Monday, 19 November 2012

George St-Pierre: My body. My mind. The tools that I have.

Read in a Canadian-French accent for fuller effect!

"... I give [sic] everything I have tonight... (thinks)
You know... (thinks)

I am like I am.
I use my body the best that I can.

I don't have the knock-out power of Rampage Jackson.
I don't have the athletic ability of Jon Jones.
I don't have the accuracy of Anderson Silva.
I don't have the wrestling of Chael Sonnen.

But I use my body (points to self)
- the tools that I have -
the best that I can.

And that's why I win fight [sic].

It's not always about muscle.
It's the mind.
And I use my tools the best that I can, to win the fight..."

Geore St-Pierre at the UFC 154 post-fight press conference talking about his tenth straight title defense.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

One life (BBC Earth)

Brilliant. The best animal/nature compilation I've come across. Good pace. Jumps animal/location every few minutes, enough to make the intended point and never too long to drag. I believe this feature is a condensed version of the larger 'Life' series, so maybe not worth buying if you've already got that.

Watching it and the closing conclusion in particular is thought-provoking. It's clear animals display intelligence, adaptability and ingenuity. So what is our edge? There's definitely something that differentiates humans from other animals. So what is it that makes us unique? Perhaps this ability to pose questions?...

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The indispensability trap

Great article on good management in the November 2012 issue of Management Today: The Indispensability Trap, by Richard Jolly. In summary...

The curse of bad management:

"You are fantastic: indispensable.
Which is why you're the last person I'd promote!
You are far too important where you are."

The goal of good management:

"The team is working so well
they don't need me any more!
I am ready for my next challenge."

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Living with a Black Dog, by Matthew and Ainsley Johnstone

Depression I find to be as fascinating a topic as it is sad. Questions such as: what brings it about; why so few of those who suffer from it, see it; and, particularly, how comes the percentage of people who suffer from it rises year on year, even in places where quality of life is supposedly on the rise. But! This book is not so much about depression itself or the sufferer of it, as it about the caregiver - the partner, friend, colleague etc of the person experiencing depression ("harbouring a black dog"). A good, small, useful picture book summarising nicely advice for caregivers. The advice is split into things the caregiver may notice about the person experiencing depression, things not to say and do, things good to say and do, tips on embracing/acknowledging the black dog together, and, lastly, self-preservation so that the black dog does not rub off on the caregiver.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

Don't be put off by the cover! Not that there's anything wrong with reading a story with a pink cover of course (I've read 'Pride and Prejudice', 'One Day' and 'P.S. I Love You' in the last couple of years I should mention [They were recommended to me by Amazon and had lots of good reviews!!]) No shame, I should hope :-/ Anyway, the book at hand - Jojo Moyes' 'Me Before You'. Good read. A love story with a difference. Not your typical girl meets boy and then the book ends [ not that I've read any of those; I honestly haven't :) ]. Believable characters here too. The main two characters: Louisa and Will. The first - Louisa - a young, distinctive personality who has no ambition nor desire to venture outside of her daily routine until the local cafe she works at closes shop, permanently. The other - Will -  a young-ish, high-flying businessman brought to a standstill - quadriplegia - by an unfortunate traffic accident and wanting to end his life. A bit of a spoiler there but it's disclosed quite early in the book so surely you won't mind!..

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Explaining extradition to a child

We sit beside the pillar on the top stair of the building's entrance, my nephew, niece and me. Directly ahead of us, a few steps down, three individuals in orange jumpsuits, their backs to us. "Why do they have bags on their heads?" my nephew expectantly quizzes.

"They're pretending to be prisoners" my response, baiting him to continue. "Did they do something wrong?" he complies. We discuss how these are a different kind of prisoner - the exception to the rule - and who it is they represent: the Tooting two.

"These are the goodies" I tell him. He sits a moment taking it in - the thinker that he is - and then - making that sudden link kids always do - he asks of those who took them: "Like Loki?.. Are they like Loki?" I tilt my head and smile. Just the day before he had watched Avengers Assemble for the very first time.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Karama! Journeys through the Arab Spring, by Johnny West

Decent read for anyone wanting to get a feel for the thoughts, feelings and aspirations of those on the ground - in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya - who took part in the Arab uprising last year. Though the book is not conclusive as to why exactly the protests succeeded this time round in toppling those in power (Mohammed Bouazizi and Khalid Said cited as catalysts in the case of Tunisia and Egypt respectively) nor where these three nations are headed (creating jobs and restoring order cited as high concerns), it can't be held as a criticism of the book as that is not the author's objective. I found the first two parts on Tunisia and Egpyt much better reads than the third part on Libya, which seemed rushed and contained less characters (and more facts and stats and stuff!) than the first two parts. Overall: good, simple to read, easy to follow insight into some of the thoughts, feelings and aspirations of those on the ground before, during and immediately following the uprising.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

No guts, no glory

Know guts. Know glory.

(Nice play on words I saw somewhere a few days back [can't remember where] and stuck in my head.)

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Pakistan: A Personal History, by Imran Khan

An absolute must-read for anyone interested in Pakistan and the surrounding region, or Imran Khan for that matter! Good mix of Imran Khan's personal biography with that of Pakistan. Shocking - albeit a tad comical - to read about Pakistan's succession of corrupt leaders since inception. Yet, at the same time, hugely impressive to read about Imran's achievements in his life, his philosophies on success, his balance of religion and his ideas for Pakistan: justice, fairness and anti-corruption of course high up on the agenda. If he continues with the integrity he has demonstrated thus far in his political career, he certainly has my vote! (were I eligible to vote!!)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Prophet Muhammad - A Biography, by Barnaby Rogerson

I find it incredibly bizarre how few good, simple, well-written, easy-to-read biographies there are of the Prophet Muhammad in the English language. Martin Lings' biography is oft-cited by Muslims as the one to read but, truth be told, it doesn't read like a novel. A bit too scholarly - dry, overly detailed - I found it to be. In terms of language and readability, this one by Barnaby Rogerson is the best I have read so far. Not entirely brilliant but within it is a decent biography of the Prophet Muhammad. I recommend skipping - or skimming over - the second and third chapters on your first read as a lot of it is just boring, bloated, unnecessary history and geography about the old Arabia. The fourth chapter is where the biography really takes off. Sure the book is littered throughout with some strange claims but if you can get past that - and in the absence of other, better, biographies of the Prophet Muhammad in the English language - this is one of the easiest to read.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Leadership of Muhammad, by John Adair

I had great expectations for this book after listening to a talk by the speaker introducing it and also receiving recommendations from friends who had read it before me. Reading it however I couldn't help feel a little disappointed. It's a small book (this I knew before I bought it) and even then the mention of The Prophet Muhammad and his examples of leadership are few and far between. Each chapter (there are eight) takes one concept of leadership exemplified by the Prophet Muhammad and elaborates on why it is important and how particularly it ties to the Bedouin/Arabian society that the Prophet Muhammad found himself in. Overall, great idea for a book and not a bad book, but not quite living up to its potential (and my expectation).

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Position before Submission

Was sitting here coding on the 12th of July (Battle of the Boyne - Orangemen's Day; bank holiday in Northern Ireland!) and a sudden "martial arts" thought popped into my head: "Position before Submission". An important fighting principle. Especially when starting out. It's where a lot of people go wrong, learning spinning back fists and flying arm bars before learning how to control their opponent! Anyhoo, the purpose of this post... After that sudden impulsive thought, and seeing as though it's a bank holiday, I thought I'd split my day between coding and collecting some Sun Tzu military/strategy quotes. Here we go...

"War is deception."

"If you are far from the enemy,
  make him believe you are near."


"Pretend inferiority;
  encourage his arrogance."


"Appear weak when strong,
  strong when weak."


"To subdue the enemy without fighting
  is the acme of skill."


"He is skilful in attack
  whose opponent knows not what to defend;
and skilful in defence
  whose opponent knows not what to attack."


"Invincibility lies in the defence;
  victory in the attack."


"Attack your opponent's strategy."

"Believe in yourself."

Note that I omitted quotes about the importance of good spying and going into battle only after having already won victory, which Sun Tzu seems to emphasise above all else in his writings, but wanted to keep the quotes applicable to hand-to-hand (one-on-one) combat/competition, hence the omission. Oh and excuse my exercising poetic license to adapt and abbreviate the quotes!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Writing on the Water, by Muhiyiddin Shakoor

I needed a book to read for my return flight back from Sarajevo a couple months back so picked this up before departing from one of the book stores besides the Gazi Husrev-Beg Mosque. The writing style looked decent and I was curious to read the chronicles of someone treading the "Sufist" path!

The writing style did turn out to be okay. The content of the book however I found somewhat lacking. The author's personal stories and the lessons he extrapolates from them just did not work for me. (For reasons of blandness rather than disagreement.) More so, the author's "Shaykh" (spiritual guide) I felt comes across as a somewhat cruel and ambiguous figure! The tasks he assigns to his "disciples" being an example of this. A leadership style contrary to the example set by the Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon) and his Companions in my opinion! Maybe of course it's just the way he comes across in this book and he's not so bad a person in person!!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Cave Hill

Cycled up to Belfast castle (5 miles from my place of residence in south/central Belfast) yesterday and then walked up to McArt's fort, on the summit of Cave Hill (elevation 370 metres). A couple of pics above.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khalid Hosseini

I've had this book lying around my house for quite a while. Maybe a couple of years now. Never doubted from all the positive reviews that it was a good book. Just never picked it up because I got the impression it was a sad story and I don't particularly warm to sad stories! Finally packed it on Monday for the return journey from London to Belfast and got through 200 of the 400 pages that first day! "Engrossed" is quite the understatement. I'm an otherwise slow reader yet managed to get through around 50 pages every evening that followed. I guess that says it all. Brilliant book. Absolute must read.

Rhythm

Fight to your opponent's rhythm;
you will lag, you will lose.

You have to
have to have to
enter each fight, each round
with a rhythm, your rhythm.

Dance your opponent to your tune.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Mother of the Believers, by Kamran Pasha

Finished this book about a month ago. Not managed to get around to writing a review til now. An enjoyable read! I thought it was going to be a fictionalised biography of Aisha (God's pleasure be upon her and all the Prophet's family and companions). What it is instead is the story of the birth and early years of Islam told through the eyes of Aisha. Of course Aisha would not have been present at all the events that take place in the book but it's this - the author's imaginative method of telling the story - that's part of what makes the book such an enjoyable read.

The author does well in my opinion in depicting the characters and portraying them as being human, which I think is often-time lacking in contemporary Islamic literature. I feel we often read/write about the great companions of the Prophet Muhammad and what they achieved as though they were emotion-less, machine-like beings, forgetting the passions, pains and fears they would have inevitably felt in foregoing their ways of old and embracing a new way of life.

Truth be told, there were times in the book - such as the portrayal of Fatima and Ali (the Prophet's daughter and cousin/son-in-law) specifically as being other worldly, or the repetitive mention of how very old and senile Abu Bakr and Uthman were, or the occasional slip in of how ill-mannered Umar was, or the recurring theme that Aisha was unable to forgive Ali for a comment he once made about her in the presence of the Prophet - that had me thinking "hmm, that's a bit strange, a bit overkill" but the book definitely overall was very respectful and courteous towards all of the Prophet's companions, and definitely left me wanting to find more books of this kind. So a thumbs up from me!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Trip to Bosnia

Spent a week in Bosnia with a couple of friends - Wednesday 16 May to Tuesday 22 May - sleeping in Hostel City Center Sarajevo (hcc.ba/sarajevo) the nights we were in Sarajevo and Pansion Villa Sara Mostar (villasara-mostar.com) the nights we were in Mostar. Here's how we spent our time:

Wed 16 afternoon - flew out from London Heathrow (Austrian Airlines).
Wed 16 evening - arrived in Sarajevo via Vienna.
Thu 17 May - visited Travnik and Jajce with our guide Muamer (go2bosnia.com) arranged by Bosnia Travels (bosniatravels.com).
Fri 18 May - walked around and prayed Jumuah in Bascarsija, Sarajevo before catching the evening train to Mostar.
Sat 19 May morning - got the train from Mostar to Blagaj.
Sat 19 May afternoon - arranged a ride from Blagaj to Pocitelj with the help of the Imam at D┼żemat Blagaj (Sultan Sulejman Mosque).
Sat 19 May evening - arranged a ride to get from Pocitelj back to Mostar where we spent the evening walking around and watching the Champions League final.
Sun 20 May - got the morning train back to Sarajevo from Mostar and spent the rest of the day walking up and around the hills surrounding Bascarsija.
Mon 21 May - spent the day cycling around Bjelasnica, the hills where the 1984 Winter Olympics took place.
Tue 22 May - returned to London Heathrow in the late afternoon departing from Sarajevo in the early afternoon and flying (Lufthansa) via Munich.

Total cost of the trip per person was around £450 (£200 return flight, £80 accommodation, £70 for a couple of day tours). Uploaded some pics from the trip to my flickr and youtube accounts.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Rise of the Introvert

Read and liked this article by John Morrish in the April 2012 issue of Management Today which reviewed Susan Cain's recently released book 'Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking':


Found myself answering true to almost all the questions at the end. Here's some...
  • I prefer one-to-one conversations to group activities.
  • I often prefer to express myself in writing.
  • I enjoy solitude.
  • I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame and status.
  • People tell me that I'm a good listener.
  • I'm not a big risk-taker.
  • I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members.
  • People describe me as 'soft-spoken' or 'mellow'.
  • I dislike conflict.
  • I tend to think before I speak.
  • I feel drained after being out and about, even if I've enjoyed myself.
... Still not convinced though whether these are qualities to be embraced and worked with, or characteristics to be resisted and overcome...

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding the case of Babar Ahmad

Just wrote a letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC as requested by the Free Babar Ahmad campaign demanding that Babar Ahmad be put on trial in the UK. Probably should have stuck to the template and focused on the point of materials gathered against Babar being shipped straight to the US before the Crown Prosecution Service reviewed them but feeling rather frustrated by the whole system and couldn't help exclamation marking!!
Dear Mr Starmer,
I will keep my letter short as I am aware you may get similar letters from others confused as I am. I am writing to request that you demand Babar Ahmad be put on trial immediately in the United Kingdom. It is ridiculous that he has been imprisoned for near enough eight years without charge and doubly ridiculous that he is now to be sent to the United States (and face the kind of [in]justice that Aafia Siddique was subjected to not long ago) because a website he is alleged to have run was hosted on a server in the United States for a few months! The crime he is accused of having committed (running a website and providing logistical support to "rebels" in Chechnya resisting Russian occupation in the 1990s) was conducted in the United Kingdom and, as ridiculous as it is, if he is to be sent to any country it should be Russia! But that's not as ridiculous as sending him to the United States on the most flimsy of links and simply because the British government wants to wash her hands of any Muslim labelled a "terrorist". If there truly is evidence of his having committed the crimes he is accused of, then he can and should be put on trial here in the United Kingdom. And otherwise he should return to his family!
Yours Sincerely,
Adil Hussain

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

'Band of Brothers' and 'Downfall'


Been watching an episode a week of 'Band of Brothers' for the past 10 weeks or so and slipped in viewing of 'Downfall' a couple weeks back too. Powerful dramas. Gets me thinking: if there's one constant in the human race that'll stick from the beginning of time to the end, it's the madness and lust of individuals and nations and theories for dominance. When all around you are losing their heads, keep calm and carry off :)>

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ulster Way, North Down Coastal Path

Hopped on the train for the first time in Northern Ireland since moving over a few months back. Got the 9:39am train from Botanic to Bangor. Surprisingly cheap. Just £5.20 for a return. Not bad at all.

Got off at Bangor station and carried on, on my bicycle, in an easterly direction to Groomsport before turning around and heading back on myself west, past Bangor station, and onward to Holywood, where I got the 4:16pm train back to Botanic station.

Not sure exactly but must have cycled around 20-25 kilometres. Was flat ground and weather was pleasant alhamdulillah so not a strain at all. Pics uploaded to my Flickr account:

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Remebering God - Reflections on Islam, by Gai Eaton

"... to fear God, to love Him and to remember Him..." Liked this closing statement in Gai Eaton's Remembering God. First book I've read by the author and the sheer number of topics he jumps between in the 200-or-so pages I found pretty impressive. A light read - a collection of reflections as the title suggests - and a wortwhile one at that.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Expectation

"She wanted the world
and he wanted a girl."

Heard this song playing in Centra (local convenience store which I've taken a liking to [for the goods not the songs!]) and it's probably the first time ever (or maybe since the Beatles) I've heard a lyric from a young British singer and thought: "that's actually quite well thought out." Most times it's a far stretch to even say: "that's thought out"! And in popping into Streat every day and seeing the screen on the wall playing the top twenty, so sad to see a nation of young artists with nothing to sing about and call people to except flings!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Forty Rules of Love, by Elif Shafak

Good read: good character portrayals; full of good lessons about looking out for the downtrodden in society and rising above the 'what will people say' mentality; justified and considerate criticisms of the Muslim status quo I felt; well edited such that every word seemed to count and I found myself not having to sift through fluff to find the important stuff; and love a book that's split into nice small chapters! My only qualm (and I hope I don't come across bigoted) with the book would be doctrinal (i.e. the heart/sufi and the mind/faqih are not opposing forces and instead [in my opinion] two players on the same team, each to his [or her] speciality and each helping the other to replicate the perfect example of the Seal of God's Messengers [peace and blessings upon him and them all])… but that's not why I read the book nor what I was expecting from it so I guess it's not really a justified criticism of the book given that it is (and sets itself out to be) a piece of fiction. Recommended reading!

No Roof in Bosnia, by Els de Groen

Got some travel and history books on Bosnia and started going through them but nothing sticks to and captivates the mind quite like a story! Got through this book in three sit-downs whereas the others I can imagine I'll be going through for a few more weeks at least :-\ I suspect the author has a background in education and this book is targeted at teenagers, and at times it looked as though it was about to go down a feminist or atheist or anti-religion path but the author did well I think to maintain neutrality and blend in a mix of characters from various backgrounds to present an introduction of the recent tragedy that befell Bosnia.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Belfast, Whiterock Road

Headed for the mountains west of me today for the first time since moving over to Belfast. Went down Eglantine Avenue, then over Tates Avenue, up Donegall Road, and lastly up top of Whiterock Road where the road ends and I wouldn't have been able to go further even if the road continued because of the two pesky dogs barking at my feet!

Noticed a massive change in atmosphere when I got up top of Donegall Road: political artwork on buildings all over commemorating those who lost their lives in the troubles not so long ago.