Honeybadger (EN)

We’re fascinated by unorthodox approach, by fearlessness, by things strikingly out of the ordinary. There’s a reason why one Tweet containing a single word from Elon Musk has the potential to double stock value, demonstrated by the GameStop episode just few weeks ago. From a guy who made his first millions in 1999 from selling Zip2, an app connecting maps and yellow pages—something to the effect of today’s Google Maps—, to space flights is a long way. And yet, he’s done it. Space traveling used to be a domain of states. Today the task is by and large in the hands of individual players, such as Musk (SpaceX), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), or Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic). Whatever you do, don’t blink. Yesterday’s sci-fi quickly becomes today’s reality.

For years, the MMA fans either loved or hated Nick Diaz. It was impossible to feel indifferent about this skinny, long-armed trash-talker, who loved to brag in his opponent’s face before crushing it with a barrage of punches. Nick had a brilliant technique on the ground, and he was one of the few who were as dangerous on their back as they were in the dominant position on top. But he never really enjoyed the ground game, and he wasn’t one to follow a conservative gameplan; he just wanted to brawl. Nick had some wild ones during his career, against people who he’d quite honestly manhandle on the ground if he ever cared to take them there. While never really looking like a classic meathead knockout artist, he could find ways to KOs thanks to his excellent conditioning. As a triathlon racer, he had plenty of gas in the tank.

There’s a saying, „Fatigue makes cowards of us all“. Originally Shakespear’s words were paraphrased and today often attributed to two people: George S. Patton, a four-star general who led the army that liberated significant parts of Europe; or Vince Lombardi, a coach who had a trophy for the NFL champion named after him and who in the mid-1970s defied the racism of the day by rebuilding the Packers with undervalued black players. Nick made a career out of this fatigue-induced cowardness—plenty of fighters, who were better strikers on paper, couldn’t handle the tempo. When the opponent was gasping for air in the ring’s corner, hoping to be saved by the bell, Nick smelled blood and went for the kill.

An accountant with a convenient name, Chris Moneymaker, outlasted 838 opponents in 2003’s main event of World Series Of Poker to rake in $2.5 million. The No-limit Texas Hold’em tournament had a buy-in of $10.000 and was considered an unofficial world championship of poker. Moneymaker qualified by winning a series of qualification „satellite“ tournaments, so the buy-in cost him only $86 plus a few hours of his spare time sitting at online poker tables. This was the first time an amateur won the tournament, and the poker world changed seemingly from day to day. This explosion of poker’s popularity was dabbed „the Moneymaker effect“. The much-coveted millions obviously can be won by anyone, and sitting home playing cards can be more profitable than going to work daily—the poker-boom era arrived.

Poker professionals suddenly found themselves surrounded by weaker players, and there were so many of them. This naturally reduced their chances to win the biggest tournaments (the player pool in the same tournament after Moneymaker’s win: 2.576, 5.619, 8.773), but in cash games their profits climbed up significantly. And you didn’t have to be even close to a pro to win a hundred bucks here and there—far from it. For a while, the most basic strategies and math were enough to win: there was never a shortage of „fishes“, weak players, who „sharks“, strong players, fed on. This trend started to change around the time when names like durrrr (Tom Dwan) or Isildur1 (Viktor Blom) emerged. At that time, the average opponent’s quality was considerably higher than it was a mere five years ago. The unrelenting, wild style of this new wave of players meant that most poker literature was suddenly almost irrelevant. An aggressive raise before the flop out of position used to mean something back in the good old times—in this brave new world, it could mean anything.

Players from the older generation, used to the fact that their precise game leads to a relatively easy and steady living, weren’t keen on these changes. Neither were they willing to get used to the crazy swings of losing $500k one night to win $1.5M the next one. For internet viewers, however, these were golden times when they connected daily by the thousands to watch another high-stakes poker action between young multi-millionaires. And it was glorious: eight out of the top-10 biggest pots in online poker history happened in 2009, and Viktor Blom played part in all those eight. Blom’s approach was more than ultra-aggressive; he played like self-preservation wasn’t even part of him. Building a roller-coaster by imitating Blom’s win/loss chart, it could maybe function in Mexico or Brazil. Elsewhere, it would never fulfill the norms.

Listed as „the most fearless animal in the world“ in the Guinness Book of Records is the Honey Badger. Personally, I love this little rascal. Any time I’m talking about the badger, people like it immediately; what a wicked beast, they squeal. It’s always surprising when I find out that they didn’t know about it earlier because the honey badger was so heavily memefied—mainly by YouTube videos—I thought it’s generally understood that it is the single coolest species in the whole animal kingdom. If that’s news for you, let me crack that egg of knowledge all over you.

The most googled term related to the badger is „Honey Badger doesn’t give a shit“. Self-preservation? Apparently, he only has enough to stop it from jumping from the cliff just for the heck of it. In certain cases, he stands his ground and is willing to fight even the largest mammals; there’s a video on Youtube, where he fights a six-strong lion pack, and survives. He’s even able to steal prey off young, inexperienced lions or leopards. Particularly tenacious professional athletes sometimes earn a nickname „Honey Badger“, such as NFL’s defender Tyrann Mathieu or rugby player Nick Cummins.

Adult honeybadgers measure 70-105 centimeters (including tail), and they’re widely distributed in Africa and Southwest Asia. At first sight, they might remind you of skunk, and just like them, they store a strong, unpleasant-smelling liquid that could be sprayed at their attackers, but unline skunks, they don’t weaponize this utility. Although there is a theory that they’re using this „suffocating“ liquid to tranquilize bees when they’re raiding beehives, in the same way beekeepers use smoke. The beehives raids is where the name comes from: these creatures love honey and especially bee larva. According to the legend, they are sometimes guided to the beehives by a little helper, a bird called Honeyguide. There’s supposed to be a mutualistic relationship within the pair, as the Honeyguide can feast on the grubs and beeswax that are left behind after badger ransackes the hive.

At a size that ranges between 6 and 15 kilograms, it doesn’t look like it, but this little baby has no natural predators because it lives for fight. Young predators might take one shot at them and never repeat that mistake ever again. Honeybadger has such a thick skin that animal bites rarely penetrate it; arrows or spears don’t get the job done either, and apparently, it can even survive a machete blow. As a bonus, the skin is so loose, as if it belonged to a much larger animal. That lowers the chance of getting hurt by bee stings, and it offers the advantage of „turning inside“ the skin. Unsuspecting jackal or lion can grab honeybadger from behind, not only getting much damage done but also finding the badger turning around with ease and biting it right in the face.

Within minutes, using their strong forepaws with up to 5 cm long claws, they can dig up a hole big enough they can hide in it. Its jaws are strong enough to crack a small turtle’s shell, and its diet often consists of lizards and snakes, including the venomous species. If it’s bitten by these snakes—which it often is during the hunt—it can pass out for a few minutes or feel sick for a few hours, but they usually survive. What’s interesting is this immunity is partly learned—developed over time. Mother honey badgers spend a long time raising each pup (fourteen to eighteen months), and as the baby grows, its mom slowly introduces it to venomous animals, starting with the mildest scorpion and moving up the venom ladder until the youngster is eating cobras and puff adders.

In addition to being an absolute savage, the honey badger is also intelligent and can use simple tools. It was filmed as it rolled a tree trunk to a spot, using it as a pedestal so he could hunt the young kingfisher who got stuck. There’s a video on YouTube of a badger escaping from imprisonment: opening doors after unlocking multiple latches or getting over a fence and wall by using a pedestal made out of balls of mud or excavated stones.

Because of its ability to use various food sources, the honeybadger is very adaptable and can inhabit a wide range of environments over a large area. Years ago, rumors spread in Basra (Iraq), that British troops had released wild badgers who attack humans and domestic animals. Later, it turned out, these „killing badgers“ were, in fact, local honey badgers who spread here as a result of the draining of the swamps.

Of course, despite its impressive talent for fighting, the honey badger is not immortal. It can live up to 26 years in captivity, probably much less in the wild. Although it can usually defend even when outsized and outnumber, it happens that it’s killed by a lion or leopard—apart from humans, these cats are the only active danger for the badger. There are even cases when bees defend their nest and badger pays for his desire to feast on larva with his life. But that’s okay: honeybadger doesn’t give a shit.

Může jít o obrázek text, kde se píše MEDOJED
An Easter egg I received from my sister. See how inspiring the honey badger’s (or „Medojed“ in Czech) badassery is?

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