Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Way of the Fight, by Georges St Pierre

Very impressed with this book. Good insights into what makes Georges St Pierre a champion and generally impressed with Georges' depth of character. Liked the format of the book too where each chapter has comments from a single person in Georges' life. Very good book. Here's some short quotes to enjoy!

"... the goal is to avoid mediocrity by being prepared to try something and either failing miserably or triumphing grandly..."

"... the more I learn, the less I know..."

"... [look] within yourself and imagine the greatest thing you'll ever do..."

"... Fall down seven times, stand up eight..."

"... losing changes me and turns me into a better man..."

"... it takes fear to make a person courageous..."

"... Humility is the first rule of martial arts. Either you learn humility quickly, or you leave because your ego can't handle losing repeatedly..."

"... My front foot always points to my adversary. This is important because it stops my opponent from having or developing an angle on me..."

"... there are two kinds of people who do martial arts: those who practice a thousand different kicks one time each, and those who practice one kick a thousand times minimum..."

"... my heel almost never touches the ground, except for when I'm resting... this brings my weight onto the balls of my feet, and that's where I have an advantage over most of my opponents: I'm always ready to explode or change directions..."

"... My interest is not in making my muscles bigger or stronger. My interest is in making my muscles smarter and more coordinated..."

Book Review: The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright

Good book on the development of Al-Qaeda from the mid-1900s through to the events of September 11th 2001. The day and events of September 11th are hardly touched upon. It's the history and development of the ideology that led to Al-Qaeda which is the focus of this book. The main two characters that feature throughout the book are Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawihiri and there's some focus on Syed Qutb in the first chapter. The places and events that get special mention are the early years of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1940s, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Afghan civil war and the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the arrival of US troops in the 1990s. The book is a little tongue in cheek in places but overall it's a good, easy to read narrative. Very beneficial and highly recommended.

Friday, 24 October 2014


You're nervous.
You're afraid.
To try.

You're nervous.
You're afraid.
To fail.

You're nervous.
You're afraid.

You accept
The worst outcome.
You're free.

(Play on words of some advice given by former Mixed Martial Arts fighter Randy Couture to Rashad Evans ahead of his fight with Chuck Liddell.)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Positive thinking

To see what you have,
over and above what you don't.

To see what others have given you,
over and above what they haven't.

To find good intent in the actions of others,
and excuses for them at the very least.

To look to the past only for its lessons,
and the future for its opportunities.

To know that this life is a test,
and no act of giving goes unseen.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Weekend trip to Brecon Beacons

Organised a weekend trip with friends after a long period of stagnancy! We were 21 in total (one 17-seater minibus and one extra car) and we booked out Smithy's Bunkhouse on the east side of Brecon Beacons near Abergavenny for two nights (Friday and Saturday).

We set off from East London on Friday evening and got there on Friday night. We had a nice group breakfast on Saturday morning at 10am which included fried eggs, bread, hash browns and cereal, and we set off for a walk in the Black Mountains near Grwyne Fawr reservoir around 12pm on Saturday. We got back from our walk around 6pm and got the BBQ going (minced lamb, chicken breast and chicken wings) till late. Those of us who went to bed in good time (not many), got up early on Sunday morning and walked up Sugar Loaf mountain. And just before we set off for home on Sunday afternoon, most of the group drove up to the streams nearby and jumped in for a dip!

Good 2-day chill-out trip alhamdulillah. We over-calculated the food again so we really need to get that right next time (see comment below)! We estimated the cost to be £75 per person (£30 accommodation, £30 transport, £15 food) but we could have easily met costs at £60 per person, especially by cutting down the amount of food we took.

Here's my pick of the 12 best pictures from our trip:

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Bushido: Culture and warriorhood

Common convention takes culture to mean:
reading, poetry, writing verse, mastering calligraphy,
and having a soft, refined personality.

Warriorhood is taken to mean:
learning shooting, riding, arts of war, military science,
and having a fierce and stern personality.

Both are approximate but inaccurate.
Culture and warriorhood are a unified character,
not separate things.

Culture without warriorhood is not true culture;
warriorhood without culture is not true warriorhood.

Indeed, culture is the root of warriorhood,
and warriorhood is the root of culture.

Since warriorhood is in the service of culture,
the root of the warrior's war is culture.

Since culture is for governing with the threat of armed action,
the root of culture is warriorhood.

(Notes on an essay by Nakae Toju [1608-1648] found in 'Training the Samurai Mind: A Bushido Sourcebook' by Thomas Cleary)

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Pep Guardiola - Another Way of Winning, by Guillem Balague

Finished Guillem Balague's biography of Pep Guardiola today which covers his time and successes at FC Barcelona as their head coach/manager. Really good and definitely worth a read if you're into football and football psychology. It covers his footballing mindset, his relationship with his players and a decent chapter on his rivalry with Jose Maurinho. It's loaded with content! Here's some of quotes from the book:

"... 'The ball runs faster than any human, so it's the ball that has to do the running!'..."

"...'Look at him! Him, that one there! He's hiding! Your team-mates need to know that you are always available!' he'll shout..."

"... 'I only ask this of you. I won't tell you off if you misplace a pass, or miss a header that costs us a goal, as long as I know you are giving 100 per cent. I could forgive you any mistake, but I won't forgive you if you don't give your heart and soul to Barcelona.'... 'I'm not asking results of you, just performance.'..."

"... 'The style comes dictated by the history of this club and we will be faithful to it. When we have the ball, we can't lose it. And when that happens, run and get it back. That is it, basically.'..."

"... 'In every talk, ... I have put my heart into them. And when I don't feel it, I don't speak, it's the best way. There are days when you think that you have to say something, but you don't feel it, so at times like that it is better to keep quiet'..."

"...'One of the best things that FC Barcelona do is run with the ball to provoke or tease, not to dribble.'... A trick to test an opponent, to pull them out of position to create space..."

"... each game would be treated as a final and every minute of every game had equal importance. He doesn't understand or accept a group that doesn't shout, hug, give their all..."

"... Even if it is a slap. Pep touches constantly, hugs, pushes them, motivates them, to keep them on their toes, to make them feel loved. And his experience as a footballer allows him to decide when to do it or when not to do it..."

Monday, 26 May 2014

2-day trip to Marrakech, Morocco

Went to Marrakech, Morocco for a couple of days last week with my wife. Good destination for a short break.

We landed late on Thursday night and went straight to our hotel. On Friday we prayed Jumuah Salah in the main, central masjid (Masjid Koutoubia), we then had lunch in a restaurant by the main square (Jemaa el-Fnaa), explored the endless markets north of the main square and then returned to the square for dinner at the food stalls. The square really comes to life in the evening. Be sure to be there in the evening for barbecued dinner and bizarre entertainment! As for the market, you'll have to be patient and employ your bargaining skills. Expect to be quoted five times the actual price. And don't be flattered when they tell you it's "just for you, Muslim price"!

On Saturday we joined a day tour of Ourika Valley in the Atlas Mountains organised by M'Hamid Travel. On the tour we visited a Berber village where we had some fresh green tea, a herb garden where Argon oil and other herbal medicines were grown/made, we had lunch by the river, walked over a bamboo bridge built over the river, ascended a mountain to see a beautiful waterfall, and on the way back to the city we stopped by a pottery workshop where we made a memorable Wudhu from a clay pot :-)

Extra bits: We flew with Ryanair, the hotel we stayed at was Hotel Les Trois Palmiers and the airport-hotel transfer company we used was Ma-Navette. All above par and met our expectations.

Here's some pictures from our trip:

Wind, Forest, Fire, Mountain

"... As fast as the wind.
As quiet as the forest.
As daring as fire.
As immovable as the mountain..."

Nice quote found at the end of the 'Street Fighter Assassin's Fist' video series. I believe it's a saying taken from Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War'. The video series was very very awesome. Quite deep in parts and some very good action sequences too!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

6-day trip to Central Scotland

Went up to Scotland for a week with the wife last week. Very nice trip. We got the train from London Euston to Glasgow Central (~£50 per person, ~4.5 hours) and then a cab (~£50, ~1 hour) onwards to our first stop for the trip: the Rowardennan Hotel.

We stayed at the Rowardennan Hotel (~£50 per person per night) for a couple of nights (Tuesday evening to Thursday evening). The hotel is itself is okay but it's the location you're after. It sits right beside Loch Lomond (a large, lovely lake) and the path leading up to Ben Lomond (a mountain 974 metres high). We climbed the mountain on Wednesday and rested around the hotel on Thursday.

We returned back to Glasgow on Thursday evening via cab (~£50, ~1 hour) and stayed for a couple of nights at the Alexander Thompson hotel (~£50 per night) located right beside Glasgow Central train station. The location of the hotel was fantastic and the hotel itself was pretty decent too. Good value for money. In Glasgow, we walked around the various squares, shops and small parks as well as walking along the river and checking out Glasgow Central Mosque. One of the best Masjids I've seen with regards to not only size but also outreach with the wider community.

We caught the train (~£12 per person, ~1 hour) from Glasgow Queen Street station on Saturday afternoon on to Edinburgh where we stayed for a couple of nights. We stayed at the Tune Hotel (~£50 per night) located right outside Haymarket railway station and just a ten minute walk away from central Edinburgh. Our main day for exploration was Sunday and we pretty much walked the whole day catching all the main sights: Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Central Mosque and a bit of Holyrood Park. Edinburgh is beautiful! You can't live in the UK and not visit Edinburgh!

We returned back to London King's Cross on the train from Edinburgh Waverley (~£50 per person, ~5 hours) and back home for work the next day, recharged and refreshed :-)

You can find a small selection of pictures of our trip on my Flickr account here: Rowardennan, Glasgow, Edinburgh.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Day trip from London to Cambridge

Went up to Cambridge for the day with my wife last Sunday. A decent day trip from London. We caught the train from Kings Cross railway station (£16 return per person) in the morning. On arriving, we walked to Trumpington Road from where we caught the open-top City Sightseeing bus (£14 per person). We hopped off the bus in the town centre and started browsing the shops and the outdoor market. We picked up some nice goodies from the market like fresh jam and rhubarb! As for the town, we highly recommend the chocolates from Chocolat Chocolat and the cakes from Fitzbillies. Following the shop browsing and lunch, we headed to Parker's Piece: an awesome green common area to chill out. Lastly, we walked down Mill Road to the Abu Bakr Masjid where we caught the Asr (afternoon) prayer. And then onwards to the railway station where we caught our return train. All in all, a good day out from London and some fresher, cleaner air!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Book Review: No god but God, by Reza Aslan

Good book on the origins, evolution and future of Islam. Well written, easy to read and a good size (~300 pages). The author analyses the history of Islam with a good deal of commentary so, of course, you'll have to keep in mind his American/Iranian/Liberal/Shi'i personal persuasions when reading it. The book itself covers the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of God be upon him) in the first third, early Islamic history from the rightly guided caliphs onwards in the second third, events from the last century-and-a-half in the final third, and the author's thoughts on the faith's near future in closing. Overall a decent book in my opinion. What it might lack in objective rigour in parts it makes up for in accessibility.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Fault in our Stars, by John Green

Brilliant book. A serious topic at its core (cancer) and you know that tragedy (death) is inevitable yet it remains funny and upbeat throughout. Very smart book, executed flawlessly. A must read. The film adaptation will be released later this year... skip that! Buy the book! No way will the film capture the depth of the book.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Winnie-the-Pooh's Little Book of Wisdom

There's something about The Hundred Acre Wood characters! Although the Winnie-the-Pooh stories (and Disney adaptations in particular) are every bit child-ish, you've got to admire how well A. A. Milne captured the different kinds of people traits in his animals. Quite philosophical. Got myself this little Winnie-the-Pooh wise words book published by Egmont Children's Books Limited and picked off some of the better quotes below:

"Although Eating Honey is a very good thing to do, there is a moment just before you begin to eat it which is better than when you are."

Don't Procrastinate:
"If you're always saying, 'We'll see,' nothing ever happens."

"It's best to know what you are looking for before you look for it."

Keep Busy:
"It's just the day for doing things."

Personal Thoughts:
"When you are a bear of very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you sometimes find that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out in the open and has other people looking at it."

Say it With Flowers:
"How sad it is to be an animal who has never had a bunch of Violets picked for him."

Try a Little Spontaneity:
"Do a Good thing To Do without thinking about it."