A death on Facebook

The irony is he barely used it.

But the Facebook phenomenon exploded out of the teen scene around the time we started our MBAs in ’07, and it became one of those things that tied the cohort together. Many of us lived on campus, most in the same building, and it was a warm and friendly time, seeing a message box or Status pop up from someone just a minute down the corridor.

The greatest thing of all was that the diverse groups on the course never congealed into ethnic enclaves; MBA courses are a great leveller. Sharing kitchens, sharing frustrations, and laughing a lot. Writing a Wall comment that’d be understood by fewer than twenty; adding a Status you knew the whole class would identify with.

It was a special time.

And now, one of the people I shared that special time with is dead.

As the sun rolls around the world and a new day dawns across timezones, the diaspora of the 07-08 Warwick MBA cohort is waking up to a sad message. One of those truly great people – a genuinely together guy, someone capable of stepping outside his own needs and desires to help others or forge a common purpose – has died before his time.

So one by one, we visit the Facebook page of a dead colleague. And leave him a final message he’ll never see, but the rest of us will.

Such messages are for him and his family… but they’re also for us. Letting each other know we gave a damn, and that it makes a difference that we do.

That we still give a damn.

And this message is no different. Because we’re spread around the world now, but some of us read my blog, and they’ll know who I’m talking about.

The darkness is out there. Sooner or later, it takes us all, through chance or time. And in the darkness, there is nothing. The only thing that matters is to make a difference while you’re here. The world has no meaning or purpose save that which we impose upon it… so make sure you impose that meaning, and find a purpose you’re happy with. We’re all on a downhill slope, but while you’re on it you can grab a few outcrops of rock, pull yourself up a little, swing round laughing for a while. Forget the inexorable for a moment and live in the now.

Goodbye, neighbour. You were a terrific guy. But as well as your death, I’m thinking about life.

So I suppose I’m writing this for those left behind, myself included.

We’ve all got the same thing, regardless of its span: a lifetime. But none of us knows how long it’ll be. We may see the dawn of a new century, or technologies only dreamed of, or proof of life on other worlds. The death of friends is a gift: it tells us to make life sweeter. Do with it what we can, while we can.

Sooner or later, for all of us, everything goes dark.

So let’s live.

"With free texts for life, I’d start a superband"

What the FUCK does the bus ad by some random mobile phone provider MEAN? “With free texts for life, I’d start a superband”??? What the FUCK? How, exactly, does being able to text all day for nothing help you start a superband? And WHAT THE FUCK IS A SUPERBAND ANYWAY? A pop group where all the members wear their underpants outside their trousers?

I mean, if your ambition in life was to be in a band, shouldn’t you start by… I dunno, learning an instrument or something?

This ad can only be seen one way: yet another cringingly inept attempt by a phone company to look cool. I don’t even know which phone company it is, but I ALREADY hate them.

Tube not adding up

This is one of those random statements that makes you wonder whether the people in charge are actually capable of doing the job they’re talking about. A £1 pocket calculator wouldn’t have hurt, surely?

First sentence first. Upgrading will deliver nearly 30% more capacity across the network. Fair enough. An increased number and size and frequency of trains mean people can cram themselves into Tube trains 30% more often than before, or 30% more people can ride them. All well and good.

But the second sentence? If they don’t upgrade, capacity would reduce by 30%? We’re running just to stand still?

They’re saying that without the upgrades, the whole system will fall so far into disrepair that 30% fewer journeys are possible each year. Platforms will crumble, trains will break down, and tracks will be unpassable from Mill Hill to Morden. (No change there.)

Is this “Gordon Brown accounting”? Making it look like an increase by artfully choosing the most favourable starting point?! The trumpeted increase will in fact be zero because all it’s doing is taking us back to capacity today?

I mean, that’s what this message is actually saying. We’re losing 30% anyway and all the upgrade programme is doing is clawing it back.

Now I know how African aid agencies feel, when politicians make speeches awarding them billions, and they subsequently discover it’s money previously pledged.

Dodgy accounting, fractured maths, Jubilee Line still closed all weekend, every weekend. It’s all gone Down the Tubes.

Badass of the week

When you’re struggling with searing insomnia and have worked 49 days without a break, finding websites like this is a lifesaver. My favourites are Marie Curie:

1903 was a pretty sweet year for Madame Curie – she was awarded her Ph.D. and also the Nobel Prize – which is probably a combination of awards that most people don’t generally achieve in the same calendar year. I guess that’s what you call a pretty solid thesis paper.

And of course Grandmaster Imi:

Imi Lichtenfeld was not only an accomplished athlete, he came up with one of the most ripshit-badass martial arts styles in the world, Krav Maga, which should be Hebrew for “I’m going to fuck you up so bad your grandsons are gonna be born without ballsacks.”

Delivering a swift kick to the groin: why I love Krav Maga

As any fan of martial arts cinema knows, all you have to do to become the baddest mofo in town is acquire a “secret training manual”, perform a few comic interludes getting the moves wrong watched by your faithful sidekick, and by sunrise you’re storming the Shaolin Temple and kicking some serious monk ass.

I’ve been studying Krav Maga (not a martial art; it just looks like one) for a while now. (Badly). And have just had a few months out on injury time. So I thought that before I return to class next month, I could get an edge by acquiring their “secret training manual“!

There aren’t many good books on Krav, largely because it’s about doing not learning; a basic tenet is honing the body’s natural reflex movements by turning them into useful defences. Krav is practice not theory. But this out-of-print volume, translated from the original Hebrew of KM founder Imi “Sde-Or” and Eyal Yanilov, is a cracking read. Defence against knife attacks, defence against attackers holding a gun, use of everyday objects to counterattack, yada yada yada. There’s even a lesson on what to do if someone’s chucking grenades about, especially valuable on the streets of south London.

But ultimately the techniques of Krav are few and their delivery simple. And that’s what I like about it: its beautiful simplicity. No 99 basis stances or 48 positions, none of this crap about Sitting Dragons or Prancing Tigers or Monkeys Sitting On The Delicate Branch Of The Ancient Googah Tree. Krav has 3 stances, one of which could be accurately described as “standing normally.” Most of the defences against knife attacks seem to be variants on “deliver a swift kick to the groin” (after executing a forearm block of course.) It’s full of micro-cases written in complete deadpan:

“…The security officer then delivered a kick to the groin, stepped backwards, cocked his weapon, and shot him.”

Time to go and whack my punchbag for a while.