Thursday, September 28

Video of the Day Click for more info

Frickin' ace. Cheers to Roh.

Wednesday, September 27

Some Side-Effects of Fasting

Of course there are the usual symptoms of hunger, thirst and headaches, but as Ramadhan in the UK moves into the summer and the days grow longer I'm beginning to notice other things happening to me as the lack of food and water takes it toll.

  • Firstly, there's the diminishing ability to think toward the end of a working day. I can actually feel myself slowing down, eventually ending up just gaping at the screen in front of me. I'm doing it right now (and so, please, excuse the lack of composure during this post).
  • Blinksleep increases. Blinksleeping is what I use to describe the surreal experience of closing your eyes for what you think is only a few seconds when really it's been a much longer period of time - sometimes hours. For instance, on my Tube journey home I now believe that Liverpool Street and Leytonstone are immediately next to each other. Check a map to see why that's strange; I haven't been conscious between those two stations for days now.
  • I can no longer walk in a straight line. Crazy, but I had to actually try to do this today. And I failed too.
  • I'm now (even more) incoherent. I'm not the most verbally articulate person anyway, but now words can't seem to leave my mouth without transforming into some weird made up language. And the fact some of my mates are in the same position makes for hilarious phone calls:
    Them: "Mahhuufhss"
    Me: "What??"
    Them: "How are you?"
    Me: "Oh right. Yeh, I'm good. Ggggjasaa!"
    Them: "What??"
    Me: "What are you doing tonight?"
    Them: "Oh. Think I'll try JJJEEE$$2894@@@"

    At which point I usually hang up.
  • The smell. Since there's little water in my system, my sweat is heavy on the chemicals. I try not to wave my arms about when I'm with people and, sometimes, I even catch myself gagging. But remember, this isn't BO, oh no; this is Manly Smell.
Who said fasting was just about being hungry?

Monday, September 25

A Tip for Sehri

The first few fasts of Ramadhan always give me a bit of a headache (literally) as my body becomes accustomed to the dehydration throughout the day. So here's a trick I've been using for the past few years. It's a bit late now but if you're still having trouble give it a go, or save it for next year.

For the first couple of fasts, take some painkillers with whatever you usually your fast with. I use ibuprofen, but anything will do and take them even if you're feeling ok at the time. For some reason, medical or psychosomatic, my initial fasts aren't as bad when I do this. After two or three fasts, you can drop them since your body should have acclimatised to the lack of water by then.

Oh and while we're here, avoid citrus fruits for Sehri. Maybe it's just me, but they're totally parching.

Video of the Day Click for more info

I wanna go! Thanks to Holding on to a Cinder.

Saturday, September 23

You're Old, Get Married

With Ramadhan comes Tarawih, a long and relatively popular (in terms of attendance anyway) evening prayer at the mosque. And with Tarawih comes the chance to meet up with some people you've not seen since the same month last year. And with them comes the typical commentary on your life and how it could be so much better. Of course, some of you might get this kind of community involvement every day of your life, but for a family like mine who are usually pretty well insulated Ramadhan is the only opportunity for us to have this kind of fun.

Take the following for example:

Twenty eight? Twenty eight? TWENTY EIGHT?? Beta, just do me one favour: either get married before the year is out, or don't get married at all. Twenty eight! The best and important bits of a marriage are determined at that age. Leave them till later and you'll be in trouble. Twenty eight! Oy!

Alright, yes, I'm paraphrasing a bit, but I'm sure you get the gist. On the face of it, the above is upsetting 'cos it's very fatalistic, pessimistic and threatening, and further seems to be pointing the finger of blame at me, as if I'm rejecting many thousands of decent girls each day. So no, not very nice, fair, or helpful.

But I think what gets me more is that, on some level, I kind of agree with what my dear uncle is saying. Now, no, I'm not saying that I'm old or anything, since age is largely relative and I know of people who have married later and done fine. However (and I think that I've mentioned this before) there are certain hang ups I have due to never having had been in a relationship before - things that may not be resolved if I get married later on, or even immediately now.

See, I think that being young and in love is a unique experience. And I also reckon that it helps with further relationships (whether the same one or others), since it helps you appreciate the different facets of the whole thing. And as those who've known me for years will know, it's also something I've looked forward to and planned for a long time now (but more about that in, ooh, fourteen days or so), so it would be even more difficult for me to let it slide than it would others, possibly to the point where it could have an adverse effect on any relationship of mine that didn't allow it.

However, the groovy in this kind of love is mainly due to having little or no responsibility or stresses while you're in that particular place. This means that, on the bright side, the "young" used above is more figurative than literal and so those who get married later can be as reckless and immature and free as they would have been during their younger days if they wanted to; and since it's not like I act my age in other parts of my life it's totally possible that I could do the same here too.

But there is a sticking point, and that's the question of kids. They're not going to hang around and wait while their future parents chill out and have a laugh, and neither do I want to be an older father. So yes, although the above advice is harsh it's probably very true, and possibly even more so in my case. And while I'm torn between these two ideals of mine the situation doesn't get any better as time goes on. Perhaps I should concentrate on actually finding someone instead of the hypothetical problems that that might present.

Copying Text Messages

I'm one of those anal people who hoard their text messages. Well I say hoard, but in actual fact there are only sixteen or so that I have kept since 2000 when SMS really became popular over here. Some are funny, some are touching, some are blunt and to the point and all are sentimental. I like to have them all with me, and have managed to pass them down the various phones and SIM cards I've had over the years. Yes, that's right; I am in fact a big girl.

It proved to be a bit of a chore this time around. Not only did I have to copy the archived messages from my last Orange SIM to my new Three one, but also copy the couple I had stored on my N70 too. And I don't mean just by forwarding them; no, I needed the correct date and sender attached to these and not all from my number sent this year. What would be the point of that?

Messy, but I was determined, and since I like to think that I'm relatively geeky I knew there was a way to do what I wanted; I just had to bang away till I found it. Anyway, here's what I tried:

  • Use a phone to copy them. The easiest way to transfer messages is to use a phone as temporary storage. Quite annoyingly new phones seem to lack the "Copy to/from SIM" option, and since I moved to Three, my older phones that could do this weren't compatible with the new 3G SIMs and so I couldn't use them to do the job. In fact, the LG U880 seems to be the only phone that can copy messages from GSM SIMs and to UMTS SIMs, but my mum's is locked to Three so that was a non starter too. Plus, since the N70 couldn't save to SIM this didn't really help there either. Result: FAILED.
  • Use PC software to force saving to SIM. I've actually had to use my PC to transfer messages before, so I thought it wouldn't be too difficult to do that again. Oxygen (for Nokias) and FMA (for Sony Ericssons) both used to be flexible enough to a) read messages from phones and SIMs and b) write them back again to phones and SIMs. In theory that's all I would need to do everything I wanted to do. However it seems that, just like the phones, Oxygen had lost the ability to manipulate SIMs (although I was able to export the messages on the phone to text files on my PC). FMA on the other hand could only write back messages it had originally read, since it needed these PDU code things to do so. It was also having issues reading some of the older messages on my SIM too. In other words, I was still stuck. Result: FAILED.
  • Use a SIM reader to manipulate the messages directly. A bit experimental this one. I have a SIM card reader built into my PC, but you can get USB adaptors for cheap now too. Using the simple yet powerful SIMedit!, I was able to read all the messages from my old SIM (and fix the ones that were giving FMA trouble), and write them all back to a spare GSM SIM I had lying around (since I wasn't able to access the Three SIM directly). Not only that, but I was also able to "forge" the four messages from my N70 that I had exported to text files in the attempt above. I now had a GSM SIM with all the messages I wanted to carry over, all in one place. I then used FMA to read these (via my K750i) and then exported them all to a file (including the so important PDUs that were stopping me from re-importing above). Finally, I imported them back in to FMA while connected to my K800i, eventually copying them back to the SIM after I had done so. Result: SUCCESS.
Not very interesting, I know. But I just know it'll come in handy when I have to do it all over again in six months... And I know that those of you who know I have your messages from six years ago still stored appreciate it!

Friday, September 22

Ramadhan Starts

In what is a pretty surprising move, London Central Mosque (also known as Regent's Park Mosque) has announced the start of Ramadhan tonight. I must say I was kinda caught out, but not as much as the friends and family who had already made plans for their Friday night. So yes, the month full of fasting and nightly slogs, erm, I mean, Tarawih prayer begins.

I just realised that I was heading off for Umrah this time last year. That was an interesting Ramadhan, and I can't believe the next one is here already. I think Ramadhan is one of those things that really make you realise how fast time flies. And the amazing thing is that, unlike other celebrations (Islamic or not), it lasts a whole month. That's a twelfth of the year, and after a long enough while, a twelfth of your life. That's pretty sizable if you think about it.

A more regular fasting period for me then? Well not quite since due to a surplus of holiday time, I plan on taking half of it off work. That's something I've never done before, and I can't remember the last time I fasted without work or school to distract me. I wonder how it'll pan out? I guess I'll see in a month's time.

Ramadhan Mubarak!

Sunday, September 17

Film: The Black Dahlia Click for more info

The good thing about watching a film in Ilford is that you can come late to the biggest release of the week and still get a seat because everyone there is watching Shiva or Naksha instead. In fact, having six other people with you in the auditorium for a 6:15pm showing of The Black Dahlia says quite a bit.

Anyway enough of the social discourse. The Black Dahlia is another one of those films that you can't watch while tired. You have to pay attention here, if only to understand what is being said, but then further to figure out what the hell is going on. That said, Dahlia eventually spells it out (more so than, say, LA Confidential did), but having said that I did think it had to stretch a bit in order to tie the two main and distinct plot arcs together.

Technically, the film is very good; the acting, direction and production was all top notch. I finally understand how Hilary Swank swung that Oscar (I had only really seen her in 90210 before this), but the rest of the cast were blummin' good too. Yes, even Josh Hartnett. I did notice a slight change of style between this and LA Confidential; it was slightly more of a caricature of the times (check out the opening scene of an extreme example of how) and so softer - the violence doesn't seem as dark as it might be in other crime flicks.

Ultimately, as good as The Black Dahlia was, I didn't come away as satisfied and proud of "getting it" as I did with other films of the same genre like LA Confidential and the outstanding Brick (which I really want to see again after watching this film tonight). That's not a reason to give it a total miss though and I do recommend it; it's just wasn't of the unmissable quality that I had expected it to be.

Saturday, September 16

Food: Spizzico Restaurant Click for more info

Here's an Italian restaurant with a twist. Serving the usual pizzas and pastas in a very plush and clean seating area, Spizzico also offered Nachos, Fajitas and some other very out-of-place dishes on its menu.

We grabbed some Nachos with our more regular pasta mains. After a "healthy" wait the food arrived and my Tortelloni was above average. Portions were generous too, with only one of the four there managing to finish what they had ordered.

The bill surprised us, coming to just above a tenner for a meal with just water. So yes, a pretty nice place and one to bear in mind if ever you're in, ahem, Barnet.

Film: DOA: Dead or Alive Click for more info

IT HAS SARAH CARTER IN IT! Oh my. Okay, okay, I just needed to get that out.

And you know what? DOA wasn't even that bad. Yes, the acting was bad. Yes, the action was cheesy. Yes, there was plenty of irrelevant T&A (and for the record Helena > Ayane > Christine > Tina > Kasumi), although not as much as I would have expected a film of this type to have. Not that I'm disappointed (well not much anyway). So no, it's not going to win any Oscars or anything.

But as braindead films go, it did pretty well. It doesn't try to be anything it isn't, and so doesn't become disappointing or pretenscious. Of course, I can't really recommend it since there is a lot more out there at the moment worth watching instead, but I can't quite say I was disappointed in the film either.

Oh, and it has Sarah Carter in it. Playing Volleyball. In a swimsuit. I'll say again: oh my.

Thursday, September 14

One To Watch

Extras 9pm, BBC2

You either know about this or don't. Either way I don't have to talk too much about it, except to say that I can't wait.

Wednesday, September 13

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight

Ok, so I lied. Last week I tried making dhal and swore that I'd never go back into the kitchen again (although technically that would be impossible since it's on the way to the den where this computer sits, but you know what I mean). However since then I had spoken to my mum and told her about my culinary escapade, and instead of laughing at me (I've had worse) she told me to try chicken instead. Gasp.

And so with dearest mother's blessing, I did just that; today, the night before my parents were due to return from holiday. Now, unlike with the dhal, the recipe my mum gave me was very, very simple. It went something like this:

  1. Defrost chicken.
  2. Wash chicken.
  3. Put tiny bit of oil in pan.
  4. Heat pan.
  5. Place chicken in pan.
  6. Add salt.
  7. Add turmeric.
  8. Add and any other random spices (I had a choice of green, grey and off-white powders)
  9. Heat both sides for six minutes or so.
See, my mum knew exactly what I was (not) capable of, and so made sure I had as straightforward and idiot-proof instructions as possible. This is in contrast to last time when my friends totally overestimated how much common sense I had in the kitchen. Plus, I know that chicken is done when the insides are not pink anymore, which meant that I had a target to aim for. Fantastic - I was confident I'd cook a good meal. However, I was feeling the same way about the dhal too.

Tonight actually went pretty well. I think I might have used too much oil in the beginning, but that was easily solved with a little drainage action. Other than that the recipe went off without a hitch, the food was smelling wonderful, I felt like I was totally in control at all times and I definitely enjoyed it more than I did last time. It did take me around 90 minutes in the kitchen, sure, but I had a really late lunch anyway so I was on track for dinner when I finally ate.

As for the chicken, well, it certainly tasted nice. Most bits (there were three in total) may have been a bit too well done, but after last week I wasn't taking any more chances (by the way my brother took the rest of the dhal to his home, found it was raw and so boiled it for another half hour before it was finally ready to eat. Whoops), and as my mum (yes, her again) always says, it's better to overcook than under.

Of course, I'll have to wait till tomorrow before I tell you how well cooked it actually was. The last slab of meat was a bit thick and so might have needed a bit more time than the other pieces, but still I remain confident. Still, I'd appriciate it if you would refrain from betting whether I'll have the runs over the next few days or not. Cheers. Oh, and as always, piccies are on Picasa. (EDIT: And as it happened it passed the SIL test the next day. Whoop!)

As for my cooking in general, well, I think my decision from last week still stands. As much fun as today was, I still don't have to do it (not really), and I can think of many other better things to do instead. I have to admit though; there really is something different about eating a meal you've cooked yourself. And if the above proves anything at all, it's that the best person to teach you how to cook really is your mum, even if she happens to be a billion miles away at the time.

My Body == Temple Click for more info

Some staff were invited to have a lifestyle and health assessment at work today. My appointment was at 14:40, which doesn't mean anything till you realise that I had to fast for six hours beforehand. Man, I was starving.

Anyway, it was pretty much the same as what you get when registering with a GP; blood tests and pressure, fitness assessments, body measurements - things like that. I was pretty satisfied with my results - I have a normal and acceptable weight for once, and everything was pretty much better than average and of low risk. The running and regular exercise probably have something to do with these results, although the square meals and lack of snacking probably helps too. Vindicated at last!

I was really happy with my (lack of) cholesterol, and surprised at my above average PEF (a test used to measure how fast air can be exhaled from the lungs) result. Oh, and I have a waist-to-hip ratio that would be the envy of any woman. Although I probably shouldn't be gloating about that last one too much...

I did have some work to do regarding my diet though; more fruit (if I want to avoid vegetables) and oily fish, although apparently for the latter I can just take Omega 3+6 supplements instead. Pretty simple stuff so I'll get on that straight away.

So good news overall. I'm glad that I'm relatively fit and healthy, especially since I wasn't always as such, but also since it means that I don't have to change my current lifestyle too much.

On The Radio, Again

So I was asked to go on the radio this morning (AN, naturally) to talk about Roald Dahl. Now, I'm not the biggest fan, but I had time to prepare so I accepted the invite. Unlike the Friday Forum I went on, this was gonna be over the phone and not in the studio.

Like yesterday with the crime thing, I mainly considered this more practise with public speaking. After all, on the radio you are addressing thousands of people at the same time so it does take some kind of gutso to do it without messing up. I didn't talk that much but I think I did alright, although my co-guest Gos (yes, the one from Big Brother) totally stole my lines and said everything I wanted to say. Still, c'est la vie.

Like I said, I not as much a fan as some people I know, but I do have fond memories of his books (especially of The Twits, which surprise, surprise was both Anita and Gos's favourite too) and everything else I kinda blagged.

With regards to the public speaking part, I seem to have gotten over some of the issues I have with my nerves, although I did relapse a bit toward the middle - pretty much like I had done last night at that crime forum. The erming and ahhing have reduced although not completely and there were times when I had no idea where I was going. Still, there has been noticeable progress so at least I know the practise is doing something. I think that having a good night's sleep helps too!

Tuesday, September 12

Irony Is...

... Finding your car broken into after leaving a forum on local crime. I was so amused I didn't even get that angry.

They did it in the same way as last time, and simply pried out the door lock (probably with a screwdriver) and pulled on a wire in order to unlock the doors. It still amazes me how easy it is to do, and it's definitely something that's put me off Suzuki - I'm beginning to think that they're targeted now.

Unlike last time, nothing was taken; we've learned not to keep anything of value in the vehicle since then. So it's just the damage I have to deal with, which is annoying more than anything else. The metal around the lock barrel is torn and bent, and last time it took quite a lot of body repair work to get it back to looking half decent. I would have much preferred them smashing a window or something, since at least that's easy to repair. They didn’t even have the courtesy to stick with the same door as last time.

Perhaps I should just leave the car unlocked now - like I said there's nothing of value in there anymore, so I'll be saving myself costs on fixing my doors. And that feeling seems to have been vindicated by the officer I had reported the crime to: she advised me to empty my glove box and leave it open in order to quash the curiosity of would be criminals. Great, eh?

Forum: Redbridge and Crime

I attended a talk tonight about local crime issues in my borough. Speaking were Police Inspector Chris Mitchell, Harveil Toor (Redbridge Crime Prevention), Satnam Singh (Redbridge Racial Equality Council) and... Me.

Inspector Mitchell spoke about how the Police were dealing with local issues like race/faith hate and forced marriages, getting more men no the street, and how it was a priority for them to get into key "ethnic" areas in order to prevent terror (and I think more than one person called him on that). In other words, it was another PR thing.

Harveil's content was a bit more interesting. She explained how statistics and trends were used to prevent crime from occurring in the first place, and how by dividing crime into groups and subgroups they can be eliminated completely. I thought that this was a bit obvious, I mean each crime has its own attributes and so it's not too difficult to stop, for example, all gold theft at the time of a wedding by telling people to look after their gold. But anyway, if it works it works.

Satnam mainly talked about identity. It was more or less the same stuff I've heard on the radio or CC, so it was pretty straightforward stuff; or at least it was for me.

Which brings me to me. Now, I was asked to come and talk about my experience with stop and searches, but listening to the others on the panel it seemed a bit out of place since the topics were mainly focused on local issues and I had been stopped around my workplace. I stuck to the plan though, and explained how mine had all been relatively painless, if a bit cold. I also told of how I do get a bit uneasy when seeing a uniform or hearing a siren, as if I'm just waiting for them to stop me. Finally I offered some suggestions of how the police could make the process more accessible by reducing the anonymity of officers, reducing the visible evidence of profiling and increasing the transparency of the process.

All in all it was a nice and pleasant talk - more of a catch up and local update than the hard core debate that I've seen in other similar forums. But apart from the subject matter, this was a chance to get more public speaking under my belt - something I've been trying to work on for the past couple of months.

Orb Click for more info

Orb's been around for a while, but I've only recently had the time to give it a good go. In short, it's a media server tool that runs on your PC, providing easy access to the music, video and pictures on it to any remote point that has a web browser. Oh, and it's free.

Just in case none of that makes sense to you, in short, this little magical piece of software lets me listen to all my music and watch all my movies and series via my browser (Firefox, but presumably IE works too) at work. And I'm not talking postage sized blur-o-vision here, but good quality, watchable and listenable stuff. And you can also get it to monitor live television (via a TV tuner) or a webcam too. It's pretty awesome.

My K800i can only manage pictures which is a shame, but then data charges still make this kind of stuff prohibitive anyway. A friend managed to access all of his stuff with his Vario II, and since he doesn't pay for data either it's a pretty neat solution that allows him to watch an episode or two on the bus into work.

If only I had set this up for the Cricket last week!

Monday, September 11

One to Watch Click for more info

The Cult of the Suicide Bomber, 8pm, Channel 4

Not sure whether this will be any good or not to be honest, but the topic alone paves the way for a good discussion, especially if they stick to the promise of looking at individuals rather than groups.

Sunday, September 10

Shak's Choice: Kristen Bell

Otherwise known as the most utterly fabulous Veronica Mars:

She's not just pretty, but smart and sassy too. And hot. And pretty. She may even be worth, like y'know, watching a really bad movie for. Ahem.

Oh, and for those of you who currently have an eyebrow raised (she does play a high school student after all), don't worry, she's 26. I checked. Dawson's Creek sure has a lot to answer for, huh?

Film: Pulse Click for more info

This film wasn't very good. Badly filmed, acted and written - perhaps it was actually an experiment or something. It's a shame, 'cos the premise was pretty good and the last half hour or so meaty, and the potential was there. I suspect that the makers concentrated just a bit too much on making a scene by scene remake of the Japanese original, Kairo, and just happened to lose something in translation. On the bright side, at 90 minutes it's mercifully short.

So one to skip then. Unless, of course, you're a Kristen Bell fan...

Saturday, September 9

A School Wedding

Most of today was spent in the celebrating of Shopna's marriage. I've known her for over a year now, since I became a teacher at ICSS; in fact this was the first ICSS wedding I was going to, and I thought that it was going to be interesting for that reason alone. Most of ICSS is perpetually single, so when one of us breaks free it really is something worth shouting about. And of course it goes without saying that it couldn't happen to a nicer bird. Erm, I mean girl.

I cant remember the last Sylheti wedding I went to, but this one at least was normal Asian fare. Actually, no, I take that back - today was quite efficiently done, with Shops arriving early (as in, you know, before the time written on the invitation), the groom not too late and the food being served at a decent hour. Talking of food, we were all well provided for: the starters and desserts (yes, that's plural) were especially yum. The venue it self was pretty nice too, even though it was a really a leisure centre during the day.

As I mentioned above, this was an ICSS wedding and so most of the school teachers were there. It was strange being part of a largish group (I think that there was twenty of us or so altogether) and yet belong to neither family or lifelong friends. It's like we were in social limbo - we didn't know anyone who wasn't school, and yet we were large enough to be an important part of the guest list. But perhaps I'm not explaining it properly or maybe it was just me; it certainly doesn't seem that unusual now that I've written it down.

Anyway, the hall was chucking us out before we realised what had happened. It went so fast, and yet I got back to my house by 7:30pm - pretty late considering that it was a lunch wedding (although admittedly we did make a pit-stop on the way home). I guess time flew as we all had fun.

Friday, September 8

Striking While the Iron is Hot

It took me ages to think of that title, so I hope that you all appreciate it.

I have a wedding to attend tomorrow and since we decided that it was a suit rather than traditional thing, I needed a shirt to wear. These I have, washed and ready, but since I hardly wear shirts ironing is usually deferred to when I actually need them. Like now. See the irony[1]?

Just to be straight here, I have ironed a shirt before, just not when the house is empty and when I have a blog to record it.

So anyway, I'm assuming that thirty minutes on a single shirt is 27 minutes too much, but apart from the lack of speed I think that I managed well (there are no burn marks, for instance). It wasn't completely straightforward though; it was like a 3D logic puzzle at times, and I was there for ages trying to flatten a surface that just wouldn't sit on the board smoothly so that I could iron it crease free.

I finally figured out why an ironing board is shaped as it is (clever...), and how and when to use the steam button. I'm also glad that there are standard iron heat setting symbols, since I wouldn't have a clue about temperature otherwise. Oh, and yes, the house is still standing just in case you're wondering.

So this kinda marks the last big domestic chore I had left to cover and prove that I could do. I now have the full set and am, able to handle any kind of housework thrown at me. Well, in theory anyway. I mean, if I was to iron regularly I think I'd have to work on that half-hour-per-shirt thing at the very least.

[1] Yes, I realise that there's actually not that much irony there at all. I just wanted to use the word in this post. Sue me.

City Circle: Bringing Salafis, Sufis & Secularists together: Rearticulating Civil Society in Islam Click for more info

Today we were to discuss the concept of Civil Society in Islam. The three panellists each had their own distinct takes; although I think I only really understood one of them.

First up was Professor Iftikhar Malik. For him, the problems surrounding Islamic Civil Society were based on polarisation of extremes. So for example: liberals vs. new capitalists, Sufi vs. Salafi or artists vs. intellectuals and so on. His solution was for all to realise that it was the common humanism that we should all focus on, and success with respect to civil society would then follow.

Next we had Dr Najah Kadhim. He took a more academic approach to the problem, citing scriptural proof (social contracts in the time of The Prophet, and the like) regarding the importance of organised civil society in Islam. His main conclusion was that a successful Islamic Society would be both spiritual and materialistic, with freedom of choice being the central idea. He also gave a more short term solution in that Muslims should empower themselves by participating in civil matters.

Last but most certainly not least, Professor Ziauddin Sardar had his say. His was a more pragmatic angle: our problems were not due to our differences (note that tonight's talk was supposed to be regarding the separate prevailing points of view within the Muslim community) but more due to our collective common failings. The three things these boiled down to were crisis in knowledge (Muslims don't produce any anymore), power (misunderstanding on how to achieve it) and society itself (it's not just a geographical state).

That was mainly it. This week's CC was bit different for me, in that I could only hang around for the main presentation and so I ended up missing the Q&A session afterwards. The panel was still pretty interesting on their own, but they had set the stage for the audience to participate so it was a bit of a shame I have to leave early. I suspect that they continued to explore the above themes in further detail.

As for the talk itself, although interesting I was looking for a more literal discourse on the question the title puts forward; on how the various different mindsets within Islam today contrast and possible solutions to allow them to coexist. With that stuck in my mind I come away slightly disappointed.

Link of the Day Click for more info

At last, a successor to the once fabulous (which if you didn't know was the original Asian clone). That's right, once again you can spend all day cycling through pictures of random guys and girls in order to superficially rate them, and then read the many illiterate comments posted in response to their profiles ("youze is tick buffffnesss - RuDeBrAdfoRdPAKEE"). It even has a mangoshake/barfi-esque forum attached. Fantastic.

At last I finally have something to do during those slow Friday afternoons. Heck, I might even find my mates sister on it like I did with SoN. Woot.


xxxx says (15:16):
    going to some young asian pro
    young asian professions club launch thing tonight with yyyy and zzzz
    gonna be rubbish i can already tell you from now
Shak says (15:24):
    why do you go to rubbish things?
xxxx says (15:25):
    because i get asked and i don't know how to say no
Shak says (15:26):
    lets have sex
xxxx says (15:26):
Shak says (15:26):
xxxx says (15:26):
    lol. told you

Friendly Introductions

A common way of meeting potential future partners is via friends; more specifically, those that claim to know you well enough to be able to introduce you (or not, as the case may be) to further mates of theirs. Now, generally, I agree with this concept: it's called networking and is perfectly fine and sound in both theory and practice.

However that bit above in brackets does tend to get me all worked up whenever this topic arises. For instance, someone I was once discussing this with declared: "I know xxx (points to someone in the group) and yyy (points to another) would never work out, so I wouldn't bother making the introduction between them". It's this inaction which totally baffles me. What makes them so sure that this particular relationship wouldn't work out?

As an extreme example of why I'm bothered let's take a guy or girl who has never been in a relationship before. No matter how close you are with this person, there's no absolute way of knowing how they'd behave in that kind of situation. Heck, they probably wouldn't know themselves. How can anyone else say how well or not they'd get on with someone else on a romantic level?

And it's not just those that have never dated whom you don't know about. In my opinion there's no real way of telling exactly how any two random people will act together under an equally random circumstance let alone a romantic one, even if you've known them for ever and have seen them in a variety of different situations.

Sure, you can make calculated guesses (and even that becomes difficult to do when friends request abstract things like "someone who will make me feel special"), but even if you did that, by definition there's a chance that you could be utterly wrong. The fact that we see so many people in successful relationships, who, on paper, are totally incompatible with each other proves this much - I mean, hello? Have you not seen Dharma and Greg?

Finding the right person is, ultimately, just a numbers game. And yes, if there are strict objective criteria missing in a candidate (and there is nothing wrong with that being the case) then there's no point in wasting any time. But that's not really the situation for many of us, is it?

Despite being a relatively friendly chap (mohoho) I know I won't get along with everyone. In fact I'm sure my friends are a good judge of what would work and what wouldn't for me. However, as much as I trust them, I do think that there's a minute chance that they could get it wrong. I prefer to let the people in question themselves decide whether things will work out between them or not.

Thursday, September 7

Video of the Day Click for more info

More superb stuff from The Daily Show, this time lifted from Mash's blog.

Probably blasphemous in many, many, ways, so don't blame me if you end up sinning or something.

Tuesday, September 5

Distressing Damsels

On approaching Victoria Tube this evening two girls caught my eye. No, not 'cos of that (well not this time anyway) but more because they were each struggling with a suitcase, trying to get them down the stairs to the main ticketing hall.

Now, I don't claim to be a gentleman or anything, but I do help out with this kind of stuff because a) I'm not losing anything by doing so and b) I hate it when stupid dumbass women tourists carrying more shoes and makeup than they can obviously handle clog up the Tube system. So I did what I usually do and offered to take one down for them (since together they would manage the other one; after all they should have to work a little at least).

Since I carry a satchel over my right shoulder I was forced to use my left for the suitcase. No dice. This thing was at least 30kg - possibly more. And I'm not a big guy; I wouldn't say I'm particularly weak, but I do lack a bit of balance with objects bigger than I am. Yes, it was definitely an "oh crap, what have I gotten myself into" moment.

Still, I had committed to helping and what little pride I have forced me to follow through. I had to use both hands and managed to get to the bottom of the stair with some effort but thankfully without further incident. My back may tell me differently tomorrow though.

But that's not the end of the story. No, you see, there was someone waiting at the bottom of the stairs for these two ladies. A male someone. Whether he was anything more than just a friend to them I don't know, but regardless of the nature of his relationship with them I did feel slightly cheated into doing his job on his behalf. Honestly, the nerve of it all - and he was making no moves to help with the remaining suitcase But hey, by then I didn't care.

Still at least he agreed when I told him how heavy the suitcase was. Yeh, cheers buddy.

Monday, September 4

Making Dhal

So tonight I tried my hand at cooking.

I'll let you pick yourselves up off the floor before I continue.

Back? Anyway, since the main reason (or excuse depending on your view) I've never made a meal is the lack of access I have to our kitchen, I thought I'd grab the chance to use it while the main gatekeeper was away. Since it was my first real go (ever) I thought I'd try something straightforward and on asking friends it seemed that Dhal would be a bulletproof choice. Note use of the word "seemed".

I followed the instructions my friend had provided. Now I did initially mention that it looked a bit ambitious (if only because it required three separate pans!), but was convinced to give it a try anyway. And if I'm honest it did appear very straightforward... but then these things always seem easier on paper than they really are.

I started out at around 8pm, hunting for ingredients. Thanks to my sister-in-law and the magic of video calling, I managed to find our existing stash of oil and spices. The recipe also required a chili, ginger, garlic, a tomato and an onion. Thankfully the freezer had them all bar the onions, and since that was the only ingredient missing I decided to skip it altogether. By the time I had found all the pots and pans I needed, 45 minutes had already passed. Still, I was finally ready to begin.

Unlike other chores and household jobs (like cleaning, painting or building a cupboard or table), cooking is very subjective. For example, this recipe had instructions like "add salt" and "boil dhal till cooked". Now these things may make sense to the veteran cook (and perhaps those with basic common sense), but as a pretty logical and literal person they meant nothing to me. I mean, how much salt was I supposed to add? And I already know I need to wait till the dhal is cooked before it's ready (a truism if I ever saw one), but when the hell does that happen?

So yes, it all became a bit of a hit and miss affair. Still, 30 or so minutes later I managed to finish with something that resembled food. I was drained by then and so just plumped for toast as the staple. I sat down to enjoy my home cooked meal.

Except that it was still raw. I noticed that straight away, it was that apparent. In the bin that batch went, but I still had loads left in the pan (luckily I had overestimated the amount of dhal I needed), and I whacked that back on the boil. This time I wasn't going to take any chances - I was going to leave it on for 30 minutes minimum. I figured that it was better to have it well cooked than not at all.

I finally managed to eat properly at around 10:15pm. The food was much better, but still a bit iffy - good enough for a first try I think, although I'll let you know if I have any stomach troubles tomorrow. At least the house was still standing, which for many of my so-called-friends is a result in itself. Pictures of the final result and the actual cooking itself are on my Picasa.

Cooking really is very much an art, and there are very few definitives when creating a meal. That probably comes as no surprise but it does mean that practice and experience both lead to being a better cook. Still, unlike some other things it's not something I can do straight off, especially with my distinct lack of culinary patience, and I think I'll be struggling for a while before I become comfortable in the kitchen.

Not a great experience overall, but then not too painful either (although again, I'll let you know if anything happens on the bog tomorrow). I guess I'd have been very lucky (or gifted) if it had all gone smoothly on my first bat. Still, at least I've had my cooking fix while I could; I don't think I'm going to experiment anymore for a while.

By the way, does anyone know how to clean non-stick pans? Don't worry, I know about not scrubbing them (I'm a much better dishwasher than I am cook), and I haven't ruined anything. I soaked them in liquid and left them for an hour or so, and then rinsed and wiped them down with kitchen towel. It's just that I don't think that they're as clean as they were when I found them. But then again it's not like I'm going to use them any time soon so perhaps it doesn't matter anyway.

New Music

Unfaithful - Rhianna

Quite a nice ballad here. My second Rhianna track in as many of her releases.

Fall Season 2006

It's September, and that means that the US telly season begins anew. Despite my best efforts and promises to do otherwise, I'm watching more shows than ever.

The strange thing is that I'd be the first to admit that a lot of what I watch is pretty poor. Take Lost for example. Now this really is a crap series, the ultimate manifestation of how television is purely to lure viewers to subscription and ad-watching. And it's also something I can't stop watching.

Then you have OTH and The OC. Objectively neither is the best example of good television, but both appeal to my affinity for teen drama. Desperate Housewives was good, but now seems to be running out of steam; this might even be the last season I watch. Oh, and don't get me started on Smallville.

Still it's not all bad. After a few average seasons, 24 has returned to the excellence it showed in Seasons 1 and 2. The same goes for ER, and I'm glad I stuck with it through its bad times although I think they should think about putting it to rest soon (it's been on since I was 15 for heaven's sake). Family Guy is the best animated series ever, while Prison Break concentrates on providing pure entertainment (even if it can be a bit cheap at times).

In this season are Grey's Anatomy (too many people, including the friend who first introduced me to PB, have recommended this for me to ignore now), House (I've not related as much to a character for a looong time) and Veronica Mars (and not just 'cos I fancy Kristen Bell, it really is good).

Out are Alias (ended at the right time in my opinion) and Smallville (yes, I know I've been promising that for a long time). I'd love to place Lost in there too but I know I'm too weak to back that up.

So anyway I'm officially in do not disturb mode for the next eight months and if I happen blow you off, don't take it too personally. Television is very demanding, dontcha know.

Friday, September 1

Food: The Number One Cafe Click for more info

Thai seems to have been a running theme this past few months. Still, at least Number One is different in that the food was Halal and so completely accessible (including the duck) to all those at the table.

Which turned out to be a bit of a curse really. We managed to pick a good selection of starters, which included Battered Prawns, Chicken Satay and Chicken Wings. Portions were generous, with two of each being enough for the eight of us eating.

Mains were a bit more tricky, however. The menu was quite vast, with each particular dish available in vegetarian, chicken, beef and seafood varieties. With my noodles, I picked a rich and hot chicken curry made with coconut milk which I thought was pretty fab.

Service was polite if a bit eccentric. As was the restaurant itself being both classy and a bit of a mess at the same time. Still, the owner did allow us to pray which he didn't have to, and that pretty much added to the "home cooked meal" experience of the whole place.

Price came to just over nine quid per head which is a fantastic bargain (although we did skip dessert). If it wasn't so out of the way (it's a good ten minute walk from White City Station) it would be difficult not to recommend. As it stands it's definitely a place I'll return to if I happen to be in the area again.