Thursday, December 20, 2007

Note to self: Never say never

Hi all! First things first, my unexpected hiatus was simply that: unexpected. I didn't expect to be so overwhelmed by fatigue after my now-regularized work schedule during the working week and something or another has constantly managed to steal away my time over the weekends. I'm not complaining or anything because God knows I need the money, I just thought I'd give a reason albeit a lame one, once again for my absence. Looking back at my last entry I am left somewhat humbled as I attempted to compare the service (and I'd like to think it is a service) of my little blog to the mammoth task of running the London public transport system.

A big Thank You to anyone who still comes back to 'my place' as I've nicknamed this blog in the hope that it is still Live and Running!

So once again I find myself in the redundant position of trying to pick up where I left off but then again my life so far has been quite uneventful so I'll do what I do best, give a running commentary on what's happening in the world around me and maybe get around to doing those film and book reviews I sort of promised I'd do a few months ago.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Humans weren't meant to travel like this

Economy-class-syndrome isn't the preserve of airline passengers, anytime you're in a cramped space with little movement for long stretches of time I'll bet your risking a mild form of DVT. Why do I bring this up? Because I'm one of millions of everyday London Underground Tube users who during rush hour have to witness scenes like this:

If you see practically nothing but a bunch of bags or clothes, your guess is as good as mine because that's what my camera phone picked up when trying to take a photo of my feet on the tube amongst other passengers. I live on one of the busiest lines on the tube: The Piccadilly line. It's the only one that services Heathrow Airport to the rest of London, so here we have the world's busiest airport being served by just one line on the London Underground system.

There are alternative public transport systems such as buses and taxis. But unless you have a lot of time on your hands - let's just say an ETERNITY - to get to anywhere into town or you've got the national GDP of a small African country in your wallet to pay for the ubiquitous London Black cab and the patience to listen to the yammering cabbie, I suggest your best and most convenient option is still the Tube.

Suffice to say many a traveller take the cheaper option of lugging their over sized luggage onto the Tube train to and from the airport. Add to the mix those of us who live in the nearby suburbs also travelling into and out of town for work and you've got one long all-standing travelling sauna! Not a great way to start or even end the working day by any one's standards.

And to think there are endless posters plastered around the entire London Tube network publicizing how Transport For London (TFL) are investing heavily on public transport and more importantly on adding extra capacity to Tube trains. If that's the case how come I never get a proper place to stand let alone a friggin seat?! I hope someone from TFL picks this up through some random Googling on their lunch break and at least gives me a decent answer as to why people like me who live four stations from the end of the line can't seem to find ample space after the so-called 'investments'.

Unlike the unreliable service of London transport, service at this blog shall be much more regular, my absence this week is purely due to my being extremely tired or ('knackered' as we say around here) every time I come home from work, and I've been fasting for the whole day, that means no food or water from before dawn to sunset!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's that time of year again

Yep it's here and I'm late as usual to acknowledge it, no it's not my Birthday or that my bank wants my student overdraft back...NOW. Nope it's none of that, it is of course the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and like fellow blogger Mybrid has pointed out it has coincided with Rosh Hashanah - The Jewish New year - for the third and final year in a row at least for another 30 years. Here's a quick rundown of what Ramadan is.

Another thing that coincided with the beginning of Ramadan is that I got my final year results and I finally passed my friggin degree in Software engineering and due to the sheer frustration and personal angst it has caused me, I've been telling myself I never want to see another computer for as long as I live. And yes the irony of what I just said is not lost on me! So I'm more relieved than particularly elated because it's been one unnecessarily long hard slog for me! I feel I can actually get on with my life and slowly pick up the pace and join the others in this rat race we like to call 'life'.

Anyways, this is going to be a short entry because I've got to go down to Ikea to replace some faulty bits of my bed on my way to my aunt's place to break fast with the rest of the family.

I'm sure I'll find something inspirational to think about whilst trudging through the giant hamster cage that is Ikea. I might just get around to reviewing the books and films I never got a chance to do.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

An interesting discussion on the virtues of blogging

We're running a little dry on blogworthy inspiration today so I thought I'd post this little interesting video from my favourite press club - The Frontline Club - for anyone who might be interested in the power of the humble online diary.

Monday, September 03, 2007

48-hour portrait of Kent

Well here are the photos of Kent from the weekend, enjoy. As mentioned previously, I was like a Japanese tourist snapping away at anything and everything as soon as I got off the coach at Canterbury bus station, so the following shots are pretty much like my eyes blinking at everything I see in chronological order too...well almost!

Canterbury town highstreet, I don't know what the sand on the left is all about

Face sculpture in front of the Marlowe theater just off the highstreet

A friendly warning to outsiders on campus. Somehow it sounds better than 'Trespassers will be shot on site'.

University students from London can only dream of such luxuries as having an entire old town house to themselves! Of course my friend lives in one of the 9 double bedrooms so its not all his but the location like everything else in Kent is beautiful and well manicured.

I took this photo of the famous Canterbury cathedral from the campus bus stop As we waited for the University bus to take us into town. Maybe I should've Photoshoped the lamp posts and road for a postcard-perfect view

Westgate over the Stour river that delineates the old walled border of Canterbury town. You can see cars going through that very narrow entrance but even our double-decker bus managed to scrape through it with literally a few inches to spare on either side!

Here's a view of the same entrance but from the opposite direction, you can clearly see its very narrow

Westgate from the Stour river (more like a stream if you ask me) with gondolas and their punters on the left

View of the Stour river from the bridge in leading into Westgate

The Old Kings School shop, I'm not sure if it was part of the school but its unusual leaning and bent structure seems to attract visitors

The next day we went down to Herne bay and I did more of the same on our way there.

Some of the international students playing American football with the local ones on campus in the middle of the Kent countryside. Now there's a surreal image!

The beach at Herne Bay, it's no Seychelles or Hawaii but its a beach nevertheless although it doesn't count as a beach in my book. I hate pebbles!

At least the sun was out and it wasn't completely overcast

In case the South-Westerly wind blowing in from the sea wasn't cold enough we came across this reminder of our proximity to the North Pole at one of seaside pubs

A random street leading onto the seafront

A clock tower/monument on the seafront promenade, I don't know what its about but it looked regal enough to shoot

A hint as to what we had for lunch on the beach, suffice to say it didn't feel as healthy to eat as my mussels adventure a few weeks ago and my stomach thought so too.

Well there you have it, that's my weekend getaway to the Kent countryside, and these pics took a looong time to upload so I hope whoever enjoyed reading this savoured all of them!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A weekend break from the city

I'm in Kent - also known as 'The Garden of England' - this weekend. More specifically I'm visiting an old friend at the University of Kent in the city of Canterbury. I needed to just chill out and forget about the daily grind of London life at least for a couple of days. The air's a little fresher over here and the University campus is beautiful, green and leafy and the great British summer that's been late in coming finally got its timing right!

Kent, a county in the South East coast of England is just outside London but feels a lot further away due to its small town quaintness. Its a lazy Sunday morning and we just got up and are in the middle of deciding which beach to go to to spend the rest of the day before I head back to London in the evening. Will it be Herne bay, Ramsgate or Margate (they're all beaches by the way)? OK Herne Bay it is as it's probably the nearest and we don't have all day.

Right, we better get ready to go so I'll post an update with photos from my visit when I get home tomorrow and it looks like its going to be the last time I do a bit of travelling to anywhere nice for a while so I'll make the most of it by taking photos of absolutely everything like a Japanese tourist.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Words! Uhh! What are they good for?

The gift of literacy along with conscience is probably what sets us humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom (more for some than others!). Our ability to play around with words be it in speech or prose can trigger an entire host of emotive reactions whether deeply or superficially. And sometimes what we say and write can be compelling enough to give our audience more than just 'food for thought', it can have the power to mobilize the masses.

Case in point: Bush's ever-escalating and desperate rhetoric about Iran's nuclear ambitions and Amhmedinajad's almost instant rebuttals are equally evocative for their respective followers to the extent that you have what we currently have in the shape of Iraq and its possible far-reaching consequences for the entire region.

But I digress, this post is suppose to be about something on a much smaller yet equally evocative scale. Something that starts from the gritty grassroots of your average community- be it divided by race, religion and now increasingly money - but has the artistic flare and delivery to bring even a small amount of people together for the greater good. That something is Spoken-Word Poetry. I know I know, you're probably thinking 'Is that all?' and you wouldn't be alone in thinking so as I was debating this same idea with a friend of mine recently and he refused to think that poetry has a place in making a positive change in anything and to an extent I'd agree because it all depends on the content.

Granted its all subjective and you either agree with what one Spoken-Word artist has to say or you don't and even though the history of this form of poetry is relatively new, poetry and prose in general has been around a lot longer and has definitely made its mark in human civilization. Perhaps a good example of this is the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius and how his works still have a tangible affect on the everyday running of the huge and growing Chinese economy, an impressive feat not doubt!

Spoken-Word poetry and its public exhibition in the form of Poetry Slams began in America in the 1980's and was a popular way of expressing oneself on pressing issues such as crime and gang violence and it has since spread much further afield to places like here in the UK to Bosnia to New Zealand. Granted too that its sheer international appeal doesn't necessarily make Spoken-Word poetry (and those who perform it) as effective as brute force for the greater good but I really don't think we should all lose faith in the natural goodness of the human spirit. And while it is true that most Spoken-Word poets are activists FIRST and artists second they still have the ability to move their audience in making a positive change no matter how small that change may be. Collectively this can be the kryptonite needed to put an end to the unjust powers that be in the world.

And to all the cynics who still refuse to see this and think I speak of a Utopian dream or sound like a Disney commercial, I don't blame you but at the same time if we don't have dreams or aspirations in life, then what's the point of living? In fact human civilization wouldn't get as far as it has if it weren't for the pioneering few who lead the uninspired and quiet masses to share their aspirations.

People like Martin Luther King, Shakespeare and Gandhi are simply the latest in a long line of influential individuals who just happened to have dreams and aspirations. People of different faiths, cultures and principles follow those because a pioneering person set an example in their life.

As lengthy as this entry is I feel it sheds light on a hugely overlooked and underestimated power of human-beings: The spoken or written word.

Here are a few of my favourite Spoken-Word artists whom I hope will inspire you to do something positive in your life and the lives of others.

Taylor Mali - "What Do Teachers Really Make?"

Brian Dykstra - "Pushing Bush"

Suheir Hammad - "First Writings Since" (revised)

This last but one brings back childhood memories of me and my sister and it's up here for no other reason but to share the innocence of just being a kid.

Rives - "Op-talk"

Monday, August 20, 2007

I'm not a mussel virgin anymore!

Dear oh dear oh dear, I've been having a rather crap few weeks lately so meeting up with a few school friends from back in Doha (Capital of Qatar) was a nice way to break the monotony that is life in London. We all decided (I use the word 'decided' loosely) to go to a Belgian seafood place called Belgo in Covent Garden in central London. I was quite apprehensive about not only meeting up with these people who I haven't seen in nearly a decade but also the menu...mussels! I was constantly thinking to myself 'Should I try and order something less-adventurous or just go crazy and give these slimy sea-critters a try'.

In case you're wondering what mussels are

Suffice to say I stuck it through and ordered a plateful of steaming hot mussels in a red Thai sauce. I was quickly shown how to eat them by taking one them out of its shell and eating it and then using the empty shell as a tong to get at the rest.

As for meeting up with old friends it was great because two of them were family friends who just happened to know my class friends. It was great just reminiscing about everything from a multi-lingual pet parrot one of them has back home to the crazy speed of urban development and rent hikes in that part of the world. In case you're wondering where 'back home' is for most of us 'expat kids' here are a few photos of the country where we all grew up:

Contrary to this scene from the set of the new Transformers movie, Qatar cannot be summed up as one big Bedouin camp made of mud huts. Incidentally whilst searching for this photo I came across this interesting take on the whole film

A View from Doha bay looking out at the Sheraton (the pyramid-like building) and other developments

A panoramic view of the main business district in the West bay area of Doha

And so even though these oil-rich Arabs still don't know how to drive or wait patiently in a line and that their urban planning leaves much to be desired, Qatar or for the most part the entire Arabian Gulf region does not consist of mud huts, camels, tents and any other romantic notion of the 'Orient' my Western readers might still have.

And to finish off this little entry here's an excerpt of a "You Know You're an Expat Kid in the Middle East or Have Been When..." list as a fitting and candid bit of background information.

1. You can't answer the question, "Where are you from?" (And when you do, you get into an elaborate conversation that gets everyone confused and/or makes you sound very spoiled.)

2. You flew before you could walk.

3. You have a passport, but no driver's license.

4. You think California is cold.

5. You watch National Geographic specials and recognize someone.

6. You run into someone you know at every airport.

7. Conversations with friends take place at 6:00 in the morning or 10:00 at night.

8. Your life story uses the phrase "Then we went to..." five times.

9. You can speak with authority about the quality of various international airlines.

10. You feel self conscious around all white people.

11. You get offended when someone turns down an offer for food.

12. You live at school and go home for vacation.

13. You treasure pork and root beer as highly-valued commodities. (totally doesn't apply to me!)

14. You have ever had to wait for prayer call to be over to finish shopping.

15. You are fascinated by any wildlife bigger than a gecko.

16. You know the true meaning of "football." (and in your mind can hear the shout, "GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!")

17. You know that it truly is a small world.

18. You have ever gone to the "hammam" or endured a "shamal."

19. You get all the jokes in Aladdin.

20. Rain is still one of the most wonderful sounds in the world.

21. You haggle with the checkout clerk for a lower price.

22. Your wardrobe can only handle two seasons: hot and warm.

23. Your school memories include duck-and-cover drills.

24. You are used to being stared at.

25. You think VISA is a document stamped in your passport, and not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.

26. You call a chicken burrito a "shwarma."

27. Your dorm room/apartment/living room looks a little like a museum with all the "exotic" things you have around.

28. You've heard of or tried "hubbly bubbly."

29. You've woken up in the middle of the night to watch the Superbowl on cable.

30. You have sat in a "men's" or "women's" section in an airport, hospital, or restaurant.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Can't think of a title for this one

I find it highly irritating to be left alone with my own thoughts in the mistaken hope that somehow some epiphanous thoughts will miraculously permeate through to the old gray matter. Of course that hardly ever happens at least during the hours of the day that I am at least conscious! I don't know if this happens to anyone else but I find that I tend to get my thoughts of near-perfect clarity just as I am swinging between being awake and asleep or when I'm in the middle of some mundane task which probably is the same thing!

The very fact that I can't recall an example of this is testament to how fleeting these thoughts are, yet I try and make rough notes of these as and when they come. If you're still following all of this well done!

Anyhow I'm sure some of these fleeting thoughts of clarity have somehow translated in blog entries over the years (this not being one of them!). I'll make it a point to keep track of anything interesting that pops up in my crazy head.

--- End of filler ---

On a more meaningful note, here is another helping of random yet interesting things I've come across over the past few weeks.

An amazingly beautiful film I recently watched was Baraka (1992) (meaning 'Blessing' in many languages). I'm a little annoyed that I had never seen this film before now as it came out 15 years ago. It is probably one of very few films that completely captivates your imagination without ever having a single bit of dialogue in it! To call it a cinematic masterpiece is a feeble attempt at fathoming its sheer profoundness. You'll just have to watch it from beginning to end to see what I mean whilst suspending a natural urge to vocalize your inner thoughts or worse: dismiss it as a 'Documentary'.

While I was at work the other day I came across a copy of a monthly health club management magazine (yes I was that bored) and it had some interesting stories on the world of fitness products and services. The strangest one I came across was that of an Israeli snake massage that's suppose to be very therapeutic....


Anyone want a California King snake to slither away those aching back muscles and dare I say nether regions? Wow and I only need to shell out $70 for the privilege! I'm sure Mybrid will be loving to share this little story with the kiddies at summer camp!

And finally imagine you didn't have to bother with accessorizing your Myspace or Facebook every 10 minutes in order to 'define' yourself and hopefully find like-minded individuals - because lets face it it's too tedious. But instead you make first contact purely by clicking on a series of pictures that best describe a given feeling or situation for you.

This is one of the pages used to compile a 'visual DNA' of you

The site is called Imagini and this is the first step to becoming a part of it. its called your 'Visual DNA'. The idea is to gather a collage of the pictures you instinctively click on in order to find someone with similar...instincts really - and by extension, personality. An interesting addition to the world of social-networking nevertheless. I found this site through a link at a friend's blog so thanks for that 'V', you know who you are.

That's all for now, I'll get back to getting stuck into Imperial Life in the Emerald City and some other DVDs and books I haven't had a chance to watch or read. I'll probably do a mini review of all these once I've gone through them all. I'm currently watching the PBS Frontline special called News war which is compulsory viewing for anyone remotely interested in how media is used and abused by the powers that be.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Airport bomb attempts, rural floods, forest fires...How will you remember Summer '07?

Well what a strange few weeks its been, we've had a new administration take over at 10 Downing street and then soon after some crazed doctors try to blow up at least the front entrance to a terminal at Glasgow airport in Scotland. It's also been the very wettest summer the UK has ever seen but nothing on the scale of what's happening in South Asia right now. In sharp contrast, Southern Europe has been sizzling in temperatures reaching the 40's (Centigrade).

Not one to jump on any particular bandwagon, I'd say we've got some seriously freaky weather this year and how funny it's all coinciding with the whole 'Climate change' a la Live Earth lobby. I smell a conspiracy here people!

Oh and who can forget the latest Foot and Mouth scare currently doing the rounds in the national media. All in all it's shaping up to be another memorable summer albeit for morbid reasons. Are there any less depressing bits of news that have fallen by the way said lately? There sure is, behold the return of the DeLorean aka 'The car from Back to the Future'.

John Z DeLorean's DeLorean DMC-12

If you were an 80's kid you'll recognize them gull-like doors anywhere. Its the 'Doc's car' you might even say reminiscing about the Back to the Future films. If ever there was a seemingly bland looking sports car from the 80's that could turn heads nearly 30 years down the line, this would be it. There's something strangely magical about it that makes you think it's going to either fly off somewhere or race down a street at exactly 88 miles an hour before disappearing in a flash and leaving two streaks of flaming rubber in its wake.

And the good news is John DeLorean's one-hit Irish wonder will be back in limited production with 21st century improvements (alas that doesn't include that much coveted 'flux capacitor' thingamajig or trash powered jet engine).

Staying on the theme of time, have you ever wondered why as we grow older there's less and less time to get things done in a day? Well there's a pretty simple yet well researched reason for that according to Personal Development tutor Steve Taylor. The premise is the older you get the shorter your perception of time is. I can especially relate to my summer holidays when I was in primary school or even kindergarten, where 1 month would seem like an entire year for me.

As always I urge readers' input on whatever has been covered in this post, especially on how you'll remember this summer and how you're perception of time has changed over the years.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Another selection of interesting cyber info

I thought I'd check back at my blog to keep it alive (just about) and put in a few of my personal takes on stories over the last few weeks.

The all-important news that the Beckhams have finally landed Stateside is probably right up there with the will-she-won't-she-stay-in-jail debacle that is the existence of Paris Hilton. On a scary side note I had a weird disturbing dream that I was living with her reality-show-partner-in-crime Nicole Richie in a big mansion and I remember asking her who her father is (its Lionel Richie incase anyone's wondering). What a nightmare!

Brown's politics

A new era is taking shape in British politics with the abdication of Tony Blair and his Chancellor Gordon Brown taking the helm. What I found interesting about the newly shuffled government is that it's got a lot of fresh young faces in very high-calibre positions and the one that strikes me the most is that of Foreign Secretary taken up by a rather boyish-looking 42-year-old called David Miliband. And if his stance on global issues such as climate change and strong views against the goings on in Washington - particularly on Iraq - are anything to go by, he might just be able to single-handedly salvage some of the lost credibility of the UK and by extension the West around the world.

David Miliband: A force for good overseas?

What's more, having a Polish-Jewish background and knowing of his own family's suffering at the hands of the Nazi's he may prove to be an even-handed force for good when it comes to dealing with the on-going Israeli-Arab conflicts. As always only time will tell and with every passing day, this blogger refuses to lose faith in the the human race.

Plane sailing?

A somewhat new era in passenger flight began on the 7.8.07 when the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was unveiled to the world in Everett Washington. The plane's manufacturer, Boeing reckons it will redefine aircraft manufacturing - it's mostly made of carbon fiber composite material - and is marketing it to the mid-range aircraft market as it sees the worldwide market for commercial flight gravitating towards mid-sized aircraft as oppose to larger planes such as the Airbus A380. I must confess my coverage of the aircraft is absolutely nothing compared to the hard work put in by dedicated 787-enthusiast and blogger "flightblogger".

The unveiling of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Everett, Washington

And finally I've managed to find work through yet another temping agency but at least it will help me maintain some kind of cash flow and help out with my debts. I'm working in Sales and administration at a gym in the nicer leafy parts of West London so I could do worse and have indeed so I'm not complaining!

As usual I'll have something of more topical substance to write soon. In the meantime here's an interesting little link a friend of mine sent me through Facebook, about Facebook. All of a sudden my qualms about the whole social-networking phenomena aren't entirely unfounded!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Newspapers need to 'forget about news'

An interesting trend in how the masses get - and to an extent 'make' - their daily news.

Posted: 9 November 2006 By: Oliver Luft of

"Newspapers need to forget news if they are going to prosper in the digital age, an industry conference wastold today.Opening the Beyond the Printed Word conference in Vienna, Robert Cauthorn, CEO of CityTools, said that newspapers had lost the ability to tell communities the stories they are interested in.Newspapers are guilty of talking only to decision makers, he said, and people were now shifting to form their own online communities around stories that interested them."

For the full story click here.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Is telling the truth a new way of lying?

"When I was growing up, my parents always taught me never to lie"

That's something you might hear from a person defending him or herself from a verbal challenge to their integrity and I'm sure it rings true in all families. But can this method be used at government level as well? The recent declassifying of secret records of assassination plots; national espionage etc. by the CIA can be thought of in one of two ways. Firstly and probably the most obviously it can be seen by the world as a sort of gesture of goodwill and transparency OR equally, a blinding smokescreen of said gesture. Given the US government's past and current track record in cooperation with the rest of the world I'm deeply inclined to agree with the latter.

Why would a Government so embroiled in numerous geo-political conflicts - mostly as a result of 9/11 - wish to shoot itself in the foot by releasing decades old yet quite relevant intelligence material. Is this a new trend in the politics of powerful world governments where information that's a little too close for comfort gets released into the public domain? Spilling the beans as it were is not a new phenomenon however, everyone from ex-politicians to C-list celebrities - in need of a quick buck and a career jump start - are practically falling over themselves to publish their memoirs, autobiographies or some other kind of exposé. However what these and many similar entities have in common is that they are no longer in a position of power or much influence at least not where it matters most.

This brings me back to my original question of just why a government that mirrors a lot of the darker methods of intelligence-gathering of its preceding incarnations, chose to release such sensitive information. A possible conclusion this blogger has reached is that this public revealing of potential litigious information can be seen as a political blood-letting exercise in order for the current US administration to dictate to the rest of world - with a seemingly clean slate - about the wonders of Democracy with much more believable enthusiasm.

A little light entertainment that'll bring the message home.

What We Call the News
Funny Jokes at JibJab

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Blogworthy or cyber-trash? You decide!

I've been doing a lot of random surfing lately, partly for research, general knowledge and partly because - dare I say - I need a bit of literary inspiration as pretentious as that sounds. As usual the rather unusual news stories I've come across lately never fail to give food for thought. This post has a distinct Middle Eastern flavour to it for no particular reason other than pure intrigue.

Shadow Company is a film I've been aching to watch ever since I came across it's preview on globetrotting reporter Kevin Sites' website Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone. It's a clear no-BS account of the private military industry operating mainly in Iraq but also around other global hotspots. Among the most striking subjects it covers is the whole idea behind what a Mercenary is and how a ‘Private Military Contractor’ is simply a modern incarnation of this - the highly controversial idea of a paid soldier-without-a-Conscience. If you thought US military presence in Iraq let alone other places it has no business being was bad enough this film will surely throw a spanner in the works!


Dubai, UAE, Apparently according to some research eggheads camel milk is a very versatile source of milky nutrition compared to regular cow’s milk because those with lactose intolerance can drink it and lower in fat too. So thanks to the age-old Bedouin tradition of using it for everything from a nutritional drink to a natural sunscreen, camel milk is going through a sort of commercial renaissance in this part of the world. And why stop at plain old camel milk when you can have camel milk ice cream or even chocolate!

Crazy Freight-dogs

Staying in Dubai, the up and coming transfer hub of millions of tonnes of air freight that is Dubai International Airport, is getting so busy that funny accidents like this are bound to happen sooner or later:

The accident was caused by ground crew loading freight at the tail end of the aircraft first when standard procedure is to always load from the front (where the cargo bay door is open) so the freight acts as ballast.

Who knew an aircraft like an MD-11 were this light!

And spare a thought for these frightened (or should that be ‘freightened’?) poor underpaid South-Asian ground workers.

Of course this pales in comparison to the ridiculous crazy driving style of anyone who lives in Dubai.

The world’s biggest chandelier

10 x 15 meters of stainless steel-covered gold aerial exquisiteness

Yep, you guessed it, just like the world’s tallest building; the only 7-star hotel and the biggest indoor ski resort, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates has decided to commission and install the world’s largest and undoubtedly most expensive chandelier in its main mosque. Not to be outdone by its neighbouring city of Dubai, the authorities in Abu Dhabi have shelled out nearly $8.5 million for the piece which is part of a set of 6 chandeliers. Clearly the meaning of the word ‘extravagance’ is totally lost on these oil-rich Arabs.

Was this worth the read? Do you want to see more of it? Let me know.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

At the crossroads (and on briefly bumping into a literary celebrity)

Not much has happened over the last week apart from the entrance exam I took last Thursday for the 6-month NCTJ course in newspaper journalism. I found out on Monday I passed (which is great!) the entrance exam but it all depends on me passing my degree first so I’ve got that to worry about now. I’m still job hunting – those student debts aren’t going to pay for themselves! I am, in effect left in academic and financial limbo even though I know I’ve invested a good deal of time in my degree and not as much to become a ‘journo’, but I live in hope.

On a lighter note, I arrived an hour early for the entrance exam in a depressing corner of South London and I was still a little bleary-eyed so I went looking for a caffeine hit in a quiet little café where I could do some last-minute revision. I stopped into a cornershop and asked for directions to the nearest café and there stood beside me was the tall figure of literary genius, satirist and general ‘Grumpy Old Man’ Will Self, he was just picking up his morning paper and I was…well asking the shopkeeper for directions to a café.

Will Self: Grumpy old man

Will turned to me and said “There’re so many café’s around here, take your pick mate” (or something along those lines, I was too awestricken to remember what he said) and then he proceeded point me in the direction of a small Portuguese cafe. So that was probably the highlight of the week for me.

I am falling way behind in practicing my shorthand in preparation for the journalism course and haven’t got anything near the required £800 I need for it. Well that’s all for now, back to job-hunting for me. I’ll probably post something tasty and less mundane later on today.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Final year exams: Over (now let the ritual deep inner-reflection commence)

At times I felt my life has been dragging on for an unnecessarily long time and this past year it seemed like it was more of the same. After just having completed my finals this week I’m left both relieved and oh too familiarly sceptical about my performance. Now I wouldn’t say I’m reverting to the bad old days of summer ’05 because I think I’ve pretty much figured out the beginning pattern of my downward spiral enough to nip it at the bud.

If I allow myself to give a blunt assessment of my performance I’d say these past two years have been both painful and essential to my overall development as a human being as trivial an idea as that may seem.

But I still have doubts (as I’ve always had) on how well I’ve done in my exams and from that stems a lot of the personal problems I know I’ll have to overcome as of now. I know all this talk is like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted – story of my life really – but I felt I needed to put my thoughts somewhere, even if it is in the public domain.

Maybe all this means I’m displaying my weaknesses with unwarranted abandon to an unknown audience including possible future employers! But then I’m the kind of person who’s always been brutally honest about not only myself but of others too. I say poorly-thought-out things that may hurt others and bounce right back at me and I’m trying to at least put a lid on it! I talk more and act less and I’m working on that too and I’m seriously thinking of my future existence on this planet and on things like hope and direction, probably more so than ever before.

The dark side of my conscience tells me: ‘Thws you’re such a slow developer and there’s no way you can cope with the pressures of this world’. And then there’s the positive side telling my I’m a slow developer but its part of my overall learning curve and sure, I might not reach that elusive sense of nirvana but I’ll sure as hell be a better and more resilient person at the other end.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Facebook et al: A reason to get out more? OR the catalyst for a better social life?

Like the opportune jump onto the last train to 'I don't want to be a social outcast' before the doors shut, I've finally joined up to a social networking site. Yep and it’s the ubiquitous Facebook. I've been trying not to join up to these groups because to me they're just one more way of keeping you addicted to online life (bar blogging of course!) and more importantly sans a real life! And then there's always the possible threat that Murdoch's cold steely fingers could get into this pie (as if Myspace wasn't enough!) thus helping him control another little bit of our lives that might have some shred of independent thought left in it.

But that all changed once I discovered most of my school friends were on it and I've been hooked for a month now! Then there's always pioneering stuff like this that keeps aquisition-hungry media conglomerates like Newscorp at bay. I do feel for those whose generation have missed it, but there does seem to be hope for even them if the latest trends are to be believed.

The other reason I had for avoiding these groups was the fact that I wouldn't have much in common with whoever I'd be adding to my ever-growing and mostly anonymous list of 'friends', again that all changed when I signed up for Facebook. My new dilemma is now that I've re-discovered all these people I knew from school I wasn't sure I have much in common with them either. For starters I never really took part in much of school life (whether or not that's my fault is debatable) and I certainly wasn't the 'Go-to' guy in my year. So to me adding to my Facebook list of friends as great as it is (because only people you know get added and only after they've approved your request to add them too) it all seems in vain, almost like I'm (and I know I'm not alone in thinking this!) trying to relive my school years in the lost hope that I might redeem myself now.

Alas if any of them care enough to actively WANT to know me rather than be my "pity friend" I'm all ears but hey I think I've complained enough - and I realize its a highly unattractive character flaw - so let's get back to what this post was suppose to be about.

Is there really anymore room for more social networking sites, I mean we've got the likes of bebo, meebo, Hi5, Myspace and these are just the ones we recognize as typical social-networking groups! For example some of you might have noticed my "Proud member of the London Reporters and Journalists meetup group" tag on the right, yep that’s another kind of networking group and its sole purpose is to get people acquainted with each other in real life according to interest groups.

So there's none of this "hey thws! I'm doing great, working for a big multinational firm and travelling" malarkey without the distant possibility of ever meeting up in real life unless of course you are socially...well…worth it to be honest. Man am I bitter and insecure about something and I just realized I don't have to post any of this but then again it sure as hell beats therapy!

In conclusion:

Much like life itself, your online social experience is whatever you make of it, if you're a twisted loner and are constantly trying to define yourself in real life, chances are its going to manifest itself in your online profile. And if unlike me you consider yourself relatively less insecure and happy then consider yourself bumped off my Friends list! Go be happy somewhere else!

Aaaaanyhoo hope y'all enjoyed my self-deprecating take on online socializing, I certainly enjoyed putting my uncommon vocabulary to use (or not as the case maybe). I'll have some material to write about possibly tomorrow and I'm hoping it'll be more upbeat, I've got my finals over the next two weeks and I'm still job-hunting so things could get a little sporadic...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

First political rant of oh 7!

One of the most sobering amateur anti-war music videos I've seen, almost as good as the original! I think this sets the tone nicely...

Hey gang! I've got a few bones to pick with the status quo of the world today. I should warn one and all that its 2am and I've been working late and am strangely feeling a strong urge to write about stuff out of pure spontaneity.

First off, what the hell is happening in Lebanon and Palestine...again? If you can't find a common enemy you start a campaign of infighting, is that how it works? I'm going out on a limb here and guessing this aint just an Arab problem and I'm not so sure its a Muslim one either. I'm tempted to call it a territorial problem but that's yet another simplistic label so I'm going to go along with an identity crisis.

A Natural end

When an entire people lose their sense of direction and belonging in life, what we are currently witnessing is its full and natural end. The Palestinians have been pushed into so many different corners by ever-enlarging Jewish settlements that places like Gaza have, for lack of a better simile, crossed boiling point a long time ago. And its only natural for this sentiment to spill over to poor indefensible and easily influenced areas such as refugee camps in northern Lebanon albeit amongst a minority who are conveniently labelled as Islamists/jihadis/Islamist militants (pick and mix folks its a free-for-all on the 'ragheads' right?!) or are in one way or another linked to Al Qaeda. And yes I know not all of them are homegrown, they're a mixed bunch from around the Arab world but thats not what I'm driving at.

Sure they're brutal, sure they're not helping their cause by apparently terrorizing the camps and launching attacks against a sovereign country like Lebanon, but remember this, they are a product of injustice, indifference and rightful indignation towards the powers that be that have kept them there without even a hope of a better life. At the risk of sounding like a religious fanatic myself, I will say this much. If Muslims just once, looked within themselves - as should every other sound humanbeing by the way - and did some serious moral, spiritual and dare I say ego cleansing, we would at least be at peace with ourselves, more than enough to not only be proud of who we are but positively confident and constructive in this world and I'm sure other races, religions and beliefs would...well trust us more as much as we would respect them!

I'm no apologist for outright criminality like the killing of innocent lives and equally when lives are destroyed not physically but mentally. You can read into this what want, but if your belief system is so screwed up and your moral bearings are so off the charts that you switch what's right for wrong and what's wrong for right, then seriously don't blame the mysterious 'other' for what's happening in this world, you've no need to look any further than yourself.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The lost tales of a backpacking slacker...

Ok, I guess I really should post some photos from the remaining days of my travels last year, besides it beats writing a long-winded entry describing all these places, so here they are in sort of chronological order:

At the Chinese New year (2006) celebrations

along the Singapore riverside

Catching my coach ride to Kuala Lumpur the next day, the

AeroLine coach service stops and starts from the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel in downtown Singapore (Note: I'm not actually running here, I'm just imitating the logo on the coach and it was a good coach ride at around Sing$ 20 one way)

Crossing the bridge connecting the Southern-most tip of the

Malaysian peninsula with Singapore

Important immigration information for travellers:

As you are literally crossing the causeway into another country you will need to have your entry permit slip to hand (the slip you fill in and the half of it you are given at the port of entry into Singapore by immigration) along with your passport if you don't need a visa to visit either Singapore or Malaysia. The immigration points of both countries are on their respective country's end of this causeway and so you'll need to get off your mode of transport twice to go through both immigration points (once for each country when coming or going).

Now here's the important part, when travelling in a party such as on a coach (especially on a coach!) and when you get off at Singapore immigration make sure you fill out your exit permit well BEFORE you are processed by immigration as any delays here will mean you missing your coach ride or equivalent (especially if its a cheap company!) that waits for a reasonable amount of time for most (not all!) of its passengers before continuing on its way across the causeway to Malaysian immigration. That's why they make you take all your luggage off the coach just in case!

I was lucky enough to go with a reputable company such as AeroLines as they were kind enough to wait for me because I didn't fill in my exit permit even though it was given to me when I got onto the coach! The reason? Because I didn't think I would need to go through Singapore immigration, not until I actually FLEW out of the country! Alas I didn't make the same mistake when it came to Malaysian immigration on the other side. But on my way back from Malaysia to Singapore I used a cheap coach company and was left behind because I didn't fill in my NEW entry permit for Singapore before getting processed and had to go to the end of the long line of people and start over again! It was no biggy getting back to my cousin's place because Singapore's so small.

As a side note the Malaysian immigration personnel seemed really relaxed compared to the Singaporean ones (that could have changed by now!). Also if you intend to bring the equivalent of your local Blockbuster's in pirate films/music and any other counterfeit products into Singapore, lets just say its not a good idea. But a few fake designer goods or other things should be ok and if the authorities are reading this I'm not condoning purchasing fake goods in any shape or form.

So to summarize (as if I ever needed to):
  • Fill in your entry and exit permits BEFORE you get processed by immigration at either end of the causeway and have everything that's immigration-related in order

  • If you're caught with counterfeit goods in bulk especially DVDs/CDs the penalties are high

My lunch on the AeroLines coach service to KL (this is not standard so you won't get this on a cheaper coach services but I could be wrong)

Welcome to KL! My first night in the city and I made a beeline from my homestay (hostel) to the Petronas towers to see them by night after a really cheap yet quality dinner (It was some kind of Chinese chicken with beansprouts in blackbean sauce) with some exchange students visiting the city

My breakfast (mmm...satay chicken skewers) before going on the official Petronas towers tour, the tour is free by the way but you need to queue up really early in the morning to get a shoo-in

The Petronas towers by day with a touch of the Chinese new year

atmosphere in the form of lanterns hanging across the street

One of the many views from the bridge connecting the two towers,

I was hoping we could go right to the top but security's real tight here

While exploring the rest of the city I stopped by the National Mosque near the old KL train station to pray, it looks pretty plain from the outside but it's really quite pretty inside and this is coming from someone who's seen many mosques and other Islamic architecture from around the Middle East!

I'm no architect but I do love the straight clean lines and how this Bauhauesque theme works well with the functionality of traditional Islamic design (but I could be biased because I'm Muslim!)

The main prayer hall under one large dome

The Sultan Abdul Samad building,

this is where the Federal court was housed before it was moved

Petaling street aka Chinatown where I bought a pair of Levis 501 jeans; Docker's Khaki pants; 2 t-shirts and a seemingly nice pair of blue suede Pumas (they were 1 size too small because my size was sold out and I couldn't resist buying them for £6!) for around £15!

The busy main street of Chinatown

The next day I went to the Batu caves on the outskirts of KL with another backpacker, the caves aren't all that spectacular inside but getting to them is quite a task and is part of worship for many Hindus oh and that big gold statue is apparently the world's biggest Lord Murugan statue

Next stop: Pulau Penang!

I took this shot from the coach en route to Penang island to illustrate how much of the ancient jungles in the Malaysian countryside is being destroyed to make way for vast palm plantations - Malaysia is the world's largest producer of raw Palm oil

Looking Westwards and you can just make out the coast past those mountains

Crossing the Penang bridge/causeway into Georgetown, capital of Penang

The view from my hotel room balcony the next morning (The hotel Mingood - I'd recommend this hotel because the staff are really helpful and homely). The tall building behind those houses is the Komtar and it's part of a shopping complex, its the tallest building on the island

Breakfast at the rooftop restaurant at the hotel and real halal beef bacon rashers!

Artistically positioned antiquated rickshaws at the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion near my hotel

Different generations of transport in Penang in front of a mosque

built by early Bengali settlers

Lunch! Chicken curry, garlic naans, lentil soup (or daal) and a nice tall glass of ice cold Mango Lassi! You gotta love the food here!

My feet started to hurt as I toured the nearby area on foot (courtesy of those ill-fitting Pumas!) so I hired a trishaw for the princely sum of RM16 if I remember correctly, these things are purely ceremonial these days and mostly tourists ride on them

The next day I met some more backpackers to hang out with and check out the rest of the island and so we went to quite a few places like Penang hill (above) early in the morning where you get amazing views of the island and surrounding sea because the air is so clean at that time of day. We also went to the one and only Snake temple aslo known as the Temple of the Azure Sky (its full of poisonous snakes just hanging around !) and the Penang butterfly farm which sounds boring but had some really interesting exotic species of not only butterflies but strangely, tortoises, squirrels and millipedes!

After touring the island in the taxi we hired for the day we ended up just chilling out on Batu Ferengi beach which isn't the most spectacular of beaches - I've seen better - but it served our purpose!

Another shot of Batu Ferengi beach

On a boat in rural Bangaldesh crossing one of the many rivers that criss cross this country, this was taken in my Dad's home district in the South of the country

And to neatly finish off my whirlwind photo tour

of South-East Asia (which really did take 2 weeks) here's a fitting sunset from Bangladesh

Hopefully you can put two and two together to fill in the gaps between the end of the trip and now!

This better have been worth it...Mybrid! It took me forever to get the apparently 'new' blogger to format the pictures and text and even now they're still looking screwed up.