Procedural Music in 256 bytes.

If there is one type of music that I have an incredibly strong taste for, it’s chiptune music, ones played by electronic circuits and chips rather than actual instruments. Classic games are a great source of these tracks and some of my most memorable melodies come from them.

During the Oldskool 4K Intro competition at Revision 2017, the Swedish hacker Linus Åkesson, manages destroy the 4K intro limit, with a tiny program in 256 bytes for the Commodore 64, a 1/128 factor reduction of the maximum. It is not a surprise that it won first place in the competition.

My day job involves me working with bloated runtimes and gigantic libraries that some span in the order of several gigabytes. Powerful machines with several cores and gigabytes of RAM are required to run these applications.

I am humbled by classic video game designers who had to work with tiny amounts of RAM and pathetic processors found in calculators like the Motorola 68000 and still manage to have colourful experiences with wonderful sound running at 60 frames per second.

The goal of these developers wasn’t some philosophy like maintainability or a certain idioms or design patterns, but rather extracting the most out of the hardware and provide the most impressive gaming experience.

When the Revision 2017 demo competition was over, I start looking at the winners, and nothing touched me more than the “A Mind is Born” demo. His technical description barely fits in my head and makes me feel like a novice programmer in my first programming course.

The actual executable is 256 bytes, and there was room to spare with the first instruction being a no-op (NOP). Ironically, the SID tune is larger at 325 bytes and encoding to MP3 would make a file larger than 2 MB. Encoding this blog post in UTF-8 is more than 256 bytes!

The music is generated by the program itself rather than having a score embedded in the program. The conductor isn’t the programmer, but the program. This is the procedural aspect of it. It sounds like a chaotic psytrance piece building up to a strong climax at 1:42 morphing into a real pseudo-orchestra.

This chilling piece of music shows what the mind of true geniuses can produce. If you don’t get goosebumps listening to this, you have no appreciation of true technical art. I recommend a listen with a good set of headphones to enjoy the incredibly deep bassline.

My Blog is All Over the Place

I originally thought that my blog would have a technology focus but it became an outlet to speak my mind out. Obviously, very few people care about what some random person like me thinks and my low readership shows.

I think the ideal mix for a blog is to have some scattered thoughts posts and some others focused on a certain subject. I don’t know if that is a good approach but the most popular blogs I’ve seen actually teach the user how to do something; something specific.

My subjects range from hugely personal stories to automotive technologies and other rants, even satires. These are things I enjoy writing about but sometimes it feels like I’m just talking to myself.

Promoting a blog is really difficult because usually putting a link somewhere will generate a spike in readership and a few days later you’re back to the usual 2 visitors per day. I have to blame on it myself because the only people who are interested about reading my posts are me, and maybe a few friends of mine.

I’ve been a software developer for a really long time and I sometimes think I could have something interesting to say and useful for others, but so many people have already talked about what I have thought about.

My goal isn’t to make this blog popular or anything, but I think readership is a good to way to incite criticism and inspire better works to come in the future. My writing skills depends on those who try to understand my mess of a text.

There are very few places where I promote my blog as much places consider it self-promotion and spam. My go-to is a Hacker News post and that usually generates a bit of interest or at least a click on the link followed by immediately hitting the back button.

I’ve found many obscure blogs on the Internet who talk about things that I’m concerned about but I don’t think many will find them interesting. The Internet is a very competitive place and it’s a combination of skill and luck that will get you somewhere.

I don’t run ads on my website and I never will. I enjoy writing and this is best outlet of stress for me. When I’m feeling down, I write here and complain, even though no one will listen to me.

Ideas

I believe that everyone has creativity to various degrees and in different areas such as artistic or technical. However, what’s so painful about getting new ideas is that they don’t come into mind on command on the spot. Instead, they come up in the most inopportune moments, especially when you are somewhere where you can’t take note of it and promptly forget it when you get home. I don’t know how these music artists have a new album every year, there must be some creativity theory that I’m not aware of.

I’m trying really hard to find an idea for my next blog post but my mind is blank now. Just earlier my mind was filled with many anxious thoughts about everything in my future. Apparently, trying to come up with something new is a brain kill-switch.

Celebrating a (little more than) year of blogging...

My first blog post was published on April 15, 2017 and was so popular that it generated a whopping 2 comments. I can’t say that my others posts have been as popular though.

I started my blog in order to learn writing and express my creativity. Writing is an outlet of stress for me and there’s no better way to talk about something on an open platform like this.

While I thought my blog would be solely focused on IT, my blog became a multifaceted place with discussions on technology, philosophy, science and automotive. I feel the subjects have been a bit dry but stay tuned for more exciting blog posts and new subjects such as gaming!

My goal for this blog isn’t popularity, I don’t even run ads on this website at all. I just want to vent and hope someone will benefit from my tirades.

Some statistics about this blog so far:

  • 537 days since the first post

  • 14 blog posts not including this one

  • 3 comments

  • 12 likes

  • 230 viewers per month on average

  • 4 RSS subscribers

  • 31000 words approximately

  • Most popular blog post: Automatic Transmission Simulation in Games

  • Least popular blog post: Many of them have not been read this month...

  • Longest blog post: Why I left…

  • Shortest blog post: Drifting a Bus

  • Most readers are from the US, Canada and UK. Some significant traffic from Europe.

  • Apparently, the most popular way to reach this website is directly (which I find hard to believe), it’s more likely to be through search engines or social websites.

  • 0 dollars made from page views

My writing is still very imperfect, and at times, very simplistic. I’m hoping with practise I will come up with clearer, more informative and have better researched posts. Maybe I’ll be taken more seriously then, for now, it’s just a hobby.

Creating this blog has made me realize that I don’t need to create something perfect from the start but rather, every endavour is a learning experience on it’s own. Your first projects might be cringe-worthy and embarrassing, but one day, you’ll do something you’re proud of. I’m not there yet.

If you feel the need to express yourself I highly recommend blogging though you can also start a YouTube channel or maybe a podcast. I personally use Squarespace to build my website. Even though I’m a software developer, I honestly don’t have time to maintain a website through some complicated JavaScript framework and host it on a VPS in my spare time. Some website builders are free like Wix and others are dedicated to blogging only like Blogger or WordPress (well, it can do a bit more). If you’re a web developer and are brave enough to roll your own, go ahead. If you’re a bit more lazy you can host Jekyll statically on github.io.

Your blog can be focused on a personal aspect of your life such as your travelling adventures or a place to discuss your favourite topics in astrophysics. The Internet is all about freedom (maybe not some countries) and this your chance to let yourself out!

If you’d like me to talk about a certain subject or my opinion on a topic, feel free to leave a comment below.

Why I left...

Preface

Seventeen-years ago, on September 11, 2001 at 8:46 and 40 seconds, one religion will become the most hotly debated topic in the media past eternity. A religion that contains both messages of war and peace, justice and oppression all rolled into one cultural practice. While some mourned the death of thousands of innocents, other’s ran celebrations for this monumental day. However, the biggest pain for Muslims was the enormous destruction to their reputation.

Anytime someone opens their mouth about Islam, thousands if not millions of people from all over the world will have their minds fill with prejudice. While some will get angry that these brown Arabs are at their tactics yet again, others will be cursing the media at their Islamophobic agendas.

The truth is, religion is a product of it’s time, when it was given birth. These times were both in peace and in war. These sacred texts had to deal with both these periods. At the end, every religious person is holding a highlighter in one hand, and primary sources in the other, picking and choosing what suits their motives and lifestyles. An ascetic will highlight the verses of tolerance and peace while a mad-minded suicide bomber has the verses about war with the disbelievers embolded, and he gets to pick the disbelievers. They’ll both blame each other for taking verses “out of context”.

The version of Islam that I practiced was different than anyone else’s. The truth is, there isn’t one version of Islam, but thousands, and everyone of them thinks that their interpretation is correct, specifically mine. So many will say that I was never a true Muslim but how do you know? Did you introspect into my heart and mind? So many will think that I’m crazy and the crazier ones will think one day I will return. I still get messages and emails today about the “miracles of Islam” and I don’t think I’ll ever be free of these annoyances.

My departure from Islam was honestly a blur in my life. It’s so shocking and emotional that I feel like I barely remember anything, as if it happened so fast. After so many years, I can finally put the pieces of the puzzle back together and form a story.

I'm not an expert on Islam, nor I have graduated from Al-Azhar University. However, religion is followed by laymen like me and we have been given this mind to ponder and understand knowledge. I won't be making things up but most certainly will I have the primary sources to put things together.

Unlike many who left religion because of reason or logic, primary sources or otherwise, I left primarily for emotional reasons though skepticism most definitely played a role. Many ask me why I left, but it's not something I can describe in one or two sentences, it needs a story, and this is it.

Writing this, I’m playing with fire that is certain. How many apostates have been prosecuted by their countries or Ex-Muslim's receiving death threats. I considered doing this under a pseudonym but I was encouraged to express my freedom instead.

This was one of my most challenging texts to write because it invoked so many emotions, most of them really painful and emotional. This is my story, an emotionally charged one, of how I left the most difficult religion to leave, Islam; a drama of hope, hopelessness, comfort, fear, anger, smiles and tears.

A Reader’s Digest by Someone Else

One member of the CEMB (Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain) had a very similar experience to mine and rather than paraphrase him and explain his words, I will just quote him because he describes, from one perspective, what I went through. His misadventure is so familiar to me, it might as well be my own words; it's uncanny.

"To my Muslim friends, I say, You have your religion and I have mine, or rather I have no religion. I will try to answer the question I get asked to most often: Why did you leave Islam? It wasn't one particular issue or argument that lead me to lose my faith. Though there were many that had a powerful effect. Neither did I discover anything new that I didn't already know.

It was basically because of a change of perspective. I started to take a much more critical look at Islam. I'm not entirely sure how or what caused this change. But once it happened, the whole story Islam presented, I had so long taken for granted, began to look increasingly absurd and slowly began to fall apart.

The whole idea that God's ultimate aim for mankind is that they pick the correct, unfounded, dubious and unsupported ancient claim so that he can eternally reward or roast them. Who could easily provide irrefutable and undeniable evidence out of what religion is true but instead keeps himself hidden and ensures there is plenty of reasonable doubt and makes the punishment for disbelief so obscenely excessive and cruel.

A God that does not need worship yet demands worship. A God that does not need to create, but does so for the benefit of His creation, even though most of these wretched creatures will not benefit from being created. Who wants us to freely chose to love and worship Him but yet threatens us if we don't.

A paroquial God who ignores most of the world in favour of a small area of desert [the Middle-East]. Who did his best stuff 2000 years ago, but took early retirement 1400 years ago. Who sent three crucial books, but allowed the first two to be terribly corrupted before deciding he'd protect the third one. He could have done from the start avoiding massive schisms and lots of people having to be boiled, roasted, barbequed, and various other recipes from His cookbook.

Who will make His messages so ambiguous, misunderstood and easily misinterpreted, that people will forever be arguing and killing each other over it. Who will make His descriptions in His book like Adam and Eve look as if they contradict the scientific evidence [referring to the theory of evolution].

Who's tests basically involves killing, starving, maiming, and afflicting these poor creatures with disease, disaster and congenital defects. Then punishes them if they lose faith in Him.

Who will allow the fundamental criteria for success or failure in this test to large rest upon to where and to whom you are born.

But without doubt the crushing blow to my faith was Hell. I simply couldn't believe if there is a God, He would be so sadistically and pointlessly cruel. To torture His flawed and limited creatures without end.

"Boiling fluid will be poured down on their heads; which will melt what's in their bellies, and skins. For them will be hooked rods of iron. Whenever, in their anguish, they try to escape from Hell, they shall be dragged back. A Fire which will encompass them like the walls and roof of a tent, will hem them in: they will cry out for help but will be granted scorching water like melted brass, that will scald their faces. Dragged through scalding fetid fluid and burnt in the Fire. As often as their skins are roasted We shall exchange them for fresh skins. No food except pus. The tree of Zaqqum will be the food of the sinners. Like molten brass it will boil in their insides. Like the boiling of scalding water. (It will be said) "Seize him and drag him into the midst of the Blazing Fire! Then pour over his head the torment of Boiling Water." They will be given boiling water to drink so that it tears their bowels to pieces. Never will it be eased off them nor will they be reprieved. Never will they get out. Hell for all eternity." (Qur'an, various verses)

To call a God who does this Merciful is ridiculous beyond words. Once I looked at these verses with open eyes, my faith simply collapsed. And not because I reject the idea that there might be a God, but because if there is a God, I believed He must be better than this.

For argument's sake, let's say I have failed to comprehend God's Wisdom. Then God can eternally roast my skin off, boil my brains and melt my face over and over again for mistakenly thinking He would be better than this.

But let us also assume for argument's sake that it is you that who are wrong and that if there is a God, He has nothing to do with the descriptions in the Qur'an or the Bible for that matter. Then really who is insulting Him? Is it I who believes that God cannot be a sadistic monster? Or is it you, that believes He is?

- Unknown CEMB member, CEMB Forum YouTube channel.

My Religious Career

My Earliest Memory

The first thing I can ever recall happening in my life is when I was 2 years old. Honestly, it’s quite a strange memory to first remember but I don’t get to pick why my mind does, it’s how things are.

I was waiting to be picked up at a medical facility overseas. I remember going up the elevator on a hospital bed with a nurse and I don’t remember much afterwards. Next thing I knew I was in the back of the car with my grandmother, with a gigantic truck passing by. I was completely naked sitting in the middle of the back seat, something was immediately apparent.

The look of my private reproductive organ has changed, and I felt this intense pain within. It lasted for two weeks and I didn’t understand why this was done to me, why I was subject to this pain. However, I tried to comfort myself with my limited mind that every child has to go through this. I later realized that it was indeed true for most Muslims and Jews, though I’m at least glad it was done in a medical facility rather than by some old cleric with a rusty unsharpened knife. I’ll admit, it was a nice clean job.

Khitaan, as it is called in Arabic, is the practice of circumcision, and the Muslims are the ones that do it the most out of any group. It is considered obligatory for men, but the hotly debated topic is whether woman have to do it, and most of the modern world consider it mutilation.

The most correct view is that it is obligatory in the case of men and Sunnah (an optional tradition of the Prophet) in the case of women. The difference between them is that in the case of men, it serves an interest which has to do with one of the conditions of prayer, namely purity (tahaarah), because if the foreskin remains, when the urine comes out of the urethra, some of it will collect there, and this causes burning and infection every time the person moves, and every time the foreskin is squeezed, some drops of urine come out, thus causing najaasah (impurity).

- Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen

If God created us in His perfect image (in Islam, this means that God created us with an image that he had in mind, rather than looking like him in Christianity), why would we have such a flaw that would need to be corrected? Couldn’t have God created us without foreskin and saved many children from suffering this pain? The pain gets worse as the person ages too. Some converts have had to do this at much later stages in their life and describe immense pain of doing it.

Modern medicine has demonstrated that circumcision has absolutely no effect on the cleanliness, rate of infection or even sex life for men. At best, it’s a pretty harmless change but any kind of surgery, especially when done without sterilizing the tools, can lead to complications and infections.

The Talk

When I was approximately less than five years old, my parents would lie me down in bed before going to sleep and make me recite to what seemed to me incomprehensible gibberish. I didn’t know what the purpose was and they would get angry at me for mispronouncing something, the recitation had to be perfect and verbatim.

Later on in life, when I become more cognizant of my religion, it turned out they were making me memorize the foundations of the Qur’an, Chapter 1: “The Opening”, Chapter 112: "Sincerity”, and the last two chapters. These chapters are absolutely essential for prayer and protection from God. The first chapter is recited multiple times in prayer and it is the foundation of the Qur’an explaining the main attributes of ‘Mercy’ of God and the righteous path. Chapter 112 was a very short one describing the oneness of God who is eternal and uncreated. Unlike the Christian God, he does not give birth. The last two chapters are recited to be protected from black magic, evil eye and evil spirits like Jinn (evil and good spirits with free will like humans but invisible to us) and Devils. Some children have these memorized by the age of one and often by their late childhood have one juz’ (1/30 of the Qur’an) fully memorized. Those who memorize the entire Qur’an are seen at very high status in Islam.

I didn’t know much about God and the Afterlife back then. Until one day, when I was 7, in the living room of our apartment, my father made me stand in front of him while he sat on the couch. While most people get ‘the talk’ about reproduction, mine wasn’t about that, it was about Islam. I was told that there was Allah (essentially The God) who was everywhere and that created everything that is. We are judged by our deeds, good or bad after we die and that decided our fate in Heaven or Hell. Paradise was a place of eternal bliss where I could get whatever I would like. While Hell was a dark place full of painful fire.

The nightmares ensued shortly after, of visiting Hell and seeing the gates of thereof. I never made it to Heaven or was given a second chance to live for doing good deeds. However, I never saw myself as someone who did bad deeds, I was nice to others and listened to my parents. Eventually, the nightmares disappeared and I moved on in my life.

I started discussing religion with my family and learning about Islam at this age. I did not see the need to discuss with the disbelievers who were Christians or Jews (I didn’t know about anyone else). I started to learn that God knew everything and that everything was planned by Him.

My parents prayed every day and I started to understand why they did it. It was worshiping the All-Mighty. I knew that eventually I had to do the same thing. I clearly remember my cousin telling me that my parents could beat me by the age of 10 if I missed a prayer though thankfully they didn’t do any of that.

Growing up as a Muslim is something that happened really slowly and I wasn’t interested in becoming a scholar. The worldly life was my main focus and had my own aspirations rather than going to Heaven, though it would be a great outcome.

Brainwashing of religion starts at a very early age in conservative families. What you learn when you are young gets ingrained into the deepest parts of your brain. Religious tendencies still go through me even up till today.

Teenage Years

My religious career in my teenage years was pretty simplistic. I was mostly focused on prayer. After some instruction from my parents and Saturday school, I learned the tenants of praying 5 times a day. I felt that establishing communication with God would be the most important thing I could do first.

At the age of 13, I start praying 5 times a day, every single day. It just became a habit and I would do it at school and at work. I was very religious, pun intended, about it. Unlike other religions, prayer isn’t very spiritual but rather more of a meditative ritual. You have to say certain words and do a fixed number of prostrations. It’s really boring and your mind tends to wander elsewhere (though those are considered whisperings of Satan to distract you from prayer). Very few people I knew truly enjoyed prayer.

I sometimes went to the mosque with my family and it was an amazing social experience to be surrounded by like minded people. Everyone was friendly and it was very nice to feel included as part of a giant community. I took the prayers much more seriously there and would spend time reading Qur’an with my very limited knowledge of the book and Arabic. I focused on the ones I already memorized which reached a couple of dozens at the time.

I don’t remember much of my teenage years practicing Islam but it was a very pleasant part of my life because my view of Islam was so simplistic. The clerics I’ve seen at the time spoke about community and being pious rather than the killing of disbelievers compared to other imams.

Defending Myself with Comparative Religion

In high school, I started being confronted by people of other religions and for the first time, people who didn’t believe in God. I wanted to arm myself with knowledge to defend myself and win arguments.

The Internet was my source of knowledge for this. I clearly remember watching the likes of Zakir Naik and Ahmed Deedat who absolutely trounced Christians by refuting their claims and finding holes in their religions. Even today, I think these people have excellent debating skills and really put on a good show. I still watch Ahmed Deedat today because of the entertainment value he provides.

- Try not to laugh as his soccer team fans cheer him on for tearing apart televangelists.

They talked about other religions and arguments against evolution and atheism, although later learning that they were incorrect and full of logical fallacies, I took them seriously and used them in my arguments in High School and later on University.

Other websites provided the same kind of apologetics like Islamic Awareness and Harun Yahya providing historical evidence and miraculous claims about the Qur’an; it really strengthened my faith. I still consider to this day that the arguments provided by Islamic Awareness to be historically accurate and interesting, though the conclusions they come up with are weak.

I started frequenting Islam QA to learn about the jurisprudence of Islam and learning Qur’anic verses and ahadith (prophetic sayings and traditions) to arm myself with knowledge about Islam.

One of my favourite speakers was Hamza Andreas Tzortsis who provided philosophical arguments for the religion and being someone who wanted to hear what they believed, I was absolutely captivated. While Hamza had excellent debating skills, I consider his talks to be rhetoric these days and I am able to dismantle his arguments.

The icing on the cake was the scientific and numerical miracles of the Qur’an which provided, to what seemed to me, irrefutable evidence that the Qur’an was the word of God. Further down the post, I will explain why these miracles are just coincidences rather than signs of God.

Salafism to the Extreme

As I gained more interested in my religion, it was time to take it to next step. I wanted to practice Islam as properly as possible. What better way to do it by going back to the first three generations of the Prophet and do what they did. This was Salafism.

Many of the popularizers I listened to before became weak scholar wannabes as I started to watch the likes of Abu Mussab Wajdi Akkari. He was really strict and basically explained essentially that everything was haram (forbidden). His frame of reference was some of the prominent scholars of Saudi Arabia like ibn Uthaymeen (and others). These people knew the Islamic religion thoroughly and I believed that they could not be wrong.

I started growing my beard as it was obligatory in Islam much to my parents detriment who believed that moderation was the way to go. However, the hadith (prophetic tradition) proved otherwise.

“Let your beards grow and trim your moustaches.”

- Bukhari (Book 77, Hadith 110)

I stopped listening to music altogether as that was also haram.

“From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful…”

- Bukhari (Hadith 5590)

I also stopped making jokes as jokes with falsehoods in them were also haram:

"Woe to the one who talks about something to make the people laugh, in which he lies. Woe to him! Woe to him!"

- Jami` at-Tirmidhi 2315

My life became very dry as I wasn’t doing much in terms of forms of entertainment. I just read Islamic material and watched talks by clerics and scholars.

My preachiness reached an all-time high at this point where every discussion I had with anyone was about religion. Some people got so sick of it that they stopped contacting me or mocking me altogether citing that my ideas were just stupid and dumb.

Even my parents didn’t like my strictness and they had their own interpretations of the Qur’an and the Hadith, and pushed me really hard against my strict beliefs.

Islam in Moderation

Eventually, I started to listening to other scholars like Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and started to realize that there was swath of opinions on Islam. Different schools of thoughts and different levels of moderation and extremism. I started to realize that my life of asceticism was not a good way to live.

I started listening to music again and playing games and enjoying entertainment. My life become more lively and I grew respect for the religion. I finally felt comfortable with Islam and my preachiness started to disappear remaining just with my family.

The Transition Out of the Fold

My mental illness and other factors which will be discussed later really started to instill doubts in me. I saw spiritual healers that were ineffective and no matter how I prayed and begged, nothing would happen. People tell me that I shouldn’t give up, but if you went through the amount of suffering I did, I don’t think you wouldn’t be able to handle it either.

At this time, I really wasn’t functional, sleeping 16 hours days and the rest on my laptop. I started falling back on prayers eventually stopping altogether. Although I still watched and read Islamic material, my interest slowly began to fade.

I’m not sure what initiated this change but many doubts and arguments really started to have an effect on me. While these doubts are apparently whisperings of Lucifer, I wasn’t scared anymore to entertain them. I started to widen my breadth of material that I read and the world wasn’t black and white anymore. It was so colourful and there was so many people with different thoughts on life. It wasn’t just about religion, but also about existentialism, nihilism, atheism, scientism and so on.

I always hated how sound evolution was in science. I tried so hard to deny it but no matter what I read, the arguments concerning evolution started to make more and more sense. I eventually conceded and became an ‘evolutionist’ (a term used by the religious). This really contracted the narrative of Islam and it put me further away from the religion.

I lost interest in the religion and kept quiet about it for about a year. My family started to realize that I wasn’t very practicing anymore and they would often get angry at me. My sister was the one who picked up the most signs and saw it coming.

I watched my faith crumble in front of me and it was extremely painful. Something I believed in for so long was just one big falsehood. I had to eventually admit that I no longer believed.

Leaving Religion

Within a month, I decided that I was no longer a Muslim, my faith was gone and I had no practice left in me. I thought my parents deserved the Truth but I could tell you it was a big mistake indeed.

One day, on a Tuesday, September 30th, 2014, I broke the news out. I left a letter translated into English, French and Arabic on the kitchen table and went to work. I had a full day of studies and work that day and would be coming back home at 10 pm that night. I begged my parents to read the letter carefully and only wait until the night to discuss in a civilized way but that’s not what happened.

At 10 am, my sister calls me in tears simply saying “I saw this coming, but I love you anyways and will always be on your side”. It ended up being a total lie and she never sided with me ever again. My mom allegedly fainted. Within the next hour, my father picked me up from the office forcefully and was sent home to yelling and screaming.

My parents asked me if I was part of the Freemasons, even though some of them are Muslims. I denied it because it wasn’t true. They had all sorts of conspiracies and none of them even approached the truth. I told them that I was a Truth seeker but it wasn’t enough for them. They wanted me to come back.

Many of family wanted to argue with me but I would be armed with so much jargon that they would eventually fear arguing with me, especially my maternal uncle. Their arguments revolved around faith and simply believing without ever considering anything else. My father and I would argue until 5 am in the morning.

Losing my family

The tension between my family and I grew so much that I eventually moved out but it wasn’t enough to distance myself from them. My mom no longer gave me endearments at all and I felt like I was no longer her son.

My father was a very practical man and I still miss him dearly. Him and I would come to peace and my mother would dismantle the peace between us saying that it was ridiculous. My father just wanted me to garden and fish with him and have father-son moments. He was no longer interested in religious arguments as they led to nowhere but my mother wanted them to keep going.

My most painful loss was my sister, she was my best friend. However, she decided to side with my mother for reasons I cannot understand. I was by her side and defended her as much as I could but it was a one way endeavour.

I eventually cut off my parents and haven’t spoken to them in a few years. I wish things could be different but the tension will continue if I stay with them. Because I was afraid to confront my immediate family, I had to cut ties with the extended family as well.

Mental Illness

My mental illness was probably a major contributing factor that brought on doubts for me and let me entertain them in terms of religion. Suffering in silence is one of the most painful experiences you can have. It was the first time I have suffered.

This is not a chronology but rather parallel to my experience. From my first symptoms to my remission, I went from extremely religious to an atheist.

My First Symptom

As the night rolled in filling the bedroom with darkness,
lights off, only the glow of the moonlight.

As the ceiling faded into obscurity,
filled it began with insects and nondescript creatures.
Was I going crazy or is this reality? I did not comprehend.
My chest began to contract as I felt someone pull me out of bed.

I did not know what was happening,
but clearly something was wrong.
I heard sounds and seen sights that never before appeared to me,
as my confusion grew.

The feelings I had were so other and so strange,
extreme sadness and lament,
so much so that I no longer wanted to exist.

- Saturday, May 8th, 2010

I had my first seizure.

I could not describe how strange and other it felt and the fear that I experienced. I really didn't know what was happening to me and even worse was the extreme depression. I will never forget that horrific night. I didn't have any thoughts over what happened, maybe it was demonic possession or something of the sorts, but I immediately sought God's help reciting verses from the Qur'an, and nothing happened.

I was lost, confused and helpless, at the time, I was too scared to describe what happen to anyone.

Things grew worse as I started to have more episodes and lost the desire to live or do anything.

The Spiritual Healer

My parents, being sick of my constant complaining and pain, believed that prophetic medicine would be very helpful. As a religious person at the time, I had confidence that I would be cured by these treatments and I could prove these staunch scientists wrong.

One day, I went with my father to the Ottawa Mosque on Scott Street and we went to main office to ask if they knew about a Spiritual Healer who knew prophetic medicine. Some business cards were presented to us.

This man "Sheikh Muhammed Sarmad Al-Khaledi" was advertising his "Qur'anic Clinic". He was a "psychopathologist". I called the number to schedule an appointment and it seemed that his 'clinic' was essentially in the middle of nowhere in this nondescript place near Ridgemont and Heron Park., I still felt optimistic and could taste the cure.

I went to the office and he made pay 250$ for seven sessions with him, much cheaper than any psychological therapist. He started to read Qur'an and he seemed to have visions of what happened in my life. Only about half of what he said matched my life but many of the times he was completely off. My religious beliefs made me ignore what he got wrong as some sort of selective cognitive bias.

Eventually, he made me sit in a chair and he started more recitation of the Qur'an. His recitation instilled fear into me and I started to tremble. After the recitation was over, he apparently felt something and he 'diagnosed' me with the following:

  • Jinn Possession

  • Evil Eye

  • Black Magic.

He gave me a series of rituals such as special baths, dowsing myself with olive oils, reading specific parts of the Qur'an and making specific supplications.

My parents were very supportive and helped me practice those rituals and constantly reminded me to do them. My father helped me recite the verses and understand them. They would lie me down and recite over me. I got much support from them because it was what they believed in. The wanted to prove those scientific practitioners wrong and the power of their faith.

I tried so hard to follow what he said but oddly, it made me worse. I wasn't getting any better despite his promise that I would be cured in 21 days. After those 21 days, he said I was bedeviled by one of the 13 daughters of Satan and that it would take even longer. He asked for even more money. He wanted me to recite verses thousands of times, it was honestly ridiculous.

I sometimes wonder if these people have an agenda or they truly believe what they are doing. I don't know for sure.

I was sent to other ones who asked me questions of things that almost every human experiences. Such as having dreams of falling or being chased. Or having hair falling from my skin. Or having wet dreams. Everyone has theses but apparently they were signs of evil.

I eventually gave up on this prophetic medicine and decide to follow another journey.

Psychiatry

After my sour experience with the Spiritual Healer who essentially brought on no results, despite the 21 day promise, and my sincere beliefs that I would be cured, I decided to take a different path altogether.

I begged my parents to be seen by a doctor, but I really didn't want them to hear what I was experiencing. Eventually, I met a competent general practitioner who let me speak to him in private without the supervision of my father, as again, they controlled every aspect of my life. He suspected a case of depression and decided to refer me to a psychiatrist.

It was a long agonizing wait, several months, until one afternoon, I got a call from a very dry man; he was going to be my psychiatrist. An appointment was setup within short notice and I saw him. I described to him my symptoms and all he had to say was "wow, that's complicated!".

My case was so atypical that he decided to send me to another psychiatrist for a second opinion, who was admittedly less dry, and she was out of words as well. It really didn't go too well.

They agreed to prescribe me a small dose of anti-psychotics and four times the regular dose of Prozac. I had no diagnosis, they were essentially guessing as my symptoms were so atypical that they really couldn't figure something out.

The medication didn't work. However, I did notice something, they had an effect on my mind. I got a bit calmer and my hypnagogic hallucinations were gone, which never bothered me though. It got me thinking, how come the recitations of the Qur'an and this prophetic medicine did nothing, while this modern scientific research was actually doing something to me. Maybe it's not a jinn or the evil eye, maybe it's something physiological.

I later realized that all mental illnesses had a physiological cause and not some magical mystical aspect. People who reported to be cured by prophetic medicine had their symptoms alleviated through a result of faith called the placebo effect. Most of the narratives I've heard describe people with minor ailments, like a case of situational depression that could be talked away. I dare someone to talk me out of my hallucinations or seizures, or convince me that they don't exist.

I've been under the case of these two psychiatrists for over five years now, and honestly it was really agonizing. I tried thirteen different medications before finding anything that worked.

One day, I was describing an aspect of my symptoms where my mood had phases and the psychiatrist had an epiphany. While I was in his office, he immediately called the other psychiatrist begging to have me seen the next day. She saw me and had the same click: I'm bipolar.

I did a few blood and clearance tests and then immediately put on Lithium. They warned me that the medication could take up to a year to take effect, but after a year, my life changed completely. I went from a bedridden person sleeping sixteen hour days to someone who could hold a full-time job and be a full-time student at the same time. I was still suffering from many symptoms that I didn't even know what they were, but I was functioning.

The psychiatrist had two troubles with my illness. The first one was that I had too much insight into how my symptoms worked and how they affected me. I hallucinated yet had no delusions. I knew that everything that I experienced was a product of my mind. The other more unfortunate part, my illness was a prodrome, in other words things were getting worse over time.

I didn't know I was epileptic for a long time. Before I had falls and convulsions, my psychiatrists were both convinced that I had some epileptic activity in my brain, it would explain my non-delusional hallucinations. But they we're right, years after I started falling and convulsing and having strange feelings.

The whole practice was so agonizing and tested my patience to the extreme. So many drugs that didn't work or gave me horrible side effects. Some made me worse and some have had permanent side effects on me that will never go away despite discontinuing the drug.

Today, I'm in remission, I'm 90% functional. Yes, I still have mood swings, hallucinations, anxiety and seizures, but I can live with them. The therapy and medication worked, I can manage my symptoms and live essentially what is a normal life.

Thanks to advances in science specifically biology and chemistry, these 21 little pills saved me from my anguish and most people wouldn't even know that I have something wrong going on in my head. I've opened up to some people and the response is always "I would have never guessed".

My case was so atypical that psychiatrists couldn't fit me into any of the DSM-IV (the Bible for Psychiatry) criteria. They chose instead to do a reverse diagnosis based on the medication I was taking and what they treated. I was eventually diagnosed with a very long title, something I could use to scare people if they attempted to upset me.

Bipolar Schizoaffective Disorder with Cyclothymia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Temporal Lobe Epilepsy.

Some will say that God gave us knowledge to treat ourselves but it seems that we always discover it rather than being born with it. This is a very indirect way of treating anyone. If I was born just 100 years ago, I would have never been treated and just labelled as a lunatic. If God created medicine why has it only advanced only in recent modern times. What was the point of allowing past humans to suffer and us getting the fancy pills?

My worst memory

I will still being treated like a guinea pig then by the psychiatrists and none of the drugs were working let alone having a diagnosis in the first place. This story is just to give an idea how painful illness is and what kind of feelings it can stir up within you.

One night, after I moved out of my parents place, who left me no furniture except a mattress and my desk, I started to feel queezy and odd and took refuge in the bedroom. I didn’t have a light installed in there yet and it was really silent. I sat down in the far corner of the room and the hallucinations started. My feelings were so other that I could not describe them in any language that I know.

I felt extreme depression and spent hours with crying spells and wanting to kill myself. No one was there to protect me, not even God who’s supposed to be my side at all times. But it was silence and loneliness. Pain and misery.

This was another one of my seizures that I thought was just a bipolar episode.

Once things subsided I immediately called the Distress Center for some consolation. No friend would respond and I would never seek the help of my judgmental parents who yelled at me during my seizures.

I am still haunted by this memory and the corner I sat is now filled with a bed-side stand and other stuff so that I can’t go there anymore. I still find it painful to go to the bedroom simply because of that memory.

I don’t want anyone to suffer like I did but the narrative is that God created a world where this could happen to wretched and flawed creatures like me.

My First Doubt

I can't exactly recall the spark that lit my skepticism and doubts about Islam but I know, no doubt, it was about the cruelty and sadisticness of God. Why does God punish people so much for things they don't deserve. Why did I suffer? I eventually realized that there must be a better Truth than this. One without God.

Evil and Suffering

Many in the first-world have not experienced true suffering. Good health, great income and an aspiring education. Suffering is abstract to them, something that is somewhat painful but just a test from God. To pass the test, one must be patient and steadfast, but is it really that easy?

Think of the millions who die from heart disease and cancer. Some people are overtaken by such anguish that they end their own lives, to put an end to their suffering. It is so insipid that an omnibenevolent God would allow such things to happen. The final blow is God will punish those who fail the test of bearing such pain. Do you think you could handle being desecrated and tortured?

Evil is another way to cause suffering. Think of Hitler or Stalin who tortured and killed millions of innocent people just because they didn't follow their ways. Why did God create these human beings and let them act like that. Is God that sadistic?

God has allowed violence to happen, when peaceful negotiation between the nations could have absolved anyone of fights. Why has God given us knowledge to torture, shoot, cut and hurt others? Why has God created some psychopaths whom He knew would have a thirst for killing? This is clearly not the product of an All-Loving God, but rather flawed mechanisms in human beings.

Look at the animal kingdom, these wretched creatures that don't even have the concept of understanding. Preys and predators as a means to feed them when God could have nurtured them in painless ways. Millions of pets every year have to be put down because of their suffering from disease. Rarely do they die peacefully.

In Dialogues concerning Natural Religion from the 18th century, David Hume reformulates one of the most famous quotes by Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher.

“Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil? Then why call him God?”

- Epicurean Paradox, Epicurus through David Hume

According to Abrahamic faiths, God is All-Good, All-Able and All-Knowing. The presence of Evil and Suffering contradicts this thoroughly. If God knows about Evil and He is All-Good, why would He not prevent it with His power and might? Just why? Why would a God like this test his creation in something that He knows that they will fail in? Not everyone can handle the pain of cancer or the prospect of having a loved one die of something unpreventable. Why did God even create these diseases himself in the first place?

When the actor and writer Stephen Fry was asked about meeting God, he had this to say:

"I will basically say, what is known as the Odyssey, I'd say bone cancer in children? What's that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It's not right. It's utterly utterly [sic] evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain? That's why I'd say… I wouldn't want to get in [to heaven] on his terms. They're wrong. Now if I died and it was Pluto, Hades and if it was the twelve Greek Gods, then I would have more truck with it because the Greeks were, they [sic] didn't pretend not to be human; in their appetites, and in their capriciousness, and in their unreasonableness. They didn't present themselves as being All-Seeing, All-Wise, All-Kind or Beneficent. Because the God who created this Universe, if it was created by God, is quite clearly a maniac. Utter maniac. Totally selfish. We have to spend our lives on our knees thanking Him? What kind of God would do that? Yes, the world is very splendid but it also has in it insects, who's whole life cycle, is to burrow into the eyes of children and make them blind; that eat outwards from the eyes. Why? Why did you do that to us? You could have easily made a creation in which that didn't exist. It is simply not acceptable. So, you know, atheism is not just about not believing there is God, but on the assumption if there is one, what kind of God is He? It is perfectly apparent He is monstrous, utterly monstrous and deserves no respect whatsoever. The moment you banish Him, your life becomes simpler, purer, cleaner, more worth living in my opinion."

Stephen Fry, The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne

My childhood was absolutely amazing and dream-like, no pain, no suffering and had all that I wanted. However, when my mental illness came into my life, I realized how painful suffering was. Why do I have to go through such anguish and pain? In the last parts of my religious career, I was angry at God. I was pointing the finger to sky and cursing God. I'm not the only one suffering from this and I'm not alone. Why would I want this to happen to somebody else?

Why did I deserve this? Why does God have the need to punish me and knowing that I would fail. Look, I don't believe in God anymore. If He really was so beneficent He would at least have given me means to be cured. Instead, I had to rely on flawed humans and science to get better. Assuming I did something bad, why would haven't He given me another sign rather than make us all suffer. I'm not a psychopath or narcissistic, but despite not harming anyone, I still got punished.

My only question to all of this is Why? How can God let such thing happen when he could have prevented it. Why not pick other criteria which would put us in heaven, such as our piety, how we treat others. our selflessness and not worshiping Him or belonging to a certain religion?

Look at all the Nobel Peace Prize winners, many of them not Muslims. These people will be sent to Hell punished forever and ever. Some claim that they will be rewarded in this life but how is it fair that the Samaritan gets Hell and the Muslim who did nothing but pray and fast gets Paradise? I don't understand this at all especially if God supposedly favours peace and justice.

Mahatma Gandhi established India’s independence through activism and nonviolent disobedience and inspired freedom and civil rights movements around the world. He became known as the Father of the Nation as he fought imperialism without the use of weapons or war.

The philanthropist Nelson Mandela fought institutionalized racism and instilling racial reconciliation. He instilled peace and justice serving the African National Congress as president as an anti-apartheid revolutionary.

As one of the UN Secretary-Generals between 1997-2006, Kofi Annan fought for human rights and was known for saying "Human rights are what make us human. They are the principles by which we create the sacred home for human dignity”. He saved an election, rigged and manipulated, in Kenya and prevented oppression.

Do these people sound like they deserve an eternal punishment to be scalded by boiling water and having their insides torn apart? I’ll argue that these people did way more than the Muslim who read Qur’an all-day and spent his night praying benefiting no one except himself.

This was the first doubt I ever had about the existence of God and it let me onto a path of destruction: the erasing of my faith. When I finally entertained this doubt, that I ruminated on for so long, finally I could think about it and challenge it. When the whole question of suffering came into place, I went from blindly religious to a skeptic within days.

This was a very charged topic but I'd like to end it on a dark humorous note. The comedian George Carlin has described the problem of evil in his performance You are all diseased like this:

"But I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize, something is fucked up. Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong in the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you'd except from an office temped with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently run universe, this guy would have been on His all powerful ass a long time ago…"

- George Carlin, You are all diseased

Hellfire

Reading about Hell in Qur'an generates such fear that one starts to think that God is a cosmic dictator. It's not about wanting to be sinless and pious, but rather having to. Even to this day, after becoming a non-believer, some ruminants of the fear of hell still reside in me.

While Christians and Jews have very vague descriptions of Hell, nothing compares to what the Qur'an has to offer:

"Boiling fluid will be poured down on their heads; which will melt what's in their bellies, and skins. For them will be hooked rods of iron. Whenever, in their anguish, they try to escape from Hell, they shall be dragged back. A Fire which will encompass them like the walls and roof of a tent, will hem them in: they will cry out for help but will be granted scorching water like melted brass, that will scald their faces. Dragged through scalding fetid fluid and burnt in the Fire. As often as their skins are roasted We shall exchange them for fresh skins, so they may taste the punishment. No food except pus. The tree of Zaqqum will be the food of the sinners. Like molten brass it will boil in their insides. Like the boiling of scalding water. (It will be said) ‘Seize him and drag him into the midst of the Blazing Fire! Then pour over his head the torment of Boiling Water.’ They will be given boiling water to drink so that it tears their bowels to pieces. Never will it be eased off them nor will they be reprieved. Never will they get out. Hell for all eternity."

- Qur'an (Verses 22:19-22, 18:29, 40:72, 4:56, 69:36, 44:43-48, 47:15, 3:88, 5:37 and 4:169) (Pickthall)

Try picturing yourself in such a vivid anguish just because you belonged to the wrong religion, by accident of being born in the wrong non-Muslim country. Imagine the screams, the heat and the immense pain. Think of those who have went to war and seen just a iota of this end up with PTSD. Imagine what your mind will be filled with after knowing that you will in there for eternity. How cruel and excessive!

I sometimes wonder why would a God that is apparently so loving, merciful and just would allow this happen. Sure Paradise exists and it is splendid but how is it fair to receive eternal punishment for a temporary mistake? Islam doesn't even guarantee that your sins will be forgiven. If you're born to the wrong parents, say Christian, well good luck. The dichotomy just couldn't fit in my head when I started looking at Islam more critically.

I think Carlin had summarized this point so well:

"Religion has actually convinced people, that there is an invisible man, living in the sky, who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten things He does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things He has a special place full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where He will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever till the end of time. But He loves you!"

- George Carlin, You are all diseased

Imagine your best friend, who happens to be of the wrong religion, and he got so sick of your proselytizing that he didn't want to hear any of it anymore. He or she's going to Hellfire, and be tortured. While they say God will erase the memories in your head of them when your enter Paradise, assuming you make the cut, losing a friend over religion still sounds very painful. Many of your loved ones will go to Hell according to Islam even your family friends who's are Muslim, but just happen to drink alcohol, are also going there.

This incredibly 'merciful' God is so sadistic that he wants to fill hell according to the Qur'an:

"If We had so willed, We could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance: but the Word from Me will come true, "I will fill Hell with Jinns and men all together."

- Qur’an (32:13) (Yusuf Ali)

Those might as well been the words of Satan. Even Jinns don’t get a break!

But it gets worse, God really doesn’t want the disbelievers to believe:

“Indeed, those who disbelieve - it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them - they will not believe. Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and over their vision is a veil. And for them is a great punishment.”

- Qur’an (2:6-7) (Sahih International)

This is like blindfolding a blind person. Apparently, God already knows their nature so they will go to Hell anyways, but just in case, their hearts will be sealed so they never ever have a chance. What a merciful God this is!

Of course, God really made sure that Hell would be a vast place so that it could be filled with as many disbelievers and sinners as possible with this chilling metaphor, incredibly poetic:

"On the Day We will say to Hell, ‘Have you been filled?’ and it will say, 'Are there some more?'"

- Qur’an (50:30) (Sahih International)

Honestly, these verses are only a glimpse to vivid descriptions of Hell in the Qur'an. Despite being so terrifying, Muslims still sin drinking alcohol, gambling and using narcotics every day, and they are assuming that God will forgive them despite their intentions. The truth is, God's tactic of scaring people from Hell doesn't seem so effective.

I started to realize that God not only created suffering in this life, but in the eternal afterlife too. He really is an insane monster who has a huge desire to torture His own creatures that He supposedly loves so much.

Even people who took part in Islam's growth and let it prosper more among the prophet's followers were not saved from such torment. The polytheist and pagan Abu-Talib, the one who took care of the Prophet when he lost both his parents to death. It was said this about him in the prophetic tradition:

Narrated Al-Musaiyab: "When Abu Talib was on his death bed, Allah's Messenger came to him and found with him, Abu Jahl and `Abdullah bin Abi Umaiya bin Al-Mughira. Allah's Messenger said, "O uncle! Say: None has the right to be worshipped except Allah, a sentence with which I will defend you before Allah." On that Abu Jahl and `Abdullah bin Abi Umaiya said to Abu Talib, "Will you now leave the religion of `Abdul Muttalib?" Allah's Messenger kept on inviting him to say that sentence while the other two kept on repeating their sentence before him till Abu Talib said as the last thing he said to them, "I am on the religion of `Abdul Muttalib," and refused to say: None has the right to be worshipped except Allah. On that Allah's Messenger said, "By Allah, I will keep on asking Allah's forgiveness for you unless I am forbidden (by Allah) to do so." So Allah revealed:-- 'It is not fitting for the Prophet and those who believe that they should invoke (Allah) for forgiveness for pagans.' (Qur'an 9:113) And then Allah revealed especially about Abu Talib:--'Verily! You (O, Muhammad) guide not whom you like, but Allah guides whom He will. (Quran 28:56)'"

- Sahih Al-Bukhari (Book 60, Hadith 295)

Apparently the Prophet had great love for his relative and took care of him in times of poverty, and despite of all of this, the Prophet receives the news that he will not be guided. Instead he gets insane punishments from such a 'merciful' God:

Narrated Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri: "That he heard the Prophet when somebody mentioned his uncle (i.e. Abu Talib), saying, 'Perhaps my intercession will be helpful to him on the Day of Resurrection so that he may be put in a shallow fire reaching only up to his ankles. His brain will boil from it.'"

 - Sahih Al-Bukhari (Book 63, Hadith 111)

Muhammad will have to intercede (i.e. negotiate with God)  so that his relative will only have this 'light' punishment. For verily, what a light punishment it is!

Say you had a child, or even a friend, who didn't follow your rules or even failed to acknowledge your existance, maybe you'd get angry at them, but would it be so great that you'd want them killed? Even further, would you torture them? Would you want to pour boiling molten brass down their throats for eternity? Even the worst psychopaths on earth wouldn’t want this and you're likely a normal human being. God, the Most Merciful, more merciful than any mother on the planet, wants to subject this to His creation.

What bothers me even more is many of these verses mention God's will. Why is God not willing to guide of All-of-Mankind if he cares so much for His creatures? Why not predispose them to perform good deeds so they can be under the pure guidance of God. However, God's Will and Divine plan is different. Some will use the free-well and predestination paradox to explain this but I will discuss this later.

I found this abhorrent beyond words and further lead to realize that God's not worth worshiping, if He even exists in the first place.

Theodicies

Many theists have come up with attempts to justify all this evil through theodicies. Essentially excuses for God to have allowed such things. God is not to blame, it our fault, or maybe He has something greater, a grander scheme of things that would explain all this pain and agony.

I don’t understand why theologians spend so much time defending God rather than admitting that He is evil. It’s not even about resolving contradictions but simply explaining away why Evil exists.

The Greater Good Argument

This is the most common argument to explain why suffering exists in the world. Apparently, our feeble minds could not possibly understand the grand scheme that God has prepared for us. Instead, we are left to suffer with no hope in sight praying that God will eventually absolve us of our pain.

My favourite defense is the following allegory: “A young child has a teeth cavity and is sent to the dentist. The dentist appears to be evil by giving needle injections and drilling through teeth which are both painful. The child does not understand why this is happening to him, but it’s for a greater good, to alleviate him from his cavity”. However, my question is, why did the cavity come in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been better to not have the child subject to a cavity? Harm was created in order to inflict more pain, for the ‘greater good’.

Where’s the greater good of inflicting poor children in Africa with cancer? Where’s the greater good of having innocent people tortured in prison? Where’s the greater good in dictators who destroy and torture millions of people?

God makes us suffer so that we pray more and communicate with him more. But why does it have to be through suffering? Why not have a plan where this person is given encouragement by others to pray more and follow God’s path better, isn’t that more peaceful and better?

It’s out fault because of our free will.

This is the free will and predetermination paradox. If God knew about the horrible acts that we will be doing and punish us for them, why did He allow them to happen in the first place? We can still have free will if we don’t have the inclination to do bad things. In fact, even now we don’t have complete free will due to our limitations as human beings. I don’t have the free will to fly…

It is inconceivable that a God that knows everything and wants peace and justice in this world to let such things happen. Why be punished for something that a freedom that God gave us, namely free will?

I’ve met Muslims that have doubts because of this paradox but they think that they are whisperings of Satan and brought their thoughts too far. I wasn’t afraid to entertain this doubt anymore and realized how ridiculous it was.

My Faith Crumbling Down

As my pain from suffering from my illness and my doubts concerning the Mercifulness of God grew, I started to get angry. Lifted was the fear of doubts coming from 'the whisperings' of Satan and I started to take a deeper and more critical look into my religion, not into anything new, but from what I already known.

At the time, I will really ill and unmedicated, hiding in my bedroom and either sleeping or on my computer. I would spend hours upon hours reading primary sources and various websites gaining a greater understanding of my religion. The more I looked into it, with a skeptic mind, the less it made sense.

As one ex-priest described it, it's like being really close to a mountain, you just see rocks and a small part of it. As you distance yourself away from it, the mountain comes into view and you gain a true prescriptive of it, how big it is and what it truly is.

This happened so fast, for many people this process takes years, within one month I went from staunch believer to apostate. It was a wild and emotional ride, especially realizing that 24 years of my life was on big giant lie and missing so much on the better parts of life just because God made them forbidden for arbitrary reasons.

I don't remember the order in which these doubts came but this is just a jumbled and rambled mess of what my thoughts went through, just as disorganized as my thoughts. This is just a tiny glimpse of how many doubts I had as there are much more, this is just a taster.

Igtheism and the God of Paradox

Many atheists have such a hard time understanding the concept of God in theistic religions; it’s because God is inconceivable.

The paradox was very well put together by a YouTuber called DarkMatter2525 in his God of the Paradox video:

“The Supernatural, it’s nothing, we made it up. It explains away all problems … How can a timeless being make a decision when every decision require at least two different temporal states? Because He’s supernatural! How can a spaceless being by distinguishable from other identities without distance to separate them? Supernatural! How can a spaceless being retain the countless gigabytes of information to know everything? Supernatural! And how can he be immune to causality and complexity? The supernatural is not bound to any form of reality which with anyone will ever be familiar. It can be created, destroyed or eternal. It has never been sampled or measured in any way, shape or form. It’s existence is entirely unverifiable. Therefore, any characteristics of it are eligible to invented by anyone on the spot. Any or all problems with the concept of God or any assertion really can immediately be cured by attributing them to the supernatural. This can completely nullify any and all arguments, forever.”

- DarkMatter2525, God of the Paradox

These are valid questions that philosophers and theologians have been debating for centuries as they really do not make any sense to anyone with some rationality or logical thinking.

I also have a few of my own:

  • How can there be predetermination (i.e. God’s plan) and free will at the same time? They are a direct contradiction of each other.

  • How can God be on a Throne when He is spaceless and timeless?

  • How can God be above the Seven Heavens when He is spaceless and timeless?

The idea that there is no coherent concept of God, that belief in that is called Igtheism. The answer to ‘does God exist’ is not false, but ‘not even false’

Black Seed

Religion is so good at making exaggerated claims and false promises. The Prophet has said:

Narrated from Abu Hurayrah that he heard the Messenger of Allah say concerning the black seed: “In it there is healing for every disease, except as-saam.” Ibn Shihaab said: As-saam is death. 

- Al-Bukhaari (5688) and Muslim (2215)

This sounds like something that could really benefit the medical community. But perhaps there is a conspiracy to prove that Islam is wrong and would rather have millions of people die from unpreventable diseases. The medical industry could make so much money by selling patented black seed oil to cure all the diseases. Almost everyone in the world is sick from something and there are billions of people on the Earth. Even if it was sold for one dollar, imagine the profits that it would bring!

Religions often claim that a complex disease has a simple cure whether it’s prayer or a certain plant or food. However, the reality is that no such thing exists.

I’ve had eaten the black seed in various forms like cumin powder throughout my life and it did nothing at all. It was rather modern medicine that provided me with proper treatment for my ailment.

I challenge any Muslim to feed a terminal cancer patient with the black seed and have them escape death. I can’t believe that even Saudi Arabia practices modern medicine when they know this secret and instead gets drugs from Switzerland to treat the sick. It is because the black seed does actually nothing.

Philosophical Arguments

The Philosophical arguments were made in ancient Greek times but only regained popularity again when William Lane Craig re-introduced them in his book “Reasonable Faith”. Hamza Andreas Tzortsis, from iERA, ended up copying his arguments verbatim and giving them an Islamic twist.

I won’t go through all the arguments but I’ll pick the two most popular ones that most Muslims use. These arguments are still gaining popularity and they can be difficult to understand by some laymen Muslims.

Kalam Cosmological Argument

The arguments starts with the following sound premise: “Everything that begins to exist has a cause”. You trace that back through regression until you reach the beginning of the Universe. It is assumed that the singularity that caused the Universe is not the initial cause, but rather it was caused by something. The huge leap of Faith is that the initial cause is God. I agree that the initial cause must be eternal because it did not begin to exist, otherwise we’d have an infinite regression problem.

I do agree that the cause must be powerful, must be eternal and so forth. But why must this cause be All-Knowing, All-Seeing, Personal and Omnibenificent? Why can’t the initial cause be the singularity that exploded 13.8 million of years ago. Isn’t it simpler to assume that this singularity is the uncaused eternal thing? Assuming the singularity was caused, why not a powerful eternal quantum fluctuation?

Argument by Design (i.e. Teleological Argument)

This is a very tempting argument because our universe is so unlikely. Even changing one constant by a tiny amount will result in a totally different universe. This is agreed upon.

However, does this result in believing that the Universe was designed? It’s a giant leap of faith. The constants could have simply been a coincidence. Just because we exist doesn’t mean anything special. We think the Universe was designed for us but it is the other way around, we adapted to the Universe.

We humans have a tendency to project ourselves into the world around us. Everything has apparent design but that doesn’t mean it was designed. Everything around us emerged through nature rather than a artist designing every tree.

The universe may be complex but it is not complicated. We are simply just one of the many building blocks that formed naturally through the fusion of atoms, the formation of the Universe and evolution. Gradual, slow changes that happened over billions of years. The gives plenty of time for coincidences to happen.

Numerical Miracles

I’ll have to admit that this supposed miracle really strengthened my faith in Islam though I’ve never actually verified myself. The concept is that some words are repeated a certain number of times and it cannot be possible that these repetitions are a coincidence, it must be divine.

Here are some examples of the claims:

  • The phrase “Bismilliah” (In the name of God) is repeated 114 times in the Qur’an, the same as the amount of chapters, even though Sura At-Tawbah (Chapter of Forgiveness) doesn’t start with it.

  • Seven Heavens is mentioned 7 times, and the Creation of the Heaven is also mentioned 7 times.

  • The word ‘day’ is mentioned 365 times, and the words days in dual and plural form are mentioned 7 times, and the word month is mentioned 12 times.

Muslims have found many more coincidences in the Qur’an and can be listed ad infinitum.

However, what is not mentioned is that the word count is selective (i.e. only certain instances of the words are selected) and that these kinds of coincidences can be found in other books too.

Let’s take a look at Moby Dick, written by Herman Melville also has similar coincidences:

  • The words iron and metal appear 95 times. The atomic number, weight and isotopes also add up to 95.

  • The world planet appears 3 times. The planet Earth is the 3rd planet from the sun.

  • The words day, night and world multiply to 24, the number of hours in a day.

  • Steel is composed of Iron and Carbon. The word steel appears 32 times. The atomic number of iron is 26 and carbon 6, if you add them up you get 32.

These numerical coincidences appear in any lengthy text, it’s just a matter of being selective and finding matches with reality.

Even Muslim scholars are not impressed with these ‘miracles’:

“I think I have now wasted enough space and time to demonstrate the absurdity of these claims that there is some special significance underlying the number of times these words occur in the Quran. In the first place, there is no rule or principle for determining which word or concept must always occur a special number of times. Secondly, the criteria for selecting which occurrences of a word should be counted are highly subjective, dubious and always open to challenge. Most importantly, we gain no increased knowledge about, or insight into, any teaching of Islam from knowing the number of occurrences.“

- Dr. Zahid Aziz.

For the really curious, you can verify the claims by visiting corpus.quran.com and do the word counts yourself. You will see that they do not match any of the claims made by the ones who spread them.

As a Muslim, I never really questioned these claims however as my faith collapsed I became more curious about what kept me in the fold of Islam. When I came to the conclusion that these were fabrication, another part of my faith was taken away from me.

Scientific Miracles

In the 1980's the concept that the Qur’an contained foreknowledge of scientific facts became very popular, despite older exegites having totally different interpretations of these verses.

One of the most famous ones is the one about embryology:

We created man from an extract of clay.  Then We made him as a drop in a place of settlement, firmly fixed.  Then We made the drop into an alaqah (leech, suspended thing, and blood clot), then We made the alaqah into a mudghah (chewed substance)...and We made [from] the lump, bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is Allah, the best of creators” 

- Quran, (23:12-14)

Keith Moore apparently converted to Islam after reading this verse despite still being a Christian today. Muslims love to spread this kind of falsehood as chain messages.

However, P.Z. Myers completely debunked this claim, mainly that the bones and flesh form in separate stages while in truth they form at the same time. Some apologists went so far as to claim that the word then ‘thumma’ (and then) also means simultaneously. It was really a stretch but how do we know which ‘thumma’ means then or simultaneously in that verse.

Ironically, the stages mentioned are the same ones mentioned by Hippocrates and Galen before the second century, I wonder where the knowledge was taken from.. Take a look here. WikiIslam summarizes the point like this:

“"let us divide the creation of the foetus overall into four periods of time.

The first is that in which. as is seen both in abortions and in dissection, the form of the semen prevails [Arabic nutfah]. At this time, Hippocrates too, the all-marvelous, does not yet call the conformation of the animal a foetus; as we heard just now in the case of semen voided in the sixth day, he still calls it semen. But when it has been filled with blood [Arabic alaqa], and heart, brain and liver are still unarticulated and unshaped yet have by now a certain solidarity and considerable size,

this is the second period; the substance of the foetus has the form of flesh and no longer the form of semen. Accordingly you would find that Hippocrates too no longer calls such a form semen but, as was said, foetus.

The third period follows on this, when, as was said, it is possible to see the three ruling parts clearly and a kind of outline, a silhouette, as it were, of all the other parts [Arabic mudghah]. You will see the conformation of the three ruling parts more clearly, that of the parts of the stomach more dimly, and much more still, that of the limbs. Later on they form "twigs", as Hippocrates expressed it, indicating by the term their similarity to branches.

The fourth and final period is at the stage when all the parts in the limbs have been differentiated; and at this part Hippocrates the marvelous no longer calls the foetus an embryo only, but already a child, too when he says that it jerks and moves as an animal now fully formed."

"... The time has come for nature to articulate the organs precisely and to bring all the parts to completion. Thus it caused flesh to grow on and around all the bones, and at the same time ... it made at the ends of the bones ligaments that bind them to each other, and along their entire length it placed around them on all sides thin membranes, called periosteal, on which it caused flesh to grow."“

- Galen - WikiIslam - History of Embryology

However, there are also many unscientific claims in the Qur’an as well:

It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit. 

Qur'an 36:40

This totally ignores the fact that some places have months of day or night like in Antarctica.

There is a common theme among Muslims when sharing these stories. Allegedly, some western scientist discovers that the Qur’an contains a scientific verse and it is impossible for a 7th century man to know this, therefore converting to Islam. However, these authors end up making official statements that they remain in their present religion and even NASA has to debunk their claims.

Muhammad also seemed to have a really poor knowledge of time zones.

“From Abu Hurayrah, that the Prophet said: “The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: ‘Who will call upon Me, that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?’””

- Bukhari (1145)

Sounds like a very merciful God working here. Except there is one problem, there is always one place on the Earth where it is the last third of the night. So is God always descended, doesn’t that contradict that he is on his throne? Did he descend the moment the Earth was created as the verb used is in present tense?

Some scholars have done some incredible mental gymnastics to debunk what I said:

“The correct view is that He descends and that He does not vacate the Throne.”

- Ibn Taymiyah

Such claims can be found in other major texts as well from the early 1900s, like again, Moby Dick, where at the time, no one could have no way to know this incredibly deep knowledge:

- The quote ‘go gaze upon the iron’ means that Iron formed in space.

- Just as the Qur’an says, everything was created from water, in Moby Dick it is also said ‘that all the creatures of the land, are of their kind in the sea’

Christians also find these miracles and predictions in their books with Equidistant Letter Sequence. Look at this amazing miracle about Space Shuttle Columbia where even the shape of a shuttle appears in the old testament:

Shuttle Columbia ELS.gif

How could have the ancient Jews found out about this without God’s input and made such an amazing and precise prediction? Maybe I should convert to Judaism.

When Muslims are comforted with verses that do not conform with reality, this is their thought process:

Scientific Miracle Thought Process.png

Mental gymnastics are a key to understanding these miracles. In Arabic, words can have so many meanings, so when you bend these meanings to suit reality, you can extract any meaning you want!

The scientific miracles really held my faith in Islam. However, eventually even as a Muslim I failed to believe in them anymore. Just as with numeric miracles, the scientific ones are a case of pick and choose. For any given text, if you try hard enough you will find whatever you want. Not having this in my repository in of my beliefs made my faith even weaker and brought me closer to disbelief.

The Inimitability of the Qur’an

While the Christians admit that their book is full of contradictions and errors because they are not the word of God but rather written by men inspired by God, they don’t make any claims about the Miracle of the Bible.

Muslims claim that the primary miracle that Islam is the Qur’an. It’s not Jesus walking on Water or Moses splitting the seas. It is that the Arabic written in it cannot be imitated. The Arabic is so beautiful that it cannot be other than from God. It’s great idea but hard to verify.

Weep for me, my eyes! Spill your tears
And mourn for me the vanished kings
Hujr ibn 'Amru's princely sons
Led away to slaughter at eventide;
If only they had died in combat
Not in the lands of Banu Marina!
No water was there to wash their fallen heads,
And their skulls lie spattered with blood
Pecked over by birds
Who tear out first the eyebrows, then the eyes.

- Imru’ al-Qais (Diwan, Poem 2) an example of pre-Islamic poetry

However, if one reads Arabic poetry from the pre-Islamic days, the Arabic is much more impressive in my opinion. The truth is, most of us perceive older texts are more beautiful than current texts. Ancient texts written in the past had a different vocabulary and seventh century Arabic is most definitely other in that sense compared to the news we hear in Modern Standard Arabic. Doesn’t Shakespeare sound much nicer than our current English texts?

“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name. Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,”

- Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2

Some claim that the structure of the Qur’an cannot be imitated as the Islamic Popularizer Hamza Andreas Tzortzis has written:

“The Qur’an has its own unique form. It cannot be described as any of the known literary forms. … The Qur’an achieves this unique literary form by fusing metrical and non-Metrical speech. This fusion of metrical and non-metrical composition is present throughout the whole of the Qur’an and cannot be found in any Arabic text, past or present.”

- Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, The Qur’an’s Unique Literary Form

What’s so impressive of having a mix of poetry and prose? It’s unique yes, but it’s not impressive. In fact, this sounds more like a mess by someone who has a poor understanding of what Arabic poetry should look like. It’s so much harder to write something with a constant meter rather than give up every once in a while and switch to prose. Poetry in meter is very difficult as one has to spend time counting syllables for every verse. However, if you have arbitrary rules when to switch between prose and poetry, then it becomes less tedious. I thought God had infinite power and wisdom.

"If the Qur'an was written by God, it must have been on a very bad day"

- Christopher Hitchens

The Qur’an structure is a complete mess. Constant changes in subject, a non-linear structure and it’s more of a stream of consciousness rather than a coherent text. If God really wanted us to understand his message wouldn’t it be a bit more organized? For those who haven’t read the Qur’an, I invite you to get a translated copy and see if you could a consistent narrative of any kind. What makes it’s harder is that the Arabic Mushaf (written copy of the Qur’an) has no punctuation marks or paragraphs. If you’re lucky to have a fancy enough copy, you’ll get marks that tell you when to pause recitation so you don’t accidentally blaspheme. Here’s an example where God switches subjects all of a sudden:

“And as for those who believed and did righteous deeds, He will give them in full their rewards and grant them extra from His bounty. But as for those who disdained and were arrogant, He will punish them with a painful punishment, and they will not find for themselves besides Allah any protector or helper. O mankind, there has come to you a conclusive proof from your Lord, and We have sent down to you a clear light. So those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him - He will admit them to mercy from Himself and bounty and guide them to Himself on a straight path.They request from you a [legal] ruling. Say, " Allah gives you a ruling concerning one having neither descendants nor ascendants [as heirs]." If a man dies, leaving no child but [only] a sister, she will have half of what he left. And he inherits from her if she [dies and] has no child. But if there are two sisters [or more], they will have two-thirds of what he left. If there are both brothers and sisters, the male will have the share of two females. Allah makes clear to you [His law], lest you go astray. And Allah is Knowing of all things.”

- Qur’an (4:173-176)

God goes from talking about the believers to a verse about inheritance, in the same chapter without transitional expressions! Even elementary school students are not this disorganized.

In fact, the Qur’an is so vague and ambiguous that God admits it himself. He even knows that people will seek discord on these verses to give them interpretation of their own. How introspective!

“It is He who has sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Book; in it are verses [that are] precise - they are the foundation of the Book - and others unspecific. As for those in whose hearts is deviation [from truth], they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation [suitable to them].”

- Qur’an (3:7)

Also, if this was God’s last communication with man, don’t you think He wouldn’t waste time with vague verses and stay precise and concise the whole time? Maybe God is a poet…

My favourite one however is what is called iltifat. It’s when the person changes in the same verse. For example, God could start talking about himself in first person and in the same verse changes to third person.

We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve for what they have associated with Allah of which He had not sent down [any] authority. And their refuge will be the Fire, and wretched is the residence of the wrongdoers.”

- Qur’an (3:151)

I will agree that some of this was found in some previous Arabic poetry (that doesn’t make it grammatically correct though) but the concept of Iltifat was post-Qur’anic a grammatical fabrication in order to suit Arabic grammar to the Qur’an. In fact, in order to state that the Qur’an has no grammatical mistakes, many of the rules of classical Arabic grammar had to be changed. We can almost say that classical Arabic grammar is based on the Qur’an. The scholar Abdal-Hamid Kishk was a master at explaining away these discrepancies making them seem like correct Arabic grammar with his contortionist and complicated (إعراب) Statistical Arabic Grammar Analysis therefore impressing his followers with only laymen knowledge of Arabic. Thankfully, they didn’t transfer that much in to MSA (Modern Standard Arabic).

God in the Qur’an puts a challenge to who will try to imitate the Qur’an:

“And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful. But if you do not - and you will never be able to - then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.”

- Qur’an (2:23-24)

Challenge accepted. But what are the criteria to determine is something is an imitation of the Qur’an? How do we know if something is better or worse than the Qu’ran. No primary text gives this information and I’ve challenged many clerics about this with no response. I thought the criteria would be something along the lines of:

  • A percentage of metrical and non-metrical text

  • The amount of metaphors and other literary devices. To a point where a human could not achieve that density of devices.

  • Word counts, patterns, etc.

However, I was never given any such list nor does any of the likes exist.

To the Muslim, if given any text that sounds like the Qur’an but is not from the Qur’an, they will claim that is does not match the Qur’an. Indeed it doesn’t, if you take the statement literally.

- First few verses of Sura Al-Imran (The Family of ‘Imran) recited by Ash-Shuraim. The is actually from the Qur’an. Compare it with the entries below.

I have found some imitations of the Qur’an online by anonymous Ex-Muslims. Give it to any Muslim who has poor or mediocre understanding of the Qur’an and they might think that it is indeed the Qur’an. It’s even better if the person does not understand Arabic at all.

I challenge anyone to tell me how these imitations are different than the Qur’an in grammar, style and beauty. What criteria did you use other than content? Perhaps this makeshift verses actually make sense?

A little warning for Muslims, the following clips are a mockery of Islam, listener discretion is advised. The Qur’an states that you’ll go to hell for listening to these. Precaution is a good idea, take head!

“Say, "Is it Allah and His verses and His Messenger that you were mocking?" Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after your belief.”

- Qur’an (9:65-66) (Sahih International)

Arabic Transcript

بالعلم و العقل نستعين و ليحيا الالحاد العظيم
كتاب كتبناه و قدمناه عربيا و رتلناه ترتيلا .1
لنبين للذين ضلوا الطريق ان ما جآءهم كان كتابا بشريا .2
و الظلمين الذين اضلو الناس و أولوا في كتابهم تأويلا .3
و قالوا فليأتي الذين كبذبوا بآياتنا كتابا مثيلا .4
ولما أنهم قالو ذلك فلا حرج علينا ان نقول قولا كفيلا .5
أحسب الذين آمنوا بالقران أن لن نجعل له نظيرا .6
بلا قادرين على~ أن نأتي بمثل ما جاءهم و اعقل تفصيلا .7
اولم يروا انهم يتصارعون بالقران خلافا و جدلا كبيرا .8
اولم يقل صاحبكم ان الشمس اتخذت من الارض مدارا .9
و ان ربكم ينزل من الثلث الاخير من الليل و كان الثلث الاخير من الليل على الارض استمرارا .10
11. و لما جائكم علم من العلماء يبين علة الليل و النهار و كيف اتخذت الارض حول الشمس مسارا
فكذبتموه ثم صدق فريق منكم وكلٌ ذهب بما لديه و جهر به ليلا و نهارا .12
و ألولتم في الكتاب تأويلا لكي تجعلوه له محلا و اعتبارا .13
و اما الذين كذبوا فأصروا و استكبروا و قالوا كيف نقول ذلك و قد جآءنا من النبي خلافه مرارا و تكرارا .14
انظر كيف اختلف امرهم و هم على دين واتخذوا طرقا شتى و تشتت افكارهم انهم قوما لا يريدون تفكيرا .15
وجعلوا بينهم و بين الذين لا يؤيدونهم حجابا محظورا .16
و قالوا لا تستمعوا اليهم انهم يقولون لا الا زورا .17
اولم تنتقدوا الاولين من قبل لما قالوا تستمعوا القرآن ها انتم اليوم تقولون قولا مثيلا .18
و لقد كذبتم العلم و العلماء لما قالوا قولا بديلا .19
و لما طغى العلم و ظهر الحق فكانت حقائق قلتم كان ذلك في الكتاب مسطورا .20
سيقولون ما جئتم به ليس كالذي جاءنا قل بلا و منعكم الناس ان يستمعوه كان دليلا .21

English Translation (by Hassan Radwan)
In science and reason we seek help. Long live atheism the Mighty.
1. A writing we wrote and presented in Arabic and we have arranged it well in arranging.
2. In order to make clear to those who have gone astray that what came to them was a human book.
3. And the oppressors who misled people and made up interpretations in their book a great deal.
4. They said so let the deniers bring verses written like it.
5. If they do that then we will not be embarrassed to say it is sufficient.
6. Do those who believe in the Qur’an think we cannot bring the like of it.
7. Nay, we are able to bring the like of that which came to them and much more rational in elucidation
8. Don’t you see they fight with each other over the Qur’an, arguing & disputing enormously.
9. Did not your companion say that the sun orbits around the earth.
10. And that your Lord descends in the last third of the night, when the last third of the night on earth is constant.
11. And when knowledge from the scientists reached you making clear the cause of night and day and how it is the earth that orbits the sun.
12. You denied it and instead believed a group from amongst you, each one having different views about it and declaring it night and day.
13. And you set about greatly contriving explanations in order to find a way of solving and re-evaluating.
14. As for those who denied and insisted and became arrogant, they said how can we say that when the prophet came with the opposite many times and repeatedly.
15. Look how they differ in their affair while following the same religion, and take diverse routes and diverge in their views. Indeed they are a people who don’t want to reflect deeply.
16. And they made between them and those who don’t support them a enclosed barrier.
17. And they said don’t listen to them they are just saying lies.
18. Didn’t you criticise the ancestors from before when they said don’t listen to the Qur’an. Here you are today saying the same thing.
19. You have denied science and the scientists when they say something different.
20. Yet when the science is certain and the truth is clear and are undeniable facts you say that was already written in the book.
21. They will say what you have brought (i.e these verses) is not the same as what came to us, say nay! and your preventing people from listening to it is proof.

- Sura Al-Ilm (Chapter of Knowledge) recited in tarteel style as done by the majority of reciters.

Arabic Transcript

1. سم الالحاد العظيم
2. ع ق ل
3. انه سر الكلام
4. من لدن انسان باحث خبير
5. يعرف به الذين هم في جهلهم غارقون
6. الذين هم يحاربون الملحدون الصائبون
7. ولرشدهم يتبعون
8. الم ياتكم نبأ الذين عرجوا الى الفضاء
9. وبينوا لكم ما انت به مؤمونون
10. كذب الكاذبون الذين جعلوا السماء طباقا
11. وما هي الا ما تتنظرون
12. وجاءو بخبر عليم كواكب صماء لا تلين
13. ولا جن ولا شياطين
14. انهم المدعين لكاذبين
15. وما محمد الا ساحر ومجنون
16. حوله اجلاف يصدقون
17. وما قوله الا سراب يرى ولا من حسيس
18. يامعشر المسلمون انا لكم تاصحون
19. لا نريد منكم مالا ولا زكاة
20. ولا قتال فيه تنهكون
21. انا حرمنا عليكم الدماء فلا تسفكون
22. وايدي السارق لا تقطعون
23. وبرحمة تتعاملون
24. ولا رجم للزانيين
25. انها ايات اصلها جحيم
26. تفرق ابناء البشر
27. الا يعيها الواعون
28. وبها يتعاملون
29. سترون فيما عندتا نعيم
30. عقول بها سائرين
31. جاهر بها الانسان
32. ليميز كم وما تصنعون
33. وانتم جاحدون
34. وما مثلكم الا كصخرة في وادي هوت
35. لا تملك تحبير المصير
36. فليستفق البائسون الذين جعلوا العقل مهين
37. وبقلوب ظالمة يحكمون
38. وما كان من قبلكم من الاولين
39. عظماء اناروا دروبكم بيقين
40. وصيروا البلاد في احسن ما ترون انه لذكر انتم عنه معرضين
صدق الملحد العظيم

English Translation (by me)
1. In the name of Apostasy, the Mighty.
2. 'Ayn Qaf Laam
3. It is indeed secret words,
4. From a knowledgeable human being,
5. Who he knows those who are downed in their ignorance,
6. Those who fight the righteous atheists.
7. It is the one who guides to prosperity.
8. Have you not the news of who have visited space come to them?
9. Denying of what you believe in
10. Belying the liars who say that the heavens are in layers.
11. And it indeed not what you see.
12. And they came with news about planets
13. And neither found jinns or devils.
14. Verily, they are the liars spread lies.
15. And Muhammad is nothing by at magician and a madman.
16. He is surrounded by fools who believe him
17. And his words are nothing but a mirage and not out of wisdom.
18. Oh Muslims, we are nothing but warners.
19. We do not ask you for money or charity.
20. Nor fighting so that you may perish.
21. We have forbidden upon you bloodshed that we will not forgive you for,
22. And don't cut of the hands of a thief,
23. And with mercy ye shall deal between each other,
24. And no stoning of the adulterers.
25. The words originate from hellfire.
26. They do not but separate humanity (between Muslims and non-Muslims)
27. Are you not aware?
28. And this is how they treat each other.
29. You will see when you come to paradise,
30. The minds of those who are walking in it.
31. The man has been glorified,
32. Despite their limits,
33. You will be alone.
34. And those who are like you, in the allegory of a hot rock in a valley,
35. Who don't have minds and wills of their own,
36. And those who generate the mind completely dull,
37. And with unjust hearts they judge,
38. And there was before you a people who were first (in their belief)
39. Who have paths of illuminate certainty.
40. And fought in the lands that you see it is not but a reminder that you deny.
The great apostate has told the truth.

- Sura Al-’Aql (Chapter of Reason) recited in the style of the older recordings of Mishary Rashid Alafasy

- Another Sura Al-’Aql (Chapter of Reason) recited in the style of Abdul Basit 'Abd us-Samad

As soon as I realized that the recitations appeared to be miraculous because the reciters read the Qur’an in a moving emotional way and because I couldn’t understand half of the Arabic (neither can the majority of the Muslims), I realized that this was just a fabrication of man.

When I finally read the Qur’an with a skeptic mind, it became more an more obvious that it was man’s work because of the many inconsistencies, incomprehensible verses that even exegites don’t have an explaination for and so on. Muslims will fight to death stating that the Qur’an has no contradictions, but a quick online search will give you a huge list of them.

The only reason I believed that the Qur’an was miraculous was faith and emotion, not based on any fact. The Qur’an made me cry and I was in awe of God’s wonder. However, I’ve cried to poetry before and beautiful music as well, does that mean that those pieces of art are also divine?

Evolution

My goal here in this section isn’t to convince anyone that evolution is true, the onus is on the reader. People choose to believe things often based on agenda instead of evidence and having something contradicts your religion is clearly the case of one. For the curious, I won’t be explaining evolution as Wikipedia has done a much bother job than me:

Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the expressions of genes that are passed on from parent to offspring during reproduction. Different characteristics tend to exist within any given population as a result of mutations, genetic recombination and other sources of genetic variation. Evolution occurs when evolutionary processes such as natural selection (including sexual selection) and genetic drift act on these variations, resulting in certain characteristics becoming more common or rare within a population. It is this process of evolution that has given rise to biodiversity at every level of biological organisation, including the levels of species, individual organisms and molecules.

I was heavily influenced by Zakir Naik as it appeared that he debunked evolution completely but I later learned that he made so many mistakes that I might as well ignore him. I would invite you to watch this video and see what I mean. (Though keep in mind that the ones who created this video have a Christian religious agenda, just ignore the hypocrisy because Christians are also creationists)

Many religious people would state that the ‘theory of evolution’ is not 'fact of evolution’. However a theory is the highest level of understanding that science can achieve. It explains predictions based on previous observations, just like a mathematical model. There is the germ theory and theory of gravity but no one disbelieves in them. Interestingly, the theory of gravity has more holes than the theory of evolution such as not accounting for gravity on the quantum level.

Evolution is so sound that 99% of biologists and earth scientists believe it. While other concepts have a much smaller following especially in the field of physics.

It always bothered me how sound evolution was as a Muslim, mostly due to the scientific evidence like transitional fossils, micro-evolution and DNA observations. It can’t all be made up as a conspiracy to prove that religion is false, can’t it? Despite all of this, I had to lie to myself and others and pretend that it was stupid idea and a satanic fabrication by Darwin. I had to be a creationist because Islam forced me.

The biggest difficulty was how the narrative that Islam provided to explain how humans came to be. God created Adam and Eve to populate the Earth. However, we know that heavy amounts of inbreeding cause an insurmountable amount of mutations and congenital defects. Did God give them special DNA?

Eventually, I conceded to believe that there was animal evolution but not human evolution. However, when I finally left religion, I became an ‘evolutionist’. My parents think that it is a religion on it’s own but it’s just another aspect of science, like gravity, medicine, quantum physics and so on.

Explaining evolution to an elementary school student takes approximately five minutes and fits perfectly within their mindset. The majority of the world doesn’t believe, but accepts the theory. No matter how much you explain evolution to a theist, no matter the examples and evidence and allegories, they will refuse the idea without any attempt to refute the idea. Very often, they think that evolution is some sort of anti-religious conspiracy. Honestly, I’m not an evolutionary biologist to explain it in detail by I still accept it. To the religious, do you accept gravity even though you’re not a quantum physicist? You accept Islam even though you’re not a scholar?

For the open minded, I recommend you do research on your own to find out.

Sura at-Tawbah (The Chapter of Forgiveness)

Nothing demonstrates the versatility of the Qur’an more than Sura Al-Tawbah (Chapter of Forgiveness). While the Qur’an has some progressive ideas in it, it is also rife with incredibly violent passages that are the foundations of those who seek to destroy humanity.

Sura At-Tawbah is one of the last chapters revealed for the Qur’an and sets the tone for what is it to come, the final Islamic doctrine. It is essentially the seal of the Qur’an and sets the precedent of Islam’s final message from the prophet.

The Qur’an never provides context of why the verses were revealed but it was just before the prophet’s death, as he was about to conquer Mecca, his home town, and get it back from the disbelievers. Sura at-Tawbah was God’s permission to defile and dismantle everything in their path.

The most infamous verse in the Qur’an is undoubtedly, as the Scholars of Islam call it, the verse of the sword:

“And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the disbelievers wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush.”

- Qur’an 9:5

While many will say that we can’t take verses out of context and use them when it is convenient for us, but there is no context in the Mushaf. Only scholars understand why these verses were revealed and those who are called terrorists use it to wage war against the disbelievers.

However, the prophet confirms that this message is actually eternal with his often ignored saying:

“The Messenger of Allah said, "I have been commanded (by Allah) to fight people until they testify that there is no true god except Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”

- Bukhari and Muslim, Riyaad us-Saliheen

The chapter goes on endlessly giving Muslims rights that would go against the Geneva Convention in every single way possible. Some examples of what this chapter allows are:

  • Treaties with the disbelieves can be broken if the Muslims are in a position of superior power.

  • Believers are made to forsake their family if they are disbelievers.

  • Humiliate the disbelievers

Verses ask the disbelievers to be dominated by Muslims and demand them to follow their rules paying a subordinate tax:

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.”

- Quran 9:29

The chapter is rife with verses about fighting the disbelievers and they can be listed ad infinitum:

“O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be harsh upon them. And their refuge is Hell, and wretched is the destination.”

- Qur’an 9:73

Like most chapters in the Qur’an, the structure is all over the place but there are few common themes. While God mentions his forgiveness to the believers a few times, some of the most descriptive passages of Hell are in this chapter. This chapter is used by non-Muslims world-wide to show the roots of the violent nature of Islam and what the terrorists use as a foundation for their acts.

Some will say that the verses are out of context but no other text other than the Qur’an allows its words to be dismantled and interpreted in ways that suit someones goals. Most Muslims are unaware of this chapter because it is one of the longer ones placed in the beginning in the Mushaf.

Although this is one of the last chapters revealed of the Qur’an, it truly sets a seal on the tone of this revelation and what those seen on the news use to justify their barbaric acts. If this was really intended for a specific period and time, why not say so in the Chapter, or even better, not include it in the corpus?

Where's the unambiguous message?

It’s very clear that God had preferred to remain hidden especially in modern times. God performed miracles that we cannot even verify in history. It’s all so vague that it might as well be fabrication.

Every instance of ‘miracle’ that has ever been described has been discounted by scientific and philosophical explanations. People have dreams of prophecy, but some of them are false. People experience strange feelings and get supposedly get cured from deadly diseases when it was all luck and coincidence.

The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge setup by the James Randi Educational Foundation has given the chance to allow people to make just one demonstration of the supernatural yet no one has succeeded. One million dollars is such a huge sum and yet no believer has been able to show anything that even resembles the supernatural. Every single time, whatever happens is explained by scientific causes.

If God really wants us to believe in him, where are the unambiguous signs that His word is true? People have started wars and killed each to prove who has the true message. Why doesn’t God reveal himself and make everyone a believer? The previous prophets were so lucky to see angels, miracles and so on in order to make them believe and laymen like us, who can barely conceive God have been given nothing. All we have is measly Faith.

Where I am Today

The past three years of my life have been incredibly difficult since I had for once, to decide my morals for my own self. I no longer had primary sources to guide me, I just had myself, my friends and my traditions. Everything else was left to me.

It was a stage in maturation and having to trying to grow up so fast is an incredibly terrifying roller-coaster ride. I have many years to go to understand a life without a theistic God.

I'm introspecting into my current beliefs and how I view the world, how I decide what's good and bad, and what are my 'Holy Texts'.

I am an Agnostic

When it comes to knowledge, I consider myself an agnostic. While many think that Agnostics are those who are on the fence on the existence of God, this is simply not the case. Agnosticism is simply the idea that some Truths are unknowable.

For example, what is beyond the universe is eternally out of grasp. We can't introspect into something beyond our limitations. If God is beyond existence, space and time, how would we know?

Some scientists are trying to increase their probabilistic resources of the existence of our extremely unlikely universe with the multi-verse. However, it is not fact, theory or even a hypothesis as they state. It is not falsifiable in any way; they have entered into the realm of philosophy. And this is what agnosticism is all about.

I am an Atheist

In terms of what I believe in, I believe that is no God. It is not faith or superstition, but rather just a belief. I could be wrong or right and always open to deep and all-encompassing answers that could change my mind. This is the difference between belief and knowledge.

I am an Absurdist Existentialist

When I was in high-school and deeply religious, I was made to read L'Étranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus, and I thought he was a total maniac. I really couldn't wrap my head around his ideas with my monotheism. However, as I grew out of religion his ideas started to resonate with me.

The main concept behind Existentialism is that the universe has no inherit meaning, in other words, life has no meaning. You are tasked with creating your own meaning of your life or that of others. The idea that you decided what you lived for was incredibly liberating.

Out of all the French existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and others; Camus was the one who resonated the most for me. His views were not nihilistic but rather comforting in their own way.

Camus described the 'Absurd' as the paradox of searching for the meaning of life in a meaningless universe. He provided three 'solutions' to this dilemma:

  • Suicide. In other words escaping existence. The validity of this solution is hotly debated between philosophers and I chose not this one. I wanted to experience life no matter how meaningless it inherently was.

  • Religion which Camus described as 'Philosophical Suicide'. Clearly, I'm out of this fold.

  • Acceptance of the Absurd. Living in spite of meaningless life and giving oneself its own meaning. This was the most liberating aspect to me and I chose to embrace it.

Unlike nihilism, Existentialism takes into account the negative points of life like evil and suffering. Rather than fight, one must live around it and accept the world as it is.

I am a Naturalistic Pantheist

When I read about Baruch Spinoza for the first time, I instantly fell in love with his philosophy. It was a deeply consoling belief that was still scientific. It fit within my philosophical leanings and my skepticism at the same time. His Magnum Opus, The Ethics, was so philosophically sound that it might as well be mathematics.

His idea was that God wasn't this transcendental being but rather everything that is, is God. God is the sum of existence. God is not personal or sentient, he just is. Rather than fight God with prayers and cursing His will, we should understand what God wants by studying him through scientific inquiry. Like this, instead of having an egotistical view of ourselves, we gain an eternal understanding of the universe. Man is not the central point of the universe but rather just part of it.

"God is the Immanent Cause of all things, never truly transcendent from them"

- The Ethics, Baruch Spinoza

I think Baruch failed to convince anyone as his ideas were based on reason but most people have faith in their religion for other reasons like tradition and belief. His ideas were later picked in the 18th century but simply became a study subject in academia. However, when I'm feeling philosophical, I subscribe to his ideals.

"Needs must it be hard, since it is so seldom found. How would it be possible, if salvation were ready to our hand, and could without great labour be found, that it should be by almost all men neglected? But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare."

- The Ethics, Baruch Spinoza

I am a Secular Humanist

When the Qur'an was no longer my primary source of guidance, I started looking elsewhere for answers. One day, I read the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" written by the Commission on Human Rights part of the United Nations and adopted in 1948.

My first read made me weep, the Qur’an could not match the morals in it by an iota. Never man was treated so well with respect and dignity. It became my 'Bible' and today a poster of it hangs on my wall near the entrance of my home.

"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations…"

- Preamble, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

- Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations

I don’t believe that religion should be the business of the state, but rather man should have the freedom to practice what they believe in.

“You can believes in stones, as long as you don’t throw them at me”

- Wafa Sultan.

I am neutral about religion

I still have nothing against religion. Unlike Richard Dawkins, I don't think religion is evil and should be eradicated from the planet. Yes, I believe that all religions are a product of humanity and history, but undeniably it brings comfort, solace and community to millions around the world, why take this away from them? Even us skeptics have delusions and biases, just different ones…

I am a noname in Arabic

While 7th century Arabic is far behind in modern concepts, MSA is a bit better. However, there isn’t a proper word for my belief.

The world ‘mulhid’ (ملحد) is the most commonly used but it doesn’t mean Atheist contrary to popular belief, it means ‘heretic’ or ‘apostate’. In Arabic, this term is almost a swear word and I don’t want to have such negative connotations attributed to me.

When people ask me in Arabic what I am, I prefer the word secular (علماني) since it sounds so much less poisonous.

Conclusion

Realizing that 24 years of your life was one big cosmic lie is one of the worst realizations I’ve made. However, I’ve learned to live with it but I can’t help but I feel angry about it sometimes. As my faith collapsed, I got angrier and angrier, as one cleric told me “you are angry at the sky”. I know this was emotionally charged, but ask anyone who discovers that the majority of their life was a facade, it’s the same experience.

This post was not supposed to be the most rationally sound or have the strongest arguments against Islam as others have done a better job than me. This post doesn’t contain every doubt or argument I have against Islam, as honestly, that would need a book. I wanted to convey the emotions that I’ve felt and have those who are on the fence about their faith be encouraged to entertain their doubts.

To my Muslims friends and family, please take a close read to this, as maybe, just maybe, you’ll finally understand what I went through, and crossing my fingers, you’ll realize that my doubts aren’t actually that ridiculous and respect me a little bit more before berating me. The Sharia wants me killed, but mother and father, aunt and uncle, my Muslim friends, do you think I deserve death?

“The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Whoever changes his religion, put him to death.’”

- Al-Bukhari (Hadith Number 6922)

My goal was not to insult Muslims, but rather challenge them, so that they make think twice about their faith. However, faith is blinding and some will be running to their favourite apologists in a vile attempt to defend my harsh words. If God’s word is so sound, why is it so easily taken apart? Why can’t God write something so sound that it’s intact no matter how it is looked at?

If you enjoyed this tirade so much, I think this unknown author under a pseudonym who left Islam in his late 80s has a much more lively and interesting story to tell. In My Ordeal with the Qur’an by Abbas Abdul-Noor, he describes how he went from quasi-scholar to an atheist at the very latest points in his life. If you’ve been a Muslim before, his writing style is such a good parody of the primary sources that you’ll be laughing instead of pondering deep philosophical questions. Due credit must be given to some CEMB members who worked day-and-night to translate this essentially unknown manuscript from Arabic to English. Most of the credit goes to Hassan Radwan for the brunt of the translation work.

If you can’t get enough of controversial verses, prophetic traditions, statistics and stories, then take a look at WikiIslam, a site run by the Ex-Muslim community.

Music can inspire many ideas in one’s mind even though all of them are not written for you. I know this song actually has a completely different meaning, but it can be interpreted to describe a bit of what I experienced trying to hold onto the religion as hard as I can but it escaping out of my hands and thinking that things would get better with my family but both ended up being just a dream and nothing more:

Excerpt from Losing my Religion

That was just a dream 
That was just a dream

That's me in the corner 
That's me in the spotlight 
Losing my religion 
Trying to keep up with you 
And I don't know if I can do it 
Oh no I've said too much 
I haven't said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing 
I thought that I heard you sing 
I think I thought I saw you try

That was just a dream 
Try, cry, why, try
That was just a dream 
Just a dream 
Just a dream 
Dream

Gregorian, Masters of Chant Volume I
Losing my Religion originally by R.E.M.

I’ll leave you with this controversial Ex-Muslim figure, Wafa Sultan, who has described the clash that Islam has with the modern world. When I left Islam, I was this angry too:

If you made it all the way to the end of this impossibly long text, than I really appreciate your time. You don’t owe me anything but be careful who you spread it to as some will have a sword at my door!

Electronic Stability Control

On October 21, 1997, the compact Mercedes A-Class became the subject of ridicule when it skid out of control and flipped over in the infamous elk test. Performed by Swedish automotive magazine Teknikens Värld, the test revealed how easily an avoidance maneuver could turn into a deadly disaster. This was a PR blunder for Mercedes-Benz especially considering this was their first foray into affordable front-wheel drive cars. One German newspaper mockingly published how the much older 1950s Communist Bloc-based Trabant passed the "A-Class killer test".

The Stuttgart headquartered auto-maker rushed to mend their reputation. Within three months, they were ready to demonstrate their refitted A-Class. In January 1998, the compact car was made to swerve hard left and right to avoid an 'elk' while remaining composed and firmly planted to the ground. The car was stable throughout without so much of a skid. Robert Colin, the test driver who originally made the car to flop over, was impressed with the results. Mercedes went on to exceed their projected sales numbers and even sold a plush moose at their dealerships.

How did they manage to salvage the car's safety reputation? They modified the suspension but more importantly, fitted the vehicle with ESC. Electronic Stability Control is a computer program that prevents loss of traction with an array of sensors and hydraulic brake actuators. During the test, ESC intervened within fractions of a second and applied corrective braking action to keep control at the hands of the driver. The system was so effective that to the onlooker, it appeared to be pure sorcery.

I wanted to blog about ESC for a long time, but I kept getting more and more ambitious. I realized that the solution was to blog only about certain aspects of it over time. Today, we're talking about the operation and effectiveness of ECS. Other subjects include the controversial history of ESC, how to properly correct slides and finally the physics behind wheel grip. All these will be detailed eventually in an article of their own. However, this post is the one with fun videos and pictures! No math equations or boring history guaranteed!

This is not intended to be a scholarly article on ESC, but rather an introductory one.

How to Crash

Cars lose control in two basic ways. Rather than explaining in minute details with advanced mechanics, I have prepared two videos which demonstrate how accidents happen due to loss of control.

Understeer

Understeer is when the car takes a wider turn than what the driver commanded. This is very common on front-wheel drive cars and usually happens when someone attempts to turn to quickly and at high speed. The front tires can only provide so much grip to steer the car, if it is exceeded, the car will slide forwards.

To regain control from understeer, one must slow down carefully until the tires have enough grip available to control the car again. 

Oversteer

Oversteer is a much more terrifying condition because it is an unstable one. The rear-wheels lose grip and the rear-end of the car appears to go all over the place. Oversteer is much more common with rear-wheel drive cars where the grip on the rear tires can overwhelm the front. In icy conditions, it can happen to any type of car as any of the wheels can lose grip at any point depending on the slipperiness of the road and the patches of ice/mud.

Correcting oversteer requires skills and concentration and understanding of the car's drive-train.

In front wheel drive cars, one wants to move the weight of the car back to the rear. Usually, that means, counter-intuitively accelerate rather than brake (or at least brake very carefully). Braking the car will cause the weight of the car to be shifted forward and the rear wheels will lose grip and induce even more oversteer. Therefore, stay calm, steer against the skid and accelerate. Once control is regained, you may carefully start braking again.

In rear wheel drive cars, it is much more difficult and would require a blog post on it own (hint hint!). However, the basics involve reducing throttle carefully and making calculated adjustments to the steering to ensure that the car is in line with the direction of travel again.

How Much of a Difference ESC Really Makes

What ESC does is correct oversteer and understeer, we'll see how in a moment.

The best way to demonstrate ESC is to do it in the field. In the tests below we'll be simulating a very common occurrence where a bus is stopped in the middle of nowhere and we're going too fast to slow down. As a result, we need to swerve left and then right to avoid the bus and get back onto to the driving lane.

This emulates the infamous elk test that is done by certain car magazines to test the limits of a car. The car is first made to avoid the obstacle by turning hard to avoid it, this induces understeer due to the forces involved in turning as the car wants to remain straight due to its initial interia. Once the obstacle is avoided, the car will tend to oversteer turning back as the avoidance maneuver caused the car to lose it's rear balance from the change in interia from the first turn.

ESC Off

ESC On

ESC on Ice

What's even more impressive is how capable the system is on ice. I have prepared a scenario where again, there's a bus stopped in our path and we have to avoid it. The difference is, we're doing it on a frozen lake!

ESC Off

ESC On

How ESC works

As the previous videos have shown, ESC can be extremely effective. However, it's mode of function is deceivingly simple.

Cars are equipped with a variety of sensors and accelerometers which allow the ABS Module to determine what direction the car is actually going. It compares it with the intended direction that the steering wheel is pointed too. If they don't match, it means the car sliding and the system intervenes.

ESC Operation

ESC Operation

The idea behind ESC is to cancel the spinning momentum caused by the loss of control. It does this by applying brake pressure on an individual wheel to compensate for the momentum.

In an understeer situation, one needs more momentum in the intended direction of travel. To do this, the rear wheel that is on the side of the direction of the slide will have it's brakes applied achieving the desired course.

In an oversteer situation, one needs to cancel the moment caused the slide. In that case, the wheel opposing the slide in the front has the brakes applied and the course is corrected.

It's really that simple.

ESC Counteracting Oversteer (from Fifth Gear)

ESC Counteracting Oversteer (from Fifth Gear)

In addition, as we previously mentioned that the key to preventing (not correcting) most slides involves a reduction of throttle. ESC will automatically determine how much throttle to reduce in a slide intervention happens as to not worsen the situation.

Effectiveness

However, ESC cannot break the laws of physics. If you're going too fast for a corner, you will be headed straight to the wall. ESC is a system to design to prevent loss of control, not enhance it.

ESC performs these actions repeatedly in very shorts periods of time acting much faster than a human possibly could. Usually 50 times per second. In fact, the kind of corrections made by ESC cannot made be made a human, unless they drive carefully enough not to break traction. But in panic situations one might easily make mistakes. 

ESC Today

Electronic Stability Control is now considered mandatory in new vehicles in many first-world countries. It has shown to reduce single-car accident rates by quite a huge margin as multiple studies have shown. Accident avoidance figures range from 30-50%, a massive improvement and it's easy to see why it has become one of the pioneering achievements of the automotive world like the seatbelt and airbag.

Most cars today are fitted with this technology as standard. A flashing warning light indicates that the system is actively correcting a slide. If the light is solid, it is time to visit a mechanic as the system is probably malfunctioning. Other vehicles may have a separate "ESC Off" light that either flashes or stays on if the system was deliberately turned off or malfunctioning. 

ESC Light.jpg

ESC Light

A typical dashboard ESC indicator

In many cars today, ESC cannot be fully disabled. Pressing the disable switch will only switch it off partially, usually the traction control portion only under certain speeds. This is usually because engaging the system means that the wheels will not spin in stuck snow or mud situation because the system is detecting a loss of traction. In order to allow the wheels to spin slightly to hopefully get out of the deep mud pit, the traction control will be disabled at low speeds.

For the really brave ones, some cars have essentially 'cheat codes' to fully disable the system if the car doesn't allow it already. A quick google query will find you some results.

I hope this gave a small glimpse on a life saving technology that we often don't even notice. Next time you press and hold the ESC Off button, think about what protection you will be losing.

Learning More

The Wikipedia article on the subject is actually quite short on the subject of ESC (and sorely misses points on the history aspect) and I haven't found something in-depth enough yet.

I found a few more interesting videos describing vehicle dynamics and ESC and I recommend a watch:

All the above simulations were provided by the BeamNG.drive vehicle simulator.

Drifting a Bus

This is another satire...

I traveled to Japan last year and got a chance to meet the Drift King himself. I was doing a track day and drifting culture is hot in Tokyo. I got a chance to speak to Mr. Tsuchiya and he told me a funny story about drifting something you wouldn't expect:

Hi, my name is Keiichi Tsuchiya, and I am the Drift King. I call this maneuver the "Omenibussu Duriftu" and it cost me my job and sent me into abject poverty.

I started doing this on rainy days tired from my 8 hour shift of hauling passengers around, I needed to relax and have a bit of fun. I would move the bus side to side and then turn hard and the bus would drift. Passengers screamed and complained as I counter-steered the slide. The complaints lead to me being fired ending my career as a bus driver.

Make sure you inflate the rear tires of the bus as much as you can and deflate the front ones. This will make the bus prone to oversteer. I convinced the maintenance workers to install nitrous on the bus telling them that the bosses ordered us to test out this new ethanol reduction system. I even convinced them to weld the rear differential as it would help getting out of sticky situations in snow.

I recommend you do this with 40 footer bus as an accordion bus may lead to fish-tailing. Use a track with plenty of run of area to prevent accidents or the rapid-transit road if you're brave enough. You'll need a rear-engined, rear-wheel drive bus for this technique (a bit like the Porsche 911).

First, accelerate to 60 kph, and then swing the bus left and right until you reach the corner. While you swing, keep accelerating until 100 kph. Then once it reaches the turn, accelerate hard and let the bus slide without adding steering input. Half-way through the slide, counter steer and reduce throttle. It will work every time, at least for someone skilled like me.

The simulation was possible thanks to BeamNG.drive

Clever Code

I recently worked on a proof of concept mobile application for an insurance company. It was simply designed as a tool for sales to demonstrate how a potential concept could work.

The statement of work seemed to be reasonable, a week to improve some functionality and change some branding. It also included updating the dependencies of the project and upgrading it to work with latest tool set.

It really seemed like a reasonable project until I was given the source code. I realized that what I had in hand was production quality code with hundreds of libraries included. I could barely understand the workflow of how the code lead to functionality, it seemed like sorcery was being used to generate it. I've worked on a dozen of mobile applications and it was generally easy to understand how they worked.

Obviously, this 3 year old project wouldn't compile with the latest tool set. I thought it would be an easy task to simply bring up the libraries to their latest version, but a ton of compiler errors were thrown. Why? The code heavily relied on paradigms from the older libraries and the newer ones have changed workflows completely.

I realized that updating the application would require major refactoring which wouldn't fit within the tight deadline. I won't give too many details as work is supposed to be confidential, but it was a very simple app with a few screens and extremely basic functionality.

At that point, I decided that I would rewrite the application from scratch. What took a team several months to do I was confident that I could do it in one day. However, I wrote very simple and easy to understand code. It's a proof of concept, a prototype. The source code is supposed to be disposable once the company decides to turn the PoC into a production quality application.

In one day, I had the prototype working with the same functionality, actually more, than the original version. My goal was very different, it was a PoC, not production software, it's supposed to be a prototype. One day's worth of work is not costly to throw out, but spending on several employees to do the same thing, but with way more complicated code is way more costly and even more when it comes time to maintain it.

Even production applications can be overengineered. Code can be very clever but an impossible mess to actually understand. Most developers don't realize that code is easier to write than to read. In several years, a simple bug fix will break the application because you can't remember how the asynchronous event system worked when it could have been a simple method call in a seperate thread.

Code is supposed to be of the same scope of the application, not more. Annotations, lambda expressions and so on are tools to help you write more readable code but only when it stays reasonable. A super clever implementation of lambda expression that spans the entire screen is much worse than a simple for loop which is what you really needed.

New developers want to show how clever they are with complicated code, however it doesn't impress anyone because no one understands it. As I progressed throughout my career, I realized that very simple code is way more elegant than clever black magic. As a result, I ended up with more maintainable code that I could come back to years later when it needed a simple bug fix and I was confident that it wouldn't break anything else.

My belief is that code should be as simple as reading an English article. Only a one pass reading should give you an idea on what's going on. If you need to reread the code several times to understand it, it's a bad sign.

When you do need to be clever because it's the only choice, it better be documented with plentiful of comments, that explain why and not how the code was designed that way. Whatever is needed whether it's diagrams, a separate document or even a video. The point is that the next developer understands it right away.

If you can recite the code and it sounds like English sentences, you're on the right track.

Burnout isn't about work...

A few weekends ago, I found myself doing absolutely nothing. I didn't watch movies or shows, read reddit, have any meaningful conversations or even eat. I took naps to escape reality and slept-in as much as I could, much to my detriment with even more fatigue and tiredness.

I thought I was having a routine depressive episode but I realized that my mood wasn't actually that bad. However, I really did want to do nothing other than sleep, complain and stare out the window. Nothing was interesting.

My creativity and brainpower was sucked out me until it was completely depleted. What really happen?

I often blamed work for this but I'm still functioning there and considered a high performing employee. I always have the energy to do something there, but come home all of it disappears.

While some say burnout is clinically similar to depression, I'm not that sure. Depression is quite a constant uniform feeling of hopelessness, dread, negative thought patterns and perhaps a physiological aspect. Burnout doesn't exhibit itself when have to work, it's when you don't.

For most of us, work is our liveliness, it's literally what keeps up alive, income and passion. We put all our effort into it because we have to otherwise we're not meeting deadlines or that next performance review won't be so good. You're forced to perform.

When the pressure is off, the mental energy spent to do work depletes any sense of motivation left for any hobbies, relationships and so on. At home, you don't have deadlines or clients to meet or sales pitches to satisfy. All those obligations are gone, you're free to decide for yourself save your errands like groceries and laundry, though even those can be neglected sometimes.

The end result is fatigue and self-neglect.

Unlike depression, burnout probably has no major physiological causes thought it's effects maybe. Neglecting your body with lack of food and exercise won't help the lack of motivation and low energy.

Few resources have presented reliable treatments for burnout. I don't think it exists because everyone experiences it in a different way. One solution may work for another but would make another's burnout even worse.

One constant factor between all these 'treatments' however I noticed is breaking the routine of life. Things won't improve if you do the same thing everyday. You to have things to look forward to whether it's exciting times or times for rest. I can be really anything.

For me, for example, I'm an introvert-extravert hybrid (leaning more on the introverted side). I like doing things alone but I need to go out and chat with people. I need to go out and enjoy the views, the restaurants, the malls, the parks and so on. Knowing these things are coming gets me excited, even a chat at a coffee shop. Being locked in drives me nuts but sometimes I want to be locked and left alone.

For others, vacation time might help 'recharging ones batteries' though one must be careful as vacation can be equally as tiring. Especially long trips and vacations relying on heaving planning full of activities.

I noticed that others simply like to retreat and escape. Binge on TV shows and movies, spend hours on Reddit and read fiction novels. That's also breaking the routine if all you do is work.

There really isn't a single solution for burnout and I really can't say I found the ideal one for me. I hate to say it, but the best solution is trial and error. My solutions ranged from changing the colour temperature of the lights at home to going on more meetups. Some did help and others didn't.

I don't believe that burnout is about self-worth or how one views one's self at an organization. That may be effect of burnout but not the cause. The reason for burnout is simply fatigue, lack of energy and motivation and one must find the way that works for them to help them restore that energy.

Please post in the comments in how you recover from low-energy energy and burnout? How did you keep the fire burning when you get home?  Do you hit up the gym, cook a fancy new meal, or take a day or two off and spend the day watching Netflix? These discussions are key to understanding this relatively new concept and how treat it.

How to Program and Make Software

Learning software development is one of the most frustrating endavours you can partake in. You see these sophisticated web apps and advanced operating systems and you want to do like them. You want to make a great triple-A game with your own amazing story. However, few realize the amount of effort into making these. These pieces of software are built by big teams with dozens of members who spent the past 5 years churning out code.

On top of that, it's not just about writing and understand code, but it's about writing it in a way that it can be re-used, easy to read and understand years down the line and easy to fix and maintain. Yes, you can make something work by copying code you don't understand and having a big giant mess of spaghetti, but it's not something that you call software engineering. At best, you're a script kiddie.

Like in any field, you need to start really small. Writing command line applications that add two numbers. Understanding the very fundamentals of how computing actually works, how code is converted into something the CPU understands.

Many want to become computer scientists and software engineers, but I honestly don't believe that academia is the best route for this. The knowledge they offer is often out-dated and doesn't really apply to the real world. In school, you get these lab exercises with perfectly commented code but when you start your job, things are really different and way more messy. Yes, you might need a degree for you next job, but an Arts or Math degree will get you far enough. To build software, you need to be passionate about it and teach yourself. You need to get deep into the books and learn by reading other people's cryptic code. Unlike other fields that have been the same for centuries, software changes every day. Just look how often your phone apps get updated and changed. It's not just about trends, it's about constant improvements.

Don't be discouraged when something doesn't work, keep trying until you get the results you want. Keep re-inventing the wheel until it is a well-oiled machine. You won't get there in a few days but trust me the ramp up will be quicker than you think.

You need to pick a path before you start on your adventure. Do you want to write games, cool web apps for budgeting or how about an advanced modeling and simulation library? Just like any other field, there are specializations and you can be good on as many as you want. The secret is time.

When someone asks me about where to start, I usually throw this list of resources with books and websites. Somewhere in there, you'll find something that tickles your fancy and will get you started on your programming adventure.

No Excuse List

http://noexcuselist.com/

There's a lot of free programming courses in there if you prefer lectures and interactive exercises instead of reading. Codeacademy is really popular.

Freely available programming books

https://github.com/vhf/free-programming-books/blob/master/free-programming-books.md

Basically anything related to computer science can be found here. There's even some IT related books in the list. Updated all the time.

Awesome Awesomeness

https://github.com/bayandin/awesome-awesomeness

A meta-list of useful libraries for different programming languages. Before trying to code something on your own, see if there's a library that does it already.

Pick your preferred method of learning and you'll on your way to make whatever you want. The sky is the limit, or perhaps your imagination.

The Million Dollar App Idea

If you're a mobile developer, this almost certainly happened to you. A friend or relative makes you swear to secrecy about what he's going to tell you next. His secret idea will change the world and make millions. He comes up with the idea (usually like Uber but for X) and you do all the development work, split share 50/50.

Most people think that coming with an idea is hard, but it isn't. Everyone has a ton of ideas all day long, many of them ridiculous and some few genius. However, execution is the difficult part: development, marketing, building a company and so on. That sucks in every available time slot in your day as you try to make your idea into reality.

What's worse however is most of these ideas fail. Startups get a ton of investment money that is sunk into nothing. People quit their jobs hoping their new business will let them retire early. None of this really happens.

People are mesmerized by what they see in the media. A teenager who made a soundboard app makes millions and buys a mansion at age 17. Another makes thousands of dollars in ads from his YouTube videos or Twitch streams. However, all of this is a form of survivorship bias.

How many Twitch streams are watched by virtually nobody compared to the few famous ones. Pennies are made from most YouTubers who put ads up. The reality is that these successful people are the exception not the norm, they can almost attribute their success to luck.

I've seen people with no fame make excellent content and vice-versa. Producing good work isn't guaranteeing success. Not the best product is always the one that makes it to market. If we can call it that, fate, results in success.

However, to succeed, one must play the lottery game and hope to make it there. You can't beat the odds if you don't try. But don't approach the idea with naivety, but actually study what people want. Notice how informercials sell mundane things you never thought of and they sometimes make great success even if their products are garbage.

Think of a problem that you actually experience day to day. Something that bothers you and perhaps others. Maybe finding a solution to that would increase your success. Don't just imitate another streamer or blogger, because they succeeded out luck mostly. You need to do something novel that no one has ever thought of yet, and maybe, just maybe, you'll be making a few bucks.

When working on a project, your goal shouldn't be fame or money, but rather passion and learning. That growth is so much more valuable as the new skills you learn can be put into use somewhere else, maybe in a job that actually makes money.

My Computing Setup

Everyone (or maybe just me) is interested in what people of different livelihoods use as a computing setup. Think I'm crazy, there's actually a website (uses this) all about this, interviewing relatively famous people about what they use to do their jobs, write their books, photography, create apps and so on.

I've always liked the laptop form-factor because it allows me to work from anywhere in the home, or if I want to do something elsewhere, I easily can. However, I also like sitting at a desk with a big screen and a comfortable sitting position. To get the best of both, I'd purchase laptops with a docking station that would allow me to use my laptop normally and then plug it into a docking station connected to a big screen, laptop, keyboard, etc.

Lenovo ThinkPad Mini Dock Series 3. A very common docking station compatible with many ThinkPad laptops.

Laptop

I went through a slew a laptops from Dell and Lenovo and right now I've settled on a Dell XPS 9560. It's a good balance between portability, style and enough power for gaming, something I'm avid of. The grunt also helps with compiling large software projects and multi-tasking.

A brief overview of the Specifications of the Beast.

Display

I really wanted something unique to do my work on, simply for the desire of being different (and self-conceited). The main attraction is the screen. I originally got a 24" 2K monitor but it had display connectivity issues and it made me angry enough that I wanted to go to extremes; get a giant 40" 4K TV and get that working properly.

To get a 4K TV working at a proper resolution and refresh rate, you need to take some special things into consideration. First, the TV must support chroma 4:4:4 subsampling, which means no compression is used to display pixels on the screen. Otherwise, text appears blurry but movies and games will look acceptable. Some cheaper TV brands don't have it and each manufacturer has a different way of enabling this feature. I recommend this excellent write up by Rtings about it .

This method allows for 4K@60 Hz (a good refresh rate for gaming and regular desktop usage) but requires HDMI 2.0 or newer. You'll either need to make sure your system supports it (most newer video cards support it but laptops usually don't). I was able to procure a USB-C to HDMI 2.0 adapter for my Dell laptop to get the image to display to my liking. My work laptop, an early-2015 MacBook Pro needs an active (passive won't work) DisplayPort to HDMI 2.0 adapter and a patch for macOS Sierra. Finally, you may need a high-bandwidth HDMI 2.0 cable that is rated for 18 Gbps but you may already have a high quality HDMI quality cable laying around that supports 4k@60Hz just fine. Try before you buy something new.

Keep in mind that TVs are often not designed for low latency or gaming so do some research beforehand to ensure that you screen meets your latency sensitivities. Rtings is my go-to source for this but otherwise other websites found with a quick Google query have useful information too.

The behemoth display itself. 

You really don't need multiple screens with this kind of setup unless you're working at NASA. A 4K display is like the equivalent of four 1080p screens stacked together. Very often, I'll have a small lonely window sitting in the window while I idle around browsing the web. You'll never want to maximize anything as scanning your eyes across a meter of pixels can be tiring.

Input

In terms of input, my route is a bit non-traditional. I really like ThinkPad keyboard with their TrackPoint. It allows me to move the pointer without moving my hands from the home row, though research has proven it to be one of the slower input methods. It's more of a comfort thing for me. I've owned many ThinkPads in the past so I got used to the layout of the keys but I miss the 7-row layout. I'm not very picky about the switch. I like both rubber domes (provided it's not mushy) and mechanical keyboards. I do enjoy the clicky MX blue switch very much, just wish they made a TrackPoint with those.

ThinkPad and Trackball combination.

I prefer a trackball mouse over the regular one because it allows me to move the pointer without actually moving the device. It takes time to get used to but I got to the point where I can play first-person shooters with it. It is very comfortable to hold and fits well in the hand. However, be prepared to clean the sensors for the ball regularly like you did in the good old days of ball mice with mechanical sensors.

Docking

Business style laptops usually come with a very practical docking station that allows to just slot the laptop into this slab and your screen, keyboard and mouse are all connected automatically. Dell didn't have this option so I opted for a stand and a Thunderbolt Dock with a Thunderbolt Connector. It allows me to easily plug everything with a single cable for both charging and connecting external devices. It's not as seamless as a traditional dock but this is the best I can get with this laptop.

Dell Laptop docked in its stand with a Thunderbolt Connector

For my work computer, when I occasionally work remotely, not that I have an excuse since the office is 4.7 km away, I have a few external plugs to connect my MacBook. I just need power, DisplayPort and USB to plug in and I'm ready to go. I have a switch to alternate between the Keyboard and Mouse from main laptop to the MacBook. It's pretty easy to setup and switch between systems.

The MacBook ready for work with just a few plugs.

LED Lighting

The pièce de resistance for me is the LED strip that runs under the screen. It allows for a very atmospheric look on the desk and makes things look a bit less sterile. The colour and brightness can be adjusted along with automatic colour changing. It looks especially great in low lighting though it can get distracting and sometimes I turn it off. It's more of a party piece to show off more than anything else. I purchased the kit from Ottawa LED

An animation of the LEDs slowly changing colours. I find it very mesmerizing and impresses the ladies (OK, maybe not) 

Operating System

In terms of software, pragmatism trumps ideology for me. I don't care about the operating system debates or what software is superior to another. The right tool for the right job and that is what you're supposed to use. I use Windows, macOS and Linux on a daily basis; each one has it's sublime moments and pain points.

At home, I use Windows 10 mostly for gaming. Virtually any kind of software is available for Windows and security has gotten better since Windows Vista but it's still a massive target for malware. Software development is feasible but you really want something more powerful than cmd.exe and PowerShell. With the new Windows Subsystem for Linux, the gap is starting to be filled but it still needs more work to become something production ready. Customizability is also another point, while there are Stardock tools and .dll hacks to get your own custom themes, they are a bit fiddly and don't always work as expected. You can get alternative shells but you'll usually be stuck with explorer.exe if you want things to behave properly. Not to deny you can get a very attractive Windows Setup with the right tweaking. In terms of device driver support, Windows is a clear winner because manufacturers write software for the most popular target. Not to mention that Windows has become pretty stable and has great architectural principles. What other operating system allows you to switch display drivers on the fly with WDDM. Not to say that things are perfect with the infamous BSOD.

My Windows Desktop

At work, I was given a MacBook running macOS Sierra. The aesthetics and consistence are second to none and things look so cohesive. The polish is amazing and though it's not something I'd use everyday, I definitely see the appeal. As a bonus, because it's a Unix-like operating system, you get all the POSIX commands out of the box, great for software development. They're the BSD flavours instead of GNU but it's hard to tell the difference. A man page will explain the differences for you and it's sufficient for me. Otherwise, just like Windows, everything just seems to work like multiple displays support, automatic sound output switching and fast boot times. I believe that in terms of plug and play support, macOS is the superior OS. I just wish you weren't stuck with the default look (I know a dark theme is in the works). Customization is a weak point in macOS. Switching between Command and Ctrl for keyboard shortcuts causes me fatigue as I switch between systems and I feel that the Windows taskbar system is superior to the Dock. I just want to see what I'm running, not everything that I've pinned down there. Admittedly, those big icons look gorgeous.

My work macOS setup. I've hardly done any tweaking and it looks pretty great.

For both work and home, I use Linux on servers and virtual machines. For the server, it is an excellent operating system, reliable and dependable. Amazing scripting capabilities and development tools up the wazoo. If I need something that will run my docker swarm without a hitch, Linux will do it for me. It's a testament that even Microsoft Azure let's you run Linux on their VMs. However, don't get me started about the Linux desktop. It's been a running joke that the current year is the year of the Linux desktop, but we'll never get there. Even the most user-friendly of distros like Ubuntu will eventually require you to use the command line to do something. Say get a second display with a different DPI working with xrandr, when on the other operating systems that start with W and M, it just works. Distros like Arch and Gentoo require a deep understanding of how an operating system works. It's a great hobby, but it's not fun when you need to get work done but a recent update borked your GPU driver for the third time and now you're just staring at a blank screen. However, when it comes to customizability, there is no contest. The most beautiful desktops are on Linux and there is so much variety. Stability would be nice for those desktop apps. I was an avid Linux user for 5 years but when I got a full time job and was studying, I didn't have time to maintain the system anymore. Nothing will able to replace Compiz Fusion for me or the excellent i3 window manager however. If you got time to tinker and computing is your hobby, you can't go wrong with Linux. Controversially, I actually quite like systemd, it's well done from an architectural point of view but it does not follow the Unix philosophy. But GNU/Linux is not Unix. Almost every distro has adopted it and it's a good sign as maybe Linux is moving to a unification movement as that's what we need for a successful desktop. Just look at macOS, it's basically a single-unified Unix distro and look how popular it is.

My souped-up Arch Linux i3 Desktop running in VMWare. One thing you can't argue about, Linux is cool.

Software

I'm not very picky about software, I just want something that works fast, efficient and does the job well.

For browser, I use Google Chrome but Firefox works just as well and so does the more obscure ones like Vivaldi. There's so much choices for web browsers and things are getting a little more standardized with WebKit and Blink (though we might have another IE era again). Extensions are common between most browsers but Firefox is the winner when it comes to customization (what other browser lets you change the colour of the tabs and their shape?). However, for some reason, Google Chrome feels the most responsive for me.

For music, this was a hard one for me. I tend to listen to quite a bit of a lot of obscure music. Google has the largest collection of music but I'll admit the recommendation engine needs some work, not that I was satisfied with any recommendation engine so far from Spotify or otherwise. Last.fm was close but it sometime still had unrelated tracks in my playlist but it's too bad they removed the radio feature. With the new YouTube Music, you get access to the largest collection of music on the Internet, everything is there. The recommendation engine is based on the YouTube Mix engine which so far has been providing good recommendations. I'm excited to see them merge Google Play Music with YouTube music.

Microsoft OneNote has to be my favourite piece of software in existence. The freeform nature of writing document really allows me to organize my thoughts in a way that makes sense in my brain. The autosave feature is the icing on the cake on top of the cloud synchronizing. I've enhanced my version with OneNote Gem for some extra goodies. I use OneNote as a loose todo-list and for drafting some of my compositions like this blog post.

I use the Microsoft Office suite because it is undeniably the most stable and feature rich out of all the paid options. While LibreOffice might be a functional free alternative, it's hard to compare. Look how much easier it is to write equations in Word compared to Writer, there's no contest. Disclaimer, I am paying for an Office 365 subscription.

For my backups, I use Macrium Reflect for a full disk image back up saved on a network drive. It's pretty headache free and it just does daily backups in the background without any fuss. For my really important files, everything goes into OneDrive but I've used Dropbox before and it's worked just as great. I use OneDrive because it comes with my Office 365 subscription with 1 TB of storage. I can't say I had a good experience with Google Drive though as the Desktop client was really unstable and sometimes my files didn't make it onto the remote storage.

For software development, it's a combination of tools. For Virtual Machines, I use VMWare Workstation mostly because I'm used to it and it has really good guest utilities. VirtualBox is great too but it's missing some features like having support for VT-x extensions within a guest. I do like the interface of VirtualBox better though. I use IntelliJ and Android Studio for Java-based development but I've had no problems using Eclipse. For me, the only real difference is the keyboard shortcuts and IntelliJ feeling a bit more polished. For light editing, it's mostly a mix of Visual Studio Code and Notepad++. Visual Studio Code has good plugins for auto-completion for various languages but nothing beats Notepad++ for a quick edit of a small script file, it's just so much lightweight than Electron-based Code. ConEmu is my go-to choice for Terminals, it's just so much more sophisticated than Command Prompt with the ability to start different shells, tiling and themes.

For budgeting, I like to use You Need A Budget. I was a PocketSmith user for a long time but it was a bit too cumbersome for my needs. I'm sure advanced budgeters would love the projection feature and all the fine tuning but I just need to categorize and shift money around. YNAB does the job but for some others all they need is a spreadsheet.

For games, my choices are pretty boring. I like sandbox and simulation games. Think Flight Simulator, Assetto Corsa and BeamNG.drive. I also enjoy my Tycoon games and have a slew of retro games for times when I need something simpler to play.

I use Renoise for music production. Even though it's one of the stranger DAWs, I find the sequencing arrangement to be much more intuitive than the timeline-based system. Most people will disagree with me, it's just a matter of taste. Unlike classic trackers, Renoise is very modern with VST support and ASIO4All.

For writing books, I like Scrivener due to the way it allows me to easily draft documents. However, I have to admit that OneNote or Word is just as well suited for the job but the folder arrangement for chapter and export abilities make it indispensable.

For 3D Modeling for the 3D printer, I use Autodesk Fusion 360. I'm not an expert modeler so I find it simple enough to make basic models. It has tools to make things like extrusion, holes and so on very simply and allows to define precise measurements. I know Blender allows for more sophisticated designs, one day I'll get there.

For electronics and microcontroller stuff, I like using Frizting to design the circuit which is a very basic tool for doing so. Theirs is nothing special about it, it's basically a fancy diagramming tool. For programming the micro-controller, I use what almost everyone else uses, Arduino IDE. It has syntax highlighting, auto-completion and easy way to send code to the micro-controller, what else do you need?

Finally, for system tools, I have a basic RainMeter system to show basic stats about my system. I had to write my own plugins to display additional sensors from HWiNFO but that's about it. On macOS, I use iStatMenus which is a great tool to display system info on the fly in the menubar. Good way to keep tabs on the system when npm is pulling in dependencies and compiling dependencies while taking 100% CPU and turning my laptop in a toaster oven.

Window Management

I like minimalism so my desktop is as empty as possible. A simple wallpaper with no desktop icons. A tray with almost no icons. A simple RainMeter display in the corner. My taskbar has no pinned apps and is made to display on apps that are running with nice labels instead of the default dock style. I am using Taskbar Tweaker to allow me to use the scroll wheel to switch between apps.

For organizing my windows on Windows and macOS, I use Divvy which allows me to have a pseudo-tiling arrangement on my screen. Since I have a giant 4K screen, it comes in handy to arrange the mess that my desktop becomes. On desktop Linux, I love i3 and nothing will ever replace it for me. The ability to arbitrarily define layouts is genius and I will never ever find a replacement for other operating systems. Also tiling window manager just looks cooler than anything else.

My messy desktop organized into neat tiles. A great way to keep your workflow in check.

Phone

My phone is a lot less fancy than my desktop. I'm still rocking a OnePlus 2, which is about 3 years old now. However, I have installed a custom ROM called Resurrection Remix for additional customization. I won't go into details but it's just for small quirks like having the volume slider only adjust the media volume. I've also rooted it so I can install an AdBlocker on the phone. Finally, I'm using Franco Kernel to downclock the processor to squeeze out an extra bit of battery life out of the phone.

My Phone following the same minimalist theme as my Computer.

In order to save money on an expensive phone plan, again, Canada has the most expensive phone plans in the world, I have a data only plan designed for tablets. I use a VoIP.ms line for my phone calls and I haven't noticed any difference in terms of call quality. I can also get cheap international calls with one of those Betamax clones. At the end, my phone bill rounds up to 30$ a month. I'm using Bria as my softphone client.

Finally, one thing I'm very proud of is that I have a phone in the kitchen also connected to VoIP using a Cisco SPA3102 gateway. It is an outbound only phone, but if the lobby intercom rings, both my cellphone and kitchen phone go off. Like this, if I can't answer the lobby from my cellphone, someone at home can answer it instead.

My phone doesn't get much use other than communication through WhatsApp and Telegram and navigation. I also use it to read books using Moon Reader+ Pro. I sync my books from OneDrive to the phone using FolderSync.

Parts

Conclusion

What my setup looks like as a whole. In general, I'm pretty pleased with the result, took me about 6 months to get to this point but it was a really fun endavour. 

Everyone has a different setup and some may have very simple setups because they don't care much about computing but as a hobbyist I like to have something to be proud of. Just like a car enthusiast wants to tune their car for the pride of it, I do the same with my most expensive hobby, computing.

Please feel free to share links or short descriptions in the comments on your setup. What do you think of my setup? Is it too boring? Where can I get ideas to inspire me with more intricate setups? All opinions are welcome.

 

Endothalmic Adaptance

Henceforth a model of endothalmic adaptance emerges from resistifying anticouplers, one can understand the comprehensive theory of pluridimensional cystors. In all scenarios, the suspendation of maxima-based theoria causes the eloption of famnistic verifiable visiothermic systems. Whereas the examples herein are based on systematic mediocracies, their validity still lies within the thalmus of integration.

All starts with the pseudo-automatic of grammarial variances in a multiversal with a higher panametric velocitors. The variabation explains the dimenstionality of all existances, no model currently outlies a suspense-based hypothesis relying on capacitrons and transistrons.

The nanometric and femtometric divisions occur in natural organical stators presented by hospictacular exothalmic adaptences adapted to multivariant divisionation of all automatronic variabulations poorly understood by scientific communiti.

This theory envisions an explanation for the quarkic submolecular anti-physics producing an encompassing viewance on existory exhibitors for the production of an omnithermal motoric force. Therefore, all theories and hypothisiac tractance can be accounted for.

The endothalmic adaptance view can be summarized in these simple equations parametrized with mathematronic on a philosophist creatance.

Endothalmic Adaptance Equation.png
Endothalmic Adaptance Equation 2.png
Endothalmic Adaptance Equation 3.png

Automatic Transmission Simulation in Games

I know automotive enthusiasts will hate me for saying this, but automatic transmissions are an incredibly fascinating technology. Manual transmissions these days are reserved for the track, while most of the developing world is moving to a fleet majoritarily composed of automatics.

These days, even enthusiasts will admit that automatics are more efficient, shift faster and easier to drive than a stick shift. However, no one will disagree that a standard is much more fun and engaging.

How Automatics Work

To over-simplify things a little, transmissions exist due to the limitations in a combustion engine. It has a several narrow RPM ranges where it either produces the most power, the most torque or is the most efficient. The different gears in a transmission allow the engine to operate at the speed ideal for the driving condition while staying within those narrow RPM ranges. For a more complete and accurate explanation, please see this section on Wikipedia.

The part that I always found the most interesting about automatic transmissions was the shifting schedule. In other words, at what car speed to shift the gear up or down. The algorithm didn't seem simply arbitrary or simple and before I could drive, I did not have a way to experiment in computer games to figure out this logic.

Most driving games don't actually implement a true automatic. Rather, cars are all equipped with a manual transmission and the 'automatic' mode is actually a driver assist. The logic behind is simple, when the engine is near redline, it shifts up. When slowing down, downshifts occur at the maximum possible engine speed without exceeding the redline on the previous gear. However, this logic does not resemble at all what happens in a true automatic in real life.

After getting my license, I was excited to finally experience this shifting logic for myself. I was very surprised at how intelligently designed the system was, and how it adapted to driving conditions.

How Automatics Behave

The main concept of an automatic revolves around this: the harder you press the throttle, the later it shifts up. When driving slowly in a city for example, you need little power from the engine to accelerate. Therefore, it does not make sense to use the engine's entire RPM range in the first few gears to get up to speed, as running an engine faster is less fuel efficient. Rather, shifting early in the RPM range will maximize efficiency.

Automatic cars attempt to run at the highest gear to allow the engine to run in the most efficient range. However, higher gears provide poor acceleration when in a low RPM.

If the throttle is fully depressed, the car will shift in a way to make use of the entire RPM range of the engine up to the redline, this is the maximize performance and prevent lugging that would occur in a higher gear. 

The other component is kickdown when depressing the throttle. At first, the car is at cruising certain speed and a higher gear will be engaged for fuel economy. However, if the throttle is depressed harder, the transmission will command a down shift, or several, to hit an RPM range suited for better performance.

Current automatics have become very advanced and take a multitude of factors into consideration to decide when to shift. Grade shift logic for example will adjust gear selection based on hill grade to help with acceleration on a steep incline or provide engine braking when going downhill.

Each manufacturer implements their own unique algorithms and systems though the above concepts generally remain the same.

Automatics in Games

I had great difficulty finding games that simulated automatics correctly. In fact, out of the hundreds of driving games I've tried, only three simulated them in road cars. 

Admittedly, this is not an important aspect in racing, as most track cars use manual transmissions for better control. However, many of these games include road cars available to the general public and I found it odd that this kind of detail was missing.

I will analyse each game and demonstrate how it handles and simulates this kind of transmission. We'll be comparing them to the most common type of automatic transmission, the torque converter-based one. 

The Test

A test was devised that will demonstrate each game's capability at simulating the behaviour of an automatic transmission. It only aims to show the basic behaviours of the shifting schedule of an automatic. 

- First, the car will be driven slowly at city driving speeds. We expect the transmission to perform early shifts for fuel economy. 
- Once reaching 70 km/h, the throttle will be fully depressed. This should initiate a kickdown, where the transmission selects the lowest possible gear for maximum acceleration.
- While accelerating, the car should only upshift at maximum RPM to maximize acceleration
- At 120km/h, the throttle will be fully released. At this point, the car will upshift to the highest possible gear for fuel economy. This is the cruising stage.

Other behaviours will be noted which are typical of torque converter-based automatic transmissions:

  • Slipping on acceleration due to torque converter and resulting torque multiplication.
  • Creeping forward when in drive with brake released.
  • Smooth and sluggish shifting between gears with no jerking movements between shifts.

Each test will be shown in a short video demonstrating the capabilities of each games.

Live for Speed

Live for Speed is racing simulation with physics accuracy that can be most admired by a perfectionist. Car handling feels so right and the feel for reaching the car's limit of grip is spectacular. Despite showing it's age now, few racing simulations come close to having the accurate driving feel of Live for Speed.

As a sim for purist racing fans, Live for Speed does not simulate automatic transmissions at all. Rather, the 'automatic' mode is a driving aid, that shifts for you in a way ideal for maximum performance rather than fuel efficiency. I'm including this game to show what a failing test would look like. 

Let's cruise along with the Hatchback XF GTI on the track and drive it through our test:

Notice how shifting only occurs upon reaching the redline. While slowing down, downshifts happen as soon as possible to make use of engine braking. This kind of shifting is great for racing as it is very predictable but not for saving fuel in a city car.

An LFS forum user by the pseudonym 'tigerboyz' created a mod that simulates the shifting schedule of an automatic though it still feels like a driving aid. The slushy feeling of a torque converter or forward creeping are not simulated. Instead, this mod simply uses the manual transmission and shifts at points where an automatic would.

Enthusia

Enthusia is likely to be the first game of it's kind to simulate automatic transmissions correctly. I noted this while skimming a Wikipedia article about the game describing this kind of accurate modeling.

I eventually got my hands on the game through emulation. The game was a commercial failure, likely in part due to it's difficulty stemming from it's accurate driving dynamics and competition from the much more popular counterpart, Gran Turismo 4. Therefore, securing a physical copy is prohibitively expensive.

Let's take a look at how Enthusia portrays an automatic transmission.

As seen in the video, Enthusia pretty much nails automatic transmission shifting behaviour. However, the shifts do appear like they come for a torque converter, albeit an aggressive one. 

The shifts don't happen that early and gears are held for a bit too long. It is almost as if the game is simulates a 'Sport' or 'Second Range' mode which is seen in some cars for sportier driving. This kind of mode shifts at higher RPMs for more responsive throttle feel and allows more use of engine braking for peppier driving.

Interestingly, when slowing down, the transmission down shifts in a way that favours performance driving. In other words, as the car slows down, downshifts occur to make use of engine braking to help the car slow down. In the average car, this does not happen, rather, shifting down only happens when the car has slowed down considerably or during kickdown.

The game further emphases the stock transmission normally equipped with the car when selecting 'manual' or 'automatic' before a race. In cars with an automatic transmission, the choices are 'automatic' or 'semi-automatic' emphasizing that the car does not actually include a true manual with clutch and gear selector. For manual cars, 'gear assist' and 'manual' are displayed which indicates that the car won't be equipped with an automatic, rather an AI will assist the driver in shifting.

The selections for a Toyota Corolla, a car normally equipped with a torque converter-based automatic.

The selections for a Toyota Corolla, a car normally equipped with a torque converter-based automatic.

The selections for a Honda Accord Type-R, a car normally equipped with a clutch-based manual.  

The selections for a Honda Accord Type-R, a car normally equipped with a clutch-based manual.
 

The game also simulate CVTs which shows just show niche-focused this game really is.

One last thing I'd like to mention about this game is how quirky it is. The presentation is really artistic for a racing game with a very cinematic intro and lively menu music. The car selection is really something to talk about with not only the stereotypical selection of road and racing cars, but also minivans, hybrids and SUVs. Enthusia really lets even the most niche of enthusiasts drive their favourites. Here's a few of them:

City Car Driving

Russian-based Forward Development seemed to have a very different take on a driving game: one that actually portrays everyday driving. Instead of testing the limits of your cars in a tight racing track, you'll be stuck in traffic in rain, merging on highways while checking your blind spot and of course, wearing your seat belt.

While the driving dynamics are not the most accurate or engaging, they're suitable for the leisurely pace known to most city drivers. Oversteer might not feel convincing, but the traffic patterns seem to mimic reality with impatient drivers, those who change lanes without signals and so on.

Let's get behind the wheel of an average car equipped with an automatic. We got rid of the traffic so we could speed at our leisure.

Clearly, the simulation of the automatic transmission is very impressive. The slushy shifts, the shifting schedule and the lurch of torque multiplication are all there. Everything feels right. There's even the characteristic automatic transmission creep when releasing the brake when in drive.

This game doesn't have much quirks, it's just a good education tool to get new drivers acquainted with the feel of driving, or perhaps those who enjoy driving so much they want to do it at home.

BeamNG.drive

Renowned for it's incredibly realistic crash physics, BeamNG.drive shows how well driving dynamics can be simulated even without any pre-canned behaviours. In BeamNG.drive, cars behave based on the sum of their parts such as drivetrain, tires, aerodynamics and so on. While not the most accurate driving simulator, the mechanics are incredibly convincing.

BeamNG.drive vehicle roaster focuses on daily road cars rather than performance vehicles. As a result, stock vehicles can be equipped with torque converter automatics, CVTs and of course manual transmissions.

Out of all the games tested so far, BeamNG.drive is a clear winner in terms of simulating torque converter-based automatics. From the sluggish acceleration due to torque multiplication to the smooth shifting and accurate shifting schedule, the game provides the most realistic feeling automatic driving experience.

Let's get straight to the test with this game.

What's obvious is how much it feels like you're driving a normal car in the city. The initial lunge from the torque converter to the sluggish shifts. Even the delayed kickdown is portrayed after flooring the accelerator. It's very impressive. Of course, it creeps forward as soon as you put it into drive.

The amount of options simulating different kind of transmissions is staggering:
- High stall torque converters
- CVTs
- Transbrakes
- Dual-Clutch Automatic Transmissions
- Sport Mode Selection
- Manual Mode in an Automatic Transmission

Each one of the features above is simulated in a very convincing way. If you're interested in tinkering with car behaviour, I highly recommend this game.

Final Thoughts

This kind of endavour was more of satisfying an obsession than anything else. This is probably one of the most niche things I've ever written about. Most racing fans simply floor the accelerator when the count down reaches zero, however I like to test the limits of games and see how much attention to detail they really put in. Even when it's not intended, games tend to become a sandbox for me.

Attention to detail is something I really appreciate. Few games go the extra mile to mimic intricate details of reality and it's really admirable. Now, for noticing that a game simulates automatic transmission logic, that is a personal problem of obsessiveness that I may have! 

It's hard for me to believe that the games above are the only ones in existence that simulate such concept of the automotive world. If you know any other games that simulate this behaviour, let me know by submitting a comment.
 

Dreaming of an imperfect world...

Everyday we plan for the ideal in our life. A strict plan, a well organized schedule, a long to-do list and a clear vision. That's how we envisioned in the morning after breakfast. However, within hours, the plan crumbles and there goes the day you dreamed up. Despite most of the day being routine, interruptions, emergencies and lack of motivation all come in the way.

It's amazing how our flawed minds can conjure up seemingly perfect realities. We strive for perfection yet we never attain it. The ambitions in our heads will never become reality, only a flawed version of it. Very often how we pictured ourselves ten years ago is so different from now that it appears like our early selves constructed outlooks that seem like a farce today.

Just like everyone, I grew up in this future fantasy: great income, perfect health, big family and expensive cars. Whatever I wanted was just waiting for me in the future, however, as I grew up, I ended in the same difficulties that my older peers suffered though. I'm average just like them, why would my life be any different?

Today, my salary is slightly above average with debts to pay, with no plans of having children. My apartment is a modest 500 square feet and I've settled down with a great lady but she suffers from the same issues as me, her life is also imperfect. My car is extremely average, the most popular model in the country. I've been endowed with a complicated set of mental illnesses and I'm dealing with other health issues.

I still got writings from my childhood, my dreams were big. I wanted to start big company like Microsoft. However, today I've settled for the corporate route with a stable salary and it'll probably be that way until I retire. I'm not mad about it, I've just come to peace with reality.

The worst delusion we have is about happiness. Movies and TV shows often portray people with eternal happiness, solving their woes with such ease and strength. However, the truth is that as humans we cannot be perpetually happy. If we found endless bliss as a toddler, we would never progress.

I am learning to become mindful of how imperfect the world is. I've thrown out my convoluted to-do list for a bunch of notes with simple ideas in them. No more fixed timelines, no more short, medium and long term goals, all that is gone. Instead, I let my ideas flow through my life and It's obstacles. My ideas are dynamic and ever-changing. Just like a lake doesn't fear a rock thrown at it and rather just reacts with smooth waves, my ideas ride out the kinks in my life. I don't make much effort in perfecting these notes; they're scatted and all over the place, just like the rest of my life is.

I don't know what makes me happy yet. I'm still experimenting and discovering new experiences. Even though I may find something distasteful, at least I've tried something new.

My dreams have the same realities as real life, I'm stressed, burned out and anxious. There's no point of dreaming of something that can't be true. My dreams are mine, and must incorporate my reality for them to be possible. In other words, I dream of an imperfect world, not a phantasy.

I sometimes wonder if beliefs about the afterlife are a mind hack to imagine a world where the boundaries of reality don't exist. A place where no pain or suffering exist, where all your wishes come true. Our imagination goes so far that it exceeds the boundaries of our universe to create perfect worlds. Unfortunately, all those traditions are nothing but a conjecture of the human mind, and only exist in the thoughts of men.

I've become mindful that I'll never live a perfect life. I'm content with my circumstances because I have no choice. My consolation is that I share the suffering, trials, tribulations, war and pain with humanity amidst hope that we'll get a glimpse of happy moments and great memories.

I want to be a cat!

This is satirical…

My home is graced by the presence of two cats. When I'm bored, I sometimes observe them and reflect on their behaviours. I sometimes wonder what it's like to be them. I can't help but feel jealousy…

Cats are so lucky, they get to sleep up to 16 hours a day. I would love to get 16 hours, but I have work and do other nonsense, I'm lucky if I get 8. Plus, some nonsense science malarkey says that too much sleep is bad for you. They're wrong, my cats sleep 16 hours and have never ever complained about a health problem. Checkmate scientists! #flawless_logic They also fall asleep so quickly while it takes me eons to empty my mind and relax my body so my slumber can begin. Also, I don't understand how they can sleep anywhere. On the floor, on the kitchen counter, on the couch, on my bed taking MY spot (how dare you Minnie?)… I wish I found the floor comfortable, wouldn't need an expensive bed and mattress.

Cats don't have to work or go to school or anything stressful like that. They can do whatever pleases them at any time. They don't have to worry about income as I pay all their expenses. They have no responsibility.

Cats have food ready for them on command. My cats are my alarm clock in the morning meowing incessantly until I get up from bed and feed them. And don't get me started about their food. That stuff must taste amazing to them and it's still very nutritious. It doesn't need lengthy preparation and has long shelf life. If I want the semblance of healthy food, either I or my significant other have to spend a good chunk of the day cooking.

Cats have no social obligations either. When someone calls me I better reply otherwise I'm being impolite. Even when I feel like crap and don't want to deal with people, I still have to. Not with my cats. Sometimes they respond when I call their name, and other times they don’t. Only when they feel like it.

Cats get treated in the best of ways. When we take them to the vet they get greeted by the nicest practitioners. Their offices are nicer than our clinics and they have no wait times and appointments at convenient times. The vets tell them nicest words and handle them with the upmost care. I can't say that about some family doctors I met who treat me like a number and talk to me condescendingly. At home, the endearments don't stop. Every day, they receive compliments and my fiancé even sings to them.

Cats have fun with the most mundane of things. I can play the most stimulating PC game and still find myself bored and sleepy. My cats play with straws, hair ties, rubber balls, some metal string with some cardboard on it and even a stupid laser pointer. I wish that was fun for me, I wouldn't need expensive equipment to entertain myself. Of course, they only play when they feel like it.

Cats don't get punished. Unlike dogs, cats don't learn via punishment. So when my cat misuses the litter box or throws up on the floor for the millionth time, I can't do anything about it. I have to clean the mess up anyways because they don't have to and never will. I can't spray them with water because they don't learn from it. I can't tell them harsh words because it doesn't mean anything to them.

The best part, cats don't care. They only do things when they feel like it and no can force them or stop them. They don't care about their self-image. They don't care about taxes. They don't care about being for late for work. They don't care about the noisy neighbours. They don't care about anything.

When I grow up, I want to be a cat. I'm so jealous...

Why I hate the weekends…

It's Monday, the dreadful countdown has started. You're already thinking about the end of the week, and it barely started. As the days go by, you are fixated on Friday 5pm. By Friday afternoon, your mind is so overfilled with the prospect of the two-day break that you can barely get anything done anymore. Some of your co-workers are not even at their desks anymore; they left early. When it's your turn to leave, you breathe a sigh of relief. It's the moment you've been waiting for. The start of the weekend.

However, what's so odd is that it's already Monday again. The weekend was a blur. Everything that didn't fit the workday was squeezed into the weekend. Groceries, laundry, chores, medical appointments and so on. By the time you've finished all that it's Sunday evening. Just like work, the weekend made you tired. You want to idle, but tomorrow's Monday and you've already begun thinking about work. You don't have time to do anything anymore because you need to sleep early to wake up for work on time.

Our lives are high maintenance. We need to maintain our relationships with our spouses, friends and family. We need to take care of ourselves with exercise, hygiene and so on. Our houses need to be kept clean and our fridge full of food. And to be able to do all that, we need work to make a wage so we can pay for what keeps us alive.

With only two-day weekends, we find ourselves squeezing all that maintenance in such a short span of time. We meet with our friends on Saturday. We do the groceries on Sunday. We do the Laundry on Saturday morning. Little time is left to do what we enjoy. For some, it's simply watching TV shows. For others, it's learning a new art.

The worst part is there is hardly any time for resting the mind and body. Our jobs can be mentally and physically demanding. Our relationships and our chores demand it too. It feels like being on an endless treadmill and there is no way to stop it. Many experience burnout or depression due to excessive stress and little break.

It's clear that the two days we yearn for so much every week are not enough.

Almost every month, there is a statuary holiday which extends the weekend by a single day. Oddly enough, after those weekends end, I find myself more at peace and rested. The first day of work after feels smoother and I'm not as stressed out.

Personally, I have tried to extend the weekend as much as possible. I do the laundry on weekdays, I shop for groceries on a weekday late at night. I try to meet my friends on weekdays. I do all that hoping that my weekend would be empty of such obligations and I would have it all to myself.

I want to spend time partaking in my hobbies on the weekend. However, I often find myself lifeless and staring blankly out the window. My mind is tired, my body is fatigued. By the time I'm fully rested it's Sunday night. At that point, it's time to head to bed and start the cycle of work again.

I feel like my whole life is centered around work. Even though I work a (what is considered) reasonable 40-hour work-week, I feel like too much of time is taken away from me. Not only is it actually being in the office but commuting too. My morning are devoted to getting ready for work: dressing up, packing up a lunch and so on. When I get back in the evening, I have to empty my mind of work and that can take a while. Only a few hours a day are left for me.

I'm a backend software developer and writing code requires plenty of creativity and thought. There's only so much I can muster before my mind quits. On top of that, I'm mentally ill and thoroughly medicated meaning I need even more rest. However, I hear co-workers who are healthier and more productive than complain about the same things I do. No matter how much fun I have at work, I still get tired. Everyone does and everyone needs rest after that. Even caffeine, energy drinks and modafinil can't fix that.

When I first started writing this, I thought that the problem was the weekends were too short. However, it is that weeks that are composed of 168 hours are not enough to account for 40 hours of dedicated work. Our body and minds cannot optimally function without adequate rest and breaks. We're not made for it. Our lives are demanding and work is demanding too much of our lives.

Even though modern society has allowed us to come really far when it comes work ethic, I don't think we are far enough yet. Our basic needs, our own desires, our dreams, our physiologies and psychologies need to be taken into account when we rethink what an ethical and humane work-week looks like.

We are no longer factory workers where our output is proportional to the company's sales figures. Machines and automation are taking over the remedial roles that we used to do. Today, we are artists and developers and managers and service providers. What we do might not make any money at all. Still, what we do demands of us quite a bit and to provide more, we need to do less.

I'm convinced that we need more time devoted to ourselves and those we care about. I want to spend more time caring for myself but I can't because I'm stuck in the system. To live, I need to pay my bills. I'm not lucky so I have to spend most of day working for it.