Saturday, September 27

The 27ers

Let me get this straight from the start: there is nothing wrong with spending the night of the 27th in worship. Heck, the dedication and will it takes to do what some did last night puts me to shame at least (I barely managed a quarter of what others did). So I'm not advocating that people stop doing this kind of thing.

I will however say that I'm always surprised by the increase in numbers on this one single night. You see, it seems like a very high risk strategy to me, placing all your worshipping eggs in one night basket.

My understanding is that there's no evidence more detailed than "last ten days, of which the odd nights" and since Laylat Al-Qadr (literally, Night of Power) doesn't actually change from year to year (as some seem to think it does), if these 27ers happen to be doing it on the wrong day each and every year, well then, they're gonna be more than a bit miffed when it comes to cashing in; although there's little doubt they'll get something for their efforts, it just wont be the thousand months' worth promised by the special night.

Even if there was some indication that this night is more likely to fall on the 27th than any other day (please send me it if you can), it would still be prudent to spread yourself a bit more thin; you know just in case. It wouldn't take that much more effort to spend an hour and a half four (or better still, nine) more times, especially if we're able to manage five hours or more on the 27th.

So again I'm not advising reducing the efforts made on the 27th; no it's more a case of making sure you know about the risk you're taking by concentrating on that single night. I'd think it would be great for everyone if Laylat Al-Qadr was in fact on the 27th, but then on the other hand it makes little difference to me if it wasn't - and surely that's the kind of confidence we should all be aiming for?


Friday, September 26

Link of the Day Click for more info

Women dice with death on M6

Amazing pictures of two women giving way too little respect to M6. Without belittling the situation (they're obviously got issues), surely there are less disruptive ways to top oneself off?

Thanks to Sofs for the link.

I'm So Not A Phone Person

For many of you, this pretty much goes without saying. For the rest of you who have managed to avoid the travesty that is a phone call with me, they typically go something like this:

phone rings
Me: Hey man!
Them: Hi! How are you...?
Me: Okay thanks! What's up with you?
Them: Yeh, you know how it is...
Me: Ah yes. Pause. So, uh, what can I do for you?
Them: Uh. Oh right. Yeh, do you know when/what/how...?
Me: Yeh sure: You do this and that, then.
Them: Oh thanks! Big help! So..
Me: Anytime! Bye!

Done. Functional and to the point, and the majority of my phone conversations don't last more than a minute (resulting in bills which look something like this, except worse since I now have three times as many inclusive minutes). In some cases the person calling me doesn't even have a reason, but instead of being flattered this confuses the hell out of me as I quickly formulate a schedule of things to actually talk about over the next 5, 10, or heavens forbid 15 minutes.

Although I realise that it's me that's weird, that won't stop me from stating objective reasons as to why using the phone is generally a poor form of communication.

For a start, it's inefficient. There are few other things a person can do while talking on the phone - just check out the many nutters who try to drive while they "connect" (even when they're on their flashy bluetooth headsets). Okay, this could just be another failing of being a bloke (my mum at least can whip up a good dinner while on the phone), but generally it takes more attention than just being able to talk is worth. Stick to email or text - you can easily multitask with those.

It's also physically unnatural and dangerous. Although we have handsfree now, plenty of people have had neck and shoulder trouble as they struggle to fit in with the handset-to-ear form a phone forces upon you. Oh, and don't get me started on the radiation.

As a form of communication it sucks. You can't gesticulate for instance, something I seem to really need to do (the excess energy gets spent pacing up and down the room instead). Facial expressions are also lost, while conversational cues are missed and awkward silences are much more awkward on the phone.

Face to face, you can enjoy these silences by just being in the company of the person you're with. It also allows you to talk and interact in groups, in a way a phone will never handle. And with emails and texts, you can actually think, consider what you're saying and generally avoid making a knob out of yourself.

I dunno. From what I gather from friends, phone calls mainly consist of gossip and talking about other people, and although I'm no saint when it comes to these things perhaps that's why I struggle to keep a phone conversation going?

That said, I am trying to change and have been on the phone for extended periods of time recently. And my tradition of calling friends on their birthdays and the two Eids is well established now - I'd easily choose to use the phone, albeit just as clumsily, for these things over anything else (apart from visiting in person which can be impractical). So there is a use for the phone after all.

Finally there has been cases when I would be on the phone for a long time - my record for a single call currently stands at somewhere over six hours which puts even the most gossipy of aunties to shame. So maybe I'm actually wrong about the whole thing and it all just depends on the person I'm actually talking to more than anything else?

Originally drafted 20th August 2007

Practising Non-Muslims

Quite bizarrely but pretty impressive all the same, two mates of mine have recently begun praying five times a day and fasting during the month of Ramadan respectively. Ordinarily this wouldn't be anything to write home about, but in this case (as some of you clever people may have already guessed from the title), these two friends happen to be non-Muslim (but don't worry, they're not Northerners).

Now I won't be a religious snob and declare how these guys have now seen the light; I have no idea how long these respective practises will last, and in any case it takes more than just actions to become a Muslim (a fact my friends are more than likely aware of themselves).

Their reasons vary too. For the first, regular meditative prayer brings a certain structure and discipline to their life. The latter fasts out of sympathy for their Muslim friends and brings them all closer together, an effect Muslims are all already well aware of. I don't think the reasons actually matter that much though, and I won't dwell too much on the why out of respect for what they're doing.

Nevertheless it is interesting to see non-Muslims take practical cues from the religion, and possibly something we'll see more of as Islamic culture becomes entwined in its Western host here (have non-Muslims started taking out Islamic mortgages yet?). And although they don't all actually pray themselves, I've had close non-Muslim friends remind me of my own during those times I forget.

And finally is it a bit ironic to see non-Muslims manage things many Muslims struggle to do themselves, even though they have a potent belief as the main reason to do it. Again I'm not sure the reasons matter, but it does make a heck of a good reminder for the rest of us.

Thursday, September 25


xxxx says (12:18):
    I cant believ they havea website
Shak says (12:25):
    i cant believe you went!!
    whats on it?
xxxx says (12:25):
    it's actualyl
xxxx says (12:26):
    rather than 'the rapist'
Shak says (12:26):
xxxx says (12:26):
Shak says (12:26):
xxxx says (12:26):
    i was reading smtihng that had therapist in it
Shak says (12:26):
xxxx says (12:26):
    and I thought .... hey //
Shak says (12:26):
    just goes to show
xxxx says (12:26):
    that looks liek the rapist
Shak says (12:26):
    you read what you want
xxxx says (12:26):
    so just thought I 'd see if thre wasa site!


Shak says (12:31):
    sonyericsson looking to use andriod
    they're such whores
xxxx says (12:31):
    yah ..
    i only noticed recently
    that the xeprian phone
xxxx says (12:32):
    must be done on purpose
Shak says (12:33):
    i think you have serious issues
xxxx says (12:34):

Wednesday, September 24

Asking Why?

As a bit of a footnote to the last post I wanted to consider this idea of asking why something is correct in order to ensure that it is. Specifically I think that it's something that can be applied to opinions, belief and discourse as well as mathematics.

Under scrutiny, we're forced to acknowledge the assumptions and reasonings we used to reach a conclusion, no matter how obvious that conclusion may be (or appear to be). This mindset is something that was instilled in me during my Computing studies; whether it was supposed to spill out of the classroom or not I'm not sure, but it has helped loads in establishing confidence in some of the things I believe to be obvious. And now I end up asking "why?" almost out of habit, even over the most trivial of things, much to the annoyance to most of those around me. The thing is, when contested, a lot of these things aren't that trivial after all.

It's different out of the realm of mathematics though, since most stuff in real life can't really be proven. But it's a good process to go through since it allows one to realise exactly how much can't be proven, as opposed to the stance most people take when automatically assuming fact. It's actually a topic that I've written about a lot here, whether it was while recently commenting on the subjective reasoning we use to establish facts, or how there's ultimately no proof of God.

So the next time you make a statement, try asking yourself honestly why you hold that statement to be true. If you initially answer "because it is", try again, and this time try harder. I'm not saying that you need to have an answer, but just that there could be value in realising that you don't actually have one after all.

A Union Algorithm For Sorted Lists

To union two sets is to create a new one which has all the members of both. For example, using a list (or technically a set since there aren't any duplicates) of numbers:

[1,2,3] U [2,3,4] = [1,2,3,4]

Let's say that we have two Hashmaps, L and R, that we wish to join into a larger collection. By definition, the collections of keys on these Hashmaps are sets, and so a union operation would be perfect to construct the new larger Hashmap. In practice this is simply achieved by adding each of the items in R to L at cost O(1) each time, handling collisions as appropriate (by implementation default you'd take R's, but there's no reason why you can't handle that differently). To create a new set from Hashmaps of size n and m respectively, this takes time O(n+m), O(n) to add L's items and O(m) to add R's.

But since we're all now using sorted lists for our indexed item needs, the cost of inserting is now O(log n) and so the algorithm above results in a total time of O(n log n + m log (m+n)). Not great, but perhaps there's something we can do to better this.

The trick is in leveraging the sorted property of a sorted list. Imagine if we had two piles of sorted cards in front of us - it would be easy enough to create a union of these by repeatedly taking the lower value card off the top of each and placing it in a new pile, while chucking away any duplicates. Since we only go through each list once, we would do this in O(n+m) time. Super! And again, as a bonus, the resultant set would have been sorted by key.

Although it's a straightforward enough algorithm translating the above to code can be tricky. What follows is some pseudocode which tries to nail it; ListL/R represent the sorted lists, while IndexL/R are pointers (integers) to items in the list:

if ListL.Size is zero, then return ListR;
otherwise if ListR.Size is zero, then return ListL;
  create an empty ListU for the results;
  set IndexL = 0; set IndexR = 0;
  while (true)
    if ListL[IndexL] is the same as ListR[IndexR]
      add ListL[IndexL] into ListU;
      //or ListR[IndexR],
      //or manage the conflict.
      increment IndexL; increment IndexR;
    else if ListL[IndexL] is lower than ListR[IndexR]
      add ListL[IndexL] into ListU;
      increment IndexL;
    else if ListL[IndexL] is higher than ListR[IndexR]
      add ListR[IndexR] into ListU;
      increment IndexR;
    if IndexL is greater than ListL.Size
    or IndexR is greater than ListR.Size
    //invalid indexes
      quit the loop;
  restart loop
  if IndexL is still pointing to a valid item in ListL
    add the remainder of ListL to ListU;
  if IndexR is still pointing to a valid item in ListR
    add the remainder of ListR to ListU;
  return ListU

Still not convinced? Well for completeness, let's prove that this algorithm actually works. The parts outside the main loop can be proven trivially; the union of two empty sets is empty, and L U Empty is L too.

For the final two cases we can rely on the following observation:

if max(ListU) < min(ListL) then ListU U ListL = ListU + ListL

This is true since it's guaranteed that there will be no items shared between U and L.

Which leaves us with the loop proper. For this, we can use induction; the above prove the trivial or base cases, so let's just consider when we're in the thick of things:

Let IndexL and IndexR point to somewhere in the middle of ListL and ListR respectively. Assume that the loop has been working correctly so far: so all lists are sorted, last(ListU) < min(ListL[IndexL], ListR[IndexR]), and ListU is the union of all items already seen. Let's call these observations the inductive property - we're going to go through the loop and see if they all still hold.

Now, three things could happen. Let Index+ denote an incremented index:

  1. ListL[IndexL] = ListR[IndexR]. Here we add ListL[IndexL] to ListU, and increment both Indexes. By definition of our sorted list and its unique keys, ListL[IndexL] = ListR[IndexR] < ListL[IndexL+] and ListL[IndexL] = ListR[IndexR] < ListR[IndexR+]. Since last(ListU) = ListL[IndexL], last(ListU) < ListL[IndexL+] and last(ListU) < ListR[IndexR+], or last(ListU) < min(ListL[IndexL+], ListR[IndexR+]). Since ListL[IndexL] is greater than all the items originally in ListU, ListU is stil sorted. ListL and ListR are still sorted, trivially. And finally, since ListU now contains ListL[IndexL], it's the union of all items seen already.
  2. ListL[IndexL] < ListR[IndexR]. Here we add ListL[IndexL] to ListU, and increment IndexL. By definition of our sorted list and its unique keys, ListL[IndexL] < ListL[IndexL+]. Since last(ListU) = ListL[IndexL], last(ListU) < ListL[IndexL+], and so last(ListU) < min(ListL[IndexL+], ListR[IndexR]). Since ListL[IndexL] is greater than all the items originally in ListU, ListU is stil sorted. ListL and ListR are still sorted, trivially. And finally, since ListU now contains ListL[IndexL], it's the union of all items seen already.
  3. ListR[IndexR] < ListL[IndexL]. Similar to the above case, except for ListR instead.
In all three cases, the inductive property holds. Hence when loop exits, ListU will be the union of all items already seen.

Phew. Still here? I'd congratulate you, but I'm wondering exactly how bored you are.

Nevertheless you might also be wondering what the whole point of the above is. Although what we want to do is simple enough, it's sometimes good to think about why an algorithm works, if anything to back up the original hunch that it does. Conversely, if you struggle to prove a simple algorithm, that might just indicate that it's not quite as "obviously correct" as you think it might be. Now that I've proven the union algorithm (albeit informally, since there is still a whole bunch missing) I can remain confident that it actually does what it's supposed to.


xxxx says (12:13):
    I LOVE YOU!!!!
Shak says (12:13):
    i love you too
    like an aunt
xxxx says (12:13):
    lol. ok less of the aunt. i prefer older sister
Shak says (12:14):
    yeh sure
    older sister
xxxx says (12:15):
xxxx says (12:16):
    you're going to be 30 so you might want to be careful about those age jokes
Shak says (12:17):
    get them in while i can eh?


Shak says (12:22):
    you actually are older than one of my aunts you know


xxxx says (12:22):
    lol. thanks

Link of the Day Click for more info

Observing Ramadan - The Big Picture highlights the importance, struggle and in some cases joy found for Muslims all over the place in the currently running holy month of Ramadan.

They're all brilliant, but my picks include:

  • #4, Jummah at Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque, now on my list when I return to Indonesia late next year,
  • #7,#8, taken from the Kalandia checkpoint to The West Bank, for the poignant memories,
  • #16, the Bosnian girls' ritual washing, as a reminder of how brilliantly varied and widespread Islam is.
There's plenty of others to consume so I'll leave you all to it. Thanks to Haroon for the link.

Going Twitter Click for more info

I never quite understood Twitter. The level of detail it allowed people to talk about themselves seems a bit too self-involved, even for me. On the flip side, who would actually be interested in what brand of toilet paper a twitterer was wiping his bum with (amongst other things)? Besides I have Radio Shak for all that anyway, although even I'd admit that blogging micro updates is going a bit too far.

A lack of interfaces to post (I'm not going to use my phone, that's for sure) and consume updates was the final nail in the coffin - and it seems that I'm not the only one who think this. Twitter hasn't been the success it was promising to be.

But it's not the idea itself that failed, more the implementation. You see millions of people DO Twitter, and often without even realising it. They do this by keeping their Facebook statuses up to date, all the time reading and commenting on those of their friends. It's possible that Facebook status updates are actually more popular than Twitter itself. I'd rather keep Facebook updated than Twitter anyway - but I won't. Well not directly anyway.

Personally I use my Messenger Personal Message to keep my friends updated with my doings. It's easy to update and consume, and generally works very well - except that there's no history or public viewing. What was needed was a way to publish my WLM PMs to Facebook as status updates. Doing a little digging it seems that there was indeed a WLM application for Facebook (by Microsoft, so it's all legit) that updated your Facebook status on a PM change albeit with an ugly "Posted via Messenger" prefix.

But then I got to thinking: why stop there? After all Twitter was the de facto "purer" technology for this kind of thing on a wider level; and besides I wasn't comfortable with Facebook as a status store anyway. I created an account and checked it out.

And now with the help of a Messenger Plus! plugin which posts updates to Twitter on PM update and an official Twitter Facebook application, I can now use my PM to update my Facebook status. And there's no "Posted by" prefix to boot! But further, by using Twitter as the middleman data store, I'm able to publish my updates to other places including this very blog (see "Live From My Brain" on the right).

There are also RSS feeds if you're especially masochist, and since Twitter has a public API a whole host of other applications and uses for the technology is available for both publishers and consumers, although personally I'm not going to concentrate too much on the social "friend list" aspect of Twitter myself.

So there you have it. For the times when a blog will be overkill, I now have yet another way of spewing my spew.

Monday, September 22


xxxx says (18:00):
    it's all part of the grieving process ...pain, loss, anger
Shak says (18:01):
    i refuse to be a cliche!!!
xxxx says (18:01):
    we're all living breathing cliches
xxxx says (18:02):
    no matter how different and unique we tell ourselves we are, we're just like every other sad pathetic **** around
xxxx says (18:03):
    not you of course though
Shak says (18:11):
    damn straight
xxxx says (18:12):
    you're truly different and unque
    special even
Shak says (18:12):

Sunday, September 21

Who Needs Enemies? Click for more info

Who needs the USA when we're bombing the hell out of ourselves anyway? Perhaps I'm being morbid, but I'm actually beginning to wonder what the relative causality rate is.

The Neverending Tahajjud

(Sung in the style of Limahl's classic.)

Tahajjud or Qiyaam-ul-Layl (literally "standing of the night") isn't a new congregational service being offered by my local mosque, QMT, during the final ten days of Ramadan. They've been doing it for a fair few years and since I was off work at the time I did last year's set (commenting on the appropriateness of bringing a baby to such a thing while I was there) and since I'm a semi-man-of-leisure at the minute I thought I'd take the opportunity again. At the very least it'd get me off the "worship as much as you can in the last ten days of Ramadan" hook.

I mean it's not as bad as it sounds. A couple of rakats, sometimes four, with the recitation of random surahs starting at 3am and taking around an hour isn't that big a deal really. Well at least that's the theory.

"We'll be reading two rakats in the next hour. Qiyaam-ul-Layl means to stand and so we will. If you get tired feel free to sit down for a while during the prayer", the Imam explained. The elitist in me sniggered at anyone who couldn't manage a simple half hour rakat.

And an hour we did indeed take.

For the first rakat.

I honestly couldn't feel my knees by that point, and I'm pretty certain I wasn't the least fit person there. A big part of me was even hoping that the Imam's strategy was to load the first rakat and leave the second with a span of a more normal couple of minutes.

Or not, seeing as the second rakat took another thirty minutes with no sign of the Imam stopping - he only did after someone in the back shouted how the time was now half past four (suhoor, or the beginning of the fast, was due in half an hour, so we had left it pretty late). For those of you interested, I'm told that we had covered Surahs Al-Ankabut, Ar-Rum, Luqman, Al-Ahzab, Saba and the start of Fatir in those ninety minutes.

The Imam promptly finished the prayer, apologising for his absent-mindedness. He seemed genuinely surprised; I suppose that it's a blessing of God that he had lost all track of time - judging by the collective sigh of relief of the congregation unfortunately not many of us had achieved the same state of mind.

I don't think anyone will have to tell him to speed it up a bit tonight.

Saturday, September 20

One to Watch: Strictly Come Dancing Click for more info

Strictly Come Dancing, 18:10 Today, BBC One

Aaah yes: it's that time of the year again, when we all get to witness some ace moves and grooves on the dance floor, all the time enjoying the massive talent on offer (and I'm not just talking about Flavia there), and finally wishing that we could all marry dancers ourselves. Strictly ranks alongside The Apprentice as a reality show actually worth watching and I'll be sure to be following this season even more closely than I did the last.

Oh and of course: Rachel to win. Who else? Cha cha cha!

Friday, September 19

There's Only One Sara(h)

Across my phone, Messenger, email address book and Facebook, I now know approximately ten Sara(h)s. This isn't a brag but more of a recognition - these Sara(h)s include family and friends, as well as those I've met in passing. They seem to be everywhere.

They all seem to be of similar ages too. Something must have happened during the late 70s or early 80s to prompt new parents to name their daughters Sara(h). I can only speculate why it came into fashion; perhaps its auto-Anglicisation had something to do with it? Judging by the names of their siblings, somehow I doubt that.

Of course apart from the name they are all fantastically unique people and try as I might I have not ever noticed anything common between them (apart from their name, of course). The way they spell their names is evenly split, as is the pronunciation ("sey-raa" versus "sar-rar").

I prefer some Sara(h)s to others and of course I also have my favourites. I can't say who these are though (if only because they have the same name and there's no way of indicating which I'd be referring to).

It's also very confusing at times. Sometimes I don't know which one I'm talking to and it takes a while for my poor brain to click. I must have offended more than a few by asking for their surnames, just to make sure, while talking to them on the phone.

Finally it goes without saying that I'm very lucky to know so many Sara(h)s. I'm just glad I only have to write this, my ode to Sara(h), just the one time.

Originally drafted 21st February 2007

Reasoning And The Absolute Truth

I don't think I'll ever lay an absolute claim to knowing Islam - I mean on an obvious level at least I hardly act like the best of Muslims on a day to day basis. However some people still ask me my opinion on certain things, mistakenly in the belief that I'll be of some use (it must be the beard), and admittedly it's pretty engaging talking about religion to the lengths we sometimes go to. Amongst other things, the topics in question have been regarding interfaith marriage, the role of a guardian in a marriage contract, the applicability of Zakah, the number of rakats to read in a full tarawih prayer and even what qualifies someone to enter heaven.

Now I'm hardly the best person to come to for a traditional Islamic opinion - you can read many examples of what could be seen as contrary ideas to traditionalism right on this blog. I'm also not an expert on any of the things we talk about but I always declare my opinions to be my own - I'm always well aware of the Black Box Fiqh I'm spewing out all the time.

But just because these opinions happen to be in the minority doesn't mean that they're arbitrary. No, they're based on an personal understanding I have about Islam, something I find to be just as well-founded as the opinion of anyone else. Unless of course they have a vast amount of more knowledge with which to equip their process of reasoning; though I think it's safe to say that most laymen have had the same amount of exposure to formal knowledge over the years, especially with the Internet around.

However in recent conversations of this type I've come across an attitude that seems to stop any deeper discussion from forming. Some just refuse to believe that an understanding other than their own can ever be correct, or more seriously they fail to realise that they've also used subjective reason to reach the opinions that they have. In fact it's almost as if some people don't enter a conversation about religion to find new answers, but more to affirm the ones they already hold to be true. In this sense of pre-concluding it, the conversation becomes less relevant and useful than it could be.

It's not the opinions themselves I find difficult to accept, but more the total assumption that they're not as subjective as others might be. In fact, I think that anyone who believes that they hold the absolute truth and didn't get there via reasoning is sorely mistaken; and if they make an absolute statement while simply declaring it to be an obvious one, then they have either missed the point of what they heard or read or not thought about it deep enough. I've seen many proofs reduced to a truism without it even being realised - and all of a sudden a ruling or opinion has to be true merely because it's what's being stated.

But surely Islam is black and white? Everyone knows what is allowed and what isn't - it's all written down in ink in the Qurans we all keep on our shelves and carry around in our pockets. And this seems to be the best proof of the correctness and universality of an opinion; after all, we all have the same copy of the Quran... Right?

Well yes, of course. But then how many of us can honestly say that we've distilled our opinions from the text itself? Chances are we've had verses presented to us by a third party, one who adds an external context, and possibly, meaning to what they're quoting. For example, if we compare the humanly authored and edited footnotes of a Quran from Pickthall and compared it to one from a "Wahabist Saudi" we would notice vast differences in the meaning and language taken away from the exact same verses (as presented in a recent Dispatches programme anyway). Even learning the language isn't a total answer since subjectivity will be introduced by your own experiences as well as the way you're taught the language.

There are more than enough clear examples of this lack of clarity - the hijab is an obligation for many women yet merely optional for others, while jihad is something mandated by the Quran and Hadith for some, but a metaphor representing personal struggle for the rest of us. Not that there's anything wrong with these differences per se: I think that subjective interpretation, be it directly from scriptural sources or by deciding which scholar to listen to, is an important part of Islam and in fact what makes it great; the onus being on conscious and personal meaning and realisation of right and wrong rather than fixed rules to follow that you might not actually believe in anyway. In fact Islam would be pretty boring and staid if we all believed the same thing. I don't think that contrary opinions come out of laziness or desire either; I'd had long dropped Fajr if that was the case, and I do hold some opinions that could make life more difficult than it could be with a more traditional opinion.

Don't get me wrong; I don't think that there has to be disagreement for Islam to be effective, but more that it's not ineffective it presents many disparate opinions. It's also important to remember, that on the whole, the majority is agreed upon, and that the stuff in dispute may not be all that practically important anyway - well not enough for it to promote an attitude of absolute correctness.

Furthermore in many of these discussions, as things become filtered into hard do and do not buckets, something seems to be lost in reasons why we follow the religion in the first place - as things increasingly turn black and white, the Islamic spirit seems to disappear. Religious integrity can also suffer; sometimes those who have the most vocal opinions find it the most difficult to follow them. It's easy to imagine that even if there was a clear cut Islam that there would be many of us who wouldn't (couldn't?) follow it.

Unfortunately most people have to think they're absolutely right in order to believe totally in something. I don't think this has to necessarily be the case; in fact it's a close-mindedness that doesn't strengthen belief, but, in my opinion, hinders it. This constant need of others to follow your own opinion, this self-vindication, almost seems like a requirement to faith which would otherwise be insecure - on the other hand I reckon someone who is really secure with their faith wouldn't need anyone else to agree with them.

At the end of the day we choose what we want to believe and follow. Even if that eventually means we see things as strictly right or wrong we as individuals ultimately decide what colour something is. There's nothing wrong with having an absolute stance, but a lot with thinking your stance is obviously the only clear cut one. In fact, I'm not even saying that we're all equally right - just that as humans there is only so much we can do to find the truth. Ultimately we have to rely on mystical things like hidayat and faith to affirm our beliefs but since these are all abstract and immeasurable you can't automatically promote your opinion over that of another.

Finally, I'm not saying that we shouldn't discuss and present our own opinions - preaching and dawah can both be good things. It's when we become pushy that it all goes wrong, especially when we don't realise how subjective we're being. I mean, having an informed opinion is one thing; creating a universal truth out of that opinion is something totally different.

Thursday, September 18

Link of the Day Click for more info

Yes, it may be strange to have the same link recommended twice in a row, but it seems that the cheery guys at have a new webcast to promote. And this time it's aimed at men.

So why does that make a difference? Well I guess that it shouldn't really, and at first glance it's easy to be just as unforgiving as I was last week:

  • Is it permissible and advised to ask from our prospective proposals men or women if they are virgins?
  • How do you reconcile beauty and deen? Is she's not very good looking, then you won't want to be with her, but if she's not on her deen, same situation.
  • Is It permissible to use condoms (for a married couple)?
  • If you find a sister from a decent family and your parents don't have a problem with them but they don't wear hijab and are very liberal. Should I settle and see if I can change her?
  • How can one know that the girl will accept the "leadership" role of the husband if she is also working and possibly making more money than him?
  • If you were rejected once by a family, should you try to pursue again in the future?
  • How would a sister react if a brother approaches her modestly to ask her for her/her wali's contact info or phone number? I'm talking about a modest practicing brother, not one who would be all over her flirting with her to get her number. I mean how would a practicing sister view/respond to that? Would she actually give him the number, or would she find it weird/strange and try to avoid him?
  • How does one go about convincing his parents that he does not *wish* to marry a sister from back home?
But then some questions really grabbed my attention as being pretty relevant and perhaps even a bit interesting:
  • There is a sister whom I am interested in for marriage and I think she has the same feelings towards me. How do I confirm this without crossing any lines?
  • What if a man doesn't like children? He may still need his sexual needs met, but doesn't want children as he has no love for them. Can such a woman be found amongst Muslims?
  • How do you progress getting to 'know' a sister when you're not sure if you want to propose to her? You want to talk or interact with her to get a sense of who she is before you make any type of proposal that you might regret.
  • There are a lot of brothers that would like to propose to a sister, but have absolutely no idea on how to approach the halal way (or are super shy or scared of getting rejected). Can you please advise on what the permissible methods are?
Some of these questions I've even asked myself on these pages.

So is this a bit of a turnaround/backtrack? Well maybe. Okay fine, it definitely is: perhaps last week's webcast wasn't as inane as I thought it was? Perhaps a subset of the questions asked were as relevant to you girly types as some of the above is to me? And perhaps a lot of you find the questions I found interesting above just as obviously redundant and useless as the ones I had listed previously too. I guess not everyone would have found it all useful and perhaps that's okay. Apologies for my flippancy, then, to both the organisers and those who attended.

But will I attend this one? Well the whole Ramadan timetable makes it tough but even if I was free I'm not sure I would. See, despite accepting the validity of the questions themselves, I'm still not sure they are ones that can be generally answered in a simple webcast.

But then perhaps any answers, even the ones inapplicable to you, would be of massive help? Heck, perhaps just asking the questions in the first place would be facilitating too?

Wednesday, September 17


Shak says (15:37):
    how you doing keeping your libido in check
    sweet nothings over telehone/email?
xxxx says (15:37):
    being busy
    but its not libido
Shak says (15:37):
    always helps!
xxxx says (15:37):
    i think its adulation
    it shifts around with the day
Shak says (15:38):
    give me a sec while i look tha tup
xxxx says (15:38):
    i think im turning into a girl
Shak says (15:38):
    thats what girls do
    maybe love is a vector
    for some kind of feminist virus
xxxx says (15:38):
xxxx says (15:39):
    you used the 'l' word
    i expected better from you
Shak says (15:39):
xxxx says (15:39):
Shak says (15:39):
    i meant... "creepy obesssion for someone who is ok but youd be alright without"
xxxx says (15:41):
    cut the last few words
Shak says (15:42):
    how... romantic
xxxx says (15:44):
    shut up!
    decolonise it
Shak says (15:46):
    ah man
    i was gonna blog this
    but now youve used "decolonise" there's no way i can keep it anonymous
xxxx says (15:47):
    let them figure it out
    i'll appreciate the fame
Shak says (15:47):
    lol don't say i didnt warn you....

Monday, September 15


xxxx says (14:08):
    how's it going anyway?
xxxx says (14:09):
    you missing you 9 to 5?
Shak says (14:09):
    no way


    its going well, really engaged atm


Shak says (14:10):
    gets me up on mondays, has me working on the weekends, its what i think abou tmost of the time
    its almost like having a girlfriend i reckon
xxxx says (14:10):
    lol. fool. when do you think you'll finish it?

Game: Bomberman Blast (Wii) Click for more info

After the still great yet slightly limited Virtual Console version of Bomberman, I approached this, the Wiiware (and so exclusive) version with a bit of trepidation. It was the promise of 8-player battles that finally got me to play it, and I'm quite glad that I did.

Just to be clear, you CAN play 8-player locally so you don't have to haul yourself online just to have the uniquely manic experience of blowing up seven of your friends. This is a good thing since I don't feel that Bomberman has ever really worked online - part of the fun is screaming at each other in person.

But the number of players isn't really enough to make a Bomberman game great, and so I'm glad to report that the game itself holds up too. The lack of any single player adventure mode meant that Hudson could finally focus on the classic bomb game proper and as a result we have some fantastic game modes (King and Countdown are superb) and levels, things I usually found to be pretty superfluous in previous games.

Blast is also up to date with respect to items - we now have shields and rocket boosters, and the ability to hide yourself as an actual bomb too. All sound like dilutions too far but in practise they do add rather than take from the game. There's still no sign of remote bombs though.

The best thing about Blast, however, is the accessibility. With everyone able to win it really is fun for all, something rarely achieved in a game with such depth.

If you haven't guessed by now, I think Bomberman Blast is a definite must have for the Wii.

Saturday, September 13

When Are Sorted Lists Better Than Hashmaps?

Maps are wonderful things. Unlike arrays or lists, they are keyed and so allow O(1) access, which means their size doesn't affect how long it takes to retrieve a specific (that is, known) item. In an array (of key/value pairs) you'd have to check each and every item for what you're looking for (which is in O(n), or depends on the length of the list).

This can be improved upon if the array is sorted in which case a Binary Search (check the middle value and see if what you're looking for is in the first or second half and then repeat) which would give an access time of O(log n). Unfortunately sorting takes some effort too - either by searching for where to insert a new value (using binary search, above) in which case you'd also have to worry about shifting existing values up a space (if we've implemented using an array, say) or sorting on retrieval (which then only has to be done the one time after each insert). Either way, sorting takes a massive O(n log n) time.

So to recap:

Hashmap: Insert O(1); Retrieval O(1)
Sorted List: Insert O(log n); Retrieval O(log n)

Hmm. It's not looking very good for a sorted list then, is it?

There are issues with maps though. First up, their access speed comes at a cost of space - generally to manage the keys and values store. This may not be an issue for those of us with plenty of memory, although for enterprise applications dealing with millions of items it may be something to think about.

Keys in a hashmap also need to be hashable, or in other words reducible to a unique (or at least relatively rare) number or index, and this can be a hard problem if keys are technically very similar. Having said that, we can define our own hashing functions if we know what kind of keys we'll have.

But there is another use of a hashmap where it doesn't do as well as a list would, and that's in iteration. Although traversing items takes O(n) time in both hashmaps and sorted lists, the straightforwardness of a list will make it faster in most, if not all, cases which require processing of each item in it.

Finally, generally in the real world talking about big-oh or O(n) time can be a bit misleading as the hidden constants involved may outweigh the benefits taken from a good algorithm. So if it takes ages to figure out the hash of a key, it may just be worth a binary search instead (provided the cost of comparing is low too).

So to recap, although a hashmap is generally the best way to store data you'll need random access to, there are times when a sorted list might be better. Things to consider are:

  1. The number of times you'll be randomly accessing items in the collection.
  2. The amount of available space.
  3. The cost of hashing a key versus comparing them during a binary search.
  4. The number of items being stored (a binary search on a hundred items won't take very long).
  5. The relative staticness of the data - if a list isn't added to after initialisation, it only has to be sorted once.
  6. The need to iterate through each item of a data structure.
  7. The need to have instant access to a sorted view of the data.
In my current project, I will be using regular hashmaps for static and globally accessible caches, and sorted lists for those situations where a collection will be repeatedly created (to save space), regularly iterated over, and rarely randomly accessed.

Friday, September 12

Link of the Day Click for more info

Are You Still Single? Join The Marriage Revolution!

Apart from the fantastic URL (one which I can't believe hadn't been taken already) it's worth visiting the above site for yet another indication of the sorry state some single Muslims are in. Not that I'm berating what the organisers are doing; judging by some of the feedback they seem to be helping more than hindering:

Jazak Allahu Khayran for organizing The Marriage Revolution. I can already feel a revolution within me. And I believe that is the first step: to learn and revolutionize my thinking and behavior and then go to others.
Quite. No, what's ultimately disturbing for me is how these questions have to be asked in the first place, and then further require a webcast of all things to have them actually answered. Are people seriously asking the following gems?
  • Why in the world are guys scared of *overeducated* women?
  • For a sister who had reached an older age (27+) trying to wait for the 'right' person, is it ok for her to continue waiting or should she just lower her standards and settle?
  • From a brother's perspective, what is the best way for an interested sister to express her interest in a brother without coming off as too strong or shameless?
  • Will getting married mean I have to kiss my personal life goodbye?
  • How do I find a brother who will want to marry me if I can not provide him with a family?
  • I have a fear of emotional intimacy and find it difficult to trust people, what can I do to change this? Should I refrain from getting married?
  • Why are so many educated, professional, and pious Muslim women (in their late 20s, early 30s) unable to find husbands?
I reckon this says more about those who attend such things than those they are actually asking about. But hey, what do I know? As the embedded video says, I obviously don't understand how serious and complex the issues are - but I have found out that, apparently, as a man my focus on career (hah, they're obviously not talking about me here) conflicts with me wanting someone "overqualified" (sure, because such a thing exists). Which is a shame considering how hot I reckon doctors are.

If you are attending the webcast, well good luck and I sincerely hope you gain value from it (just don't pay anyone any money, m'kay?). Heck, maybe I'll attend just so I can throw tomatoes at the audience.

Something I Thought I'd Never Do

Last night I did something I never thought I'd do.

I actually used to pour scorn on those, some really close friends, who did this once, maybe twice a day.

I figured that doing this wasn't natural, not meant to be.

But last night the opportunity presented itself and where I would usually dismiss the idea as crazy, this time I thought to myself: why not live a little? Take a risk for once and not think about the consequences or what other people think? Make this the start of a new attitude, I told myself.

And to be honest it did feel a bit weird at first, even causing me to feel a little bit sick. But then after a while I began to understand why so many others did it too.

And all the time I never felt like I was doing anything wrong. On the contrary: I never before had felt so clean. If I'm honest, a part of me still thinks it a strange and unnerving thing to do, perhaps even unnecessary. But I will carry on nonetheless.

Last night I did something I never thought I'd do.

Last night I brushed my tongue.

Thursday, September 11


Shak says (12:37):
    found a bird yet?
xxxx says (12:37):
    oh by the way my bro got hitched


Shak says (12:38):
    made it befo rehis 30th :D
xxxx says (12:38):
    maybe ill find one too and then can do a double whammy
Shak says (12:38):
    do it
Shak says (12:39):
    we're hitting shelf age man
xxxx says (12:39):
    init man
Shak says (12:39):
    i mean hey
    dont worry about me
    i'll have yyyy
    we'll be bachelors together
xxxx says (12:42):
    looks like im currently in ur club


Shak says (12:43):
    any change in strategy man?
    i have like... less than a month man
xxxx says (12:43):
    havent considered one yet
Shak says (12:43):
    you got time
Shak says (12:44):
    youre still young
xxxx says (12:44):
    my bday on ****
    ill be 30 then
Shak says (12:44):
    yeh well
    im on the ****


Shak says (12:44):
    so you got 4 days more than me
    lucky *******
xxxx says (12:44):
    those 4 days will pass by quick time
Shak says (12:44):
    hey man
    dont waste them
    i wish i had those four days :(
xxxx says (12:45):
    what for? the required xtra time to find a bird ?
Shak says (12:45):
    hey man
    you never know
    with that attitude you'll never get married

Northern And Non-Muslim? Apply Within

WARNING: Some things, well actually a lot of things, are likely to offend in this post. While that is not my intention (honestly), I do recognise the sensitivity of the topic and so humbly ask your forgiveness in advance. And if that doesn't work, let me just remind those of you it's relevant to that we shouldn't get angry in this Holy Month. Anyway...

A road trip is always a good time to formulate a theory or two. The confines of a car means you have to talk to each other about something, most would be tired after a long day driving and this lowers defences and finally just being away from the usual environment of home opens a person up to new stimuli and thoughts.

As an example take a recent trip with friends to Birmingham for a lunch date; although most of the day was taken up by the fabulous home-cooked meal, many of us had other business that we took care of, some of which gave us the opportunity to meet new people. And of course when I say "people" I actually mean "girls". Would this be of any interest if I didn't?

On the way back Someone[1] observed how nice those whom they met were. Friendly and fun, open and transparent, full of humility and modesty; they knew how to talk to people they had just met, had manners and were pretty both inside and out. Someone even said that they'd make perfect partners, and lamented about how the girls they had met for rishta purposes back home were nothing like those we met that day.

The discussion then moved to figuring out why such a disparity existed. The most obvious suggestion was that of location - London doesn't have the friendliest of people in general and it's not a stretch to assume the same applying to its women too. This would fall in line with the general stereotype that divides those from the North and those from the South; maybe it's all just Northern thing?

But could that be all it was? I mean those in the car weren't exactly globetrotters but we all had been around enough to know that the location alone couldn't explain it all. The thing is that there was another attribute that we all (objectively, I'll add) noticed: that of religious backgrounds. In short, although these ladies were all of an Asian background, none happened to be Muslim.

Someone proposed that it was the different upbringing that non-Muslim girls had which made all the difference - the possible higher exposure to those of the opposite sex for example. They also may not have some of the religious weight on their backs that their sisters from Islam have - or at least have it applied on themselves in a different way to Muslim girls. It could also be some kind of overcompensation, a hostility built up because it had to, something talked about here in a better and more appropriate way than I ever could.

Although upbringing could be a major factor in both these cases, I didn't notice any qualities in these girls that a Muslim from London couldn't also have - after all it wasn't like we found a lack of hijab or an ability to eat non-Halal meat attractive. There was nothing non-Islamic (or even non-London) about the qualities we found to be of value. In that sense it also wasn't much a case of us wanting what we couldn't have (although I suppose some Londoners are loath to crossing the M25).

Of course each criteria, both of location and religious background, require much more analysis than a simple post in a blog can give (or none at all depending on your stance), so I won't go on any further except to say that the reasons probably don't matter. And just to qualify it once again: the above isn't necessarily my own opinion but came from the group as a whole, one that was of mixed genders and North/South backgrounds.

In fact after coming back to London and gauging the opinions of others I found that Someone wasn't the first to acknowledge the attractiveness of NMNs (Non-Muslim Northerners); some even went as far as to wholeheartedly agree with it. And of course it goes without saying that this wasn't just applicable to girls - Muslim Londoner blokes seem an even poorer choice when placed alongside the wider alternatives (and I say that as one). For some it might even be worth travelling outside of London after all - and at today's petrol prices that's no small feat.

In short, if you're Muslim and live in London then, well, you're probably screwed. Unless of course you raise your game - and I'm sure there's plenty of NMNs around to show you how it's supposed to be done.

[1] "Someone" being the vague, anonymous and so blameless scapegoat in this story.

Tuesday, September 9

Doshing Out Food

So how many Muslims can claim to have actually fed a homeless person this Ramadan? Well at least 70 or so can, that number being the (conservative) estimate for the turn out at today's flash mob.

It turns out that I was right about some things and wrong about others. First up there was no struggle for ownership or control - quite the opposite in fact, as many of us wandered around aimlessly at first waiting for someone to actually tell us what to do.

It turned out that it wasn't that difficult a job to take part though; since we were already in an established "food doshing out point" (a technical term) there were many people willing to rid us of all our wares (a bit too willing perhaps, as some struggled to feed themselves as the sun went down. Or maybe that was just me). Some enterprising (and okay, I'll admit it, brave) hijabi socialites actually started conversing with those they were feeding.

Maghrib was offered at one of the many university prayer rooms nearby after which I rushed off to make it home for Tarawih prayer so it wasn't even obtrusive to my normal routine. It had even stopped raining for the whole session. Unfortunately we weren't as good at clearing up as we were feeding people but I'll put that down to the excitement and poor light than our lack of care.

All in all we were there for a good 45 minutes; hardly flash, sure, but totally mob... but when you can claim to have actually fed someone who needed it, before even breaking your own 14 hour fast, who really cares about the semantics anyway?

For those of you who missed it, there's talk about one being held at the same time and same place next Tuesday. Of course it won't be as cutting edge and... punk as the one today, but if what you've read sounds at all appealing then you could do worse than turning up yourself and seeing how it goes.

Monday, September 8

Rated Click for more info

Not that you could ever tell by the level of comments, but I do actually get a lot of feedback on the stuff I write here (who knew shoes would get so many people so excited? Actually wait; don't answer that). However I'm pretty certain that there are quite a few who won't get the chance to say whether they liked or hated a particular post - not that feedback is required to read these pages or anything; all comments are appreciated but sometimes take a bit too long to compose.

But now, thanks to Outbrain, a simple 5-star rating system has been added to each post. As is the case with comments, it's all anonymous and I won't be able to tell who rated what how - there's even no registration required and all you need to do is simply click on the rating you want to give (and your choice can be changed later too).

Since I don't have time to write as much as I used to it would be handy to see what gets read and what doesn't and the feedback might be a factor in what gets put up here in the future. In the meantime, if you could just review the last ten posts or so just so I know that the system is working that would be awesome.

Enjoy! And remember, although I'd love everyone to be kind and complimentary, I'd prefer your honesty much more.

Friday, September 5

A Flash Mob Iftari Click for more info

I'm not quite sure exactly how flash a well organised and long lasting mob can actually be.

I await the inevitable, forming of a mini-caliphate as some struggle to own something that's meant not to be owned.

I also detest how we sometimes like to prefix current fads with "Islamic-" or "Muslim-" and think we're being creative in doing so.

And as it all becomes fashionable and popular and the current social in-thing-to-do it will diminish the whole point and edginess of the thing. Heck, they may as well get City Circle to sponsor it already; maybe they should go as far as to ban lawyers from attending (okay, that's not fair. Perhaps it should be anyone in a suit. Or with a job even).

Finally, they had better make facilities available for Maghrib prayer on the day.

But now, with all my misgivings out of the way, I have to admit that I'm curious to see how it all pans out. And hey, if I get points for doing a good deed too who am I to be cynical?

So remember: 7pm Lincoln's Inn Fields, Tuesday 9th September. You can follow the link for more details including the rationale and intention behind the whole thing (which in itself kinda defeats the point too. But hey, I'll stop now).

I'll be there, and I promise to leave all my complaints at home.

Joke of the Day

A man asks a girl if she'll sleep with him for a million pounds and she accepts. He then offers her 20 quid:

"What kind of girl do you think I am?" asks the outraged lady.

"We've already established that," responds the man, "now we're just negotiating the price."

(Lifted from here.)

Islamic Chickens and Eggs

I once heard a brilliant quote in passing. Unfortunately I can't credit it but I recount it here anyway:

There are two times when we're in most need of prayer. Firstly when we feel that we don't need to, and secondly when we feel that we can't.

I find it pretty bizarre how some people don't wish to practice religion (be it Islam or any other) until they're actually practising. Stated in those terms I'm sure the paradox is clear to everyone, yet for some reason not being "ready" is still an oft-used reason for not behaving in a manner the person themselves thinks they should.

Not that I'm concerned with people not practising per se; there are tons of things I'm told to do and think about differently so no one is being critical of us being lazy. It's just the precise excuse - that of not being good or worthy enough - which gets me in a muddle.

I admit that on the surface that this is a noble sentiment. It's very humbling to genuinely consider yourself not good enough for anything including Islam and is of some use provided you use that self-awareness to improve yourself. But dig a bit deeper and it starts to make less sense. Taking this mindset to the extreme, it's arguable whether anyone is or will be ready enough anyway. There's always room for improvement within all of us, so how ready is ready? And what happens if you wait too long and miss your chance altogether?

Let's take Hajj as a commonly used example. This obligatory pilgrimage is oft-delayed by people who think they're not worthy enough to take part - perhaps it's an internal state of mind, or maybe it's a practical thing (they don't pray yet). The thing is that Hajj is a journey in itself and by taking part in it there's a good chance that it will remove the misgivings you have about yourself anyway. In fact just taking out your wallet and buying the ticket shows a sense of readiness. You don't need any other qualifications to do that.

On a technical level Hajj is an obligation or fard too - and so isn't qualified by how religious you already happen to be. It exists in its own uniform space - and since many of us fast without fail even though we don't regularly pray at other times indicates that we actually realise how one thing doesn't have to rely on another. And finally in my opinion you can't fail Hajj due to a lack of prerequisites (and even if you think you can, well, you can always do it again).

The trick with Hajj and any other good practice is to not automatically assume that only the best will do. A poorly performed Hajj (if such a thing exists) is better than none, and praying as much as you can is better than not at all[1]. All arrows of good point is in the same direction anyway.

In the same way you don't need to cleanse your whole way of life in order to get some good out of an action - so you don't have to grow a long and flowing beard, wear a hijab or give up watching Heroes or Lost in order to start a journey in another part of your life. Personally speaking there's a lot in my own behaviour and character which I can change for the better, and hopefully will, but the mere existence of this room for improvement (which will never truly disappear anyway) won't stop me from praying for example. This accessibility for all, although not exclusive to Islam, is a pretty attractive quality.

I'm not condoning picking and choosing which parts of Islam you want to practise - in fact it's quite the opposite. We should each strive to do as much as we possibly can. However we shouldn't and can't use the fact that we're not good enough to stop us from improving. In that sense this isn't just about Hajj or praying though, it's about us improving ourselves as human beings too. Will you stop trying to be a nicer person because you're mean? Or perhaps not have kids until you're a parent?

My advice? Don't wait for a sense of readiness to be given to you - just get up and do things with the intention of getting that sense of readiness yourself. Don't worry about failing or relapsing either - God-willing the efforts you have already made are safe and locked down and will not be deducted if you think you've messed up later on. And if you're still not happy with how you acted, well then do it again and again until you are. Just don't be a barrier to your own self.

Originally drafted 10th September 2007.

[1] I should qualify this by saying how important it actually is to read five time daily prayers - reading them all puts one a few hundred leagues ahead of someone who prays 90% of the time. But the point is that praying 10% of the time puts you leagues ahead of someone who doesn't pray at all. Think of them as exponential increases or something.

Wednesday, September 3

Link of the Day Click for more info does Ramadan.

I hate e-cards. In fact, for me they come second only to anonymous text messages in their lack of feeling, and like the short message service manages to suck out any sentiment you may have had as you hit the "send to all my friends who happen to Muslim, I don't actually care which". I'd rather you ignore me than make me one of your generic contacts.

That said currently have a range of Ramadan themed e-cards which are so hilarious and satirical I just had to give them kudos here. And as an added bonus, since they're so edgy and of an acquired taste people will only send them to specific contacts (i.e. put some actual real life thought into it). Brilliant! I've whacked my favourite below, but make sure you actually visit the site to see the rest.

Oh, and thanks to Fuad for the link.

Tuesday, September 2

Fall Season 2008

It's that time of the year again folks! The time when I don't go out much, don't get any work done and generally not move much from the sofa - telly season has once again kicked off.

Due to various writers wanting to get paid a bit more, 2007/8 wasn't a very good season - in fact it feels like normal telly as a whole has been missing for a while. We had stunted series of all the major shows, with some like 24 not being shown at all. Mercifully this was a good thing as I finally had time to do other things; and in that sense I'm kinda dreading this year's potentially fuller season.

That said, there's not much change this time around. The regulars are present in full force, with Heroes, One Tree Hill, House, Little Mosque and Lost all coming back for more. 24 also rejoins the schedule hopefully making up for its marked absence. Prison Break continues to redefine itself (not least because there doesn't seem to be any more prisons left to break out of). I will choose to pass on the Cherry Hill spin off. I can't seem to find any info on Family Guy, but I expect there to be more fun there too.

This year also marks the end of Smallville (hooray!), the one show that, despite its inability to just die has kept me watching for so long. We should also see the fifteenth and final season of ER; but I'm sure that will be an event all in itself.

New eagerly anticipated additions include the new Joss Whedon (of the magnificent Buffy, Angel and Firefly fame) project Dollhouse and, of course, we all get to go back to Beverly Hills with 90210. And although there is yet to be any news of a second season I really hope that there'll be more Aliens in America to watch.

Ooooh I honestly can't wait. Square eyes, here I come.


Although the quality of the content on these pages seems to be consistently poor, there had been a noticeable (by at least by one friend, although since they're a writer they probably don't count) decline in the quality of writing, the unforgivable level of spelling mistakes in particular.

Well the good news is that no, I'm not getting lazy or old (well perhaps the latter...) and my spelling is just as poor as it's always been. However the crutch on which I leaned on for so long, namely Blogger's spell check, had actually been failing me for months and, worse still, it was happening without me even knowing it. In fact, as a bit of a grammar nazi during my spare time I'm actually a bit embarrassed by the whole thing.

But now that I've figured out how to actually use the spell checker properly[1], I hope that it won't be as bad as it has been. By way of apology, I've even gone back all the way to when the spelling got really bad (which was some time in April) and corrected the mistakes within all the posts since.

You can all now sleep more easily.

[1] Just in case you're interested it seems that Blogger's editor no longer keeps your spelling corrections unless you exit spell check mode by clicking the "Resume editing" button. I'm not sure if this behaviour occurs during Compose mode (I use HTML), but it's definitely a change in behaviour from old.

Monday, September 1

Are You Hungry Yet?

I open with a text sent to me last year, a commentary on the various strategies we use to make the whole fasting process that much more accessible:

Ah the futility of drinking too much water
-F.A., 6am, Saturday 15th September 2007.

Here's wishing you all a fun and fulfilling Ramadan, regardless of annoying spam text messages and Tarawih prayer which finishes past 11pm.

Amazingly it seems that everyone is on the same page regarding the start of the holy month - the planets may have actually aligned this year (perhaps the crescent was blue last night?). Judging by the confusion leading up to today it's probably more a case of randomness coming full circle though.

For those of you still on the daily grind: you have my thoughts with you. Having said that, it was still a struggle for me to wake up at 8:45am this morning. Snigger.