Sunday, August 30

Video of the Day Click for more info

Here is a 20 minute talk by Schwartz (via the brilliant TED) on how the offer of too many choices is quite debilitating to us as individuals, and further that we should encourage more limited options than what we currently in order to increase our general well being and happiness. The talk is quite long, so here are the highlights:

  • Too much choice paralyses, since the process of determining the best choice is both onerous (technically) and something which makes us anticipate regret ("what if I pick the wrong one?").
  • Once a choice is made, the maximum potential satisfaction has been reduced since any flaw or issue arising from making that choice (something that is inevitable since nothing is perfect) will go on to convince you that you might have made the wrong choice (kind of like a realised feeling of regret).
  • The offer of multiple choices leads you to have higher expectations for the choice you eventually make. So I expect tapered slim-fit jeans to fit better than the generic ones I bought before. And perhaps they do, but since they're still not perfect I feel they don't, more.
  • When there was less choice, you could blame an imperfect choice on the world. Now that you have more, you can only blame yourself.
Although the main focus of examples was on consumerism, it was clear that the same theories apply to work and even relationships and marriage (hence the tag).

Faced with so many choices, we lose the ability to objectively see the benefit and good in the choices we made and fail to trust our decision making skills. So the secret to happiness now? Well it's basically to have low expectations (15:06), embrace a "fishbowl" and the limited options it presents to us, instead of aiming for the "anything is possible" we're often told to aim for and finally, to see settling as something that's empowering and decisive rather than compromising.

EDIT: Now embedding the YouTube video. Cheers Mash!

Wednesday, August 26

Link of the Day Click for more info

Ramadan 2009 - The Big Picture

Just like last year, presents us with another fantastic array of pictures representing the global start of the holy month. Quite strangely some seem quite familiar, although that's no bad thing.

My picks:

  • #3 for the numbers
  • #9 for reminding me of my time there
  • #22 for the old schoolness
  • #33 for the optics
Have a look and let me know what your favourites are. Oh and here's a tip: use j/k to navigate instead of page up/down.

Monday, August 24

Sunday, August 23


Shak says (19:57):
    ooh cheryls back :D
xxxx says (19:57):
xxxx says (19:58):
    she wanst looking so good last night though
    didnt like the hair
Shak says (19:58):
    her haior was the best bit
    so long
xxxx says (19:58):
Shak says (19:58):
    i dont like this new format tho
xxxx says (19:58):
    she had it done up like some beehive thing
xxxx says (19:59):
    well ... am guessing the audience gotta pay to watch
    so it'll ake em even more money
Shak says (19:59):
    the britains got talent model probab did a lot
xxxx says (19:59):
    i tihnk


xxxx says (20:00):
    cheryl gotta be the best kinda wife
    she's fit
    got her own money
    and if you cheat on her
    she takes you back
Shak says (20:01):
    quote of the day i think

Number Five

As I hit this, the fifth birthday of my dear blog, I wonder if its current state justifies the milestone such a number implies. I'll be the first to admit that this latest year has probably been the worst of all five, but what's worse is how a part of me wonders whether I'll ever get it back to how it used to be (having over a thousand hits per week is a nice thing to claim after all).

Now that I'm doing something I love with my free time, perhaps I literally have something better to do than to write. This is a shame, since it'd only take a bit of time management to write something, especially since I have over 50 draft posts waiting to be written up and published.

So no, perhaps it's not the lack of time which is the cause of this ennui. Perhaps it's more to do with how I have nothing left to say, or rather more accurately, no one left to say it to? There comes a stage where after talking so much, often to no effect, you wonder what the point of it all is. Or perhaps I've now actually have just said it all already.

Whatever the case I have no doubt that this blog will be around for the next year and thereafter; if anything (and much to the chagrin of almost everyone who still reads this) I'll still be reviewing the films, games and restaurants that I have the chance to check out. And of course there's always the chance that I'll get over myself and return to writing some of the stuff many of you have said you've enjoyed in the past.

Until then though, thanks for sticking around. Happy Birthday, Radio Shak.

Thursday, August 20

Film: The Time Traveler's Wife Click for more info

For those of you who didn't know, I absolutely adored the book on which this film is based. I thought it had some brilliant characters, was extremely accessible and overall just superbly written. And as is always the case with films based on books you enjoy you always just have to watch them; each time with the expectation of it sucking badly. After all, how can a film ever give a book justice (LOTR fans need not respond to this one).

Well, I'm glad to say that TTTW wasn't all that bad. Yes it was a cut down version, a TTTW-lite if you would, but it captured the essence of the book pretty well. Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana both do fabulous jobs of their respective roles and the film was well shot and directed. It did lag a bit in the middle (something you don't feel as much with the book) but not enough to ruin the film as a whole.

So yes, surprisingly this comes wholeheartedly recommended; but only if you promise to read the book too, since that's even better.

New Music

Fire Burning - Sean Kingston

I always manage to get a theme for a trip away and Edmonton was no different - Fire Burning was repeatedly heard and sung throughout the past three weeks enough to cement its position, and as such it also makes my playlist. It's actually pretty awesome too.

Wednesday, August 19

Goodbye Edmonton

The large tail end of the holiday was spent just chilling with family and doing the more relatively mundane things - swimming, bowling, ice skating - which I don't get to do enough back in the UK.

But that was the theme on this trip, and indeed previous trips to Edmonton: chilling out with friends and family instead of tourism. As such, there were plenty of dinner invites, poker games and late-night chats too. Awesome.

To be honest I could have stayed a week longer if Ramadhan wasn't around the corner (as well as the small problem of having to dish out for a new return ticket). But even if I could have extended my time here, I would have eventually have had to leave at some point anyway. As always a whole bunch of people, three cars worth, came to see us off at the airport and however cheesy it was also a bit sad to see them all on the other side of airport security, waving us on.

So yes although I am glad to be back, I had a wonderful time away. I've decided one thing for sure - I definitely won't be waiting another eight years to go back.

Random piccies from my time away can be found here.

Friday, August 14

Film: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Click for more info

I'll skip all the usual stuff - this is typical (and so, good) Ice Age fair and there's no need to tell you what you'll probably already know. I will add that the 3D, although still headache-inducing, is the best I've seen, and how Simon Pegg does a fabulous Buck the Weasel. Other than that it's standard fare and so definitely recommended.

Wednesday, August 12

West Edmonton Mall Click for more info

I guess one of Edmonton's many claims to fame is the shopping mall situated in the west of the city. According to Wikipedia, it was the largest in the world until 2004, now sitting at number five. To be honest it never did actually seem that big on my previous visits, most likely due to how I mentally discounted both the water and amusement parks enclosed on-site.

Yes, that's right: WEM has, amongst other things, a 20,000 m2 water park and a 20+ ride amusement park attached to it. Other attractions include an ice skating rink, and indoor lake (with wildlife and submarines) and the more "regular" mini-golf and cinemas. It's actually quite amazing when I think about it, and that's before we even look at the shops.

Although I've only ever previously been to the mall to shop (and check out a Britney Spears mini-concert), having young kids in the group meant we got to check out some of the attractions this time around. We spent a stint in Galaxyland, riding on the Mindbender roller-coaster (which seemed to be more literal than figurative) but spent most of our time in the World Waterpark, riding the wave pool and checking out the slides - the 78m straight drop of the Sky Screamer offering me the best thrills.

It not often that I can say how quickly six hours in a shopping mall have flown by, and that's with not even touching an actual shop. But then I guess that's what makes WEM such an impressive place. I guess it takes a place like Edmonton - big enough to host such a mall but too small to have all these places housed separately - for WEM to exist, but whatever the reason for its existence it's definitely a place to check out if you're ever in the area.

Tuesday, August 11

Film: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Click for more info

And so it goes on: once again those in charge spend the wrong kind of money creating a film adaptation of a book that deserves a bit more than what it actually gets. Yes, it's difficult adapting a book of this size, yes Harry Potter is a difficult franchise anyway but still. A part of me expected a bit more.

One for the fans, of course, just expect to be disappointed. Especially with the climax. Oh well, only a couple to go...

Saturday, August 8

Film: Love Aaj Kal Click for more info

Cute little story about a perfect couple who amicably decide to split up rather than maintain a long distance (and therefore apparently doomed) relationship. It's a simple idea which in turn has been simply executed as each character finally figures out what the rest of us do in the first five minutes; that what they have is actually worth fighting for.

Technically the film is adequate. It's well produced, spans three countries and has a script which complements the story well. Acting is good with Deepika looking mightily droolworthy throughout. I found the music to be disappointing, but in return the film manages to perfectly weigh in at around the two hour mark.

So despite not being totally amazing, I think I'd have to recommend Love Aaj Kal. It's a film that requires little effort or investment to get a lot out of; just like how all good Bollywood should be,

Book: Twilight, Stephenie Meyer Click for more info

As I've previously stated, it was a relatively low key trip to Edmonton, Canada that got me into Harry Potter. I didn't have much to do, so thought "what the hell?" and with trepidation gave it a go. I'm glad that I did of course, being the big Harry Potter fan that I am now. The experience taught me literally to never judge a book by its cover, and since one of the cousins I'm staying with here in Edmonton has all of the Twilight saga I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to check those out too. Unfortunately it didn't pay off this time. Quite the opposite in fact. Twilight was bad.

I'd be the first to admit that I'm a sappy guy. I love rom-coms, thrive on teen drama and get sucked in by literary romance. So no, I don't think my opinion of this book simply stems from me being a guy who "just doesn't get it". For a start, I like to think I can distinguish between good and bad literature - and since even Twilight fans themselves admit that the books are badly written I think we can accept that this ain't no literary masterpiece.

But it's not necessary technical excellence which makes a good book good. You also need a good plot, good characterisation and a sense of realism (which itself doesn't have to be possible in real life). We'll tackle these in order, shall we?

The plot is non-existent. For the most part it revolves around Bella; what she eats for breakfast, what classes she has in school and what she wants to wear each morning. Okay, there is the non-trivial aspect of her relationship with Edward, but this is presented in such a mundane and haphazard way it hardly qualifies as something that a whole book can ride on. Toward the end things change a bit - for the better - and we're at last treated to a bit of progressive drama, but it's hardly worth it over all.

Characterisation is admittedly pretty good. The problem here is that the characters are all annoying waste-of-spaces - Bella being a self involved little cow and Edward a bit too inhumane (which might actually be the point). They're extremely imbalanced both in how the emotions, thoughts and actions are demonstrated and what they actually are; anyone reading would think there's extreme levels of puberty hormones in the water of Forks.

Finally there's the level of realism or believability. This stuff was unreal; and no, not just 'cos it involved vampires (you're reading the blog of a die-hard Buffy fan, remember?). It read like a cheap Mills & Boon novel with talk of "marble-like-chests", "angel like perfection" and numerous breaths being taken away. There's only so many "you complete me"s one can take before wanting to slap all those involved.

There really isn't much good I can say about Twilight, and I'm honestly baffled at the popularity of such a book. That such cheap and shallow literature has made it so big is kinda scary, especially when this success revolves around such a basic premise (that's Edward, by the way). I've not been so disappointed since reading The DaVinci Code.

Apparently this was the best book in the series. I shan't be reading the other three. So no, no recommendations here; if you want good a good love story pick up something like The Time Traveller's Wife instead.

Friday, August 7


Coming to Edmonton usually means a road trip to either Jasper or Banff. Each are over 200 miles away and so require sleeping over; it's the perfect set up for the typical loading up of cars with people and food which us Asians are oh-so-good at.

This time we decided on Japser. Due to the wedding and how holidays have been booked, we only had two days and one night to play with - the first day was a bit of a wash out, both literally and due to the inefficiencies of traveling with 18 people (things like eating and peeing each take a while).

Although it was around ten years ago that we did this tour (last time I came we chose Banff instead), it was all so familiar. The roads, the trees, the lakes and mountains were all the same as they were. We snacked on the same food, listened to the same type of music and fell asleep on each other just like we used to. We even stopped at the same picnic spot by the same lake (there are many to choose from). As such, all those feelings from such a long time ago came flooding back; it was as poignant as it could get and I felt like a kid (even though I was 20 when I last came).

Our stop at Mount Edith ended before we even stepped out of the cars due to rain, a shame since I wanted to compare it to what I so vividly remember. Instead I got my memory fix at Athabasca Falls; this really was just how I remembered it. I even tried looking for my name that I had carved into the wooden railings so long ago. Apart from that failed attempt we didn't really do much on the first day; it ended with us cooking dinner indoors at the lodge we booked, hanging out and playing poker.

Weather-wise, day two was much better. We drove south to the Colombian Icefield, an awesome concept in theory if not in execution (the tour doesn't take you to the actual field itself) and then on to Lake Louise. I won't bother going in to too much detail since most of the pictures will be going up at some point and it'd be better to just check those out.

We ended the day with an awesome outdoor dinner of BBQ'd burgers and sausages, lamenting how quickly the two days had passed. With so many people a lot of time was inevitably wasted just moving around and so we didn't get as much done as the millage on our trips indicated, but this wasn't that much of an issue since it was all about the company anyway. The five hour drive home didn't seem that long, although to be fair I was sleeping for most of it.

I look forward to visiting again in a couple of years. Perhaps there'll even be new people in the group with which to experience it all with then.

Tuesday, August 4

Zafar and Nadia

The following is the transcript of the speech I gave during the valima.

Thank you. I've been asked to say a few words on behalf of the groom, Zafar. Firstly I'd like to thank you all for coming to celebrate such a happy occasion, we hope that you've all had a good time. I'd also like to personally congratulate the bride and groom and say how gorgeous Nadia Butt... I mean Shaikh... Hmm. Butt-Shaikh? Anyway you're looking good!

For those of you who don't know, my name is Shak and I've come over from jolly old England with my family to join in with all the festivities. Some of you may have seen us wandering about, talking like we've just come out of a Harry Potter movie. Anyway we've been to Canada a few times already – the last time I was here was around 8 years ago. I'm sure many of you who go back to Pakistan or India will know what it's like to come and see family after a gap of many years; you miss out on so much and everything changes so rapidly with each visit. On the other hand, this distance allows us to sometimes see how our loved ones have grown.

Take Zafar for example. I was there when he first left Pakistan: a little scrawny kid who spoke no English - he really was the freshest of the fresh and had a...unique sense of style which I won't go into right now. And now? Well, he's grown into a fine young wannabie gangster, totally comfortable with where and who he is and can even string a basic sentence together. Nadia on the other hand was born and bred in Canada. She knows what's what, thinks in another way, sees things differently. To be honest they're really quite different in that respect.

And yet they obviously work so well together; together they prove that things like literal backgrounds and varying cultures don't really matter when you have a mutual love and appreciation for one another. Despite their backgrounds they've found a commonality strong enough on which to base both a friendship and a marriage; a lesson I think that we can all take away and apply in our own lives too, be that at home, work or in the community; that whether our differences are cultural, ethnic or even religious in nature that we can always find something in common on which to base friendships, relationships or even a whole community on.

But I've also seen the things in Zafar that haven't changed. He's still that funny (often annoyingly so) kid who is always messing around and entertaining his mates. He's still a little fresh even, but that's something he'll never really shake off (and we love him for that). But most importantly he is someone who's totally dependable and committed to his friends and family. He knows what he has to do and will always do that (eventually), and it's this attitude that will make him such a good husband. Now I've not really known Nadia for that long, but in the little time I have it's become obvious to me how intelligent, kind and strong she is – the perfect complement to Zafar in many ways and we proudly receive her into our family as a wife, daughter sister and friend.

I'm sure you've had enough of me so I won't prattle on; I am on Facebook if anyone's interested though. I'll just congratulate the bride and groom again, and further ask you all to raise a glass to them: Nadia and Zafar: I won't wish you luck since it's clear what you have isn't something that will ever rely on chance but instead on what you know to be in each other but instead we pray that Allah grants you all the happiness and success in the life you will now create together. Cheers. Thanks for listening and wasalaam.

A Canadian Wedding Weekend

Despite my chose title above, Asian weddings in Canada aren't that different to those in the UK. In this instance we had the mendhi, wedding and valima all in one hectic long weekend, although to be fair it was the girl's side who managed the first two events.

Apparently not many Asian weddings happen over here so it was a bit of an event for all the natives - that's not to say that it was all seen before since I had more fun at all three than I would at one of the countless segregated muted affairs I seem to attend at Walthamstow Town Hall. Of course a part of this was due to me being on holiday (wedding holidays are always awesome), but I also had my cousins and extended family with whom to hang out with - I was more involved than I would have been as a more distant guest.

The mendhi and wedding offered music and dance, something that was fully taken advantage of by most of us, including my nani/maternal grandmother (I never thought I'd ever be spun around by her on a dance floor). The food was awesome on all three days (apparently buffets are standard fare here), while the main events of the wedding and valima offering programmes of speeches and slide shows. My cousin, the groom, asked me to say a few words at the valima which I humbly did; although people congratulated me on delivering a good speech, I suspect this had more to do with my accent than what I had to say. I'll follow up this post with a transcript.

But all in all it was a wicked weekend, modest in nature yet fun for so many reasons, a perfect example of why I enjoy attending weddings so much.