Posted in History & Literature

Lo Stivale

The Italian peninsula is nicknamed “Lo Stivale” (“the boot”) because of its iconic geography. Every child who has ever seen a world map will know this iconic boot-shaped country.

But hypothetically speaking, if Italy was actually a giant boot, what shoe size would you have to be to fit it?

Shoe sizing varies across the world. In Korea, Japan and Taiwan, the Mondopoint system is used where the foot length is measured in millimetres (the width is also considered).

But if you come from an English-speaking country, there is a good chance you are more familiar with the UK and US number system, typically ranging from 3 to 13.

The UK sizing system uses the length of the last that is used to make the shoe. A last is a model of a foot that can fill the entire cavity of the shoe. Because you typically need 1-1.5cm wiggle room for your toes, the last is bigger than the foot that would eventually wear the shoe. Instead of simply using the length of the last in millimetres, UK shoe sizes use a strange unit called the barleycorn.

The barleycorn originates from the 19th century when an inch was defined as the length of three barley corns (or grains). Hence, a barleycorn is ⅓ inch. For adult shoe sizes, a size 1 is 26 barleycorns, or 8 and 2/3 inches (220mm). For every size you go up, you add one barleycorn. This means a size 11 is 12 inches, while a size 10 is 11 and ⅔ inches.

Essentially, this means that your UK shoe size is:

(3 x heel-toe length of your foot in inches) – 23 (accounting for the toe wiggle room).

It is important to note that every manufacturer takes their own liberty with sizing, so this will often be inconsistent and can vary up to an inch, especially for women’s shoes. The US system starts counting at 1 instead of 0, meaning that you just add 1 to the equivalent UK size.

Now that we know how sizes work, let us size the Italian boot.

By rough estimate, the “sole” of the peninsula is approximately 360km long. This is accounting for the bend in the middle, as the heel height is tall. To use our formula, we must convert this into inches, which equals 14,173,200 inches.

Ergo, the shoe size calculates as follows:

= (3 x 14,173,200) – 23
= 42,519,577

Whether you use the UK or US sizing, the boot is roughly a size 42.5 million. Or, if you live in Korea, the shoe size would be recorded as 360 million. Either way, that is one big shoe to fill.

Posted in Philosophy

Memento Mori

No matter how special you may be, there is one universal truth: we will all die someday. It may be in fifty years’ time, or it could be tomorrow. But nonetheless, we all have to eventually face our mortality. Memento mori, which is Latin for “remember you must die”, is the philosophy of being mindful of this fact.

It may sound morbid to ponder one’s own mortality day by day. However, the true meaning of memento mori is not to live anxiously fearing that death may be around every corner. Instead, it teaches us to not take life for granted, as it is finite and will end someday.

Many of us stress about the future so much that we cannot enjoy the present. We are ambitious: always aiming higher, to reach a higher position, to gain more wealth and to attain pleasure. But we forget that on our deathbed, none of these material things matter. What matters is whether you will be able to look back on your life and say that you truly lived with little regrets.

That said, it is okay to fear death. It is human nature to fear the unknown. Instead, we can harness our fear of death to live a fuller life. Fear is a poison that prevents us from seizing the day. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of judgement… But when we compare it to the weight of our inevitable demise, it is nothing. Although we are all afraid of dying, the vast majority of us are able to live without the fear of death interfering with our day-to-day lives. Therefore, unless death is an immediate consequence of your actions, nothing should make you afraid of trying.

Lastly, memento mori is a reminder of the temporary, impermanent nature of the human condition. Any moment could be our last, no matter how banal it may be. A brief phone call with your loved ones arguing about something petty may be the last conversation you have with them. It is a well-known fact that the human brain remembers the first and last things or events the most (primacy and recency). When you remember that death awaits all of us, every moment becomes a little bit more precious. We start paying more detail to how wonderful life is and how fortunate we are to have loved ones in our lives.

Remember you must die; you might as well make the most of life before then. Or as Ferris Bueller put it:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Posted in History & Literature


The following is the world’s shortest horror story.

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.

Posted in Life & Happiness


If today was the last day of your life, what would you regret? You might know for certain that it will not be something like money or fame, but if you cannot think of a specific answer, it might be worth taking a look at the enlightenment other people reached at the moment of their death. Human beings show the greatest insight about life at the door of death. The following are the most common regrets collected by a palliative care nurse called Bronnie Ware.

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me: The most common regret is ending your life without achieving the countless number of dreams and goals you had. If there is a dream you can achieve today, do not leave it to tomorrow. That way you can achieve even more dreams in the future.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard: Just like how the idiom “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” says, you can never achieve happiness if all you do is work to earn money. Perhaps the ant was wrong and the grasshopper was right.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings: Many people suppress their emotions to get along with other people. But if you push down your feelings and repress them, they will ultimately take a toll on your mind and body. If someone is making you angry, be angry at them (but not all the time obviously). If someone captivates your heart, tell them that you love them. If you have a problem, speak up.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends: The busier life gets, the less you keep in contact with your friends. But having a friend to hold your hand and give you words of reassurance at your final moment is a much more successful life than earning a fortune.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier: Too many people are misled into thinking that happiness is not a choice. Whatever the situation, happiness depends on your perception of the world. If you are unhappy, that is a sign that you should change something in your life. There is no one on the face of the Earth that does not deserve happiness. Whatever others may say, live everyday as blissfully as you can.

Remember. A successful life is one full of happiness and without regrets.