affairs, which heavily linked with the rise of Islamic terrorism. The book is written by an ex-CIA analyst stationed in the Middle East, whom possess an incredible clarity over the geopolitics dynamics on the ground.

The premise of this book is to picture a world without Islam. How different it would have been, how the butterfly effects that never happened would turned out to be, and it's very sobering. This, in effect, becomes a book about the history of the world that has nothing to do with Islam.

Chapter 2 and 3 cover the antagonism between Rome and Constantinople, which created the divisions between Western Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, with very extensive details that could make this book easily becomes the history of the split within the Christian powers. This scism, according to Graham E. Fuller, was the predecessor of today's East's (especially Russia's) resentment towards the West.

The proceeding chapters cover pretty much every single problematic interactions with Islam in the world, including the best analysis on the current problem immigrant Muslims have in Europe, the best statistics-heavy analysis on the Hindu-Muslim violence in India, including the root-cause of the tension in Kashmir, and why Muslims in America are generally more established compared with their European counterparts.

The book also covers Muslim-China relationship, including the root-cause of today's tension in north west China till this day, and the fact that Muslims built the capital Beijing. Chapter 12 in particular is a masterpiece, analysing straight to the heart of the world's problem today. And like most books analysing political Islam, this book also covers the complex problem in Israel-Palestine, which according to Fuller wasn't rooted with Islam, but with Western European persecution of European Jews.

This is the perfect book to give to Islamophobic or anti-theists who think that religion is always the underlying problem. It is also a perfect book to read to understand the arguments about state and religion, and how religion is being used for political gains. Its conclusion gives the best answer to the immediate problems arises in the Middle East. But judging from the reason why the US is in the Middle East to begin with, these brilliant solutions would probably go unnoticed.

Never in my life that I have been so wrong about judging a book by its cover (and title). When purchasing the book I intended to read what the Islamophobics are saying about the religion, but right from the first couple of paragraphs I was in for a surprise. I did not even suspect this to be a very comprehensive book. But oh I have never been this happy to be dead wrong!

For more reviews, please visit my book review page on Amazon

Thursday, 18 January 2018

We need to talk about cryptomania

Every market crash is sparked by a trigger. Every trigger is preceded by a mania. Every mania began as an overshoot optimism. And every optimism started off by a justifying reason to be positive.

In 1880s the optimism was the invention of US railways. In 1920s the radio and motorcar companies. In 1980s the invention of microcomputers. In 1990s the optimism was the internet. In 2000s a complex invention of derivatives. And in 2010s? It's the blockchain technology and its cryptocurrencies.

People in every era always say that this time is different, and they rightly point out at the new technology being invented. But the market consist of people who collectively decide the direction of the market, and people are fundamentally irrational. Throughout history human behaviour has not changed a bit since the 1st ancient market crash during the Roman Empire era, they’re still overly greedy at the optimism, and overly fearful at the sight of a collapse.

Just as George Soros explained in his book The Alchemy of Finance: "when events have thinking participants, the subject matter is no longer confined to facts but also includes the participants' perceptions. The chain causation does not lead directly from fact to fact but from fact to perception and from perception to fact."

Hence, when a new invention caught the exuberant eyes optimism quickly turns into an offshoot, a bubble.

It took approximately 5 to 7 years for each of the new inventions of 1880s, 1920s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s to turn into an overall market bubble, which then entered into a mania phase for 1 to 2 years before they respectively crashed in 1893, 1929, 1987, 2000, 2008.

Likewise, at first it took Bitcoin 1789 days from 2008-2017 to increase its price from $0 to $1000. But when the optimism grows, $1000 quickly rise into $5000 in half a year in 2017. And then we enter the overshoot optimism phase, that’s when the exuberant speculators come in: it took 13 days to rise from $6000 to $7000 in October 2017, 14 days from $7000 to $8000, 9 days from $8000 to $9000, 2 days from $9000 to $10,000, less than 1 day from $10,000 to $11000, 6 days from $11,000 to $12,000, a whopping 17 hours from $12,000 to $13,000, 4 hours from $13,000 to $14,000, 10 hours from $14,000 to $15,000, 5 hours from $15,000 to $16,000 and it hover around at nearly $20,000 before it fell down and began to be slightly saturated.

As Bitcoin started to get saturated, other cryptocurrencies began to rise too, everything from the serious like Ethereum and Ripple, to the ridiculous like CryptoKitties, DogeCoin and Okoin, to the bizarre like Venezuela's Petro.

And suddenly everybody everywhere can’t stop talking about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Every single Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) is greeted in the same manner as every Initial Public Offering (IPO) of any internet company in 1990s, or when people in 1720s all rushing to buy the South Sea Company's stock: the price immediately shoots up no manner what their underlying is. In a true bubble manner Long Island Iced Tea change their name to have the word "blockchain" in it and as a result enjoyed an astronomical rise in share price (+200%), even though they still sells iced tea and has nothing to do with blockchain. Even Kodak is rising from the dead, to be a cryptocurrency company.

Indeed, a lot of companies have began to divert away from their core business to trade cryptocurrencies. This is exactly what happened in Japan 1980s with their Zaitech invention, where at the height of the bubble companies no longer gain their profits from their core work but from the practice of Zaitech and speculating on their Eigyo Tokkin account in the market, just like a steel company named Hanwa who raised over ¥4 trillion from speculating in the market (which is 20 times larger than their gains from their core business).

This, right here, is unmistakably signs of the mania phase of the bubble. This situation is not that different than the height of the 1920s stock market bubble described by Bernard Baruch: “taxi drivers told you what to buy. The shoeshine boy could give you a summary of the day’s financial news as he worked with rag and polish. An old beggar who regularly patrolled the street in front of my office now gave me tips and, I suppose, spent the money I and others gave him in the market. My cook had a brokerage account and followed the ticker closely. Her paper profits were quickly blown away in the gale of 1929.”

True to any mania phase, in the middle of the hype there's opportunity for scams. Because cryptocurrency is independent and the industry has no proper regulation yet, it is truly a Wild West out there. All the oldest dirty tricks in the book - from the tricks used by John Law and Jesse Livermore, to Heinze and Morse, to Ivan Boesky - are all back.

However, while we’re quite possibly at the peak of the bubble, the fact remains: every crash always have to be sparked by a trigger. And while Tulipomania 1630s finally crashed after a rumor spread about a break of war in Nice, France (which people afraid could spread to the Netherlands), and while the derivatives-fueled subprime mortgage market crash was inevitable once the subprime mortgage borrowers all defaulted in the beginning of 2007, in the crypto world the trigger is far less visible and far less obvious. So this time it really is different.

Of all the possible risks in cryptocurrency, exchange risk come first in mind, with the likes of Mt Gox and Bitconnect, among many others, have famously been spectacularly hacked (or stolen by its owners). But perhaps the biggest thread comes in the form of regulatory risk. China, Japan and South Korea trading ban in this early January 2018 have sent enough danger alert to the crypto market and have caused several crashes.

But still, as we have witnessed several times in 2017, every time a crash comes, another willing buyers quickly jack the price back up, and even rising the price even more towards new record high. Hence the argument by crypto supporters, that this unregulated Wild West always self-sustain itself and will never crash. 

So, are all the bubble riders justified? Maybe. As long as the bubble is still developing there’s no reason not to consciously, and carefully, participating for a neat profit. Just make sure that we don’t become the greater fool.

Nevertheless, just like in every market bubble, a [healthy] correction is eventually needed for the new invention to "return to the mean", the "normal" price, before its true function can perform well in a healthy environment. The Black Friday crash 1929 wiped out the many amateur motorcar companies and left us with the likes of General Motors and Chrysler. Out of the Black Monday 1987 survivors we have Microsoft. The crash wiped out all the frauds and half-baked companies, and left us with Google, Apple and Amazon. Because while the mania was insane, the technology behind it (the internet) had a promising future. The railway, motorcar, microcomputer and even derivatives have also become a vital part of our modern society.

Likewise, while cryptomania is arguably starting to get out of control, the technology behind it (the blockchain) has a very promising future. But before we can reach the "normal" phase, the market will eventually need to wipe out the speculators, the scammers, and the amateur hitchhikers.

So the million dollar question then becomes this, when will the healthy correction going to take place? And what will cause it? It is very interesting to watch, because like a good movie nobody knows where the plot of this story is heading.

Further reading on the enigma of market crash

Saturday, 16 December 2017

100 things I learned and did in 2017

  1. Hot damn, it’s already that time of the year again and 2017 is almost over! And what a crazy ride it has been, the North Korean nuclear threats, Zimbabwe’s [not a] military coup, Saudi Crown Prince offensives, Pakistan’s Fontgate, Prince Harry’s engagement to Rachel Zane, King of the North did it with his aunt, insane Bitcoin rally, the floodgate #MeToo has opened, Arsène Wenger contract extension at the very last minute, and I haven’t even mentioned the numerous shits Trump did.
  2. More than 70% of our planet's surface are covered by the oceans, but yet till this day we have only explored less than 5% of the ocean.
  3. In Michelangelo's painting "The Creation of Adam" the angels and the God who touch David's fingers were all inside of a brain. It took 500 years for someone to notice this in the painting, and the hidden message is that the divine gift does not come from a higher power, but from our own minds.
  4. The founder of South Korean giant Lotte, Shin Kyuk-ho, gave his company's name from a character from a novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that he loved so much, Charlotte. Hence, the name of the company was taken from the last 4 letters of Charlotte.
  5. Have you ever wondered why almost every Vietnamese's last name are Nguyen? As it turns out it all started by Minh Mang emperor, whom during his 50 years life had 78 sons and 64 daughters. Now this is where it gets interesting: his 1st son had 64 children, his 3rd son had 144 children, his 4th son had 74 children, his 9th son had 62 children, his 37th son had 61 children. Not to mention the rest of his children who also had children of their own.
  6. But the record for the most children born to one woman belongs to Valentina Vassilyeva from Shuya, Russia. She gave birth to a total of 69 children in 27 births between 1725 and 1765, which consist of 16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quadruplets. Holy crap.
  7. Do you know why football jersey number designate certain number to a position? For example no 1 goalkeeper, 2 normally for right back, 11 for left winger, and 9 for central striker? Because when jersey numbers were first made compulsory by the FA in 1939, the common formation was 2-3-5 and in the team sheet it would look like this (including goalkeeper): 1 ; 2,3 ; 4,5,6 ; 7,8,9,10,11. Meanwhile, football and rugby went their separate ways on 8 December 1863, at 7 PM, at a meeting at the Freemason's Tavern in Lincoln's Inn Fields in London, where the divided participants on the laws of the game disputed over hacking, that is, whether kicking opponents in the shins should be allowed or not.
  8. The oldest verified alphabet is the Phoenician alphabet (from c. 1050 BC). It is also the first widely used alphabet, which formed the basis of the Latin alphabet that is used in many parts of the world today.
  9. The 2nd atomic bomb, the Fat Man, wasn't intended to bomb Nagasaki. The chosen city was originally Kokura, but on that day 9 August 1945 a dense cloud covered Kokura. And the plane, after circling three times in vain and almost low in fuel, then decided to change course to Nagasaki. Hence, in Japan there's a phrase “the luck of Kokura."
  10. Viagra was first created to cure angina. But the drug's developer noticed some "side effects", which then became the main selling point of the drug. So I guess it's safe to say: have a chest pain? Get an erection!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Israel’s Puppet

According to UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, Jerusalem was to be an international area managed under UN supervision, due to the Holy Sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Israeli government, however, is very clear about claiming Jerusalem as their capital city: today Israel’s PM office, the parliament, the high courts, and most government ministries reside in [west] Jerusalem.

But UN General Assembly Resolution 478 make it clear that Israeli occupation on east Jerusalem (officially owned by Jordan) after the 1967 war is illegal, and thus Jerusalem cannot be their capital city. Hence, the embassies of other countries are all in Tel Aviv, the de jure capital city.

Then, enter Donald Trump. The US president has just announced that he is going to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, potentially igniting yet another Trump fire in the world.

Previously, in 1995 US Congress passed a law to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by 1999, but provided a 6 month waiver that can be constantly renewed, which every single president has renewed ever since, including Trump himself on June 2017. So what’s the difference now? Why on earth would he do the thing that analysts say as a political suicide with no upside?

The most immediate answer is Trump is appealing to his base of evangelicals and pro-Israel American Jews. But there's more to it. Just few days ago former national security adviser Michael Flynn confirmed that Donald Trump’s inner circle colluded with a foreign government before entering power. The twist was, it was not Russia as everyone had expected (not directly anyway), but Israel. This did not cause an uproar as it should, because it’s Israel, the little brother. But this move to Jerusalem is the direct result of this illegal collusion.

Trump knows that moving the US embassy to Jerusalem will practically put a death sentence on the “peace process”, at the loss of the Palestinians and at a huge gain for the Israeli government. And that’s the whole point. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never gives a shit about the two-state solution, he keeps on building illegal settlements in east Jerusalem (some of which were indirectly funded by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner) while “trying to negotiate” with the Palestinians, and now he seems to be enjoying his return on investment on Trump.

It is a sign of a demise when the empire that used to have “friendly dictators” across the globe to protect their interests, now have a leader who himself is a puppet to another state.

Further readings:

A Guide to the dispute over Jerusalem and Israel’s capital [Bloomberg QuickTake]

A good long read to understand the big context [Informed Comments / Juan Cole]

An Israeli dream might come true if Trump declares Jerusalem the capital - but so will an Arab nightmare [The Independent / Robert Fisk]

What a US embassy in Jerusalem means to Palestinians [Al Jazeera English / Farah Najjar]

World leaders condemn Trump's Jerusalem plan [Euronews / Alasdair Sandford]

Netanyahu left without any cards to play [Al Monitor / Akiva Eldar]

The Jerusalem announcement won't really hurt America's Arab alliances [The Atlantic / Shadi Hamid]

Is Sheldon Adelson behind Trump’s decision on Jerusalem [+972 Mag / Eli Clifton]

A matter of debate: the sickest, and scariest, reason why Donald Trump is moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, is to cater the end-of-days scenario long dreamed by his far-right followers [Twitter / Diana Butler Bass]

Some facts about Israel that you may not know [Edwin Setiadi]

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Inbox Zero

This post was originally written for my own self-reflection and amusement, during the Eid holiday (June) 2017. I had so much fun writing it, and re-reading it, that I thought screw it let’s post this! It's been edited for context and to hide the names of the unfortunate people mentioned here

Maybe it was the spirit of cleansing in Ramadan or the Netflix documentary Minimalism that I recently watched. But during this Eid holiday I've been massively cleaning up my e-mail inboxes, to create my own definition of Inbox Zero. That is, neatly archiving the important e-mails into several folders, deleting the junks, following-up the forgotten, with the target of having no e-mail in the main inbox whatsoever.

The objective is pretty simple, with a clean and organised inbox (or analogically a clean and organised room, house, workspace, mobile phone app arrangement, etc) we'll have a clear picture of our priorities. We can then easily get rid of the things that aren't important, and clear up the time and space for those that should be a priority and require a dedicated focus.

Now, when I first started to clean up my e-mails it was supposed to be a normal task, but something happened along the way: I began to read my old e-mails. And in the age when WhatsApp, Line, Instagram, Twitter, Path, Facebook, etc haven’t been invented yet, we sure talk a lot in e-mails, where nothing was instant and we had to make effort to have a proper conversation to tell our stories to friends and family.

The thing is about our hopes and fears is that we seldom get the immediate answer to our questions, and instead we often grow into the answers without fully realising it. But as I re-read around 13 years worth of conversations, receipts, concert tickets, travel itineraries, picture video attachments, and trashy jokes, I got the chance to re-live the many different lives I once had, reading my (and my friends's and family's) hopes and fears, with the full advantage of knowing exactly what's going to happen after that. And it was so much fun.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Setya Novanto

Dibalik cara murahan nya Setnov untuk ngehindar dari KPK, dibalik becandaan-becandaan yang akhirnya bisa menyatukan semua orang Indonesia tanpa batasan SARA, ada figur politik yang lagi nyerang Setnov karena kapasitas nya sebagai ketua umum Golkar yang ngebawa Golkar melipir ke kubu Jokowi.

Dibalik meme-meme kocak fortuner nabrak, 45km/jam, tiang listrik (maaf, tiang lampu), benjolan bapao, dll, ada politisi yang “memberi ijin” ke KPK untuk ngejar Setnov, yang terus-terusan ngomong Setnov harus menghormati hukum, yang lagi all out di media bilang sakit Setnov bohong, yang bilang Golkar harus mengadakan munas untuk milih ketua umum baru.

End game nya? Re-gain control over Golkar / posisi ketua umum Golkar / proxy nya dia dapetin posisi ketua umum Golkar, supaya politisi ini ada leverage ke presiden kita di dalam Koalisi Indonesia Hebat. But don’t judge too quickly, the reason that this antagonist politician bisa sampe rise to be a villain kayak gini juga karena salah nya Jokowi yang shut him down secara kasar.

So just like in the TV series Billions, there are no clear good or bad guys, just a bunch of ******** fighting each other. Satu kubu conducting a serious political attack, dilawan sama an equally serious defense strategy yang di backing sama the scariest people in the country.

Now, I don’t like Setnov, the guy I called Little Fingers, he’s the closest thing to an Indonesian “concierge of crime” (yes, Blacklist). And ceteris paribus, dia harus ditangkep and bring down everyone with him. Tapi on the other hand, kalo Setnov beneran tumbang, the political map bakal jadi berantakan, di tahun-tahun vital sebelum pilpres (an unnecessary chaos).

So how will it possibly end? Now that, is the real juicy story dibalik drama Setnov.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Book review: The short stories of almost everything

This is an alternative way to look at history, through short stories filled with myths, urban legends, folktales, propaganda, and of course - the main theme of the book - the unfiltered and uncompromising truths.

Eduardo Galeano is a man who seems to have seen it all and read them all, and it shows in the wide range of knowledge and the depths of understanding required for him to be able to write 600 short summaries of nearly everything, without having to lose the essential key points.

The book covers so many stories of the voiceless and the forgotten people, from indigenous people wiped out by their colonial rulers, the oppressed ethnic minorities, the lowest caste, to the women in chauvinistic society.

It also covers the story of almost every significant personality in our history. Everyone, including authors like Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Robinson Crusoe. Inventors like Thomas Alva Edison, Nikola Tesla. Civil rights activist such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King jr. Or revolutionary leaders like Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Book review: How the beast works

"The Global Minotaur: America, Europe and the future of the global economy" by Yanis Varoufakis

There are many books that discussed how Germany and Japan were re-built, using the protectionist formula that successfully built the British Empire and the US economy, and how successful these two countries have since become. But this is the first time that anyone has explained why Germany and Japan were specifically re-built by the US, and why they need these two countries to become a developed nation: as the two pillars of the Global Plan (the Bretton Woods system 1945-1971), to act as the shock absorbents if the American economy took one of its many periodic downturns from the trade surplus against everyone.

From this basis the book then elaborate on the surplus recycling mechanism that the world eventually used, which ignored the original idea of surplus recycling mechanism put forward by John Maynard Keynes, that would balance out global trade imbalances more fairly and evenly.

The book then gives the best explanation on Petrodollar recycling mechanism, which author Yanis Varoufakis refer as the Global Minotaur period, a period when Global Minotaur really took off (from when Nixon abolished the Gold Standard in 1971 - until the crash of 2008), named after the Cretan mythology creature that has to be given a tribute of human flesh to stay alive, and able to create peace in the region as long as the sacrificing foreign tributes keep on coming.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Book review: One of the most innovative person in Silicon Valley has a very interesting life story

"Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future" by Ashlee Vance

There was a time when Elon Musk lived in South Africa, reads 2 books a day, and was being bullied. A time when he started off backpacking then living in Canada, and ended up nearly pursuing a PhD at Stanford before dropping it to pursue an opportunity in a new trend called the internet. There was also a time when he's trying to make it in Silicon Valley but got back stabbed, a time when he backstabbed people. There was a time when he got fired from his job during his honeymoon, and years later when he finally take a vacation he almost died of malaria.

Indeed, Elon Musk has a very interesting life story, and his story is brilliantly captured by author Ashlee Vance in this gripping book, the most engaging biography I've ever read since Richard Branson's autobiography Losing my Virginity.

According to neuropsychologists Musk’s behavior closely resembles someone who is profoundly gifted: "These are people who in childhood exhibit exceptional intellectual depth and max out IQ tests. It’s not uncommon for these children to look out into the world and find flaws—glitches in the system—and construct logical paths in their minds to fix them."

And fix them he did. Nothing that he does is actually a groundbreaking idea like Thomas Edison's lightbulb or Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, but he took the most obvious idea (like a failed electric car industry) and make some thinkering and changes to make them work brilliantly and more efficiently. Musk does not implement how a business usually done, but instead he change the methods completely.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Book review: The summary of every single Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting between 1986 and 2015

Warren Buffett never writes a book. Instead, he delivers his wisdom through 4 mediums: Berkshire Hathaway annual meetings, his op-ed pieces, his TV interviews and his letter to shareholders. This book is about the 1st medium.

Often dubbed the Woodstock of Capitalism, Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting have grown significantly in attendance size from only half a dozen people in 1970s, to 300 in 1986, 1000 people in 1989, 10,000 people in 2001, and up to 45,000 people in 2013.

Present in every single one of these meetings between 1986-2015 is Daniel Pecaut, which later joined by his longtime business partner Corey Wrenn. This book is the accumulation of their note taking from those meetings, 30 years worth of the shareholders' meetings, which they summarized into 30 short chapters that contain only the gold, the best gems worthy of a university education.

Just like any company's annual meeting, it is first and foremost filled with the discussion of their holdings and its issues. With their usual wit and wisdom, Warren Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger provide a very open reasoning of why they purchase a particular company (including the methods they use to calculate the values), explain us the way they solve or avoid any problems that arise, and lay out their detailed-enough plans for the future for these companies. The 2014 chapter in particular gives a great summary of the inner workings of Berkshire Hathaway and Buffett's and Munger's thought process, which is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Friday, 28 July 2017

There’s such thing as atheist extremists

Just like religion, the problem with atheism is not the [non] religion but the people. For me atheists people who hold dear the principles of harmony, do good to other and apply the Golden Rule, are acting like a good Christians and good Muslims. It's the right kind of atheism.

But just like in any religion, there are those who are badmouthing even insulting other religions, and force people to see everything from their point of view / scripture / principles / version of religion.

This also applies to atheism. So the argument is not about religion vs non religion, but it's about persuading people to subscribe to their point of view. To me, this is the definition of extremists. And there's such thing as atheist extremists.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Book review: A very smart book, on a passionately entertaining subject

"Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics" by Jonathan Wilson

This is the fascinating long history of the Great Game, from the tactical perspectives and the philosophies that come with them.

The book began right from where it all started: the meeting organised by H.C. Malden of Godalming, Surrey, in his Cambridge rooms in 1848, which summons university representatives of Harrow, Eaton, Shrewsbury, Winchester, Rugby, and 2 non-public schoolboys, to create the first unified Laws of the Game, the "Cambridge Rules." The rules then spread around the world in the next few decades via British men of various occupations, blended in with the local culture and create distinctively local style of play, until it became a truly global phenomenon in the 20th century.

The title of the book brilliantly captures this phenomenon, through the evolution of its formation from the pyramid-like shape 2-3-5 in the early days, to 3-2-5, 4-2-4, 4-4-2 to the inverted pyramid shape 4-5-1 and even 4-6-0 that several teams use today, complete with all the advantages-disadvantages, blank spots, and all the major incidents that colour the many transformations.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Book review: The importance of Khatam

"Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy" by Jonathan A.C. Brown

For Muslims Al Quran is infallable. And Hadiths, despite composed by men, are a close second. But in reality the people who read them are still subject to (mis)interpretation, are prone to errors and human emotions like greed and envy, or can have their own hidden agendas using religious doctrines. This book is about that human fallability.

The book shows the complex intellectual and spiritual debates on the interpretation of Al Quran, and how complicated and political the writings of the Hadiths are. It shows that Islam is where it is today not only through the conquerings and assimilations, but also as a result of many theological frictions occurring for the past 1400 years.

The central message of this book is very straight to the point: we need to read Al Quran wholly, from cover to cover (or Khatam). Reading only some verses of Al Quran or just bits and pieces would take the verses out of context, and thus their individual messages could be highly misleading - the major problem the world has always had since the 600s, especially today.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Book review: How to control our cognitive biases

"Thinking, fast and slow" by Daniel Kahneman

When 9/11 happened, the world suddenly feels like a much dangerous place. When Malaysian Air planes crashed almost nobody wanted to fly with them anymore. When your teenage daughter comes home late from a party you can't help but imagining all sorts of crimes you read on the news. These are the examples of cognitive bias, a big part of our decision making process. And this book is about how to recognise them and how control them.

The book is written by Daniel Kahneman, the only Nobel Prize Winner on Economics who is actually NOT an economist but a psychologist. Due to his scientist nature the theories he presented in the book have been tested, published, peer-reviewed, and re-tested by many more scientists. And he also uses a lot more theories in the book that are based on experiments made by these peers, to make some excellent points.

The result is an exceptional book, a complex sets of extraordinary findings written in a simple language that makes them easy to digest. Findings that look at decision making process using very specific filters.