Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Spending time back home never fails to send me on trips down memory lane.

Its been five years since I've graduated from high school. That's half a decade. That equates to slightly less than 1/4 of my entire life (21.7% to be anally exact). A lot has happened since then, and it almost seems like living in Bahrain was an entire lifetime ago. I bet this is amusing the over 30s of you out there, that a relative youngin has the nerve to go on about how old he feels.. to that I say: isn't it time to empty out that colostomy bag?

Alright, I'm sorry. That was harsh. I'm actually quite excited about growing up, becoming more mature and knowledgeable is quite gratifying. It's funny looking back at the past five years and realizing how dumb I was.. and I'll probably look back on this five years from now and realize how stupid I am at the moment, its kind of a depressingly never-ending kind of thing.

Getting back on topic: Its things like fishing through my bookcase and taking a look at all the novels I used to read back in high school. Its opening a drawer still stuffed with old IB notes that haven't been touched in five years. Its catching up with old friends, running into people you haven't seen in such a long time and realizing that most of them have jobs and some even have children (yeah, one guy in my class is actually a father now). Its visiting your high school for the first time in five years only to realize that things are not quite as you left them. Its seeing all those kids graduating (June is graduation season, of course) and reading through this year's yearbook, all that stuff about how old they feel and how they've just accomplished something tremendous and thinking.. that used to be me. Its remembering the old days with your buddies, all the things we used to get up to and all the childishness of days past. Its hanging out with my parents and realizing how different our relationship has become, how its become a horizontal one of friendship, rather than a vertical heirarchy of authority. Its seeing my siblings growing older and wiser, becoming interesting people that make me want to spend time with them, changed from the kids who's silliness I tried to avoid. Its thinking about things like domestic and foreign politics, personal finances, career decisions, future aspirations, religious beliefs.. just.. serious stuff.. things that have replaced the peaceful, innocent, oblivious contents of my childhood cranium. Its things like having to renew my driving license and getting a new 5-year UK visa because the old 5-year one expires next month. Its looking at old photos of senior year and seeing the difference. Its starting to think about what happens after I'm done studying. Its looking at myself in the mirror and spotting a few stray grey hairs (for fuck's sake, that's just unnecessary.. I'm only 22 and a half).

I think I lost my way there, I set out to write about random nostalgic moments I've experienced since I got back but ended up ranting about growing older. I guess they're inextricably linked, the older you get the more nostalgic you become.

I just read an article about this Haitian man living in Cuba who's 120 years old. Apparently he doesn't remember the first 40 years of his life. Amazing.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Balls: Curve or Straight?

Before your mind beings to wander, I'd like to state that the content of this post is quite innocuous.

I went bowling with a few friends yesterday and I discovered an interesting new fact.

Let me give you some background info: See, the thing is.. I've been bowling in Bahrain since I was 15. That's 7 years. I had a phase between 15 and 16 where I used to bowl every other day at Bushihri (old school bowling place which I believe has been unfortunately shut down recently). Obviously I'm out of shape these days since for the last 5 years I've been abroad and haven't bowled much on the occasions that I did come back. I would say I'm a decent player, averaging 135 per round on a good day.

Okay, so I've got some experience when it comes down to it, right? I even know how to calculate spare and strike scores! How come I've never heard about the curve and straight variations of the ball until yesterday?

Apparently, the curve ball is the one the professionals play with. You roll it down the lane and it looks like its going to take out 2 or 3 pins max, but then it takes a wicked curve and heads towards the middle, resulting in a strike most of the time. I've known that the method existed, but I never knew it had its own seperate ball. The balls provided for the masses placed on the racks are all straight balls, and I've been using those for the last 7 years.

No wonder all my finger-breaking attempts at generating that curve from a straight ball have proved so painfully unsuccessful.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Impromptu Paella

Long grain rice
Diced chicken breast
Seafood mix (prawns, scallops, mussels, and calamari)
Diced onions
Mixed vegetables (courgettes, traffic light peppers, baby tomatoes, red onions)
Cayenne Pepper
Piri-Piri, Lime and Tequila Marinade
Salt and Pepper

No exact amounts necessary, go wild. Mine was pretty damn spicy. Ring of fire.

Wash rice and drain. Boil for 10 minutes until half cooked.
Fry onions, mix spices and throw in chicken. Fry until cooked.
Throw in seafood mix.
Throw in mixed vegetables, quickly stir fry. Mix in marinade.
Toss in rice. Mix furiously.
Allow the mix to dry up a bit (not too dry).

Make sure you make a huge amount. Do not under any circumstances try to eat the whole lot by yourself. Invite some friends over, but not too many.. you gotta make sure you have some leftover to eat the next day. If it tastes shite, invite many people you don't like and get them to bring you some booze.

Heading back home in a few days. Summer's started!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Menace II Society

Something interesting happened to me today. I realized that recent good results in my Obstetrics and Gynaecology exam have meant that I've actually earned a qualification. Yup, I couldn't believe it either. Me? With some sort of qualification other than a high school degree? Surely not..

Well, apparently its true. It forms one third of the long string of letters I get to add to the end of my name sometime next year. BAO.. Bachelor of Obstetrics. Alllriiiightttt.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am now officially qualified to deliver your babies. Scary thought, isn't it?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Videogame Session Dynamics

It quite interesting observing a bunch of guys sitting around playing videogames in a competitive environment. The key here is that it has to be competitive, with two or more of the players at a relatively equal level of skill. If there's no competition, the whole process ceases to be fun as attention is diverted elsewhere. There MUST be a singlemindedness towards the task at hand, a sharp focus on doing nothing but defeating and humiliating your best friends.

Many games are played, covering all major genres. There are the first person shooter games (such as Halo) which can involve anywhere from 2 to 16 players. There are the sports games that can involve 2 to 4 players (such as Fifa, Winning Eleven, Topspin tennis) and those which should be played strictly on a one-on-one basis (NBA Live, Madden, Tiger Woods). There are also fun games such as Mario Party which take on a very lighthearted and childish nature of play, but still manage to preserve that all-important competitive edge.

The whole aim of playing videogames is to prove that you are the best player beyond any doubt. Your task is to take on all comers and destroy them, making your friends pass the controller from one person to another and suffering the frustation of never being able to play two games in a row. Trash talk is a necessity, but you must also be able to back it up. If you talk trash and you suck at the game then no one will take you seriously. You will not be considered a threat to the top dogs and will be treated as nothing but cannon fodder or target practice. You will become the easy kill in Halo, the amount of times you're hunted down and killed will seperate the best players since they're too good to kill each other most of the time. You will become the lucky draw in a sports tournament such as Fifa, since playing you usually means easy passage to the next round. You will become the last person to be challenged to a game, the last person allowed to touch the controller in a shotgun scramble for a turn at the beginning of each session. No one will want to be your partner in a 4 player game. You will lose the respect of your friends when it comes to videogames and the only way you can redeem yourself is by getting better.

No, don't go practicing against the computer by yourself at home. Even the most difficult CPUs are no match for the top human players. And no, don't go researching tips and tactics on the Internet.. that's not going to help you. Improvement takes time, effort and heart. You'll have to play your games and get beaten the hell out of.. but you must also learn from every defeat. Everytime you get a chance to play one of the better players, you swallow the bitter pill of losing and make sure you give it a right go. And then, when you're matched against one of the more average players, you use what you learned and aim to beat them. Slowly but surely you will move up the ranks to being a mediocre player, capable of giving a top player a good run for his money if he happens to be having a bad day.

But that's where it stops I'm afraid. If you start off shit, you're never going to become great. Not amongst a respectable group of gamers, that is.. you can't call beating your little sister making it to the top. Becoming a constant winner at videogames is partially genetic, partially early conditioning. If you were big into sports when you were a kid but never really played any videogames then don't expect to be much good at them when you grow older (except if you're really extremely naturally gifted). Good gamers can pick up any new game and beat any other person who's never played it before. They learn how to play the game much faster and after a couple of turns are better than most players. They leave mediocre and poor players eating their dust, frustrated with the steep learning curve they must encounter to become semi-competitive.

I consider myself a damn good gamer. I think I'd be a match for any gamer 20 years old or above. If I've played the game before, chances are I'll beat you. This only applies to those who are 20 years or older, as the younger generation are a different breed. Those kids will school my ass and make me feel useless. My 13 year old cousin once beat me three times in a row while playing Winning 11.. he had the controller in one hand and was eating his dinner with the other.