Monday, 2 September 2013

South Downs - Seaford to Newhaven to Southease

Another very nice weekend with the wife in the South Downs. This time we got the train on Saturday morning from London Victoria to the coastal town of Seaford. Was a very nice day so we relaxed on the beach at Seaford for a few hours before walking westward to Newhaven Harbour, from where we caught the train northward to Southease, our destination for the evening. We stayed at the YHA South Downs having booked a Pod Cabin previously via Our first 'Glamping' holiday and we loved it! The first of many insha-Allah. The following morning we had breakfast at the hostel and went for a short walk around the area, before making our way back to London from Southease via National Rail. In summary: a highly recommended local-to-London holiday experience!

Check out the following photo stream for pics of our trip:

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Book Review: The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene

I was going through the books in my shed last weekend when I stumbled across this book. It's a small book and I thought it would be a humorous, one-hour-max skim read so I packed it in my bag for my Monday commute to work. Four commute days later and it's scribbled with notes and highlights all over! For sure it's not gospel and it is quite sinister at times but, as sad as it is to admit, it's got its fair share of stories and advices that I can't help except find agreeable! My six favourite chapters, or laws rather, were the following: (1) Never outshine the master; (10) Infection - avoid the unhappy and the unlucky; (11) Learn to keep people dependent on you; (13) When asking for help, appeal to people's self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude; (17) Cultivate an air of unpredictability; and (46) Never appear too perfect. And here's some of my favourite quotes from the book:
"... Do not be one of the many who mistakenly believe that the ultimate form of power is independence. Power involves a relationship between people... If you create no need for yourself, then you will be done away with at the first opportunity... You do not have to be a genius; you do have to have a skill that sets you apart from the crowd..."
"Most men are so thoroughly subjective that nothing really interests them but themselves. They always think of their own case as soon as ever any remark is made, and their whole attention is engrossed and absorbed by the nearest chance reference to anything which affects them personally, be it never so remote." (Arthur Schopenhauer)
"The shortest and best way to make your fortune is to let people see clearly that it is their interests to promote yours." (Jean de La Bruyere)
"Animals behave in set patterns, which is why we are able to hunt and kill them. Only man has the capacity consciously to alter his behaviour, to improvise and overcome the weight of routine and habit... Only the terminally subordinate act in a predictable manner."
"Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived." (Niccolo Machiavelli)

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Zen in the Martial Arts, by Joe Hyams

Hmm, my third Blog post in succession reviewing a martial arts book! I assure you it's not all that I've been reading these past few months. Just pure chance that I've found yet another good, very good, martial arts books worthy of a Blog post! Truth be told I wasn't sure about this book going into it and how practical it would be, but it is! Very practical, albeit the "softer" aspect of the martial arts. If you don't mind reading a book written by somebody raised on the martial arts in the 70s/80s (the pre-MMA "Bruce Lee" era), then I definitely recommend adding this book to your martial arts library... and reading it and reflecting on the advices within!! Here's some quotes from the book which stuck out for me:

"A dojo [pracice hall] is a miniature cosmos where we make contact with ourselves - our fears, anxieties, reactions, and habits. It is an arena of confined conflict where we confront an opponent who is not an opponent but rather a partner engaged in helping us understand ourselves more fully."

"A man who has attained mastery of an art reveals it in his every action." (Samurai Maxim)

"You must learn to allow patience and stillness to take over from anxiety and frantic activity for the sake of doing something."

"Controlled breathing restores calm, confidence, and strength."

"Control your emotion or it will control you." (Chinese Adage)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Fighter's Mind, by Sam Sheridan

This book's definitely worth reading along with Sam Sheridan's other book A Fighter's Heart. Each chapter here focuses on one particular individual in an interview-like format questioning what it is that distinguishes the great from the good, and the author's got a real good mix of individuals, from outstanding fighters/athletes (Marcelo Garcia, Randy Couture, Frank Shamrock etc) to outstanding coaches/trainers (Freddie Roach, Virgil Hunter, Greg Jackson etc). Lots of valuable nuggets here on mental strategy. I've pulled out some of my favourite bits from the book below. I did try reducing the quotes below to five but just couldn't manage!

"It's easier to teach the skills than the mentality."

"One of the old boxing truisms is 'Frustrate a puncher and he'll fall apart'... Mike Tyson, one of the greatest punchers of all time, rarely fought past six rounds. If he hit you and you were still there, he'd mentally break. He'd bite your ear off, to foul himself out of the fight, or not answer the bell."

"You gotta take a lot of beatings."

"Ego is a big reason that guys stop advancing in the sport," Eddie [Bravo] said... "... once they get famous, they can't just roll, everyone wants to tap them. The famous guys start limiting their training. It's very hard to take risks to get tapped when you get famous. So they stop progressing."

"The most humble guys, who are the most open and willing to learn, are the ones who become the best."

"... It's in defeat that a man reveals himself."

"... When [George] Foreman [at the age of 45] came jogging down to the ring [to fight the then heavyweight champion Michael Moorer], Teddy [Atlas] saw he was wearing the *same shorts* he'd worn in Zaire as a young lion [against Muhammad Ali] - and now he was a battle-scarred old bull. To wear those same shorts, the ones that had been worn when he suffered the biggest defeat in boxing history - meant that George *couldn't* be stopped. His mind was too strong now. This was his night... He knocked out the twenty-six-year-old Moorer. He turned the tables on Zaire - he made himself the hero of the story, the bigger hero of history."

"... you have to be careful with saying *don't get taken down* because that's a negative statement... [give him] positive things to do - *get an underhook*, *tie him up*, *stay in his face*..."

"When you hear Randy [Couture] describe what he's going to do in a fight, or talk about another fighter, his language is interesting. It's technical and dry and devoid of emotion. Randy sees a problem, a technical problem, not an emotional fight filled with fear and rage..."

"I started thinking about the differences between being nervous and being excited - they're very similar. The physical attributes you assign to each are real similar, and one has negative connotations. Nervousness means something bad is happening and you're not enjoying it, and being excited makes you smile, you love what you're doing and good things are happening."

"... it's not personal. It's problem solving..."

"... the 'pinnacle of competition' [is to] see  your opponent break..."

"The Gracies' always talk about jiu-jitsu and using breathing... If you're breathing slower, your clarity is better."

"In every discipline, the ability to be clear-headed, present, cool under fire is much of what separates the best from the mediocre..."

Thursday, 30 May 2013

A Fighter's Heart, by Sam Sheridan

If you're a fan of the martial arts and you read, you'll love this book! The second half of the book you can skip but the first, the first is an impressive, philosophical journey through the martial arts world, digging deep and asking what it is that motivates men to fight. And it's philosophical without being over-your-head philosophical! Very accessible. In closing, here's some of my favourite quotes from the book...

"Our favourite part of any kung fu movie wasn't necessarily the climatic fights; it was the training sequence, when the hero becomes an invincible warrior."

"Rodrigo [Nogueira] actually sort of liked Fedor [Emelianenko], and he knew that there was the need for a fighter to have big opponents. Ali had Liston, Frazier, Foreman; and Roy Jones Jr. in his prime, had nobody. A great opponent raises you up."

"I quickly came to understand one of Virgil [Hunter]'s governing precepts, which is fight when it's good for you. Don't stand and fight when your opponent wants to. Move around - fight only when it's better for you."

"Afterwards, as I was taking off my wraps, Virgil [Hunter] said, 'Fundamentals, Sam, fundamentals. If you don't have them, you will run into somebody else's'."

"'At one point, I thought life was about acquiring things,' he [Mike Tyson] said. 'Life is totally about losing everything'."

Friday, 12 April 2013

Turkey: Dalaman, Dalyan, Datca

Spent a pleasant, relaxing week in South-West Turkey from Wednesday 3rd April to Wednesday 10th April. Went with my wife and highly recommend it as a nice, chilled-out getaway for couples (if, like us, you go off-season). Here's our itinerary which came together really well for us alhamdulillah:

  • Wed 3rd morning - Flew direct from London Stansted to Dalaman Airport with easyJet.
  • Wed 3rd afternoon - Got a taxi ride - booked beforehand with - from Dalaman Airport to Dalyan Resort.
  • Wed 3rd evening - Got some rest then went out for dinner at Safran Restaurant, a short walk from Dalyan Resort.
  • Thu 4th - Walked around in town popping in and out of cafes etc and catching the daytime prayers at the main Masjid in town. We both loved the Masjid!
  • Fri 5th - Caught a one-day boat trip along Dalyan River which we booked the day before and which dropped us off at the various site around Dalyan. Iztuzu Beach we found to be particularly outstanding.
  • Sat 6th morning/afternoon - lounged about in Dalyan Resort sitting by the river adjoined, and popped into town for some gift shopping.
  • Sat 6th evening - Got a taxi ride from Dalyan Resort to our second town/hotel: Villa Asina in Datca. The taxi ride was booked via Villa Asina.
  • Sun 7th, Mon 8th, Tue 9th - Took it easy and enjoyed the views of the sea from Villa Asina and from the harbour in town.
  • Tue 9th evening - Got a taxi ride from Villa Asina in Datca to our hotel in Dalaman to be close to the airport for our flight the following morning.

I uploaded some pictures of our trip to my Flickr account here, here and here.

Friday, 29 March 2013

ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Work needn't be unpleasant! And this book here describes that ideal company to work for, or, best-case-scenario, that ideal company to create!! Found myself agreeing with near enough everything in this book. Great points and good questions raised. Such as: what is it with businesses/organisations and the obsession to *grow*? If you've found a good size for what you do, why not stick to it?? Or, why the obsession with working 40+ hour weeks? Throwing hours at problems and creating zombie cultures ain't the best way to go. Or, why the obsession to add features to products just for the sake of adding features?? Better to question whether the features you're adding actually add value or detract from the product's purpose. And why the need to schedule an hour's meeting when seven minutes is all that's required?! And so on and so forth. Definitely worth a read.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Execute, by Drew Wilson and Josh Long

Inspiring! That's what this book sets out to do and that's what it does!! Great book - put together in just eight days - about the joys of executing on ideas and making stuff. Great reminder firstly about working smart (recovering between sprints etc) and secondly about the importance of having projects outside of 'work' on the go, keeping them simple and seeing them through (design, development, marketing, support) to completion.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The History of the Four Caliphs, by Shaykh Muhammad Al-Khudari Bak Al-Bajuri

The answer to my prayers! I've been wanting a good resource to make sense of the period immediately following the passing of the Prophet Muhammmad (peace and blessings of God be upon him), and this book sure delivers! It's neither too bloated in that it becomes a chore to read nor overly simplified in that it's hard to take serious. In its level of detail I thought it just right. Going through the book you definitely get a feel for what made these men as great as they were, yet you never lose touch of the reality that these were men - men who were schooled by the best of teachers but who would each face their own unique and novel challenges. In conclusion, I thought the author has done an outstanding job mixing his own narrative with quotes from the individuals under discussion, and I would most definitely include this book in my list of must-reads for all Muslims who enjoy reading.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Abu Taubah

Went through some Abu Taubah audio recordings last night whilst trying to fall asleep. Here's a couple of quotes that stuck:

We don't care how much you know
until we know how much you care.

Note that he wasn't belittling knowledge in the above! (He's pretty well travelled, and learned himself.) Rather, he was emphasising the role of compassion. Like he said elsewhere: you wouldn't eat food - even the most finest cuisine - brought to you in a trash can! Form is important. Here's the second quote:

'O you who believe...',
this [statement] is not only a calling [i.e. an address]
but it's [also a qualifier,] like saying
'If you truly believe...'.

For those who don't know, he's a Muslim community leader in the States who was conveniently arrested a couple of weeks before September 11th 2011 and then a couple of weeks before September 11th 2012 a story emerged of his having taught a supposed-would-be-Jihadist-turned-FBI-informant some martial arts! He has pleaded guilty to (the non-terrorism-related-charge of) having an unlicensed hand-gun at his home and let's just hope he can do the time required, get back to his family, and get on with his life! His wife explains a bit more about his arrest here.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Book Review: Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

Good premise - boy stranded out at sea with some animals - and not badly executed but I couldn't help feel the author got his priorities wrong. The book is at its finest when the author writes about zoos, animals, the wild and human nature. Some great insights here about social rank, fear and loneliness. However, the author is fixated on trying - explicitly - to convince his reader of the existence of God. And it's here I felt he didn't quite deliver. I thought the book would have been so much more impactful had he focused on the beauty and subtleties of creation and left the rest to the imagination of the reader.

Here are my three favourite quotes from the book:
"... It's a question of brain over brawn. The nature of the circus trainer's ascendancy [over his/her lions] is psychological. Foreign surroundings, the trainer's erect posture, calm demeanour, steady gaze, fearless step forward, strange roar... these are so many factors that will fill the animal's mind with doubt and fear, and make clear to it where it stands, the very thing it wants to know..." 
"... A part of me did not want Richard Parker [the tiger on the boat] to die at all, because if he died I would be left alone with despair, a foe even more formidable than a tiger..." 
"... I was weeping because Richard Parker had left me so unceremoniously. What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell. I am a person who believes in form, in the harmony of order. Where we can, we must give things a meaningful shape. For example - I wonder - could you tell my jumbled story in exactly one hundred chapters, not one more, not one less?... It's important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse..."