The Eye of Sauros

Follow Sauros, the Lord of Trading, in his Life Optimization Quests:
- The Trading Holy Grail : Turn 1000 quid (or bucks) in 1 million in 10 trades
- N-Optimization : Live to 120 and become a mix of Superman, Einstein and Aristotle on the way* (*assuming you look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie already)
- The Orc Race : Win the Orc Race -aka the Rat Race- without even running
- Uber-Education : Educate your kids their way into Greatness using Contrarian principles
- Shaolin Hobbit : Become a Shaolin Warrior from the comfort of your living room and attain Enlightenment from the discomfort of the toilets at office
- The Wolf of Main Street : Survive in a world where whatever you earn, there's a Troll next door who makes 10 times more and whose super attractive wife is your wife's best friend

August 31, 2014

The 4-Hour Zen Hobbit

or "How to meditate 4 hours per day with zero lotus position thanks to Action Meditation"
“If you consider Quietude right and Activity wrong, then this is seeking the real aspect by destroying the worldly aspect, seeking Nirvana, the peace of extinction, apart from Birth and Death. When you like Quiet and hate Activity, this is the time to apply effort. Suddenly when in the midst of Activity, you topple the sense of Quietude, that Power surpasses quietistic Meditation [seated meditation] by a million billion times.” 
--Dahui Zonggao, 12th-century Chinese Chan (Zen) master

I meditate for at least 4 hours every weekday despite a lifestyle nowhere near the one of a Buddhist monk -I'm not a religious Hobbit. I find my lifestyle pretty hectic while it has admittedly nothing extraordinary, see for yourself: every weekday, I spend 9 hours running the Orc Race (aka Rat Race) while day trading, blogging and taking lessons on Coursera in the meantime, 3 hours commuting, roughly 2 hours on the Uber-education of my little Elf (including homework, violin, reading and play time), 1.5 hours exercising, half an hour on piano practice whenever I can and a couple of hours in “diffuse mode”: watching a DVD with my wife, relaxing, day dreaming, reading a good book or wasting time on social media. Finally I get 5-6 hours of sleep. Whether you did the maths and found out that 4 hours can’t possibly fit in my timetable or not, you’re currently thinking either I’m Troll-shitting you or that there's a catch. That’s the latter: the thing is my 4-hour daily practice includes something like 3 hours 50 minutes of “Action Meditation”. While meditating is generally associated with long hours sitting with eyes closed in a double Lotus position, the type of Meditation-in-action I practice, based on Mindfulness or focus on the present moment, finds its foundation in the roots of Zen and has the same benefits, if not more. A little known fact is the Legendary Shaolin Temple in China is not only the birthplace of Martial Arts but also the one of Zen Buddhism, through Bodhidharma (or Da Mo) who is credited both to have transmitted to China in the 6th century “Chan” (that came to be known as “Zen” in Japan 600 years later) and to have started the physical training of the monks (that led to the creation of Shaolin Kung Fu) as he understood that physical and mental aspects can’t be separated, -no more than the head and the body can- in the Quest for Enlightenment. 33 generations of Shaolin monks after Bodhidharma's and some 15 centuries later, Shi Yan Ming defines in his very inspirational The Shaolin Work Out : 28 Days to Transforming Your Body and Soul the Warrior's Way (AMAZON.COM|.CO.UK) : “Action meditation, or Dong Chan in Chinese, can be everything and anything we do. Playing music, speaking, eating, swimming, climbing a tree, climbing a mountain, walking upside-down, playing basketball, making dinner, making love - any action you can think of that you can express in your beautiful life - that's action meditation. There are a million different doors for a million different people to walk through in their lives, and a million different ways for a million different people to meditate in their lives.”

I am actually Meditating
While in the 2 main Buddhist traditions, Theravada and Mahayana, the path to Enlightenment is a long journey that takes several lifetimes and accumulation of Karma and deeds, Zen seeks to attain it here and now, in an instant, by focusing on the Void. Easy enough to say but anyone having tried meditation will tell that's probably the hardest thing one can achieve. This "Instant" normally takes years of diligent, deliberate and repeated training (NB: I've found the most comprehensive introduction to Zen in Zen in the Art of Archery (AMAZON.COM|.CO.UK)). I believe the ability to get in a first step in the "Flow", a state of deep, effortless and highly pleasurable concentration (aka “in the zone”, “in the groove”, “the runner’s high”) and at an ultimate stage attain Enlightenment is a mental skill that can be trained and worked out through the practice of Meditation, both Action and Non-Action, in the very same way one can practice a sport, strength or cardio training. In this post, I’ll introduce a few Meditations I've been experimenting in an effort to build such a routine.

August 09, 2014

The Education of a Medievalist

or "How I've managed to inspire my 5-year-old child with a passion for Medieval History"
"The Accursed Kings has it all. Iron kings and strangled queens, battles and betrayals, lies and lust, deception, families rivalries, the curse of the Templars, babies switched at birth, she-wolves, sin, and swords, the doom of a great dynasty... and all of it (well most of it) straight from the pages of history. And believe me, the Starks and the Lannisters have nothing on the Capets and Plantagenets."
-- George R.R. Martin, in the forewords of The Accursed Kings

Philippe V of France (the "Tall")
My 5-year-old daughter recently told her grand dad (my in-law) how in 1316 Jacques Duèze, a 72-year-old French cardinal, had to pretend to be dying to be elected by a papal conclave immured for more than 1 month in a church by Philippe (Count of Poitiers, later King Philippe V of France) during the funeral mass he organized for his poisoned brother King Louis X “Le Hutin” (or “Quarreler”) and how Duèze finally had become Pope John XXII for 18 years and died long after his younger contenders, at the ripe old age of 90 (which may qualify as a Black Swan in the 14th Century). My little Elf also knows that as soon as the conclave of cardinals was imprisoned until the election of a Pope in Lyon, Philippe rushed back to Paris and managed a coup d’état to seize the Regency (and then the French Throne) after he made up a law forbidding inheritance by a woman inspired by the 6th-Century Salic Law in order to disqualify the claim to the throne of both Louis X’s daughter Jeanne (suspected to be illegitimate further to the Tour de Nesle Affair involving adultery by her mother, Marguerite of Burgundy, strangled in Prison. –Well, my kid doesn't know this part, she’s only 5, remember-) and Louis X’s to-be-born child from his second wife Clémence of Hungary in the case it would be a girl (it happened to be a boy, King Jean I the Posthumous who died only after 5 days -or alternatively was swapped with a Lombard’s bastard just before the baby King was poisoned according to some historical claims). She can also tell that these events led to the Hundred Year’s war when Edward III of England, son of Isabella (the “She-wolf of France”) Philippe’s sister –my daughter fortunately doesn't know neither in which circumstances his father Edward II died…- claimed the French throne after the death of his uncle King Charles IV the youngest son of his grandfather Philippe IV Le Bel (the Fair), making him the last of the “Direct Capetians” dynasty alive in the succession race.

The Lasts of the Direct Capetian Dynasty

The reason my daughter knows all this, and a lot more actually, is because I told her at bedtime these historical facts (albeit some are still debated) which are part of the plot of the French historical novel Les Rois Maudits (or The Accursed Kings (AMAZON.COM|.CO.UK)) written by Maurice Druon in the late 1950s. While most of parents tell their children fairy tales, Peppa Pig or bedtime stories, I've been telling mine about stories and anecdotes from History for years. And as a result, I believe I've managed to awaken in my daughter a genuine passion for Medieval History.

The KingsReader’s Daughter 

August 06, 2014

How I met Shaolin Mother?

or "Discover, learn and practice Xiao Hong Quan, Shaolin Mother Form with an authentic Shaolin Monk and from the 73th Chamber of Shaolin: your living room"
"When you are studying Shaolin Kung Fu, the first traditional form you learn is Xiao Hong Quan. It is Shaolin Mother form, the one from which every forms come."
-- Shifu Yan Lei, 34th generation Shaolin disciple
- Shaolin Warrior Vol 2   

One of the most impressive things I have witnessed with my own eyes –and the Lord of Trading knows the Eye of Sauros has seen its lot- is a young Shaolin disciple demonstrating the “Leopard form”, one of the famous Temple’s Kung Fu forms (or Martial Arts “Choreography” for a lack of better word, aka “Tao Lu” for Kung Fu practitioners or “Kata” for Karate’s). So far, no choreographed movie scene, special effect nor 3D-sequence I've come to watch has managed to match the feeling of speed, power and grace performed a few steps away from me (along with a hundred other Kung Fu Pandas) that day. Never say never, I couldn't imagine that more than a decade after that moment, a Hobbit like me would practice a Shaolin form called Xiao Hong Quan in the absolute secrecy of my living room. I’m so secretive about my Shaolin training that apart from a couple very close relatives and friends, no one knows about it. That includes my Shifus (Masters), two 34th generation Shaolin disciples, both currently at the Shaolin Temple UK,  and who don’t have a clue about my existence as I've been practicing since 2011 through a collection of DVDs they have produced. Translated as “Small [Flood / Hong's family / Red] Fist” and certainly the most known Shaolin form, Xiao Hong Quan is the very first form taught to the disciples at the Shaolin Temple and probably the best one to start with for anyone considering seriously learning Shaolin Kung Fu. Watch it demonstrated in the video below by a little Goblin to my Kung Fu brothers of the Shaolin Temple UK, who, once again, have never seen me.

In this post, you will find out how to receive genuine Shaolin teachings and how to learn and practice Xiao Hong Quan.

July 30, 2014

How I scammed my Father?

or "How to protect sensitive Hobbits against scams and fight the Troll-scammers?"

Would you believe me if I told you that if you read this post until the end then share it, I’ll give you 10 grand ?

You’re probably thinking that’s just Troll-shit but, somewhere deep down in your mind, a tiny part of you is thinking “Well, it’s probably wrong but what if it’s true? After all, I've nothing to lose” and you might read the post and click on one of these bloody buttons at the end. The thing is all the Bleeding Obvious online scams precisely play on that tiny part of ourselves which likes to hope the promise made, however unrealistic, is true. Have you ever wondered why we keep on receiving e-mails (all with Yahoo, Hotmail or other public addresses) from Zillionaire Orphan heirs promising to give you their Zillion-quid inheritance if you adopt them (“Next-of-kin” scam), Middle-East Sheikhs willing to give you part of the family business if not all or Uber-attractive girls falling in love with you before you even contact them (“honey trap” scam)? Well, the answer is sadly because some people keep getting trapped, and that’s not about intelligence as I want to believe no one is dumb enough to get tricked in such scams. No, the ones who get caught are generally subject to some kind of mental disorders, and for those, that hopeful –and not so tiny- part of the mind I just mentioned sometimes seems to control what is perceived as Reality. 

This post is not intended for these Hobbits (while the next session might be of help) because by experience, I know whatever I can argue, prove or evidence will not manage to convince them not to send these few grand through Western Union to unblock a few millions or find true love. It’s mainly intended for their family and friends who try to get them out of the scams. Myself, I managed to do it, and the only way I’ve found to fight tens of scams at the same time, I had to scam my own father.

Hey, I'm Kelly Brook! Send me money via WU for me to get a ticket and I'll come and marry you

July 27, 2014

Euromillions : the Ultimate Probabilistic Algorithm

or "How to Optimize your Gain Expectancy at Euromillions (or any Lottery Game), explained by a phD in Applied Mathematics and Statistics"

I have updated with ultimate developments the 2011 post where I reveal the probabilistic methods for Euromillions (or any lottery) I've been developing for years that will dramatically improve your Gain Expectancy at Euromillions (or any Lottery game). 

May the odds be ever in your favour
But before you click on the link, I’d like you to put a hand on your heart and solemnly swear that if thanks to me you win the jackpot, you will donate me €1,000,000 (one million Euros).

Done? OK, thanks my Friend, now sit back, relax and find out How to Win the Euromillions.

TLofT be with You.

July 20, 2014

Shaolin Black Swan, Crunching Hobbit

or "How can a 40-year-old Hobbit benefit from the legendary Shaolin monks teachings for Longevity, Health, Fitness and other Super-Powers?"
"Before I was born, who was I?
After I am born, who am I?
Respect yourself, and everyone will respect you.
Understand yourself, and everyone will understand you.
There are mirrors all around you:
Strive to see and understand yourself.
Strive to have the heart of a Buddha.
Stop doing bad things, only do good.
Do whatever you can to help others.
In these ways you help yourself.
Help yourself, and you help the world."
-- Shifu Shi Yan Ming, 34th Generation Shaolin monk -The Shaolin Workout  

If you live in North West London near Regent’s park, look out through the window, now! If you can see a Hobbit in a parody of Kung Fu moves on a roof terrace or in his living room (or alternatively if you recently sent a letter to the neighbour upstairs to complain about his jumping up and down -BTW you might have a name-) then you might be seeing me in one of the Shaolin routines I’ve been following daily since 2011.

The Goal of No Goal 

While I had a very brief but intense career in Kung-Fu in my 20s (nearly 20 years ago…) which paramount moment was either me wanting to die after the first 5 minutes of the warm-up during a session with a Shaolin monk or me KO-ing during a sparring session the French national Wushu champion after I kicked him in the balls (not with a bad intention but due to my incapacity to raise my leg higher), it all REALLY started 3 years ago. I was doing some research on the web for a post titled Shaolin Trader when I found out by chance –or was it Destiny ???- a series of Kung Fu and Qigong DVDs produced by a 34th generation Shaolin disciple, Shifu Yan Lei. I then got a couple of these DVDs and books (the beginners’ ones indeed) and I have progressively acquired a full collection over the years as my skills improved and as my body and mind started to get a better understanding of what it’s all about.

When I started my Shaolin practice, I had some purposes in mind :
- N-Optimization : or how to enhance in particular longevity, health and fitness
- Get the Shaolin monks’ kick-ass skills (probably a lad’s thing here…)
- Find out the 1500-year-old secrets and get the super-powers revealed today
- Attain Enlightenment. I’m not really religious (except for TLofT indeed), but as part of my Shaolin education, I read more about Chan Buddhism (imported to the temple in the 6th Century then exported from there to Japan in the 13th where it became known as “Zen”) , the description of Enlightenment as a kind of ultimate Mental orgasm seemed too great for me not to try to reach.

July 11, 2014

The Forgotten Science of Weight Control

Or "How to burn 100 extra calories per hour on the treadmill with no additional effort ?"

The problem with Nutrition, Healthy Eating and Weight loss matters is the flow of information we’re fed with (pun not intended) is often contradictory and most of the time very confusing, particularly for a Weight control Apprentice like me who wouldn’t give a damn back a few years. What is today the nutritional bleeding obvious, generally backed by loads of scientific evidences, is likely to be challenged, rejected and reversed tomorrow. The instance that comes to my mind is the current trend rehabilitating Saturated fat which had been identified since the 1980s as the American middle-aged men’s mortal enemy. (NB : for Double Whopper Cheese lovers, the following book -which of course I have NOT read but would definitely recommend- will provide you with arguments: The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet (AMAZON.COM|.CO,UKKINDLE) ,but get rid of the buns as Carbs seem now to be the ones charged with serial killing).

I believe the main culprits in the confusion and sometimes obscurantism observed in the Health & Fitness industry are its Marketing Trolls whose (wholemeal) bread and (organic) butter is to stuff us with supplements and “Super-Foods” via all the media known -and unknown- to Human in particular fitness magazines, websites and Main Street health shops. Their favourites -and highest mark-ups- have been including whey protein (which allegedly used to be fed to pigs in the 19th Century) and the various “Super-foods of the year” : wild Alaskan salmon, blueberries, acai berries, baobab powder, coconut water (which price per litre, roughly 5 quid, is higher than daily wages in countries where coconuts are found on the floor, e.g. Haiti). These Trolls have at their disposal a wide arsenal that includes a double-edged sword : testimonials and the backing of Scientific research. Regarding testimonials, without speaking about fake ones, the thing is if the population is wide enough, you’ll always find enough blokes to testify any fact you want to promote. Combining this with the so-called selection bias (in which the choice of individuals is biased), the marketing genius can end up to pretty convincing testimonials. Sadly, Scientific evidence can’t be totally relied on blindly either, particularly when used as a testimonial as it seems that there’s also always a Scientific study to support anything you want to promote. The “Publish or Perish” that rules there certainly helps pushing the Scientists, whether in good faith or not, to introduce biases in their studies and make errors but unfortunately, it also suggests that Science is much less unreliable and the Scientists have much less clue than we tend to believe.

The bottom line is we are given so many confusing, misleading and contradictory directions that at the end of the day, we are left with no clue. We have come to forget, with the help of the Health & Fitness marketing trolls, the basics of the Science of Weight Control.