Episode 83: The Worst Year

Aaron tells you why 202x isn’t actually so bad. Then Shea tells patrons how 2022 is going to go…

Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that isn’t the worst podcast, it’s just a tribute.

I’m your host this week, Aaron, and with me is Shea!

I’m Shea, and this week I learned that horses get farted on more than any other animal.

Round Table

Quick announcements. The last few shows have come out a few days after our stated Friday release. Part of this is because, due to work and life schedules, Thursday has become the de facto recording day, and getting the show recorded, edited, reviewed, documented, and prettied is usually more than one evening’s work — especially as we’ve exceeded our 30min target runtime now… for like 2 months solid. With that in mind, our new plan is to release Monday mornings. Patrons are likely to get their episodes — complete with exclusive stories and outtakes — Sunday or whenever the production process is completed.

This week asks a simple question: if you tickle a yeti, does he grunt? … Shea?

This Week’s Beer

Is the Salt Creek Citra IPA From friend-of-the-shows Brendon!
Thanks, buddy.

America IPA at 7.7% ABV and too few scores to do the math on.

  • Aaron: 9
  • Shea: 9

The Worst Year

So, 2021 was not ideal, but everything’s relative. Let’s talk about the worst year.

Some of you may have an idea of where I’m going with this because you listen to Scathing Atheist and thereby Citation Needed.

1816 — The Dawn Of Jussssstinian’s Suckage

To be clear, 1816 sucked. Nearly 2020 levels of suckage. Per Noah, it led to famine, mass migration, and Mormonism. Mount Tamboura in Indonesia erupted in 1815 and put 100 cubic Kilos of Mount Tamboura into the atmosphere. The island basically just died. The dust that entered the atmosphere caused lowered global temperatures, known today as the “little ice age” for good reason. Sulfuric fog, acidic rain, and massively polluted water killed crops and starved entire contents. India lost its monsoons. China found them. Even artwork from the time got… bleak. So anyway, millions of people died and that’s a real downer.

Still not the worst.

For the worst year, we need to go back another thousand and change…

Welcome to 536 A.D. The world is a gross, illiterate, dumpster fire. The revival of the Roman Empire was… not going as planned. There was famine, plague, oh, and the sun was blocked out to a near-biblical degree for 18 months. Real cats and dogs living together, real wrath of god stuff.

536 is such a terrible year, in the middle of a terrible decade, that I’m not even going to try to bury the surprise of it all in my usual low-hanging comedic fruit way. There’s no need. Each day in 536 was worse than the previous, delivering a nearly endless supply of terrible to punctuate this essay.

A lot of what we’ll talk about comes from records made during Justinian’s attempt to reunify the empire. He traveled with poets and scholars to record what he hoped would be his exploits — rather than the string of seemingly unending uprisings and secessions it actually was.

Well… ye-olde writers and ice cores, dendrological records, and historical metallurgy.

It should be noted that when I say “reunify,” I actually mean “push a massive and bloody war engine across Eurasia” that wouldn’t end until the 550s. What it did do was spread plague all over the damn place. Turns out fighting entropy isn’t a winning gambit.

So, we start the year off with wars, the general terribleness of 536, and the Earth having a terrible rumble in its tummy. That rumble was what is now pretty widely considered to have been a massive Icelandic volcanic eruption. Like, dwarfing Krakatoa or even Tambora. We’re talking real “end of days” stuff here.

I say that most researchers agree on a volcanic eruption, and I’ll get to the evidence for that, but there are a few folks who prefer other theories, the most notable of which (that is, the one that’s not completely, obviously, stupid) is Sozin’s Comet.

The idea was that the Earth was struck by the comet and instead of giving Fire Benders extraordinary powers, it killed everything. This theory is somewhat undercut by pyroclastic debris seldom coming from space. We’ll talk about the evidence for volcanoes in a bit.

Either way, the northern hemisphere was covered in a thick, black, cloud layer not entirely dissimilar to what we think of when talking about Nuclear winter.

Of the event, the Byzantine historian Procopius wrote “the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during this whole year.”

Michael McCormick, a history professor at Harvard University and co-author of the Antiquity paper, whose studies provide much of what we know, said

It was a pretty drastic change; it happened overnight, the ancient witnesses really were onto something. They were not being hysterical or imagining the end of the world.”

Cassiodorus, a Roman politician wrote that “we marvel to see no shadows of our bodies at noon.” He would continue to describe the sun’s ”bluish” tint, that the moon had entirely lost its luster, and the “seasons seem to be all jumbled up together.”

Speaking of, it’s springtime for China and Eurasia. Winter for… China and Eurasia.

The climate is going nuts and raining dirty, acidic, water on the lucky places. Everywhere else got toxic, yellowish, dust instead of water. The Nan Shi (a 6th-century chronicle) noted Hui [whey], that fine yellow-ish dust, covered the chilled and darkened land. And, in case you’re wondering, like eternal darkness and summer-frost, Hui was not good for crops or your lungs.

Now, all of this sounds bad, sure, but a little cold weather can be dealt with eh?

Not by crops, which died en mass.

The global temperature dropped 1.6 to 2.5 C, or because you probably live in the states, 34.88 to 36.5 F. So… a lot. It was the coldest recorded decade in the past 2300 years, known now as the Late Antique Little Ice Age.

The Late Antique Little Ice Age that began in the spring of 536 lasted in western Europe until about 660, and it lasted until about 680 in Central Asia,” McCormick says.

So, let’s talk about global famine and how that sucks.

The near-total loss of crops did two things very well. First, the global economy — such that it was at the time — stagnated. Macro and micro-economies ground to a halt with no goods to trade, and therefore no coin to tax, etc. It was a “trickle-up” of debt if you will. Second, without crops or money famine consumed Europe and not long after, the steps of Asia.

So now we’ve got resource wars to boot. As the year went by, war and famine started mass migrations of people looking for safety.

And where people go, gross follows.

Bubonic Plague has entered the chat…

Procopius continued

men were free neither from war nor pestilence nor any other thing leading to death.”

History buffs will know that this came to be called Justinian’s Plague. A dubious remembrance, but a legacy nonetheless. It’s remembered as being a particularly rough bout of bubonic, killing an estimated 100 million people, which seems like a lot until you also count deaths from famine, war, other pestilences, and exposure to the now entirely unpredictable elements. Never mind what the sun being blocked out for over a year does to people… hint: it’s not good.

Since no one yet had jars to keep their farts in, disease ran wild. And no, that wasn’t a nod to Shea’s patron story last week — one of the more common ways to “defend” from the miasma of plague was to fill your beak mask with roses, or, if you were in the middle of global crop die-offs, farts. As long as you weren’t smelling plague, you were gonna be ok… until you got the plague and it killed you horribly.

The population of Europe and Asia was starving, cold, and warried, making them even more prone to illness than they already were — and this was way, way before vaccines, penicillin, or even the notion that illness was anything other than evil spirits living in your blood. Needless to say, it went poorly.

The rat-based parasites that spread the plague were stunted by the colder weather. Unfortunately, those that made it were carried into people’s homes by rats seeking any warmth they could find. While fewer carried plague, they were all living in people’s hovels putting the already less-than-100% population in direct contact with bubonic plague and other terrible illnesses.

Since all of that is just terrible for Eurasia, let’s talk about Peru.

Are you familiar with Peru’s Moche people?

If you haven’t heard of them, don’t feel bad, they’re not around anymore. At the time they were a leading civilization in the area because of their fishing prowess and incredible-at-the-time irrigation systems. Unfortunately, the Earth going all emo also cooled the ocean causing a sort of El Nino, that in turn did a real number of aquatic life. This all but ended civilizations that rely on the ocean. Many survived, the Mache did not. As for the irrigation, it stopped mattering due to the lack of everything else plants need to survive.

For real and for true, the entire planet was feeling the mode on this one.

But don’t take my word for it. Previously mentioned Harvard historian Michael McCormick did the science. They were initially looking at ye-olde metallurgy stuff and wound up finding archeological and historical records supporting the terribleness of 536.

In his, and a number of other folks mind you, study titled Alpine ice-core evidence for the transformation of the European monetary system, AD 640–670, published in Antiquity, Volume 92, Issue 366, McCormick details how they came to realize just how terrible 536 was, telling Science magazine that the year 536 was “the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year.”

The dendrochronological record showed larger rings in trees in 536 and the following decade. This means the trees grew more slowly, which typically correlates with unseasonably cold weather and/or a lack of sunlight. In our case, both.

This is very cool, and when analyzed alongside other traditional forms of archeological research forms an agreed-upon foundation for 536 is terrible. The previously disputed, but now generally accepted, narrative of a volcanic eruption was largely agreed upon but there was great confusion about where the volcano was as many wanted to place it in North America, most commonly what is now California.

To clarify the volcanic theory, and indeed place the volcano, McCormick’s team analyzed ice cores pulled from the Swiss Alps. They pulled a 235 foot, or 72 meters, the core of ice from a glacier, accounting for nearly 2000 years of microscopic historical markers.

Ice cores are useful in these kinds of studies because each year as snow falls it traps, among other things, atmospheric particulates. These layers are compressed to ice as more fall atop them, eventually leaving a frozen record of not just years, weeks, and sometimes individual days. Superpositioning is cool like that.

The team examined the core using a new ultra-high-resolution tool that uses a laser to cut 120-micron thin slices which work out to about 50,000 cores per meter. Each slice represents about a day or two to a week.

In ice dated from the spring of 536, UM graduate student Laura Hartman found two microscopic particles of volcanic glass. Bombarding the shards with x-rays allowed Laura and UM volcanologist Andrei Kurbatov to match the chemical fingerprint of the shards to Iceland. Once they knew what they were looking for, more shards were found in lakes and peat bogs in Europe and matched them to the ice core.

This all tracks according to study co-author Christopher Loveluck, an archeologist at the University of Nottingham in the U.K., who finds the Icelandic theory more consistent with the devastation wrought on Eurasia.

Iceland is a lot closer to Britain and Northwest Europe than California, which means that the impact of this eruption at the time on climate in these areas would have been much greater than previously thought. It would have made places very cold very quickly and would have been most felt in Britain and places in Northwestern Europe. The consequences for these areas would have been immediate, with an increased likelihood of famine and ill health due to poor crop yields.”

All in all, 536 killed millions of people, sure, but it was also the 2020-esque kickoff to a decade of terrible. In the next few years two more major, documented, eruptions elsewhere in the world helped lengthen the effects on the world. McCormick, who, if you recall, was originally interested in metallurgy, did get around to looking at the ice cores through that lens. What we found was that in 640 there was a sudden spike in the air-born lead. This atmospheric lead is considered to be pretty conclusive evidence of a strong uptick in silver mining and coin manufacturing, an indication that people had enough resources to buy precious metals.

By 660 in Eurasia and 680 in China, things were more or less back on track but 536 and its lingering effects are estimated to have killed about half of the world’s human population. Now that’s a terrible year!

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2022 a year in review

Interested in what we have to say about this story?
Good news, it’s available right now to
subscribers at Patreon.com/iit!

So, Aaron looked back at our terrible past and it’s important to look to the past so we can better steer our future, but what will our future hold? For our Patron segment this week I will be introducing you to some of the great predictions made about this next year by some very prolific prophets. I give you “2022 a year in review.”

I’m sure many of you have heard of Nostradamus, the Old French guy who predicted stuff. Well, I guess, more accurately he was a physician that began their medical practice in the 1530s, although he did so without a medical degree. I can also doctor without a medical degree, I’m just not very good at it, maybe that’s why they call it a practice. Anyway, he began making prophecies around 1547 and published his prophecies in a book entitled Centuries (1555). He wrote his prophecies in quatrains: four lines of rhyming verse. The quatrains were grouped in hundreds; each set of 100 quatrains was called a century.

One such prediction: XC.

A hundred times will the inhuman tyrant die,

In his place put one learned and mild,

The entire Senate will be under his hand,

He will be vexed by a rash scoundrel

Nostradamus’s predictions tended to be about general types of events, like natural disasters and conflict-related events that tend to occur regularly as time goes on. Some people believe that his prophecies have predicted actual events, such as the death of Henry II, the French Revolution, the rise of Napoleon, the rise of Adolf Hitler, and the 9/11 attacks. Others maintain that because his prophecies tend to be about general types of events that occur frequently throughout history—and are written in a cryptic and vague manner—it’s possible to find one that seems to match almost any event that has occurred. So what do you think this last prediction foretells?

Nostradamus gained notoriety during his lifetime when some of his predictions appeared to have come true even at the time. He was highly sought after and was even invited to the court of Catherine de’ Medici, then the queen consort of King Henry II of France, to create horoscopes for her children.

But why am I talking about him today? People are still trying to decipher his predictions and he wasn’t too fond of dates or really any defining factor, he liked to keep them open to interpretation and never concrete, that’s what makes the prophecies so good… I like an air of mystery when it comes to the future. Nostradamus’ book made a ton of predictions and fans like to interpret meanings in every line. It won’t surprise you to find out that every year they publish what they think will happen for the next year. This year’s predictions are great!

Asteroid impact

2021 was a busy year for Nostradamus’ predictions, however, one that has been at the forefront of predictions for the past few years is the threat of an asteroid impacting the Earth.  Whether a small meteor shower or a catastrophic extinction-level event, Nostradamus referred to “Fire do I see that from the sky shall fall”. 

In 2021 the Earth did have a near-miss with the Asteroid 2021GW4. The asteroid, measuring 16 feet across, didn’t pose much of a threat as it would have most likely broken up into smaller pieces once it hit the Earth’s atmosphere. The next near miss, according to NASA, is due to come sometime around 2029. So what does this mean for Nostradamus’ predictions?

While many interpret that fire raining from the sky could be predicting an astral threat, could it be perhaps something far more man-made or even maybe extraterrestrial!

War / Invasion of France 

It’s very difficult to pin down exact dates with Nostradamus’ predictions as they’re based on astrological movements. However, one that can be narrowed down to perhaps being due in 2022 is the prediction of war reaching Europe. The invasion of France by a threat from the east is a recurring theme throughout Nostradamus’ predictions, but the following prediction is speculated to be referring to the spring of 2022:

“Blue-head shall white-head

 harm in such degree

As France’s good to both shall e’er amount.”

Much like all of Nostradamus’ predictions it is delightfully vague. Could this prediction be alluding to the breakout of WWIII or France’s qualification into the 2022 Qatar World Cup? Keep an eye out for the team that beats France to see if they wear white!

Inflation and Starvation

“No abbots, monks, no novices to learn;

Honey shall cost far more than candle-wax”

“So high the price of wheat,

That man is stirred

His fellow man to eat in his despair”

Political instability, Brexit, and a worldwide pandemic have all contributed to an inflation boom in recent years, but did Nostradamus predict the #eattherich movement? Or is this quatrain to be taken more metaphorically? Either way, it’s safe to assume that he was telling us not to be surprised if 2022 is the year that inflation and hunger lead to rebellion and cannibalism.


In addition, to forecasting inflation, Nostradamus nods to the rise of cryptocurrency in the year ahead. As Yearly-Horoscope translated from the original French:

“The copies of gold and silver inflated

Which after the theft were thrown into the lake

At the discovery that all is exhausted and dissipated by the debt

All scripts and bonds will be wiped out.”

While Nostradamus’ predictions tend to land more near the bank than on the money, gold is currently surging and a wave of Silicon Valley engineers and executives are leaving their high-level positions to join forces with crypto startups. Coincidence or prophecy confirmed? We wait with bitcoin and bated breath.

The Terminator… Sort of

Nostradamus wrote;

“The Moon in the full of night over the high mountain

The new sage with a lone brain sees it

By his disciples invited to be immortal

Eyes to the south. Hands in bosoms, bodies in the fire.”

While easily confused with Björk lyrics, that passage appears to reference the escalation of artificial intelligence. Cue Elon Musk, Time magazine’s Person of the Year and an unequivocal alien in his own right taking to robot-making and moving his headquarters south to Austin, Texas. Also the increase in Skynet-related takeovers and toasters gaining sentience.

Global Warming

Perhaps not a surprise, given the climate over the past few years, but rising sea temperatures were something that Nostradamus predicted in 1555. 

“Like the sun the head shall sear the shining sea: 

The Black Sea’s living fish shall all but boil.

When Rhodes and Genoa Half-starved shall be

The local folk to cut them up shall toil.”

With global temperatures climbing, sea levels rising, and food chain complications already starting to become apparent, is 2022 going to be the year where temperatures reach breaking point? Perhaps fish won’t boil in the sea, but we are already witnessing a mass extinction-level event happening across the globe. The death of coral reefs, decimation of natural habitats, and declining number of fish globally could be a warning sign that Nostradamus’ predictions of boiling seas and starving populations are just around the corner.

Now Nossy isn’t the only person to make predictions about 2022, he might be the oldest though. Our next prophet is a bit more modern but uses some pretty interesting techniques to foretell what’s to come.

Jemima Packington, 65, claims to be able to divine knowledge of the future by tossing spears into the air and interpreting how they land.

Over the years she has correctly predicted Brexit, Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister, as well as Harry and Meghan stepping down as senior members of the Royal Family.

I should mention that these are not spears you would find in a medieval battle but rather spears of asparagus. You know, the green stalk vegetable that is delicious sauteed with a bit of butter. And it might be good to know that Ms. Packington is more well known as the Mystic Veg.

Mystic Veg began making predictions aged eight and says she inherited the gift from her elderly aunt who used to read tea leaves.

She said: ‘My technique has not changed and I still cast the asparagus spears and interpret the patterns in them. ‘Seeing the patterns for me is instantaneous, possibly that is because I’ve had years of practice. (Or maybe she is just making stuff up and has good intuition.)

‘I am usually about 75 to 90% accurate with my predictions. I go through my predictions each year and think: “Yep, that’s happened, yep, that’s happened.”

‘Occasionally I get one slightly off, where I haven’t quite read it correctly, but I’m never far off.

‘I predicted Boris Johnson would become Prime Minister about four years before he did and everyone laughed their socks off.’

Late last year, Jemima predicted Christmas celebrations would be a modest affair which was the case in many households as Omicron took hold. Last year, she predicted more royal births and bereavement and was proven right when the Sussexes announced Meghan was pregnant with their second child and Prince Philip died.

Now this year she believes Boris will remain in Downing Street, outlasting Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, and has prophesied more misery for the royals, including ‘scandals and worse’.

In the world of football, Jemima has predicted that she doesn’t think Man City will clinch the Premier League title – with derby rivals Man Utd being a dark horse in the race. She has also backed unfancied Croatia to win the World Cup.

That’s about it for the Mystic Veg, she isn’t too prolific but apparently knows Brittain pretty well.

‘This year it took me over 24 hours in two sessions to make my predictions. I just try and get away from daily life and clear my mind and that is when I interpret the spears as they land on the floor.

‘It sounds silly but it’s easier to do than to explain, certain patterns just form, and the predictions come to me.

‘And then after that, we eat it for supper, and it’s delicious. I’m very much waste not, want not.

‘I’m not too triumphant about my ability but I am often right with my predictions.’

Mystic Veg complete prediction for 2022:

1. Despite all the bad press, Boris Johnson will continue as Prime Minister.

2. Covid and all its variants will be with us forever but everyone will learn to adapt and not let it get the better of us.

3. A brand new way of living will become the norm – working from home, etc. but people will no longer accept shoddy services hiding behind the guise of the pandemic.

4. Entertainment and sports venues will find ways to progress while keeping everyone safe.

5. More sadness for the Royal Family; scandals and worse.

6. We will be shocked at the news of the unexpected demise of showbiz legends.

7. A review of the Nation’s Educational Standards will be carried out to make sure no child is left behind. More emphasis on vocational training will be introduced.

8. A return to times when foreign travel was an exotic luxury will be experienced. It will no longer be a regular occurrence and travel prices will reflect this.

9. The economy will rally and it will become a beacon of achievement amongst those countries unable to get to grips with their own economies.

10. Tense times will continue on the international front but conflicts will be avoided.

11. Adaptability will become the byword in the leisure and service industries; they will embrace the change in people’s habits and will survive stronger than ever.

12. Sir Keir Starmer will not continue as leader of the Labour Party in a shock twist.

13. Sadly climate change will continue and fewer countries will be active in its reversal.

14. Recycling and upcycling will be the new fashion. There will be less waste of any sort. Barter will become a new trend.

15. Agriculture will progress well, and Vale of Evesham asparagus will continue to be recognized as the world’s best.

16. Croatia will win the World Cup in 2022 but the competition will still be beset by controversy.

17. Manchester City won’t win the Premier League, but watch out for Manchester United.

18. West Indies will be the surprise winners of the Cricket World Cup in Australia.

19. England’s Women’s Rugby team will have terrific success at their World Cup in New Zealand.

20. The Oscar for Best Film will go to ‘The Power of the Dog’ and Benedict Cumberbatch will be nominated for Best Actor.


Our next Nutter, sorry psychic is apparently famous according to her incredibly professional website… https://www.psychicnikki.com/. From Psychic Nikki’s website;

Nikki has been clairvoyant all her life. She is an audient clairvoyant — the ability to see and hear and come up with specifics. Nikki’s father had the gift as well. Nikki is known all over the world. Some of her clients include well-known movie stars, politicians, people from the sports world and business world, as well as the world of entertainment. Nikki has done several radio shows including 102.1 The Edge – The Dean Blundell Show.”

Beyond that, I couldn’t find out too much information on her other than her absurdly wild yearly predictions. In 2020, for example, she predicted that an alien spaceship would land in Area 51. She also predicted that a crocodile would eat a movie star.

Last year she made some wild predictions, like cities going underwater, the emergence of a giant gorilla found on an island, and a penguin invasion across the country. Surprisingly, some of these predictions are on the docket for this year, too.

While her predictions are really out there she has managed to hit the nail on the head a few times; a big change in the British Monarchy, more UFO sightings across the country, and the movie business taking a hit in California. A broken watch is right twice a day too so maybe we should take what she says with a grain of salt.

Here are this year’s predictions from a strange woman with a website;

  • A Giant Penguin Discovered In Antarctica
  • An Attack By A Bull…And A Save
    • Psychic Nikki predicts that a bullfighter will save a crowd from a raging bull.
  • A Shortage Of Avocados
  • The Sky Will No Longer Be Blue
    • Psychic Nikki says our skies will turn purple. She also said the sky could turn pink.
  • A Bear Before A Judge
    • Picture this: you’re in a courtroom and a bear walks through the door. Apparently, that will happen at some point in 2022.
  • UFO sightings, a common theme these past few years.
  • Florida gets a ton of snow and cold.
  • Tom Brady Needs To Avoid The Water
    • Psychic Nikki didn’t say exactly what will or could happen to Tom Brady but she did say he needs to avoid fast boats.
  • Flamingo No More
    • The flamingo will become extinct thanks to a disease that wipes them out.
  • Talking Cow
    • One of the more crazy predictions this year


YIkes… lol


Unfortunately, we will have to live through 2022 in order to see how many of these outlandish predictions come true this year. I for one think it’s best to stay inside and avoid robots. So best of luck this next year, we will get through it together.


I’m Aaron, and I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, and my co-hosts.

Find out more about the show, social links, and contact information at InterestingIfTrue.com.

Music for this episode was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.

The opinions, views, and nonsense expressed in this show are those of the hosts only and do not represent any other people, organizations, or lifeforms.
All rights reserved, Interesting If True 2020.

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