Friday, September 30, 2011

Landmark Sale - first pickings

Went somewhat tentatively to the Landmark sale today (1st day). I needn't have worried about burning a hole in my pocket, given my unemployment status. The selection of books is not very good as it has been in the past. Although there are books available at Rs. 50 (mostly old foreign magazines) and Rs. 99 (fiction), Rs.199 seems to be more common as a discounted price. Given my bargain hunting tendencies, I was not biting much.

However still managed to pick up the two below

Aman Sethi's A Free Man (Jerry was raving about it - reason enough)...The jacket says "Mohammed Ashraf has studied biology in college and after college has learnt how to repair television sets, cut suit lengths and slice chicken... How can you not want to read further? 
The Genius Factory by David Plotz (subtitled "Unravelling the mysteries of the Nobel Prize sperm bank")... For those who didn't know, an eccentric millionaire in CA tried to reverse what he saw as the country's genetic decline by using the sperms of geniuses and artificially inseminating women... Read the book to know the rest. I had read about the book years ago in the TLS and perhaps heard a radio program also about it - The nutcase theme seemed a worthy read!

Thanks to some Landmark loyalty points, spent only a total of 267 on both books. Now to start reading...I might just return to the sale if my CITIBANK credit card points add up in time

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Austen again?

While reading Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer (which I started about 4 months ago when I was in the US upon Arun's suggestion), I came across a passage from Pride and Prejudice which has a hilarious exchange between Mrs. & Mr. Bennet. Like most things I read, I have little recollection of what I read (after about a week), except for maybe one standout sequence or a memorable character (like say Sandor from The Last Frontier by Alistair McLean), etc. Considering that I read Austen a really long while ago and have only a mild memory of it being really popular among women (and that perhaps largely due to Colin Firth!), I am wondering whether to try reading Austen again.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Inspiration from some runners

Given that I don't follow short distances so much, hurdles are a further step removed. But I decided to look up Dai Greene since Paula mentioned him as a medal hope for Britain. Read this story
And of course, if you are a marathoner you would know of Patrick Makau unless you have been sleeping since Sunday. Patrick Makau is paying back much like several Kenyan and Ethiopian champions before him. I am sure I would raise more than a few hackles when I question how our own Indian sportsmen (cricketers in particular) are paying it forward. I know of one in hockey, one in badminton, a couple in tennis, but for the amount of money in cricket, hardly any flowing back into society.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Boston 2013 then?

After months of waiting in anticipation, I finally got the one email I was dreading - the email from the BAA regretting that I won't get to run in Boston in April 2012. The cutoff was close - 3:08:46 against my 3:09:46. 
Since I expected this ever since I got a clarification from the BAA on age adjusted timings, I am not exactly devastated. But nothing in a long time has been this disappointing.
After all I quit my job expecting this.

There are so many ifs.

And I am in some illustrious company. There are some unlucky souls who missed by seconds vs. my margin of exactly a minute.

Guess I will need to lace up and set a PB next year to make sure I get into the 2013 list. I have a much better idea now of what it takes to get a confirmed place and not just qualify. It is encouraging now to think 3:10 is no longer my target. So much has changed in less than a year. But still ...

Once I finish sulking I will begin planning for that all important race in 2012. I might even go back to Avenue of the Giants or perhaps New Jersey, both races I have found are good for fast times and favour me.

And both are in May. So I can only pick one of them.

Good Luck to all those who got confirmed places through qualification.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Paula's advice to Mo Farah

A Year of Reading & Writing, Running

Each year by end of year, I write a post in which I just tally up the books I read in that year. This year has been an extraordinary one in my life in more ways than one. So it is almost expected that my reading would reflect that as well.
My previous post lists the books I have read (almost finished 2-3 books towards the end and hence have cheated and counted them as well) thus far in this year.
There are 48 of them. There are 14 weeks left in this year. I expect that I will cross my much cherished target of a book a week, I set years ago.

However there is an additional reason to make this post. If you look thru the list you will notice that quite a few of the books in the first 20 pertain to running. Obviously they were guided by my mission to qualify for the Boston Marathon which I did. They also instilled enough confidence in me to start a career as a running coach. But quite a few of those are also books I receive for review which I do for Business World, which brings me to my other revenue stream - book reviewing. By listing my books, I am also drawing your attention to the fact that I can do book reviews. So if you are the sort looking for reviews for which you will pay, get in touch with me via email. I take about a week after I receive the book to complete a review for a book of around 500 pages or less. We could discuss other terms once you get in touch with me.

For those of you wondering about the other books which have nothing to do with running or ones I received for reviewing, yes I do try and read a fair bit out of sheer love for books.

Voluntary contributions to my retirement fund are also welcome :)


Saturday, September 24, 2011

4 book reviews

Here are reviews of 4 books I have read in the recent past. More are on their way.

Rashmi Bansal's "I have a Dream"
Dov Seidman's "HOW"
Jay Elliot's "iLeadership"
Julian Crandall Hollick's "Apna Street"

Let me know what you think of them


Friday, September 23, 2011

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

How quickly does one fall in love?
If this book had been a woman, by this time, I would have sworn my undying love for her and beseeched her to marry me.

I bought the book not because it won the Booker (although I did cultivate that fetish once) but mostly since it had the tone of melancholy, wicked humour and intelligent people, all of which I had liked in Amsterdam, another book I like more than most people who like McEwan otherwise. And I haven't found a book since, that had that tone. But this one does.

Sample these lines and assume that you are having a conversation with someone intelligent...How can you not love it?
-> The BBC, Treslove believed, made addicts of those who listened to it ... As it did those it employed...Only worse in the case of those it employed - handcuffing them in promotions and conceit, disabling them from any other life. Treslove himself a case in point. Though not promoted, only disabled.

->On finishing his studies, on account of no one at the university being certain how many modules made a totality - Treslove found himself with a degree so unspecific that all he could do was accept a graduate traineeship at the BBC.

->Don't I look after you when you're ill? You do, You're marvellous to me when I'm ill. It's when I'm well that you're no use.

And all this in the first 12 pages of a 370 page book!

So finally I have a book that I shall perhaps read all the way and finish merrily. And yes, you should read this book too.


Book buying resumes

Given my generally unemployed status , I have placed my book buying on hold for a while. But thanks to a book that I could return to a bookshop since I had two copies of the same, I went and bought The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson today.
After a rather reckless bout of buying of books on poetry that I bought under Jerry's evil eye, none of which I have even touched as of date, this is the only other book I have bought this year.
Hope to continue it in a trickle henceforth. The one positive about me and my books this year is that I am reading way more than I have bought


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bad Habits - Reading & otherwise

Before I quit my job, I assumed that if I didn't work full time I would be reading feverishly and be able to knock off a book everyday or worst case - every 2 days. It has not turned out that way exactly. For the first week, I was in such bad shape that I could barely read 2 pages at a time. I would start reading before mental fatigue would set in or I would get distracted. Part of this may be due to some accumulated frustration at not having run for a while now, leaving me listless but some of it is just recently formed bad habits since I am better now, but still can't read a book a day.

As a result I have started on all of the following in the last two weeks but finished none

David Mitchell's Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (actually started on this last year, but never picked it up again till last week)
Samurai Williams (incredibly also about a westerner in Japan)
Firoozeh Dumas' Laughing without an accent (started on this when I was in the US, but never finished it and then someone borrowed it!)
HItchhiker (Douglas Adams' bio)
Our Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohd. Hanif (considering how much I liked his 1st, thought this would be a breeze...)
Does Anything eat Wasps? (from the New Scientist - yes, that's how desperate I am to read!)
The Greatest Show on Earth - writings on Bollywood edited by my man, Jerry

It is a telling comment that the only books I finished were both focussed on running.

Somehow I managed to finish seeing two full movies - again this is very unsettling for someone who has done 24 hr movie marathons with ease. I can barely sit for 15 mins for a movie now, although I have now managed to start reading 50 pages at least at one sitting.
True Grit (the Coen brothers' version) - fantastically made movie. Of particular delight is the rattlesnake scene...Everyone does well - Brolin, Damon, Bridges and Hailee...
The Lincoln Lawyer (a little pulpy but definitely watchable)

Have also seen random reruns of several B action movies on kungfu, assassins and the likes but never what happens after 15-20 mins. At one point, insanity & desperation connived to make me watch Singham on TV.

In short my world is a little messed up right now. God knows I need a run!


Rachel Toor's Personal Record

I was recommending books on running to someone who asked for recos and as an afterthought mentioned this book I had but hadn't read simply because I knew nothing about the author to persuade me to do so. However since that lingered in my mind and since the book was less than 200 pages, I figured I could knock it off in 3-4 hours and did exactly that. The author is a self-confessed sort of mean person who started running only in her 30s. However she has done over 40 marathons incl. several ultras. The book is an ok read, sort of like the movie you would watch when you were in some town for the first time and you saw a movie on sports and saw it for the simple reason that you are a sports buff.

However the author despite her confession endeared herself to me not just for being a runner, but also because she discusses a runner's universe - obsessing over timings, running magazines, crewing for other people, pacing, qualifying for Boston, coaching other runners, etc most of which I have experienced in a rush in the last year.

And while the author is a woman, she says herself that she prefers the company of men. Despite that the book is a decent book on running, even for women starting out to run, especially in their 30s.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Indian cricketers need a little self-discipline?

Given my own prejudices against Indian cricket, I am inclined to side with Roebuck here ->
The only concession is that the ODI series was largely a Duckworth-Lewis contest rather than a keen battle in each game.
I don't think it is too optimistic to expect that India would have done well even in the game in which England hit 230+ in 32 overs.

However, we haven't even recovered from the humiliation of the test series and the other games when this CL T-20 circus is upon us. I hope they discover some scam and just abandon the bloody farce for a few months.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ad spoofs I am dying to see right now

The first one I want to see is one of that seriously irritating ad (mostly due to infinite loops on multiple channels) of Max New York Life with that "Sanju..." I want to see one ad with that Sanju slaughtered a la Kill Bill and wife claiming insurance. After all, good stuff gains more respect with spoofing.

The second one is that reasonably awful ad for Airtel (mostly for its dull premise of everyone needing some infinite friends). Surely someone must be itching to do so. I have already read some mail forward spoofing the premise but to see in video would be fun altogether. 

The third one of course, is that random Broadway style ad for Vodafone Blue. Seriously someone actually authorized a phone for a website? With generally poor and expensive bandwidth in India, consumers will buy this phone? Would love to see how many phones they sell in a year from today.

Actually a bunch of jewellery ads need spoofing too, but they don't appear so often. So no venting on them yet!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Salaam Bombay and all that...

For the first time since I finished engineering in 2000, I am unemployed. Today was my last day at work in what turned out to be my longest job till date. And based on my future plans, may be for a while.

I am leaving Bombay/Mumbai t'row and won't be back for a while. When I make a brief visit it will be to participate in the Mumbai Marathon 2012 on 15th Jan - which brings us to my career change.

I am moving to Bangalore to become a running coach among other things.

Things have been a whirl in my life. After a few days of random fever, I got diagnosed with jaundice 3 weeks ago and had been resting & recuperating mostly at home in Bangalore. While that has ensured I haven't run a mile for over 3 weeks, I am hoping to be better in about a month when my first batch of trainees begin training for the Mumbai Marathon.

It is one strange feeling of relief and panic about the lack of steady income - not to mention a notional pay cut of over 90%. And being in bed being sick is not helping matters. I have also lost over 2.5 kg in 2 weeks of being sick, although I am getting better now.

Amongst various memories that will bind me to Bombay will be one from this evening - that of this elderly Bengali lady at Mumbai Central who blessed my new venture, wished me a good bride and marriage and generally wished me a good life, only since we shared a taxi, one that we struggled to get. Leaving Bombay is emotionally harder than leaving my job. I have not liked any other city outside Bangalore as much. I will miss the taxi drivers and their stories. I will generally miss the buzz of Bombay and of course the mad rains. It is the city in which I started writing, harbouring ambitions of writing for a living. I also met Jerry, my friend for the last year who vastly contributed to the enhanced quality of my life in Bombay. And then of course my running pals from Shivaji Park & elsewhere. And how can I forget the trains and Ganapati? It is also the city from which I took my sabbatical to fulfil my life's biggest dream, till date. Now I am embarking on something even bigger.

Only time will tell.

Adios dear Bombay. We shall meet in the new year

Sunday, September 04, 2011

IAAF Daegu 2011 - Men's 5000m

Mo Farah - 1
Lagat - 2
Merga - 3

No Kenyan medals :(

Saturday, September 03, 2011

IAAF Daegu 2011 - men's marathon

Abel Kirui does Kenya proud and how!
He ran a 5 km segment (apparently the 30-35 km segment) in 14:40 which just destroyed the field.
And he then followed it up with a 15:15 for the 35-40 km segment. During this, he also widened the gap on his chasers from 1:01 to 2:34!!!
He finished in 2:07:38 and actualy looked back to see if someone was behind him! Some Kenyan sense of humour I think.
At the time of my posting this, Kipruto was on his to 2nd. Lets see

IAAF Daegu 2011 - Men's 200m

Usain Bolt makes up for his mishap in the 100m and wins in 19.4

IAAF World 2011 - Men's 1500m

Kenya 1-2 again!
Kiprop 1, Kiplagat -2 Centrowitz (USA)-3

Friday, September 02, 2011

Kemboi celebrates after winning 3000m steeplechase
Apparently, he was making up for Usain missing as well :)

Must be the first Kenyan I know who has such a haircut and also does shirtless celebrations. Eat this Salman!

IAAF Daegu 2011 - Women's 5000m

Kenya 1-2
Vivian Cheruiyot also completed a seemingly effortless double gold in 10K and 5K

Thursday, September 01, 2011

IAAF Daegu 2011 - Men's 3000m steeple chase

The 3000m steeplechase is one of the first events in which I began following the Kenyans years ago. So to return to it completes a sort of full circle.
Kenya won gold & silver