Friday, March 31

Video Of The Day Click for more info

Pimpstar LED Rims Video

Brilliant or extremely sad? Well, I've never been a fan of neon on cars but I think I love these things...

Wednesday, March 29

Link Of The Day Click for more info

The Israel Lobby, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt

An easy-to-read (no long words!) article asking exactly why the US is so supportive of the state of Israel. It suggests and gives evidence for an "Israel Lobby" that has a pretty remarkable level of influence over all the important parts of the US Administration. Pretty absorbing stuff.

Thanks to Mohammad for the link.

Monday, March 27

City Circle: Combating Islamist Extremism, Professor Tariq Ramadan Click for more info

The third in a series of lectures by Professor Tariq Ramadan was about Islamic Extremism - its definitions, causes and implications as well as what the non-extremist response to it should consist of.

For me it was more of a history lesson than anything else. We were told how that during the beginning half of the 20th century a few leading figures in the Islamic World came to the conclusion that as Muslims their duty was to refuse colonisation, actively revert to Islamic teachings and politicise themselves.

However the general Muslim consensus had other ideas, either through natural resistance to change or genuine disagreement. This led to a more formal division of society between the Muslims (since a lack of political activity wasn't enough to strip someone of their religion altogether) and the Islamiyun, or political Muslims. Islamiyun more or less meant then what Islamist means now; the point being that this was a term used by Muslims to describe Muslims.

Eventually however this attitude evolved. As time went on and the stakes increased (and possibly even as an intentional strategy to swell numbers) a "them and us" mentality was adopted by some on either side of this division. This became the first ingredient for an individual which Ramadan terms as being an Islamist Extremist.

We have to be clear that one who is radical, traditional or conservative to be classed as an extremist (and if you think about it I'm sure you know plenty of people who are these things but as far from extreme as one can be). For this reason Ramadan listed three obligatory ingredients that an Islamist Extremist must have:

  1. They must have a "them and us" mentality. This is a rigid, non-negotiable and binary view of society. Personally, I'm not sure of the strength of this requirement.
  2. They must be politically active, or Islamist. This doesn't mean they have to be an MP, but merely just have political goals.
  3. They must believe that violent means are permissible.
We can see manifestations of the above too - as literal interpretations of scriptural sources, political understanding that Muslims are under domination by others and the argument for legitimate resistance. Ramadan went on to say that amongst other things unjustified killing was both non and anti-Islamic and is an example of unacceptable diversity in the religion (citing sufism, traditionalism and reformationism as examples of the converse).

Ramadan ended by advising us to:
  1. Admit that we may have problems in our societies.
  2. Strive for a better understanding of how these problems arise.
  3. Be proactively vocal about those you feel are not representing your religion correctly.
  4. Open critical dialogue with those you feel are responsible for nurturing this behaviour - both directly and indirectly (ie governments).
  5. Be critical of the parts of western attitude as necessary.
Apart from the talk itself (which wasn't, in my opinion, as deep or challenging as the previous two), today's session was also interesting for the speaker-audience interaction. It was possibly due to the topic title, or perhaps it was just personal, but there was some jeering and shouting coming from those supposed to be listening.

Unfortunately although Ramadan did well to ignore these at first even he became reactive eventually, although I must admit that I chuckled at a few of his underhand and intentionally directed comments to his detractors! It was interesting to see this side of Ramadan but ultimately a shame that it had to happen at all, especially when even the audience as a whole became rowdy. If a bunch of "professional, young Muslims" can't even behave at a talk such as this, what hope do we have at anything remotely more ambitious?

You Know You Know Too Many People When...

Every time you meet someone new, it's likely that they know at least one of your other friends already.

This has happened to me twice over the last few days. I'm not sure whether to be indifferent or worried!

Sunday, March 26


So here's something I've not done for a long time - going to bed at a relatively insane hour (well for me anyway). The clock shows 3am, but since Summer Time came in tonight it's really 4am.

The reason? Well since tonight's choice of restaurant was closer to my home than it's ever been and these particular friends didn't really have that excuse to decline my invitations any more. And of course we all know how easy it is to get carried away just talking. Not that I'm complaining; across dinner and home I was quite lucky to have some pretty interesting people as company.

I have an early start tomorrow; I guess my Sunday run will have to be missed this week. Not looking forward to the lack of sleep. Yes, I'm such a pus... lightweight.

Food: London Safari Restaurant Click for more info

Ok, I admit it. I've never actually had Somalian food before. However I say that with great regret, because from what I tasted tonight I've been missing out. A lot.

I suspect the key thing that makes the food London Safari serves so good is in the preparation of it. You can almost taste the time that has been given to the food while it was being made. After being cruelly teased by Ibrahim our host (who decided to spend over five minutes telling us what we were going to eat in great detail!) we started with the rich lamb stock based vegetarian soup, which may sound like a contradiction but really means that there was no solid meat in it. Not that that made it any less meaty - this was as close to liquid lamb as you could get. Delicious, and I could have just had a couple of servings of that alone this evening.

The main course was made of a variety of rice and roti (which wasn't quite roti - more parata and could have totally been eaten on its own) along with meat dishes served both on and off the bone[1]. I may have mentioned before how much of a lazy eater I am, so you can probably guess which foods I preferred. Oh and yes, the stewed lamb in both forms literally melted in my mouth.

I should also mention the drinks - a freshly squeezed (as the noise of the machine proved) orange/carrot/berry juice that shows just how mistaken other restaurants are to offer more complex and less authentic substitutes instead.

The place is totally halal, both in terms of meat served and the prohibition of alcohol - even that brought by guests themselves. As such it was pretty quiet for a Saturday night as people preferred the choice to drink; on the other hand it's another reason why I find it hard not to recommend it while feeling the need to go back again very soon myself. As for money, the bill came to a very reasonable 16 pounds per head, including tip. Great stuff and totally worth the trouble I'm going to get into with certain individuals for going there.

[1]At this point I should quite shamefully admit that I didn't quite note down the names of the dishes, but if you are thinking of going, I'd be more than happy to get a few suggestions for you.

Saturday, March 25

Muslim Remarriage Click for more info

A friend of mine has been arranging these matrimonial events for a while now. They're aimed at those who have already been married, but are open to all. Today was the third annual event, and I was asked to come along and help out.

It basically took the form of a speed dating event. Although we were afraid that the women would quite outnumber the men at one point, the numbers evened out before we started.

I was asked to help usher people around after each of their 4-5 minute sessions. Although we did little else between those times, the whole thing flew by quickly taking around an hour overall.

There were people of all shapes and sizes, and although I shouldn't have, overhearing their conversations made it clear that each had their own story. It was a pretty strange ordeal just watching them all, but it seemed that the nerves of all settled eventually. Having said that, some were uncomfortable throughout.

All in all it was pretty impressive both for the organiser and those that attended. Quite selfishly, I'm glad that I had the chance to experience on of these events without actually having had to be a guest at one. Even though it was what I had expected I still gained a lot of insight taking part.

Friday, March 24

My First Public Performance

At the end of each term, a few London guitar schools get together in and perform for one another. Mine, The Mary Ward Centre is one of those schools and this evening our class, Classical Guitar Level 1, performed in front of an audience for the first time ever (well, it was the first time for most of us anyway).

Our programme was as follows:

  • A rendition of Good Morning Blues.
  • When The Saints Go Marching In.
  • The Beatles' Eight Days A Week.
I cocked up the first one, playing out of key and time, but think that I aced the others. It was nerves that did it, which is surprising seeing as this wasn't really that big a deal compared to the radio thing this morning. Overall we seemed to get a good response from the audience, and even if I say so myself, we were pretty good for a nine week old class.

Alas I wasn't able to stick around to listen to all of the star of the show, Gary Ryan, but what I did hear I loved. If I even get to a tenth as good as he is I'll be happy!

Zippy Is A Gimp: Proof

So I've had a few people raise an eyebrow over my claim that Zippy of Rainbow fame was, in fact, a gimp. Well apparently I'm not the only one, as this Google search shows.

Keyword searches aside, let's look at Rainbow itself. The show was filled with blatant sexual innuendo that would even put the likes of South Park to shame. Firstly we had Geoffery and Bungle regularly sharing a bed. And then we had a very effeminate, camp and possibly gay pink hippo (who along with Zippy also always had one hand under the table). And don't get me started on Rod, Jane and Freddy - their sexual exploits spilled off the show and into the tabloids at one point if I recall correctly. Amongst these a gimp seems almost in too well in place.

Still not convinced? Well nothing can beat good ol' photographic evidence. Here is Zippy, along with a random picture of a gimp taken off the Internet:

I rest my case.

Friday Forum Click for more info

I won't bother recapping the show in detail, but for those of you that missed it Sonia on the BBC Asian Network was today joined by Ayesha Hazarika, Makosi (from Big Brother, apparently) and myself to discuss various random topics as a part of their Friday Forum. Topics discussed included underage sex, thirtysomethings living with their folks, Rainbow and Mother's Day.

To be honest, the whole thing was a blur and nothing of much substance was said (that being the point since it was Friday and thus supposed to be easy listening). I've gotten quite positive feedback, although my friends are polite like that so I'm not sure how well I did really. Personally I think I was a bit quiet at times and a bit flustered toward the end (thanks to a very well crafted email. Humph). And for the record my phone was off; my K750i just decided to switch itself back on whenever an alarm goes off. Stupid thing.

I did have fun though and it was nice to finally appear on Sonia's show after three and a half years of listening to it, especially seeing as next week is her last hosting it. I hope I get the chance to go back on whatever it becomes after Anita Rani takes over. The nerves will be less of a problem the second time around, and I think I'd respond differently depending on who I'm on with so it would be interesting to find out how. And of course if any of you thought I should go back on you can email the show ( and tell them so. I won't mind, honest...

Oh and I'll be around London this evening to sign any autographs. Cheers.

Thursday, March 23

Link Of The Day Click for more info

Don't shoot the puppy!

On The Radio (Again) Click for more info

Guess who's going to be a panelist on Sonia's Friday Forum tomorrow? Well alright, this is my blog so you probably guessed straight away. But anyway, if you want to hear me make a fool of myself on national radio make sure you tune into the BBC Asian Network between 11am and 12pm tomorrow. For those who don't tune in regularly, previous Friday Forum panelists have included Mutz, John McCririck, Aruna Shields, Ms Scandalous, Hard Kaur and various Big Brother contestants so I'm both really flattered and honoured to be given this oppurtuity. Ahem.

I hope I don't swear or anything.

Embracing Differences Click for more info

The Law Lords ruled in favour of Denbigh High School and overturned the appeal ruling that favoured Shabina Begum. What this means is that the school did not deny Begum's right to manifest her religion. Although I respect and may even agree with that decision I do think there are some things worth noting.

  1. There was compromise on both sides. The school allowed shalwar kameez and hijab in their uniform, and Shabina was willing to wear the school's colours and logo over her jilbab.
  2. There was stubbornness on both sides. Both parties didn't accept a decision handed to them (with Shabina taking it to the Appeal Court and the school taking it to the Law Lords).
  3. Both sides can be accused of wasting time and money, but the fact that this needed to be challenged kinda proves that it was worthwhile doing so.
  4. Although the Law Lords have decided that the school was fair, they've missed a trick in disallowing the jilbab in the first place and are almost promoting disunity.
The last point is worth elaborating. Many reasons were given for this policy, many of which weren't really interesting (health and safety? Yeh, right). The one that I found interesting was how the school felt that a few to wearing a jilbab might make some other students feel insecure about their own faiths and practices.

But isn't it a better idea to use differences like these to teach our kids how to handle them later on? There will be lots of things in life that will make a kid insecure, and protecting and shielding them from these differences in opinion or style or outlook isn't really the way forward. Surely the ideal situation is for classmates not to mind what others happen to be wearing?

I'm thankful that my school had a relatively open uniform policy. It taught me how to be an individual as well as how to accept the individuality of others, and as a result I like to think I'm pretty tolerant in these later years of mine. I'm not sure what the case would have been if, for example, we were all made to shave, or cut our hair short, or roll down our trousers. I saw then that people different from me were normal too. It's the classic Melting Pot versus Salad Bowl argument, and I guess I'd rather be a piece of lettuce than a blob of molten lead.

So although I accept the Law Lords' conclusion (since someone has to draw the line) I just hope these kids from Denbigh High don't grow up thinking we all have to be the same to get along; otherwise we might find ourselves in the situation where it's not just schools being taken to court for possible denial of human rights.

Tuesday, March 21

How Not To Conduct An Interview

If while you're interviewing a potential candidate there happens to be an attractive girl being interviewed separately for a receptionist role in the adjoining room and you only have a glass wall between the two of you, DO NOT fall off your chair trying to get a better look.

It doesn't leave the correct impression for the candidate apparently. Who knew?

Monday, March 20

Book: The Chronicles of Narnia Click for more info

Since I heard that there was a film being made of TLTWATW, I've been longing to once again visit the seven books that still list amongst my favourite ever. And finally I got around to doing just that.

I'm not sure how many times I've actually read these chronicles, but apart from The Quran they they're the only books I've read more than the once or twice I have all others. Having said that it must be over fifteen years since I last read these which either says that I've read two many different books or not enough.

I approached them differently this time too. Instead of reading them in the usual chronological order (which the logical part of me was screaming at me to do) I decided to receive them in publishing order. That is:

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The flagship of the series, for what reason I'm not sure. It is a beginning of sorts, but I prefer at least two of the other books over this one.
  2. Prince Caspian. A quite mundane tale compared to the rest.
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. One of my favourites, if not the favourite. Exploration and adventurous, it's what I think is the whole point of Narnia. And as an aside you can see its influence on Mieville's The Scar.
  4. The Silver Chair. Nothing special, but a nice interlude anyway.
  5. The Horse and His Boy. What was once my least favourite book is now one of my most. I'm not sure what I like about it, but it being the most romantic of all the books might have something to do with it. Funny that, eh?
  6. The Magician's Nephew. Special because it outlines how Narnia et al came into being it kind of makes us aware of a world bigger than Narnia and England and everything. In that sense it's pretty awesome.
  7. The Last Battle. In my opinion quite the cop out. Nothing really happens and a lot is, quite cheaply, left to the reader.

I think I enjoyed the different order more than when I had read them chronologically. I also now realise exactly how small the books are, both physically and with respect to what happens in them; on the whole there are only two or three major scenes in each. I also realise in my older age exactly how much of a religious allegory the chronicles are - I've no idea how I missed them the first time around (they even have an apple for heaven's sake!), but it probably had something to do with the innocence of youth or something.

They still count amongst my favourite books though not quite as highly as they once did. I wonder how I'll receive them in fifteen more years?

The Microchip Theory

Unfortunately I can't take credit for this gem:

Women don't exist. They're an illusion created by the microchips implanted in each of our heads. We need these chips as regularly being annoyed and irritated is necessary for our survival.

Fantastic. I'm just upset I didn't come up with it first.


So the guests I had over for the weekend have now left (or at least should have; they were still in bed when I left for work this morning). It was good having them over - they were the first "couple" I've had to stay and suddenly I remember my parents doing the same for their friends when I was a child. Scary stuff!

I must admit it's also a nice feeling being one of the few "couple friendly" places for my friends to stay - visitors sometimes prefer the bachelor(ette) pads to a family home, but it's probably harder to justify that to the new partner or wife! I hope that it becomes more common as time goes on.

Unlike Roh, I'm not really new to close friends getting married. That particular shock was overcome when uni ended and a local college friend got married. Then there are the Redbridge guys who did the deed nearly one and a half years ago. And of course that's all ignoring the friend who have been cohabiting for, like, ever and may as well get married.

Still, I do see where Roh's coming and I've caught myself double taking more than once when I see recently coupled, erm, couples. Pretty soon the married will outnumber the unmarried. So yes, times are changing; but then on the other hand they always have been. Heaven knows what it will be like when my friends start having kids! Cripes.

EDIT: Of course I already have at least one friend (and from uni to boot) with kids. But I don't see him that often so I think my feelings are still valid here. Kinda.

Sunday, March 19

Film: V For Vendetta Click for more info

Let me get to the point. I loved this film. Brutally honest and critical, V is what I can only call a brilliant political thriller. Not that that makes it inaccessible - the film manages to express itself without the seriousness and dryness that others of the same genre seem to suffer from. A virtue of the comic on which it is based, no doubt.

Basically it tells of a vigilante political activist who stands up against a British Government that has already, amongst other things, succeeded in removing the distasteful members of society from its streets (that'll be homosexuals, Muslims and foreigners then) and implemented a curfew. Intentionally emotive images aside, the film deals with relativity (or how one person's terrorist is someone else's freedom fighter), political spin and propaganda and asks exactly how much control a government should have on the people who may have voted them in.

The film does a good job of telling both sides of the story, and there is a bit of anti in V's hero. Still, it's difficult to miss the blatant passing shots taken at those currently in power in the real world; a film like this wouldn't exist in the world it depicts - I'm surprised it gets away with so much today as it is. In fact it's these references to reality that make the story so believable and thus powerful. And that's pretty ironic considering how fantastic it is at times. Given that it was first published in 1982 shows how visionary Alan Moore was when writing it.

It's quite clear why some people won't like this though. Those looking for a Wachowski Matrixesque flick will be disappointed. Sure there are action scenes but that is not what this film is about - there is talk and a lot of it. It also requires quite a bit of concentration, something you might not be prepared for after having watched the trailers.

There are also some fundamental things wrong with the film - at times you have to wonder why the director was in such a rush and the script does go on a bit which caused me to zone out at times. But the fact that I can still write this much about V in spite of these things says a lot. Also of note were the individual performances with Hugo Weaving proving you don't need a face to act well and Natalie Portman proving how she's getting better with each film (and that's despite the dodgy accent).

So once again, I loved it. Go watch.

New Music

The Mixed Tape - Jack's Mannequin

Something I picked up from a recent episode of OTH. More teenagey angst ridden rock-cum-shouting, but good because of that.

Eight Days A Week - The Beatles

My first Beatles track, and only because I have to learn to play it. Not really that fantastic, but hey.

Pyar Hogiya - Panjabi Hit Squad Ft. Alyssia & Dee

Super catchy tune. #La la la, la la la la.

Jump (Zeus Mix) - Fundamental '03

Yes, it made my playlist. Yes, I suck. Dammit.

Food: Gaucho Grill Click for more info

Argentinean Steak House, so possibly not the best place for a halal eater to enjoy food, but this was a special occasion so what would be eaten wasn't really a priority. The seafood available was limited, offering either the sea bass or salmon, but both dishes were nice. I had the sea bass, which came in whole, head bones and all. As I'm a lazy eater the boneless salmon steak would have probably been a better choice, but it wasn't that big a deal.

The restaurant (we went to the South Kensington branch; they have others in London) itself was nice and had enough space to suit our fifteen person group (who are especially loud and, well, rude). I also should mention that the service was good (if only because a certain member of our group thought a lot of a particular female host).

The bill came to around 35 per head which is a bit pricey for what we got. Still we had a nice time and if it wasn't the food we were paying for, that at least was a bargain.

Saturday, March 18

China: The Three Emperors Click for more info

The Royal Academy of Arts are currently hosting this exhibition chronicling the art an culture of the last great Chinese dynasty - The Qing. Split into areas covering things like the rituals, religion and literati, it demonstrates the fashions, styles and media trends of the 150 year era.

In many ways this is an accessible collection for those interested in Chinese history. The deep and ranged lifestyle of the time is recorded in many ways, and it was nice to visualise the things we might only have read about in books. I also enjoyed finding out about the influence of European science (mainly geometry and geography), as well as the more homegrown fields of biology and art. Other things I noted were the jade craft and the brilliant example of the propaganda techniques of the time (which to be honest resemble those of today).

However I couldn't help but feel a bit underwhelmed on leaving the Academy. I think it was the lack of anything recording the major events of the time - there was no sense of a timeline or story being told here. That aside, it was a decent way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon - it's just all the better if you have a healthy interest too.

The Three Emperors is on till 17th April and costs £11 to get in.

Friday, March 17


What's better than a lazy Friday afternoon with Krispy Kreme in hand, watching the various races in Cheltenham? I mean I don't usually follow horses but the guys here have various bets on and I can't help but get caught up in it all. Giddie up!

Thursday, March 16

While You Were Sleeping

It's that time of the year when getting up for Fajr seems to disrupt my sleep the most. Unlike during the winter months (when I could stay up after praying) or the coming months (where I get a good few hours to go back to sleep), the less-than-two-hours I get after prayer right now isn't of much quality.

Something has to give, and as a result I can usually be found been sleeping on my way to and from work over these few weeks. It's not unintentional and I think people who have used the tube for a certain number of years develop a sense of subconsciously knowing where their stop is so I'm not afraid of missing mine. I don't get to read as much as usual, which sucks, but otherwise it's pretty nice to catch a few winks during the deadtime that is the daily commute.

However (and this is why I'm actually posting what would otherwise be a pretty inane blog) I've noticed something different this year. More than once I've caught someone watching me while I'm napping. This isn't in my head, people. One glance can be accidental, but when you catch them more than that (and then in the space of a few minutes) you know something's up.

It's not a bogey or something (I've checked), I don't think I fall on anyone either side of me or snore (they certainly don't seem to indicate so) and all my stuff is with me; there's nothing at all interesting going on that would make a passer-by turn to look - and no one except these particular people are.

I'm thankful that the tubes are usually packed at that time otherwise who knows what could happen.

I'm scared.

Tuesday, March 14

All People Who Stereotype Are Dum

Those that say they know me will always be weary of making generalisations or stereotypical remarks while I'm within earshot. I think this is pretty unwarranted, 'cos I tend to make them quite often too (here and here) and I'm actually more bothered by the almost opposite act of pigeonholing ("hijabis shouldn't have fun" for example) But hey, that's a whole different blog.

However, I will contest any generalisation made flippantly and without context mainly to determine exactly what the person opposite is trying to say. So, if someone claims that people from a certain area tend to intermarry, I'll press them (possibly quite hard) to explain what they mean by and why they think that. To be clear it's not that I think they're incorrect or prejudiced, just that there's a lack of understanding (on either of our parts) that needs to be cleared up. Where does this misunderstanding come from though? I have some ideas.

Firstly, majority cases don't justify a generalisation. It's not correct to say that "men tend to gog at passing ladies" even if most of them actually do, since clearly there are a minority that don't.

Secondly, implications are not necessarily bidirectional (¬((A -> B) -> (B -> A)) for all you Logic fans out there). If, in a hypothetical area or island, "criminals are white" that doesn't imply that "white people are criminal".

Thirdly and most commonly, it's that these statements are describing a correlation, but are usually interpreted (and even offered) as a cause and effect relationship. Take the Pakistani kids in our education system who are not doing academically well: it may be totally accurate to claim that "Pakistani children tend to be less able than other kids", but the problem is that this is ambiguous (since it can be inferred that Pakistani kids are inherently not very bright) and b) not really doing the real issue any justice anyway (since it doesn't say anything about why this might be the case).

In this case it's a much better idea to either reform the statement ("Many children do badly at school. Of these, many are Pakistani."), qualify it ("a large number of Pakistani children perform less than average in their studies") or reason about it ("Many Pakistani children come from poor families. Children from poor families have less access to good education and therefore perform less well than those coming from more affluent backgrounds").

The differences between these and the original statement are subtle but they are there. And there are other strategies (some more and some less appropriate than these) to make what is to be said more acceptable and useful but it generally depends on what you want to say and to whom you are saying it to.

I've been repeatedly told that I'm a very literal person and that I shouldn't take what people say as what they really mean, but frankly I think that's a bit of a cop out. Yes, there are cases when generalisations are handy, both trivial (eg for humour) and genuine (eg for conciseness), but they become dangerous when they're said unchecked and without qualification though. And as a Muslim often at the receiving end of generalisations I think it's important for me to suggest when this might be the case.

Monday, March 13

Food: Mango Tree Click for more info

Despite having had worked next door to this Thai fusion joint for the last two years I've never actually been there, thinking that there would always be a chance to visit eventually. And tonight I did.

I say fusion since this isn't really authentic (you can tell as soon as you walk into the relatively plush restaurant that this is no normal Thai place), but that's not to say it wasn't good. 'Cos, well, it was.

Some dishes weren't all that, and the menu was hardly non-meat-eating friendly, but that wasn't a major problem since what we did enjoy we enjoyed very much. I had the fishcakes and excellent grilled bass myself, but had a go at some wonderful shrimp cakes and seafood satay too. The service is also worth noting; for the first time in a while it was a pleasure paying the service and tip.

The bill was consciously kept to a very reasonable £21 per head, although expect that to rise if you're feeling a bit decadent. Definitely worth a try.

Link Of The Day Click for more info

Multi Lock On

Just click, sit back and enjoy.

I'd try and come up with some insightful comments about how sometimes we all try too hard, but I reckon that would just spoil the whole ACEBESTNESS of it.

(Originally referenced here)

Sunday, March 12


Shak: i think ive become a bum person too
xxxx: what no boobs?
Shak: ive never been a boob person
Shak: always A in T&A
Shak: that's what I always say
Shak: oo that rhymes
xxxx: :)

What Do You Want In A Partner?

It seems inevitable for a conversation between a bunch of single people to turn to the subject of marriage at some point, as it was the case today at lunch. Today it was based largely around the question: "What do you want in a partner?".

The responses were pretty varied. Some were quite objective and required a certain level of competence, a certain personality trait or even specified large body parts (although I still maintain that I was joking with that last one). Others were more subjective (while not being necessarily vague), wanting things like a meeting of minds and compatibility.

It's an age old question and something I've often been asked, moreso recently during my current phase of "being proactive". My answer is the same as I've been giving for the last eight or so years: that I don't actually have a list or criteria of sorts. For some this seems like a cop out but I maintain that it makes perfect sense, so let me explain.

Hijab tends to be a pretty marked attribute of a woman, so let's assume that I insist that any future partner I have wears one. Now say I meet the girl of my dreams, except that it just so happens that she doesn't cover up her hair. Would that be something on which to veto her for marriage? Of course not - well not for me anyway. And the same can be said for any objective quality, really - height, race and even religion (although I admit that the last one only has a tiny tiny chance of happening[1], but there are many "obvious" criteria like this that are reasonably assumed).

Furthermore the same can be said about the more subjective points on our lists. What does a "meeting of minds" mean? The best couples have disagreements, and some even swear by them to maintain the health of their relationships. As for compatibility, I'm sure we all know examples of where seemingly incompatible people get on perfectly well and, more distressingly, where seemingly compatible people don't. I can give you a pretty extensive list of what I think I like, but the truth is I could end up being very happy with someone the complete opposite.

Another issue I have with making lists and the like is what that would indicate about how I perceive my future partner. It's basically the same problem I have with the whole matchmaking/ process - is it really possible to collapse something as dynamic and complex as a person you want to form a relationship with into a bunch of tickboxes and likes/dislikes? I'm not so sure. I mean it's not like we're buying a car or house here... Right?

Yes, I understand that one has to start somewhere. And yes, I also understand that some people have definite things that they wish any potential partners to have or not have. All that is fair enough, but personally I fear I'll be missing out on some pretty fantastic people if I even state as a preference whether they wear a hijab or not, or are of certain height, or have a degree, or can or cannot cook, or loves going to the cinema as much as I do.

Perhaps I've not met enough women[2] or don't know myself well enough to determine these things. But currently my list consists of things like: "someone who is right for Shak", "someone who would make me as happy as I could make them" and the like. Pretty vacuous and obvious stuff so probably not worth mentioning at all - and that my dear friends is why I usually don't.

[1] No, I'm DON'T intend on marrying a non-Muslim, so let's stop those rumours right there. Chi.
[2] For some strange reason the guys at lunch found this bit quite amusing. I've no idea why they burst out laughing when I suggested this. Hmm.

Food: Cafe Isha Click for more info

This had been described as serving Middle Eastern/Indian food, and I admit I was curious to find what that meant. It turns out that it was exactly what it said on the tin: kebabs with humous. Not that there's anything wrong with the idea itself, since I know quite a few people who would prefer either but not necessarily both.

Still, the fact was that the food wasn't great. And although I wasn't there at the time of paying I've been told that the bill hit the 20 quid per head mark; For what we had this is pretty much unacceptable and A Rip Off.

It's a shame really, 'cos apart from the food and price I kinda liked the place. It had a bit of charm and ambience and would have made a nice place to hang out after you had already eaten elsewhere. But now, quite frankly, there's nothing really left to recommend Cafe Isha.

Film: The Proposition Click for more info

Australian western about a lawman making a criminal go after his older brother in order to save his younger one. Absurd as this "proposition" (from which the film gets its name) is, it sets up the rest of the film for some good bits and deep enough exploration of the issues faced by those of that time.

However, I couldn't help but go away thinking something was missing. I still can't quite place what that something was, but it had something to do with the characterisation of the main protagonists: perhaps I didn't believe them enough? Still despite this uneasiness, both Ray Winstone and Guy Pearce gave some brilliant performances.

Although I can;t quite recommend you all go see this this instance, I would suggest that you keep your eye out for it the next time you're renting a DVD, since it's definitely worth at least that.

Saturday, March 11

Film: The Hills Have Eyes Click for more info

Mildly enjoyable horror flick about a family (and their trailer) getting hijacked by a bunch of mutated meanies. There's just here to keep you going; at the very least I wanted to know who dies and who lives. The bad guys are horrible and easily hated, while the family are thick as two planks - the perfect formula for a cat and mouse slash 'em up.

If like me you've not seen a passable horror movie for a while you could do much worse than this.

Food: SuperStar ExCeL Click for more info

A nice enough (although possibly a bit remote unless you're visiting ExCeL itself) Chinese restaurant. I'm no expert, so I've no idea how authentic it was (the people I went with said it was ok) but I do know that the food was good. Of course I only had the veggie stuff, so meateaters may have other opinions.

The bill was also nice, coming to under a tenner each (and although alcohol wasn't ordered we did have food left over). So, yes again: a nice place to bear in mind the next time you get hungry at an ExCeL exhibition.

Friday, March 10

Skobee Click for more info

Presenting Skobee, the latest Web 2.0 application to catch my eye. It's basically an online scheduler, designed to let other people know what you're up to and when you're available and I'll explain why I've found this to be pretty interesting.

For the last couple of months I've been accused more than a few times by friends of:

  1. Avoiding them by fabricating other things to be busy with.
  2. Going off and doing things without inviting them.
  3. Not committing to the invitations of others.
Honestly, the gall of it. You all know who you are.

I'm hoping that Skobee will help me show them that they're actually talking poo. Of course it'll only work if those that are interested in my plans sign up too and I'm guessing that's where this whole thing may fail. Privacy and security are two other issues of concern and although those are being dealt with by Skobee there will be some plans I'd not like to let people know about.

Still, it is a nice idea and worth a try. And hey; anything that may help you get some more Shak Time can't be a bad thing, eh? Eh?

... Anyone?

Thursday, March 9

Link Of The Day Click for more info

This little site allows you to create your own comic strips. Fantastic no?

Here's some I made earlier:


xxxx says: so how you gonna cope when i'm no longer single?
Shak says: lol. oh dear. typical... a guy talks to a girl for an hour and she starts thinking about marriage
xxxx says: lol. who said anything about marriage?
Shak says: THIS is why i dont use the phone
xxxx says: you don't use the phone?
xxxx says: funny because neither does yyyy
Shak says: he's lazy. i just wanna avoid the whole "OMG HE SPOKE TO ME SO HE MUST LOVE ME" thing you women all think

Wednesday, March 8

One To Watch: The Road To Guantanamo Click for more info

Thursday 9th March, 9pm

Not really much more to say about this one beyond the title. Make sure you watch it!

(Channel 4, IMDB)

Tuesday, March 7

Google's Open House - Tracking the Internet into the 21st Century Click for more info

So Google opened shop for a bunch of Cambridge, Imperial, Oxford and UCL alumni this evening. I went along partly since the topic seemed interesting and partly since they're based just down the road from me. And of course, I couldn't ignore the chance to visit both Google and Vint Cerf, co-designer of TCP/IP.

Vint's talk itself was pretty standard stuff. He went over his vision of the future of the Internet and the points I noted included:

  • that connected mobile devices outnumber fixed lines;
  • that Asia is the biggest internet market, with Malta and New Zealand achieving the highest penetration of Internet users;
  • that VOIP is on its way out since phones are too;
  • that information needs to be organised geographically, temporally and by query in order to be more useful in future applications;
  • that there are some fundamental basics of IP that need to be reconsidered (e.g. the late binding of DNS, built in authentication, support for VPNs, etc);
  • that Internet information is unreliable, inaccurate and incomplete and that we should be aware of this fact.
Google's headquarters were those of a typical software company: plush and colourful with games and free food. I found that pretty disappointing since I thought they might be different from others, but hey. Also, the fact that they seem to appeal to all types was NOT demonstrated yesterday - and I'm trying hard not to stereotype but there was a fair share of what I can only describe as geeks there (not that this stopped them all from nodding appreciatively to Vern and laughing at all of his jokes. Whatever happened the social integrity of geeks, eh?).

The geek quotient probably isn't surprising seeing who was invited, but I still did feel a bit out of place resulting in my leaving the networking session as soon as possible. It's funny how it's only the IT folk who actually need a "networking session" scheduled - like they need to be instructed to do so or something!

Cripes. I almost feel like the nerd that's turned. But hey, I got away with a bag of freebies so it wasn't all bad.

Monday, March 6

The Dawn of Democracy in Palestine Click for more info

I spent a couple of hours this evening in the House of Commons, attending an event organised by The Friends of Al-Aqsa marking the recent elections and so introduction of democracy to Palestine. It was hosted by Jeremy Corbyn MP (although on the day Ismail Patel stood in) and addressed by a bunch of others: Gerald Kaufman MP, Dr Phyllis Starkey MP and the ubiquitous George Galloway MP amongst others.

Now, if I'm being honest I wasn't really planning on going - originally it was at request of a friend involved with FoA who needed bums on seats. However as soon as the first speaker ended I was glad I went.

Since the meeting itself was only scheduled for an hour or so, each speaker had less than ten minutes in which to say their piece. This forced them to be very concise and succinct - I very rarely zoned out, if at all! The opinions were mixed enough for them not to have been repeated, and those doing the talking were articulate and a pleasure to listen to.

It was my first time in such an intimate audience listening to MPs (there were probably around 100 of us altogether), and I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible and sensible they all were - hardly the image we sometimes get via the UK media. Having said that Galloway was as colourful than he's usually seen to be, and my impression of him hasn't really changed much.

Anyway, the subject matter itself was pretty interesting itself as well. All speakers agreed that the only democratic way forward for the UK was to accept Hamas as the elected victors. They differed on what Hamas was required to do now - from changing their basic belief and process (on which, it's presumed, they were elected) to carrying on how they are. But it was also put forward that Hamas only had to gain by denouncing violence.

The reaction and attitude of the UK Government to Palestine and Israel was criticised (and defended), and suggestions were made for how "normal" people can act to make Palestine a better place to live for its people.

So yes, all in all it was a good experience. The House of Commons was really nice and quite shamefully it's probably the first time I've seen it up close. It was teeming with history and almost enough to make a guy want to get a job there! Well ok, maybe not, but I'm looking forward to any future opportunities to visit it and experience the same again.

Video Of The Day

Remaja india _deepavali

Snigger. Danke to Roh , who seems to be my main source of links at the moment...

Sunday, March 5

Film: Syriana Click for more info

Political thriller depicting the shady world of the oil business. Mainly focusing on the corruption of those in power (although we do also see a bit about terrorism), Syriana burns quite slowly with things only starting to make sense for me toward the end of the film.

Pretty good performances all round make this a pretty watchable film even if you're not fully clued up on Middle East politics (at least I wasn't and I found it pretty interesting). Worth watching if you want something a bit different from the usual.

Another Weekend, Another Birthday

You know, recently it seems like I have a birthday party to attend almost every other week. Not that I'm complaining of course, it's just weird that as I get older, the celebrations become more frequent and even, at times, more juvenile. Which is a good thing - please allow me to explain why.

I guess the reason I never celebrated birthdays during college and uni was 'cos it had mainly consisted of "going clubbing and getting slashed in a bar or pub", which is fine if that's what you're into, but easier to skip altogether if you're not. Not that that's ever been a problem per se; I've always been fine with missing out and would never dream of stopping others from enjoying themselves, and in return I get understanding and excused from having to take part in the things I'm uncomfortable with. Pretty much a win-win, right?

Anyway, I prefer the (possibly) more humble occasion of everyone getting together and just chilling playing games, eating cake and the like. Now, although I've always had this with my local friends, I've noticed that as I get older I'm beginning to meet more and more people who prefer the same thing.

Take tonight, for example. There was good food, plenty of nice people, dance mats (and although I wouldn't usually mention this I have to say I won more times than I lost) and even fireworks - unfortunately I couldn't stay for Singstar or the two horror DVDs that were cued up. But the point is that it's not hard to have good clean and, dare I say it, unpretentious fun; and more importantly, it's not hard to find people who are more than willing to provide and share it with.

This all seems to be another symptom of a shift in lifestyle I've been going through over the past year or so. It's way too major to cover in a mere footnote, and yet ironically way too subtle and gradual to cover with a single blog on its own. Perhaps some of you have noticed it yourself, or perhaps it's nothing at all. I may even nail exactly what it is myself soon, but for now I'll just dramatically end it there.

Saturday, March 4

Film: Kidulthood Click for more info

Pleasantly made and easy going film about a bunch of teenagers who have been given a day off after the suicide of a classmate. At its most basic it's a love story regarding two of the group, but there are enough smaller anecdotes on the way to keep the interest of the viewer.

I think what makes the film good is its fine balance between realism and cliche. Granted I've not really been exposed to some of the issues raised within (due to my being a Good Boy), but it was easy enough to relate to the kids themselves - it was at accessible enough for those twice the age of the major protagonists and I found myself sharing their 91 minute journey instead of distancing myself or shouting at them for being crazy or foolish like I usually do with stuff of this nature.

It's not on at many places, so I quite recommend you watch it while it is.