Monday, December 22, 2008

Got gat?

A classic scene in Big Money by PG Wodehouse where an inebriated and well-armed Mr Hoke intrudes into Berry Conway's home and interrupts a conversation with Lord Hoddesdon who has just come in to discuss weighty matters with Berry.

'Do you want to see me about something?' he asked.
'Got gat,' said Mr Hoke pleasantly.
'Cat?' said Berry.
'Gat,' said Mr Hoke.
'What cat?' asked Berry, still unequal to the intellectual pressure of the conversation.
'Gat,' said Mr Hoke with an air of finality.
Berry tentatively approached the subject from another angle.
'Hat?' he said.
'Gat,' said Mr Hoke.
He frowned slightly, and his smile lost something of its effervescent bonhomie. This juggling with words was giving him a slight, but distinct headache.


Lord Hoddesdon rose.
'Where is my hat?' he said stiffly.
'Gat,' said Mr Hoke, his annoyance increasing. It seemed to him that these people were deliberately affecting to misunderstand plain English.


'You thinking of leaving?' asked Mr Hoke.


' answer to your question, I am thinking of leaving,' said Lord Hoddesdon.
Mr Hoke's momentary lapse into amiability was over. He was the strong man again, the man behind the gun.
'Oh, no!' he said.
'I beg your pardon?' said Lord Hoddesdon.
'Granted,' said Mr Hoke. He produced the gat, of which they had heard so much, and poised it in an unsteady but resolute grasp. 'Hands up!' he said.


'I had a mother once,' he said.
'You did?' said Berry.
'Yes, sir!' said Mr Hoke. 'That's just what I had. A mother.'
'The man's a dashed, drivelling, raving, raging lunatic,' said Lord Hoddesdon.
Mr Hoke started. Something in his lordship's words had caused a monstrous suspicion to form itself in his clouded mind. It seemed to him, if he had interpreted them rightly, that Lord Hoddesdon was casting doubts on his sanity. He resented this.

Wodehouse has been my favorite author since I was 16. Hardly a month goes by without me re-reading one or more of the 90-odd books authored by him. I may, from time to time, add a nugget or two from his timelessly laugh-out-loud funny books. Watch this space!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Battling it out in the greenbelt

The day I was supposed to do my longest training run of 28 miles added a few twists of its own. The day started warm and extremely humid, and as the day progressed, it grew warmer while still remaining humid. I have typically not done well in such conditions. Actually, that is quite an understatement. Humidity and heat have always oppressed me on my runs, so this long run was going to be a challenge.

We started out at 7am in the Barton Creek Greenbelt at the 'Hill of Life'. It was a new route for me today, and I promptly got lost on the trails in the first loop and did a couple of extra miles. I ended up doing 3 more loops, shorter because I knew the trails now. The hilly loop including a couple of overlook vistas with breathtaking scenery and I lapped it up greedily. The beauty of the greenbelt with some fall colors thrown in for extra credits really helped keep my mind off the pains and struggles in my mind and body today.

There were a few positives to take home today. I have now learnt to pace myself much better in different conditions. Previously in summer, I would run a few miles and then give out completely in exhaustion and frustration. But today, I slowed myself down after the first frenetic loop. I mixed in liberal doses of forced walk breaks to make sure I was not pushing too hard against the elements. Consequently, each loop thereafter was taking around 2-2:10 hours to complete, even as I grew more tired with every passing mile. It was rather slow, but consistency won the day today. And by conserving energy initially, I was also pleasantly surprised to be running strongly even in the last mile!

For such a hot and humid day, my improvised nutrition plan also worked well. Normally, I found it hard to eat anything after a few miles on such days; it becomes hard to chew and digest, and the taste buds complain a lot. Today, I relied on an array of options: 1 banana, 2 clif shot bloks, 2 hammer gels, a few spoons of tamarind brown rice mixed with some lentils, 1 bottle of ensure, 2 packets of Succeed Amino, and countless tablets of salt, all taken with a total of about 200+ oz (~2 gallons) of water. That sounds like quite a feast now, but while I was running, I managed to ensure a steady supply of energy.

Thanks to the humidity, I also used up quite a bit of gear today: 2 shirts, 2 shorts, 2 bandanas, 1 cap, and 2 pairs of socks. I sure wished I had more though!

Another positive today was my handling of my IT-band pain. My tight IT-band has been a bane recently, it has forced me to back off training and try different things to alleviate the pain, like tying my bandana above my knee. I recently came across some nice stretching exercises for the IT-band, and by doing a few stretches every few miles or so for 30 seconds at a time today especially when I felt it may start to bother me a little, I managed to keep that issue at bay.

On the whole, I am happy I ran long today and did not bail early. It feels like quite an achievement for me, especially after the nightmares of summer training. I have clearly learnt a lot through experience, and I am still learning with each run on what works for me under different conditions. And battling it out today on the hills of the greenbelt under hot and humid weather and making the 28 miles slotted for today is a nice confidence boost! All in all, a great training run.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A dangerous intellectual infancy

Arundhati Roy writes another essay, in a way only she can, this time about the Mumbai attacks. From the politicians to the police, from the US to Pakistan, from terrorists to communists to communalists, and from celebrities to the media, they all come under fire for the state of affairs that allows incidents like Mumbai's terror attacks to happen.

In Mumbai was not our 9/11, Arundhati has some classic one-liners.

A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.

We're now in the era of Grabbing by Force, and democracy has a terrible habit of getting in the way.

In the business of terrorism, victims and perpetrators sometimes exchange roles.

If Kashmir won't willingly integrate into India, it's beginning to look as though India will integrate/disintegrate into Kashmir.

Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for terrorists; they're for people that governments don't like.

There are many threads to follow in the essay. One concerns why the Mumbai attacks should so outrage the Indian media and elite, and why it is even being called India's 9/11. That is a stretch in so many ways, and Arundhati surely does a great job of bringing that out. Reasons why these attacks are "special" probably include the targeting of elites by the terrorists, and the opportunity for breathless media coverage.

An even more dangerous development seems to be, what she calls rightly, a regression into intellectual infancy. Media and elites flirting with the idea of a police state, and whipping up anger against all politicians seems like an attack on Indian democracy itself. Truly, media coverage and analysis in India has touched heights that Fox News can only dream of.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Terror in Mumbai: Enough Already

Some more links on the terror in Mumbai, there are quite a few more thoughtful and sober analysis coming out now.

An editorial in Guardian talking about what the idea of India means, and why that dream is still attainable. Inspiring, and despite all the social inequalities that still persist, I think we should take heart from what has been achieved so far in the face of almost-insurmountable odds.
The unforgotten dream

Adding perspective to the media's hysterical coverage, Badri Raina plays on NDTV's rather ridiculous and vacuous caption 'Enough is Enough'. Enough of NDTV and its breathless sensationalism perhaps.
Enough is Enough

Mumbai, Muslims, beards and Jews. Jawed Naqvi looks at some misconceptions and dangerous stereotyping by a terrorized people.
Mumbai rekindles debate about Muslims, their beard and so on

Patrick Cockburn, a journalist whose reporting and analysis I mostly look forward to, lays the blame at various commissions of Pakistan and omissions by the US.
From Baghdad to Mumbai, by way of Pakistan

Good ol' Tom! Never thought I'd say this, but I actually find good merit in what Thomas Friedman says in his op-ed piece. He calls on all Pakistanis to rally and protest against the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage, similar to how they stood up and even lost lives over the Danish cartoons. Its an altogether different matter that he didnt write such a sensible and potentially more useful article asking Americans to stand up for, say, the Iraqis dead in some mindless collateral damage in the Iraq war. Oh well, with dear Tom, we are grateful for the small mercies of life...
Calling All Pakistanis

Another Pakistani opinion-piece. Another one looking self-critically at the politics and policies of Pakistan. In many ways, the mass media in Pakistan is more independent and sober about their own country than the generally India-is-shining media in India. Pakistanis seem quite pessimistic about their government and even country, possibly because of the rather sorry state of affairs there. Irfan Hussain is fun to read though, and I have generally enjoyed many travel and political articles written with insight and compassion by him.
Facing the truth