Monday, January 9, 2012

panorama pengubat jiwa

The Easter Island “Heads” Have Bodies

Easter Island Moai
Maybe this isn’t a newsflash to anyone but me, but, um, the Moai “heads” on Easter Island have bodies. Because some of the statues are set deep into the ground, and because the heads on the statues are disproportionately large, many people (myself included) tend to think of them as just big heads. But the bodies (generally not including legs, though there is at least one kneeling statue) are there — in many cases, underground. What’s even more interesting — there are petroglyphs (rock markings) that have been preserved below the soil level, where they have been protected from erosion. This research report has been making the rounds; it discusses recent progress by The Easter Island Statue Project to uncover, study, and catalogue two statues. It includes (among the dry details of the research) a day-by-day journal of the work, as well as remarkable photographs showing the petroglyphs and team members excavating. Above is an image from a previous excavation (source unknown) that shows you the scale of the statues, and how deep they were buried. (Note: visitors are prohibited from climbing on the Moai; the expedition pictured above appears to predate the EISP and the current practice of conservation.)
For more on the Easter Island statues, read more about the EISP, read their extensive research reports, and check out the Wikipedia page on Moai (which also discusses the fairly well-known fact that many of the statues used to have hats or possibly topknots, known as pukao). Also interesting is the back story of archaeology on Easter Island (also known as Rapa Nui); apparently the island has been the subject of archaeological research for 119 years.
(Via Jason Scott.)

The Mind-Blowing Mount Roraima

Mount Roraima Wide Photograph
Mount Roraima is the highest of the Pakaraima mountain chain in South America. The 31 square kilometer summit area is defined by 400 meter tall cliffs on all sides and includes the borders of Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana. The tabletop mountains of the Pakaraima’s are considered some of the oldest geological formations on Earth, dating back to some two billion years ago.

Road into Mount Roraima Landscape Mount Roraima Fog Clouds Picture

Mount Roraima Landscape
Mount Roraima Photograph
Mount Roraima At Sunset Photo
Mount Roraima Surrounded By Clouds Picture
Mount Roraima Landscape Photograph
Mount Roraima Panorama Photo

The greatest mystery of the Inca Empire was its strange economy

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Inca Empire was the largest South America had ever known. Centered in Peru, it stretched across the Andes' mountain tops and down to the shoreline, incorporating lands from today's Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Peru - all connected by a vast highway system whose complexity rivaled any in the Old World. Rich in foodstuffs, textiles, gold, and coca, the Inca were masters of city building but nevertheless had no money. In fact, they had no marketplaces at all.
The Inca Empire may be the only advanced civilization in history to have no class of traders, and no commerce of any kind within its boundaries. How did they do it?
Many aspects of Incan life remain mysterious, in part because our accounts of Incan life come from the Spanish invaders who effectively wiped them out. Famously, the conquistador Francisco Pizzaro led just a few men in an incredible defeat of the Incan army in Peru in 1532. But the real blow came roughly a decade before that, when European invaders unwittingly unleashed a smallpox epidemic that some epidemiologists believe may have killed as many as 90 percent of the Incan people. Our knowledge of these events, and our understanding of Incan culture of that era, come from just a few observers - mostly Spanish missionaries, and one mestizo priest and Inca historian named Blas Valera, who was born in Peru two decades after the fall of the Inca Empire.
Wealth Without Money Documents from missionaries and Valera describe the Inca as master builders and land planners, capable of extremely sophisticated mountain agriculture - and building cities to match. Incan society was so rich that it could afford to have hundreds of people who specialized in planning the agricultural uses of newly-conquered areas. They built terraced farms on the mountainsides whose crops - from potatoes and maize to peanuts and squash - were carefully chosen to thrive in the average temperatures for different altitudes. They also farmed trees to keep the thin topsoil in good condition. Incan architects were equally talented, designing and raising enormous pyramids, irrigating with sophisticated waterworks such as those found at Tipon, and creating enormous temples like Pachacamac along with mountain retreats like Machu Picchu. Designers used a system of knotted ropes to do the math required to build on slopes.
And yet, despite all their productivity, the Incas managed without money or marketplaces. In The Incas: New Perspectives, Gordon Francis McEwan writes:
With only a few exceptions found in coastal polities incorporated into the empire, there was no trading class in Inca society, and the development of individual wealth acquired through commerce was not possible . . . A few products deemed essential by the Incas could not be produced locally and had to be imported. In these cases several strategies were employed, such as establishing colonies in specific production zones for particular commodities and permitting long-distance trade. The production, distribution, and use of commodities were centrally controlled by the Inca government. Each citizen of the empire was issued the necessities of life out of the state storehouses, including food, tools, raw materials, and clothing, and needed to purchase nothing. With no shops or markets, there was no need for a standard currency or money, and there was nowhere to spend money or purchase or trade for necessities.
So the Inca did engage in trade, but only with outsiders - not among themselves.
The secret of the Inca's great wealth may have been their unusual tax system. Instead of paying taxes in money, every Incan was required to provide labor to the state. In exchange for this labor, they were given the necessities of life.
Of course, not everybody had to pay labor tax. Nobles and their courts were exempt, as were other prominent members of Incan society. In another quirk of the Incan economy, nobles who died could still own property and their families or estate managers could continue to amass wealth for the dead nobles. Indeed, the temple at Pachacamac was basically a well-managed estate that "belonged" to a dead Incan noble. It's as if the Inca managed to invent the idea of corporations-as-people despite having almost no market economy whatsoever.
Food, Not Markets
One of the outstanding questions for scientists and historians who study the Incas is why this wealthy, sophisticated culture developed scientifically and culturally without ever inventing markets. One possibility is that life was so difficult to sustain in their environment that all their innovations revolved around agriculture rather than economics. In other words, the Inca Empire was optimized to prevent starvation rather than to foster trade.
A few years ago, a group of archeologists took core samples in Cuzco valley in Peru, and found evidence for thousands of years of agriculture in the area, including animal husbandry, most likely of llamas. In a paper summarizing their findings, archaeologist A.J. Chepstow-Lusty and his team suggested that the Incas focused their technological and cultural institutions around food production and land management, rather than market economies. This may have been necessary in a region where droughts had likely wiped out a previous civilization (the Wari), and where climate fluctuations were a constant hazard. The rise of the Inca Empire coincided with a period of relative climate stability, but the peoples in the area would be well aware that this temperate spell could end at any time.
Chepstow-Lusty and his colleagues write:
The scale of anthropological manipulation and transformation of the landscape in the south-central Andes appears to have increased after ca. AD 1100, probably in response to a climatic backdrop that was relatively warm, dry and essentially stable. The development of major irrigated terracing technology may have been increasingly necessary in these regions to obviate conditions of seasonal water stress, thereby allowing ef´Čücient agricultural production at higher altitudes. The outcome of these strategies was greater long-term food security and the ability to feed large populations. Such developments were exploited by the Inca of the Cuzco Valley, who were emerging as the dominant ethnic group of the region as early as ca. AD 1200. A healthy agricultural surplus supported their economic and political potential, enabling them to subjugate other local independent states and to effectively centralize power in the Cuzco region by ca. AD 1400.
So how do you become a continent-dominating empire without cash? In the case of the Incas, it's likely that the technologies that granted them agricultural surplus (extra food and textile materials) helped them with their expansive empire-building. Food was their coin; pure labor structured their economy.
Some have argued that the Inca Empire was the ideal socialist state, while others have called it an authoritarian monarchy. In truth, the Inca probably created an empire like many others. Its leaders were distracted by civil war and internecine squabbles among the nobility. And its slaves and laborers built the dramatic works dreamed up by pre-Columbian civil engineers. What's remarkable is that evidence suggests those slaves and laborers were probably well fed. Perhaps more remarkable, in this era where markets are associated with civilization, is the idea that an empire could achieve so much without ever spending a dime.

So what the hell are you waiting for?


"I wish"

Two of my least favourite words in the English language.
I wish I had more money.
I wish I could lose weight.
I wish I had a better job … or house … or car … or partner … or life.
I wish I could travel the world.
Guess what? Fairy godmothers and magic wands don’t exist.  Wishing only works in children’s books.  Back here on planet Earth, it’s not going to get you one step closer to achieving your goals.  Sorry to burst your bubble.  If you want something to change – if you really, truly, honestly want it – stop wishing.  Start making it happen.
The reason why those two words are so common is that they suggest that somehow we can have whatever we want in life without making any sacrifices to get it.  If we wish hard enough, we’ll lose twenty pounds while sitting on the sofa eating Doritos.  If we squeeze our eyes shut really, really tightly, when we open them there’ll be a brand new Mercedes in the driveway. If we cross all of our fingers and toes when we walk to the mailbox tomorrow, there’ll be a round-the-world ticket just sitting there with our name on it.  Wishing means we can avoid taking responsibility for changing the things we don’t like in our lives – as if somehow, by magic, they’ll just improve by themselves.
They won’t.
Life isn’t always easy or fair.  Just ask a starving child in Dafur or the homeless guy on the street outside your office.  If you are reading this article, though, I suspect that you don’t fall into either of those categories. There’s a pretty good chance that you have the capability, capacity and opportunity to do whatever the hell you want to if you set your mind to it, make sacrifices and work your butt off for a while to get there.  Yes, I know it’s nowhere near as attractive a proposition as waiting for a fairy godmother to show up, but guess what?  Unlike the fairy godmother, it actually works.

"Nothing worth having comes for free"

Personally, travel is my thing.  It has been for nearly fifteen years, and it could well be for the next fifteen too.  It inspires me, motivates me, educates and excites me like nothing else I know.  I realised a while ago that extended travel was something that I loved and wanted to keep doing.  I also realised that if I was going to make this happen, it wasn’t going to come without sacrifices.  Sacrifices in terms of relationships, sacrifices in terms of ‘fitting in’ with the rest of my friends and family, sacrifices in terms of money, jobs, career and material possessions.
To be able to afford to keep doing this, I can’t buy many things that I might want to.  I don’t own a house.  My car is nearly ten years old and everything else I own is currently in either a shed or my backpack.  Sure, I might like that shiny new gadget or cool pair of jeans, but when it’s a choice between them or a couple of weeks in a guesthouse in Laos, there’s a decision to be made.  I can’t have both. It’s about priorities, and the jeans and gadgets just end up staying on the shelf.
Relationships have suffered, failed or never got off the ground because of this dream.  My career has undoubtedly taken a backwards step as my life priorities have changed.  I don’t have a retirement plan, my savings are rapidly plummeting towards non-existent and my ability to lead any kind of supposedly normal life is following closely behind.  I wouldn’t change a minute of it, but the point is that nothing worth having comes for free.  There’s always a sacrifice.
If you want your dreams to come true, you’re going to need to make some sacrifices too.  You won’t enjoy it.  I don’t enjoy it.  Nobody likes being denied something they want.  The secret is to want something else in the future so damn badly that you can deal with not having some other things now.  Delayed gratification.  You know what?  It’s ok.
You just need to figure out what it is that you actually want.  Yes, we can all wish for a million different things, but what is it that really ignites your passions?  Take some time, think about it, maybe change your mind a few times.  Don’t rush it.  This matters.  If you could just do one thing for the next ten years and be ridiculously happy doing it, what would it be?  If there is a single material object that would truly bring you unbridled joy every time you looked at it for the rest of your life, what is it?
Ok, got it figured it out yet?  Great.  Now how are you going to get it?  What is standing between you and achieving this goal, this vision, this incredible aspiration?  What do you need to change in order to follow your dreams?

"So what the hell are you waiting for?"

If the problem is money, then the answer is simple.  Spend less than you earn.  Downsize your life.  Sell your crap and don’t buy more crap to replace it with.  Ask for a raise.  Work some overtime.  Get a better job.  Get a second job.  Get a third one.  You did say you were working towards your dream of a lifetime, right?
If the issue is other people, then only you know what the answer is.  Can you convince them to join you on this journey?  Is there a way to share your dreams with them?  If so, fantastic.  If not, then you have a decision to make.  Nobody said this was going to be easy.  Most things truly worth doing never will be.
Fear is a big one.  Fear of quitting the job that brings in a steady paycheck even though it hasn’t satisfied you in years.  Fear of what the people in your life that don’t understand (yes, that’s most of them) will have to say.  Fear of trading in a life of mundane simplicity for something a lot less predictable.  Fear, in other words, of the unknown.
We’ve been conditioned since childhood that fear is a bad thing.  That being afraid is something to avoid at all costs.  It isn’t.  If you’re at least a little scared of what life has in store for you around the corner, you’re doing something right.  That’s when you know you’re alive, when you’re truly exploring the boundless potential of your time on this planet.  When the fear disappears, that’s when it’s time to start getting worried.
For a lot of us, though, the problem is simply inertia.  We’ve spent so long doing what other people tell us to that we’ve forgotten that we ever had any dreams of our own.  Go to school.  Go to university.  Get a good job.  Get married.  Have kids.  Buy a house.  Work for forty years to pay it off.  Retire and wait for the inevitable.  Wherever you are along that continuum, the solution starts right here, right now.
You only get one shot at this life.  That bears repeating.  You only get one shot at this life. Every numb day that passes you by is another day that you will never, ever get back.  Get off the treadmill.  Stop wishing that things would magically get better.  Nobody cares about your dreams more than you.  If you aren’t motivated enough to make the necessary changes in your life to achieve those dreams, I can guarantee that nobody else will do it for you.
So what the hell are you waiting for?
Stop wishing.
Start doing.
See you on the other side.