Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Magnificent Obsession of Fred Lebow

Here's a striking story from a book called 'The London Marathon: The History of the Greatest Race on Earth' by John Bryan of Fred Lebow, one of the founders of the New York Marathon.

Fred Lebow was a fascinating and an energetic man, but when you met him you could be left in no doubt about his obsessive nature. He told me that at various points in his life he trained himself off regular meals and, in one particularly bizarre experiment, deliberately went without sex for a year to see what effect it would have on his body, his mind and his running.

He also set himself the target of competing in a marathon every month and confessed that a number of his relationships with girlfriends had hit the wall because of his running. Lebow became fixated with counting the number of miles he ran and logging them in a running diary. 'When I was living with one girlfriend,' he said, 'I set myself a goal to run 2,500 miles for the year. It was my New Year's resolution and maybe I was a bit obsessive about it.'

Towards the end of the year Lebow knew that he was getting close. On New Year's Eve he spent the day flying back from the West Coast where he'd been on business and on the plane he checked his running diary, adding up his mileage and concluding that he was 19 miles short of his total for the year.

'My girlfriend and I were off to a dinner party in Central Park West,' said Lebow, 'and when I got to her apartment around seven o'clock she had my suit and tie and shoes and all ready and she was trying on her evening gown ready for the party. But as soon as I got in I told her that I had just checked my diary amd I was still 19 miles short for the year. "I'll have to go and run," I said.'

Two hours or so later, after pounding his way around Central Park in the cold and rain and adding an extra mile just to be on the safe side, Lebow returned to find his girlfriend in tears. He got dressed and ready, fast. They made the party around 10 - too late for dinner but in time for the dancing and New Year resolutions. 'Way after midnight we both danced with other guests,' said Fred. 'Then later when I looked for her, I couldn't find her. Somebody said she went home.'

Unable to get a taxi at 2 a.m. in New York on New Year's Eve in the pouring rain, Lebow ran the couple of miles back to the apartment. When he got there, soaked and frozen, he found a suitcase in the hall outside her door, a bag with his running kit in it and an envelope.

'There was a long note kind of summing up our relationship, saying that she was kicking me out,' said Fred. His girlfriend had also added a PS. She had found his running diary, gone through it and added up his mileage. Fred had got that wrong too. It turned out that he had already run 2,531 miles for the year - over 30 miles more than his target. He didn't need to run at all that night.

Six months later the girl was married - but not to Fred Lebow

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hurt - Johnny Cash

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar's chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

The legendary country musician Johnny Cash fought a lifetime of drug addiction before returning to Christianity. I didn't realise how popular he was in Sweden until I saw 'Hurt' being played almost every instance at the student cafeteria (Skogis) in Umea University. It's one of those dark songs which border the fine line of 'depressing' or 'deeply personal' depending on when you listen to it. Recommended if you know the story of Johhny Cash or have watched 'Walk The Line'

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tooting Horns

Oh well, although monetarily the promotion doesn't work out to much, nevertheless its heartening to be recognized for a job well done (although I suspect my line-manager really wanted me to have an iPhone since I whined about having one all the time and this is his way of shutting me up) For those who are curious to know what I do now, I came in as a lowly graduate in a British firm starting from scratch.

Not one to blow my trumpet, I'll let my ex-line managers and client do it for me here. Below is a compilation of testimonials which was submitted last year for the Women in Construction Starter Award (which I didn't win but unabashedly felt proud for)

My first line manager at the Shard, P.R.'s, testimonial
"Fiona has done an excellent job as Project Controls Assistant at the Shard where she has designed, implemented and taken responsibility for the timely issue of various dashboard reports, formal monthly Steering Group reports and other necessary reports. Through her approach and ability to work with others, she ensures that the reports are issued on time with consistent and quality data. She has been openly praised by both the T&T Project Director and the client for the quality of the Steering Group Report.

From a learning perspective, she has played a role in developing the project programme, and has learning on the job to use the software and understanding the construction process.

From an overall perspective she has very quickly become an integral member of the team, respected and relied upon by both T&T team members and the client"

My first client at the Shard, Mr B Ainsworth's testimonial (who so happens to be the man who constructed the Millenium Dome - now called The O2 ):

"I have rarely seen someone grip a task, shape it, own it and deliver a result that would shame many of those who have been in our industry for many years.

Fiona joined our team in July and since that time the quality, content and timeliness of the teams reports and dashboards have improved dramatically. She has understood the criticality of reporting /information on a major project and has demonstrated the patience and commitment required to gather the information from a large number of sources ensuring the output appears when promised. All this achieved with the disregard to how at times it eats into her own personal time.

In additional to this ‘day job’ Fiona took the task of collating, setting out and producing an information booklet/ quick guide to the project. The quality of this has led to our marketing department adopting the same, and its overall popularity means it is heading for its third production run. Fiona also has taken on a further task of creation and management of substantial sections of our developer’s programme, a not inconsiderable task when you consider this is a £ ¾ billion inner city high rise project sitting within one of the busiest stations in London.

I find Fiona always ready to assist and somebody I can always rely on for quality, understanding and speed of output and I look forward to seeing her develop inside of my team, to her benefit as well as that of the industry"

And finally from my current line manager A.T. at Gatwick Airport (whom I thanked upon promoting me)

"You are most welcome Fiona. You thoroughly deserve it. Keep up the good work (now you can buy an iPhone)"

Just when I thought it was too tough to handle, things do come around. I have my colleagues and team to thank who've all made this journey worthwhile.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Promise - Tracy Chapman

I'm embedding this because it's the 4th time someone's told me about this rather beautiful song. It's not in my list of Tracy Chapman songs but since serendipity called, I cannot ignore her.

Little India Hot Spots in London

Had some great South Indian food last weekend with Thina and Taps in East Ham. We went to Saravanna Bhavan (the same branch as the one in KL) and was mighty chuffed to see 'Gobi 65' (deep fried spiced cauliflower) on the menu. It's my favourite item on the menu in the branch back in Bangsar, KL. Yin Li and I would go to the Saravanna Bhavan on Jalan Maarof after Ashtanga Yoga on Sundays and put back what we've burnt with yummy Indian.

The last time I had south indian was in Wembley. There were lots of shops there but the one we ate was Shiv-recommended Sanghamam (vegetarian). Very nice chilli paneer.

I also understand that Tooting would also be another good place for South Indian food.

Otherwise, rows of vegetarian restaurants can also be found on Drummond street near Euston station. Priti recommends Ravi Shankar, a vegetarian restaurant(mostly North-fare). There are a couple of Indian grocery stores there as well.

The other well-known restaurant would be Pakistani 'Tayyabs' in Whitechapel. Really crowded in the evenings especially on weekends and you'd have to bring ur own corkage as they don't serve alcohol.

Brick lane has tons of Pakistani and north Indian along the road but not sure how authentic they are as they seem pushy and 'touristy'

Went to Southall today as its on the way from Heathrow to Paddington. Lots of clothes shops and North Indian restaurants here. Blew my grocery budget off with spices in the big 'Quality' store - the biggest Indian grocery (aptly a'super-store')which sells everything you need to make for paneer, ghulab jamuns, kerala, bendi, chutney and whatever you name it. I wanted to get a crate of mangoes but it would be ridiculous carrying it all the way to Central London, on the way to dinner.

Being Malaysian, I recognize the symptom of obsessive-food exploration. Will sometimes find it hard to explain to non-Malaysians about this tick. Nevertheless I'm proud that we are so varied that appreciation of the spices and styles of cooking is in-built within us. Love live all the Malaysian bellies.

More English 'English'

More on English 'English'

Both buttocks = A complete arse

Raspberry = cripple (Ripple)

China = Mate (Plate)

Trouble = wife (and strife)

Taking the piss = Make fun of

Snake and Pygmy Pie = Steak and Kidney Pie

Saturday, May 08, 2010

2 vs 4, Us = Me = Ridiculosity

2 vs 4

Had another game of ultimate last friday and it was just 6 of us on the field this time (2 pulled out at the last minute) 8 is a passable number but 6 is pushing it for a game and push we did. Anyway since it was Ian (aka frisbee king)we had to split it into 2 and 4. It was a pretty relaxed game, too relaxed as we found ourselves losing anyway (either the 2 were really that good, or 4 of us were really lousy or a combination of both). The windy conditions didn't make it any easier either and we called it a day to go for a nice dinner at Hare and Tortoise (where I dumped some banana skin at the door in protest of the long queue and Ali tries to chat up the waitress - although I don't think asking for something more expensive than what's in the menu would do)

Us = Me = Ridiculosity

You know things are getting ridiculous when people don't express their expectations and when you don't fulfill them, you've 'failed' somewhat.

And then you find yourself apologizing for something which is not entirely your fault.

You also realise that you were always alone in it from the start and begin to wonder how big have you built this castle in the sky.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

She's Always a Woman - Billy Joel

To all my girls out there....

She can kill with a smile
She can wound with her eyes
She can ruin your faith with her casual lies
And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She hides like a child,
But she's always a woman to me

She can lead you to love
She can take you or leave you
She can ask for the truth
But she'll never believe you
And she'll take what you give her, as long as it's free
Yeah, she steals like a thief
But she's always a woman to me

Oh--she takes care of herself
She can wait if she wants
She's ahead of her time
Oh--and she never gives out
And she never gives in
She just changes her mind

And she'll promise you more
Than the Garden of Eden
Then she'll carelessly cut you
And laugh while you're bleedin'
But she'll bring out the best
And the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself
Cause she's always a woman to me


Oh--she takes care of herself
She can wait if she wants
She's ahead of her time
Oh--and she never gives out
And she never gives in
She just changes her mind

She is frequently kind
And she's suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases
She's nobody's fool
And she can't be convicted
She's earned her degree
And the most she will do
Is throw shadows at you
But she's always a woman to me

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Everly Brothers - Dream / Cathy's Clown

Vini came over and we sang to retro- hits (Are you Lonesome Tonight - Elvis, Jambalaya, Tie a Yellow Ribbon, Close To You - Carpentars etc.) which brought back memories of childhood when dad would put on his tapes in the yellow Ford station wagon while he and mom sat in front, me and sis would be at the back. He played all these 'then' hits, probably re-living his hey-days as a rocker, bowling champ, body-builder dude (he still keeps his Elvis bob till today) - me and sis were subjected to the 'oldies-but-goldies' the whole way through the car journey (sometimes repeatedly).

I grew to love these songs and had my particular favourites e.g. The Carpentars "Yesterday Once More", Cliff Richard's "Living Doll", "Evergreen Tree", Everly Brothers'"Cathy's Clown","Dream",(almost all in the record actually', Elvis "Devil in Disguise","Suspicious Minds" to name a few. When mom or dad parked the car and left me in it to run errands I'd reach over and 'touched' (which I wasn't supposed to) the tape player to fwd/rewind to my fave bits

Here's my favourite oldy-but-goldy band, the Everly Brothers singing my all time favourite "Dream" and "Cathy's Clown"