Sunday, February 28

The Roding Valley Half Marathon 2010 Click for more info

Although my running partner and I had planned on making this local run our basis for the year's training, I happened to miss the last two for one reason or another. In fact, the last time I participated was way back in 2007; I managed to complete the course in just over 2 hours, which I felt was quite disappointing since my PB for the race, obtained in 2004 while training for a full blown marathon, is a poignantly impressive 1:33. Although I had accepted that I would never reasonably get such a time again (unless I was training for a marathon - something which I don't quite think will happen) I did think I had a better time in me. This year my main objective was to demonstrate that, as I set myself a target of a sub-1:50 time (or a 8:40 min/mile pace)

To be honest I kinda failed before I started. The wedding food yesterday probably didn't help, as was the relatively late night I had. All of the carbs I stuffed myself with at 10pm probably went straight to my gut, and to top it off I didn't have much water throughout the day either. Oh dear. But hey, at least it couldn't get any worse - I was even still confident about my time.

I was proven wrong this morning as all the runners woke up to some horrendous conditions; rain and wind were both forecast but I didn't really believe that it would happen until I saw it. I think it was then that I reassessed my time: I would now be happy with anything under two hours.

I found the race hard. Perhaps it was the weather (and the extra weight added by our drenched clothing), but almost from the get go I felt like I was jogging in mud while dragging a cart or something. Although this wasn't too much of a problem for the first half or so of the course, it began to take its toll later on; I haven't looked that the numbers properly but it felt like I had quite a few of the 13 miles were had in over ten minutes. As expected, my left knee gave out at around the ten mile mark, just like it had been promising to during training, although mercifully after a few yards I seem to have forgotten all about it - as I type now, I am concerned about it though. Generally you can tell how well a race is going by your state of mind and emotional wellbeing while running and I recall stuff becoming a bit cloudy toward the end, something I've not really experienced since the Flora in 2004.

However despite my bad feelings during the race I did manage to come in under my two hour target, although not by much. According to my timekeeping I completed 13.38 miles in 1:58:26, a pace of 8:51 min/miles. Considering the conditions I see this as a vast improvement over 2007, and will even go to say that I reckon I would have beaten 1:50 under better circumstances.

So a personal win then? Well not quite. You see I decided a few months ago that the RVHM 2010 would actually be my last long road race. My knee is actually beginning to become a quite serious concern, and for me the loss of everyday mobility isn't really worth the other benefits (including the enjoyment) road running brings. Maybe it's the lack of time I can dedicate to the activity (I only really run once a week); personally I think I'm just getting old and the whole thing is beginning to (or already has) catch up with me.

This doesn't mean I'll end running altogether - I'll still be taking part in various 5k runs and the like, but I will stop my regular running and hopefully replace it with another activity. The two candidates for this are cycling and swimming, but considering my proficiency in the former I think I'll be hitting a pool pretty soon.

EDIT: My time as recorded by the organisers was 1:58.37, ranked 492.

Saturday, February 27

Sofia and Amir

Since I think it's inappropriate to link to any YouTube footage there might be of me and Sofs (it's nothing bad. Well, not in the ethical sense anyway), I won't. It's a shame though since that one video kinda sums up the kind of girl Sofia is. Crazy, but in a good, balanced and essential way. It's true though, since only someone as secure as Sofia could do what she did.

Apart from her utter lack of any self-respect, I'd say that Sofs is as model as a woman can get really. For example unlike many other women (or even men) who think that they can balance work and home responsibilities easily Sofia manages to do so without compromise, rubber gloves and all. But that's not to say she was some kind of workaholic and housework obsessed freak; oh no, since she's also the type to make time for her mates be it for fun or even to get involved in projects (like this TV thing she once did. I'm not sure I've mentioned that yet).

But the biggest quality I really like about Sofia is her approachability. She is one of the girls, she is one of the lads, you can talk to her about important and deep stuff as well as waste hours on more trivial trash talk. She'd hold to her opinions with womanly strength, yet I would never describe her as an unapologetic feminist. Oh yes, and she's funny too (at the cost of herself as well as others), something which probably stems from her lack of pride.

Since I've only met Amir once, and that was on the stage today, I can't really say much about him. Anyone who found that video to be attractive rather than a turn off must be a perfect fit for Sofia though; and if anything his sheer size will come in handy in keeping his missus in check.

It was wonderful seeing them celebrate their marriage today (and probably the only time we'll ever see Sofia tarted up as she was), and I wish them both all the happiness they both rightfully deserve.

Thursday, February 25

A Month of Purdah

I've spoken before about how the lack of any sisters or girl (first-)cousins may have affected how I view women generally, but one of the more obvious effects seems to be a slight preference to making as many girl mates as I can - a classic case of over-compensating perhaps. I've always seen this as a good and valuable thing though: not only are my girl mates good to go to for general girly opinion, I also figure that if I maintained mixed social groups then it would be easier for my eventual partner to join me when I'd want to see them. I don't really have groups of exclusively-guy friends; in fact I quietly shudder each time I'm invited to participate in a sausage-fest and I don't expect to want to go out partying or whatever without my other half in tow and so having girl mates around would've made the whole thing a bit easier.

But despite the place women have in my circles of friends, I've always been careful about compartmentalising these relationships. For example, I will very rarely talk to them on the phone for extended periods of time (I become uncomfortable with anything over five minutes and have been known to kill quite a few conversations that way). I also avoid going out with a girl mate on a one-on-one basis, a policy which I feel unreasonably surprises even those who have known me for years; but barring a few exceptions (if they're a potential rishta, if I have to for work or a worthy/religious reason, or that it'd be detrimental to both of us if we didn't) it's true. It's not that I feel I can't control myself emotionally or physically (I'm quite the tactile guy actually), I just don't feel that it's right.

So when a (guy) friend of mine challenged a few of us to stop socialising with our girl mates for three months, I didn't have to change much really. The theory goes something like this: by having so many girl mates, I may be unknowingly relying on them for the certain things I should be looking for in a potential partner. This is nothing seedy, but more the everyday things like conversation and companionship, and by taking this reliance away I'll start looking for it in potential partners instead (in short, desperation will open my eyes to new possibilities). As an aside this might also stop one of us from leading anyone on or sending the wrong signals (not that I'd ever presume I have any kind of effect on women other than one of disgust, but hey, it's a semi-worthy reason anyway).

On the basis of what I've written above I don't think that this is particularly true in my case, but I thought it was worth a shot anyway. After all, if a (not so) similar exercise in self restraint worked for Gandhi, then maybe it'll change me for the better too?

So what have I needed to change? Well I seem to go out less since most of the gatherings I'm invited to are with mixed groups; but to be honest I've not missed the socialising as much as I thought I would. On the few occasions when I have gone out for dinner or whatever it's been with just guys, and that hasn't been as difficult as I thought it'd be. And finally I'm spending more time both in and out of the house with family doing the things I would normally do with friends (like dinners or cinema).

With regards to other types of communication I've never really been a phone person anyway and emails, commenting on blogs, IM and social networking are all pretty easy to control; although I do always take the time to explain to those I usually communicate with (all of whom I still consider to be my friends) as to why I've stopped. I seem to have irritated a couple, a perfectly reasonable reaction which although flattering is unfortunate, but most seem to understand and support what I've been asked to do.

I've even started watching football (well fifteen minutes of one match) instead of romcoms (although I am considering going to watch Valentine's Day on my own if I can't find some guys to go with). I have slipped up a few times and fallen into prohibitive behaviour (again, nothing seedy, but just against the ethos of this particular task), but on the whole I'm keeping to what's been asked of me.

To be honest it's not yet changed how I approach rishtas, and I don't think it'll directly affect any chances of me getting married any time soon either. But that's not to say that there aren't any other, possibly unintended benefits of doing this. For example, it's a good demonstration to others (including potentials) that I'm willing, able and am even looking forward to changing quite big things in my life for the purposes of marriage, or that I'm not looking for someone with whom to share my existing life with but for someone with whom I can create a brand new one. Staying in more might also indicate the kind of life I want to live in the long term, instead of apparently misrepresenting myself as someone who is outgoing and will always want an active social life.

In this sense doing this could serve as a good sign to others of both what I'm looking for and what think is important - more than any conversation or blog post might do. I mean to put it bluntly, if I'm looking for a traditional wife then it makes sense that I start to live a more traditional lifestyle myself. I do think I could have waited till after marriage to make some of these changes, but there's no harm in starting now.

Anyway: one month down, two to go.

Tuesday, February 23

Film: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief Click for more info

It's Harry Potter! But a bit older and American maybe. Other than that it's the same coming-of-age-omg-I'm-a-demigod shindigs we've come to expect over the last decade or so.

But despite it's lack of an original premise, Percy Jackson is pretty good. Of course it's helped along by Greek Mythology (always a good thing) and a charming cast, but at this stage any bonuses are welcome.

All in all a bit shallow but entertaining all the same, I'd give this a go if you're into Olympus lore or just plain looking for a bit of fun and adventure. Recommended.


xxxx says (08:51):
    cheryl is single
Shak says (08:55):
Shak says (08:56):
    she's... so pretty
xxxx says (08:56):
    tis makeup
    have seen her without
    looks avg
xxxx says (08:57):
    and she too thin recently
Shak says (08:57):
    avg is still better than most
xxxx says (08:57):
    avg ... is avg!
Shak says (08:57):
    well okay, obv not most

Thursday, February 18

Game: Crysis (PC) Click for more info

Sure I'm a bit late, but I always had this, the game that redefined so many aspects of the modern FPS, on my videogame playlist. Crysis was infamous for making even the most powerful of PCs cry, and even now it'll take quite a beefy setup to play the game at a decent framerate and quality.

But anyone can make a good looking game. Crysis was also acclaimed for advancing FPS shooters out of what was considered an tired and unoriginal genre lacking in innovation. With so much going for it, when I actually got to play the game, I was actually a bit puzzled as to what all the fuss was about.

I mean sure, no doubt, the game looks good. And the whole deal with the nano-suit makes for some interesting gameplay: strength, speed and armour can all be (temporarily and exclusively) increased, and you can even turn invisible! But not for long, as they all eat into your suit's rechargeable battery. Although limiting at first, you learn to adapt to this major shortcoming and before you know it you're switching between modes like it's second nature to do so. However this multi-dimensional gameplay comes at a cost: my poor fingers are still hurting after having to cover so many buttons on the keyboard.

The story is engaging, if a bit slow burning. It revolves around some kind of alien artefact found in Korea, but in the main it's just you trying to get to point A without being detected (or killing those who do).

Unlike the Call of Duty games (which I seem to adore), Crysis relies less on scripting awesome set pieces and more on allowing you free reign on how you wish to complete an objective. Be quiet and sneak in or kill everyone nosily, the choice is yours. As novel as this is, I find having to do the same set pieces over and over again a bit boring and even tiresome; once you master the suit it's all pretty easy and so becomes more of a chore than a joy.

Which is probably why I can't really see the fuss with this game, ironically despite seeing how amazing it is. Yes the suit is cool, but it's a pain to use. Yes the story is engaging, but it's a bit too slow. Yes the gameplay is innovative and ambitious in its scope, but what's the point if you're just going to headshoot everyone? And yes it looks good... but who cares about that after a while?

Perhaps I've just come to the game too late; it is over two years old after all. Or perhaps I just don't enjoy FPS's enough to appreciate properly the things that make Crysis great; it's a bit like GTA in that sense: an obviously brilliant demonstration of design and technology, all the while being something I just don't see the gaming value in.

Tuesday, February 16


Shak says (12:24):
    the euro millionaaire winners
    tehyre not married
xxxx says (12:25):
    yeah man
    they'll just split the money
    and get fit partners
Shak says (12:25):
xxxx says (12:25):

Monday, February 15

Link of the Day Click for more info

polar r sin t *sqrt abs cos t/sin t 7/5 -2*sin t 2

Well, of yesterday, but hey, it's cool. Thanks to Steve of all people.

Sunday, February 14

The Annual Inevitably Cynical "I Hate Valentine's" Post

The irony, of course, is that I didn't think I'd have to write one of these this year. "2010 will be the year I'll finally put up that backtrack I've been desperate to post for the past fifteen years" I told myself last time around. Still, to be fair I had said the exact same thing in 2008, and have it in the back of my mind even now as I write this.

Virtual self-mutilation aside though I do seem to have made it through a bit of mind-shift since last Valentine's: up until last year I did still hold onto the image of being finally able to do partake in rituals like this with a partner post-marriage, but something seems to have changed over the past 12 months. Not in a sad or despairing way, but more in a "I now want different, perhaps more practical, things in life and anything else will be a bonus". I guess between acknowledging my age and realising what I really want at this point in my life (clue: it's not very exciting), I've finally been able to let go of some of the things I had missed out on which I had wanted to experience, and accept that it just may not happen in that particular way.

Cynical enough or just plain depressing? Apologies if it's the latter; I hope the following will make up for it:

Film: My Name Is Khan Click for more info

I have to admit that toward the start of My Name Is Khan I cringed a bit. Not because of what I was feeling myself, but in sympathy for the hundreds (if not, thousands) of fans who had real life experience with Asperger's each of whom must have been thinking how wrong the film had gotten it. Heck I don't know much about the syndrome, yet even I could see the artistic licence used in the film.

But despite this blatant exploitation of Khan's (the character) built in innocence and naivete (apparently only a Muslim with Asperger's can be so honest and moving), the film does actually manage to get away with it. In spades.

Add to that Khan (that actor) and Kajol's existing heritage and chemistry and what you end up with is a film that keeps a lump in your throat for most of its runtime. Yes, it got carried away a bit (but never got silly), yes there was bags of drama (but none of it unnecessary) and yes it was a bit cheap at times (but forgivably so), but none of that mattered by the time the end credits rolled.

All the technicals were there: apart from a couple of scenes (in Georgia) the film was well produced and shot, the script funny and well acted out by both the main and supporting casts.

So no, I'd hardly call this a life changing piece of art that will change the world, heal relations between Hindus and Muslims or speed up the US withdrawal from Iraq... but as a Bollywood flick starring SRK and Kajol and directed by Johar it certainly didn't disappoint. I loved it.

Saturday, February 13

Game: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PC) Click for more info

I'd say that COD4: Modern Warfare was the game that finally taught me what all these war FPSs were about: short, episodic, story-led gaming, accessible for gamers of all levels. Despite my initial misgivings about the first game, after completing it I found that I enjoyed it quite a bit.

This reassessment is relevant here because MW2 is, as expected, more of the same. Yet somehow it's not as exciting as the first - although there are plenty of set-pieces none seem to quite hit the mark. Where this does fare better than the first game is on a holistic level, with actions being taken by people across the globe tying up to further the simple, yet quite engaging, plot.

For those of you who, like me, don't have the sharpshooter skills you used to (or not in my case), MW2 is a pleasure to play - it gives you the chance to enjoy more than just killing and headshotting (fun as the latter might be), with a difficulty curve which makes it more accessible than unforgiving.

Friday, February 12

Video of the Day Click for more info

Louis CK on Conan last year:

Before you pat yourself on the back and claim how so right this guy is, take a step back and ask yourself whether or not you're exactly the person he's talking about, and then, if you'd be willing to give up all the modern things you otherwise say you can't live without for a return to the good old days you yearn for.

Traditionalism is making a comeback, guys. And as a simple and backward guy I just can't wait.

Nicked off of Kia's Twitter.

Thursday, February 11

New Music

Dilrubaon Ke Jalwe - Dulha Mil Gaya

A bit of a poor man's Kajra Re, this is a fun and flirty track nonetheless. Keep an ear out for Indian Idol's Monali Thakur (who I think actually makes the track).

Jee Le - Luck

I didn't even know there was a film out called Luck, which probably explains why I'm so late coming to this. I'm not exactly sure what is it about this track that I like; perhaps it's the anthem vibe it has going on, or maybe the cheekiness of it all. It could even be Shruti Hassan as she appears in the video.

Rabba - Sukhmani

A sweet little ballad, much of which I can't understand due to much of it being in Punjabi. Not that that's ever made a difference (2005! Eep). Shalla!

Monday, February 8

Abstruse Goose Click for more info

Easier said than done, no?

Although I always have said that I'd tell someone that I liked them if I did. It's not my fault that I just don't seem to like many people.

Sunday, February 7

Link of the Day Click for more info

Fatwa forbids Facebook

Although it's easy enough to scoff at how backward this is, I gotta admit cringing at some of the things I've read married people say to others online, stuff they would never say in person (but perhaps that's only because they'd never find the physical opportunity to). But then again I have been accused of being backward about these things too; apparently it's weird in this day and age to want to avoid one on one meetings with people of the opposite gender. Shrug.

Nicked off Humaira's blog.

Video of the Day Click for more info

This is fun, if a bit explicit. Those of you under the age of twenty need not apply:

There's a Bad Dudes/DragonNinja one too (which I actually thought was better).

Saturday, February 6

Film: Youth in Revolt Click for more info

For me Michael Cera has become almost a guarantee for what I've recently come to describe as a genius movie; the kind of flick that relies not on special effects or good make-up but a solid plot which normal people are able to relate to, some human acting and tons of feel good factor - see Up in the Air for a recent example of what I'm talking about. Although Youth in Revolt isn't the best example of a genius film it does manage to create a bit of a vibe about it.

It's basically more teen angst ridden drama: boy meets girl, boy becomes bad to impress girl, hilarity ensues. I can't really go much into the plot without spoiling it, but I will say that the most curious aspect of the film is in its pacing; quite a lot happens in the 90 minutes or so that this film runs for. But even more than that, it's really difficult to tell which bit is the beginning, which bit is the middle and which bit is the end. It's almost like we're actually being presented with a handful of set pieces from the life of Nick Twisp.

So its a bit of a curiosity at best then. I will note Adhir Kalyan's (of Aliens in America fame) performance as being superb; I think we'll get to see some good stuff from him in the future. Otherwise as much as I enjoyed this film I'm finding it difficult to recommend it. One for DVD then.

Losing It

Although I'm quite an easy going guy (stop laughing at the back) most of the time, there are rare occasions when I'll see red. During these times, I'll become irrational, single-minded and deaf to reason; the last of which is a shame as since I'm almost always in the wrong when this happens it would be good if I were able to realise this sooner rather than later.

Take this morning, for instance.

For reasons that don't really matter I decided to run laps in the local park for my weekly long-run. It was milder than usual and so I took off my otherwise essential hat and gloves and left them on one of the park benches; no one was going to take a crappy fake Thinsulate hat (that all middle aged Asian men seem to have) and knitted gloves, and even if they did I was lapping at around 2 to 3 minutes so would probably catch them in the act.

An hour into my run and I noticed that my hat had disappeared from the place I had left it. Walking away from the park bench was a middle aged Asian man wearing it.

And that was pretty much all I needed to make a confrontation. He was obviously a thief. He even looked like one.

"Is that your hat?" I asked him rudely. "Excuse me?" he replied, quite surprised. I asked again and this time he said it was his. He was still smiling, not quite aware of what I was accusing him of. "I just saw you take it", I lied, trying to catch him out. "I have no idea what you're talking about, this is my hat". "Are you sure? My name is written inside" I pathetically lied again.

This (admittedly lame) exchange went on for a few seconds, myself becoming more angry, the guy not smiling any more. If I had taken a few moments, I would have listened to my sub-conscious screaming at me that the hat was the wrong colour and shape, but none of that really mattered by that point. It was only after I had grabbed the hat off his head that I realised it was a size too big and had an extra layer of fake Thinsulate material inside.

In return the guy grabbed the cord of my headphones, stripping its wires as he did so. He then took a few swipes, drool flying from his mouth as he did so. This was nothing major and easy to avoid; at that point I just wanted the whole thing to end; not because of the trouble I was in but more because I was the one in the wrong. Still insisting that it was my hat I shoved it back into his hands, took my broken headphones and responded to his effing and blinding as I carried on my run, realising that if I hadn't given this poor guy unwarranted grief I would have probably found the person who had really taken my stuff.

Which I did. Further in that same lap I noticed a woman and her dog. The woman had put something down on another bench, and when I approached it I found that they were my gloves. Catching up to her and getting her attention with a much more polite and controlled "excuse me", she immediately asked if the hat she was carrying was mine, and how she was taking it to lost or found (something my gloves didn't seem worthy of). Not believing her one bit (but not actually caring) I took it off her and carried on my way. Where the hell was this calm and reasonable me a few minutes ago? My irrationality cost me my pride and a set of headphones, but more importantly hassle for someone who was just minding his own business.

So there you have it. I'm one of those troublemaking thugs you hear your uncles and aunties complaining about. Which makes me wonder two things: firstly how many troublemaker incidents are just normal people flipping out? And secondly I wonder if I would have flipped out if some of the variables had changed (I don't think I would have been as confrontational if it was a hot woman for instance).

To my credit I did run in the direction the poor fella was originally walking, all the way to the bus stop that I thought he might have been heading to. He probably wouldn't have given me a chance to apologise (and quite reasonably so), but I thought I should at least try. I didn't find him but maybe he'll be reading this? If so, I'm unreservedly sorry.