Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Ticker Tracker: Suunto Ambit Run

I've got this decent $300 fitness watch called the Suunto Ambit Run that does a good job of tracking what I've been up to. It's not exactly what I wanted: it really is heavily geared for running rather than the cross-training I invest in, and while it's fun to get the GPS going on the rare occasions I'm able to get out trail running (when I'm back in the ol' 819) Geo-positioning is kinda pointless on a hockey rink :D

Below are two recent displays. The first is from yesterday afternoon's gym session, the second day of my new more cardio-centric regime, and the second is a typical 80mins Hockey Night in Jakarta session with the #JakartaDragons

GYM: Eight spikes to 178bpm for the intervals and then a range between 118-152bpm when I got stuck into three Supersets for Back and Biceps. Average bpm 135; total burn was 626cals over 72mins.

HOCKEY: We're on-ice 80-85 mins including warm-up. Three team round-robin of two-minute shifts; if you score you remain on the ice and the opponent changes, so read the 'valleys' as bench time. If you read it closely you'll divine that between 30-42mins my team choked, only managing to stay on ice for a couple of minutes, and then woke up for the next 15 minutes. Ave 155bpm, peak at 191bpm; total burn 1,086cals 

Monday, October 03, 2016

Grinch Preps Assault on Mt Geezer

A couple of people recently asked what I’m doing for exercise.
Aceh 2009
This week I’m kicking off a pre-Christmas assault on Mt Geezer with a new three-day plan (plus regular Hockey Night in Jakarta). I went on a tear a couple of months back, dropped cardio from my regime (except for hockey), started moving a lot of heavy dumbbells and packed on muscle (I tipped the scales at 95kg the other morning up from 88/89) in fairly rapid order which ain’t bad for a geezer. But now it’s time for a change.
My goals are to increase cardio stamina, carve off some of the visceral fat choking my internal organs, and build strength while experimenting with a low-weigh/high-rep approach to weight training for the first time.
So where to start… Virtually all the shouting about fitness on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet machine is targeted at 18-35 y/o men, the same demographic the PTs focus on: there’s almost nothing useful for 50+ men and women who face completely different issues of metabolism, diet, muscle and bone deterioration, lifestyle etc. (Oh, and abdominals? Fuck you and your ab-sessions: I do a bit of ab work so I don’t double over when my six-year-old son punches me in the gut but I’ll leave the sub-8% body fat for emaciated under-25s)
The routine I’ve cooked up is based on what I’ve learned in the six years I’ve been exercising regularly, and what I’ve picked reading and watching others.
Jakarta 2016
The big change for me is that each gym day starts with a solid cardio commitment (like I used to, frackin’ frack da frack) of 3.5km of intervals increasing gradually to 5km to get the metabolism amped up and build resilience so I’m not a heaving sack of shite at the end of every shift on ice. Some people prefer cardio as a closer; me, I know if I don’t do it going in it ain’t gonna get done. Besides, closing with sprints means I’ll be sweating for the next two hours.
I know that once I’ve got my metabolism ticking over I can sustain a heart rate of 135-155bpm through 40-50mins worth of supersets (time permitting), which’ll cumulatively burn 600-750 calories/session or roughly five brewskies.
(For those unfamiliar, supersets involve completing two full exercises in tandem before moving on to the next superset. For example, 15 Preacher Curls + 18 Lat Pull-downs, rest 30secs and repeat x more times/sets. If you stick to the 30-sec cycle it is by far the most time-efficient way of really stressing out your muscles while keeping your heart rocking)
The other thing that’ll change is I’m dropping the weight and increasing the reps (except for things like dead lifts & squats). Why?
1.       Pragmatism. The gym only has DBs to 20kg and that hasn’t been enough for quite some time. I really prefer dumbbells to barbells bc they force you to make all kinds of tiny adjustments during the lift which contributes to stressing the muscles. They also force you to focus on proper form which is something I’m obsessed with.
2.       I’ve never worked out with “low weight/high reps” before and I’m curious to see what the effects will be on the new muscle mass. There’s growing research that the old orthodoxy about lift “heavy for mass and light for definition” is hogwash but I’d like to see for myself.
3.       Finally, geezers are more prone to injury. As cool as it feels to juggle 18/20kg DBs with ease & max out the stack of weights in a seated row, it also feels like I’m living on borrowed time. So, except for the squats and deadlifts (ok… and maybe the seated row), no more heavy weights.
For me exercise is the easy part. Eating right and staying off the grog is much harder. So, I’m recommitted to nutrition and smart eating the way I used to be, six times a day, lots of water to knock back thirst-masquerading-as-hunger, veggies and lean proteins, cut out the Siren Song of deep-fried deliciousness that I find every day when I get home from work, ration the chocolate and allow the booze once-per-week.
I’m supplementing my food (see, I don’t use the word diet) with Whey protein powder every morning, Creatine for strength and mass, and BCAA to improve recovery time and prevent muscle loss due to the leaner diet (doh!).
Efficiency is the goal. Ninety minutes from the moment I enter the gym till the time I leave, so call it 1:15 total. I expect I may have to drop one Superset from each routine until I can streamline things a bit. More reps means more time than I’m used to, there’s probably too many one-arm movements, and the layout of the gym has changed a bit adding 30secs to many of the sets I’ve designed, and incrementally chewing up time I don’t have.
Anyway here’s what I’m going to get up to (with tweaks as I learn where I’ve screwed up)

Day 1: Chest & Triceps
Cardio: Sprint Intervals                                  20-30min            
Superset                             Set x Rep
1.                          DB Bench Press                  5 x 15/18
Skull crusher                       5 x 15/18

2.                          One-arm DB Bench Press   4 x 15/18
One Arm Pushdown           4 x 15/18

3.                          Seated Chest Press              3 x 15/18
Cable Pushdown                 3 x 15/18

4.                          Cable Fly                            3 x 15/18
DB Kick Back                     3 x 15/18             

5.                          Hanging Leg Raise              3 x TBA
DB Woodchopper                3 x TBA

Day 2: Back – Biceps
Cardio: Sprint Intervals                                  20-30min            
Superset                               Set x Rep
1.                          BB Deadlift                         3 x 6/8
Concentration curl               5 x 15/18

2.                           Lat pull-down                      4 x 15/18
One Arm Preacher Curl        4 x 15/18             

3.                           Seated DB row                    3 x 15/18
BB curl                                 3 x 15/18

4.                          Horizontal Pull-up                3 x TBA
Hammer Curl                        3 x 15/18

5.                          Side Plank                             3 x TBA
Lying Leg Raise (bench)       3 x 25

Day 3 - Legs & Shoulders
Cardio: Sprint Intervals                                  20-30min            
Superset                                Set x Rep
1.                         Front Squat                             3 x 6/8
           DB Plie Squat                         3 x 6/8

2.                        DB Curl and Press                  5 x 15/18
           Lunge                                      5 x TBA

3.                      DB High Pull                            4 x 15/18             
          DB Step-Up                              4 x TBA

4.                      Front Cable Raise                     4 x 15/18
          Lateral Lunge (‘goblet style’)  4 x TBA

5.                     Glute Bridge                             3 x TBA
         Plank                                         3 x TBA

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Fault Lines - Seafood Slaves

It has been a year since AP broke open the fisheries #slavery story here. Much has been written about what was happening in #Benjina and later, #Ambon where our ops were based.
#AlJazeeraAmerica came late to the party but put together a quality 30-minute piece about the issue that's really worth a view here. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Harrowing Road to Asylum

My friend Naqsh fled Afghanistan and has been living in Jakarta the past few years. Here's a very brief overview of his journey to date from the weekend New York Times.

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

On Jan. 2, 2013, my mother, two brothers and I got into the taxi and left Kabul just after 1 a.m. At 3:20 a.m. our driver slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the men who suddenly appeared in the middle of the dark road. I could see the silhouettes of the Afghan turbans, the signature dress of Taliban militia. A young man, barely in his 20s, with a long beard, approached the car and peered in.
My facial features, especially my flatter nose, give me away as a Hazara, an ethnic minority in Afghanistan despised by the Taliban. I pretended I could not understand the Talib’s questions to our driver, trying to appear uneducated.

The driver said they were going to search us and the car. He was as frightened as I was. I tried to hide my fear from my mother and brothers, Abbas and Ali, who were 10 and 7 at the time.
I remembered that I was still carrying my wallet with my official government ID. I had worked as an adviser for governance and development for the government of the central Afghan province of Daikundi. This could be a death sentence — proof to the Taliban that I was an enemy.
The driver was still talking to the militiaman, and I managed to surreptitiously take my wallet out of my pocket and slide it beneath my seat without attracting any attention. Then, with no warning, the Talib came over to the passenger side of the car, opened the door and yanked me out.
Another young Talib came out of the darkness and pushed the cold barrel of an AK-47 against my forehead. In a glance I saw the fear-filled eyes of my mother and my brothers. My cousin, a high school principal and also a Hazara, had been murdered recently on this very road by Taliban in similar circumstances.
As one Talib searched the car, the other ordered me to take off my shirt. They wanted to see if my shoulder was tattooed with the Afghan Army or police insignia. My shoulders were clear. Then they ordered me to take off my boots. They were looking for the tell-tale calluses of a foot soldier. Years of wearing dress shoes had left my feet clean. Then they checked my hands.
“Your hands do not look like the hands of an ordinary Afghan man.”
I shrugged.
“What do you do for a living?”
“I have a grocery store,” which is a very normal-sounding job; most streets in Afghanistan have at least one little grocery.
The questions kept coming for at least 40 minutes, a long time given that the highway was normally patrolled by government soldiers.
At some point, the Talib fighter with the gun, finger still on the trigger, whispered something to the one who was questioning me. I was sure they were about to kill us. Instead, for reasons I still do not understand, they shouted at us to go. I slowly climbed back into the car. With the gun still pointed at us, we drove away.
I sat quietly for some time before I turned toward the back seat of the car.
“Is everyone O.K.? We are going to be fine. Do not be afraid, nothing is going to happen to us.”
Despite assuring time and again that we were out of danger, my brother Ali kept asking: “Are they going to follow us? Are there more Taliban militiamen ahead of us?”
This is the dread that seeps through all of us in Afghanistan, even the smallest children. I felt my anger rising. A seven-year-old should not have to fear for his life.
As Hazaras, we have long been seen as enemies by the Taliban, but my job made me a special target: I had worked for years as a television news presenter and a journalist at a magazine, before becoming an adviser in 2009 to a female mayor and then to a governor of an unstable, Taliban-ridden region.
I was luckier than most Afghans. I come from a wealthy, well-connected family. To avoid the Soviets, we emigrated to Pakistan in 1981, where I had the opportunity to attend school and university. We returned to Afghanistan in late 2001, after the American-led toppling of the Taliban regime. Like many Afghans, we were excited to be part of the peace-building and reconstruction effort. It seemed like a new day for the nation.
After that harrowing drive, having left our home for the second time in our lives, we made it to Quetta, Pakistan, where the security situation was worse than we had expected. The Pakistani Taliban was resurgent
I had a close call with a terrorist attack. I was in a café when suicide bombers attacking Hazara blew themselves up, killing more than 80 people and wounding dozens more. I had minor injuries.
My family didn’t have the financial resources for all of us to leave Pakistan, and my mother was too old and frail to embark on another big journey. She convinced me to flee. I felt I had no option but to go.
Finding a people smuggler isn’t difficult — you just have to ask around. Plenty of men are making a business out of the outrageous insecurity in the region. But going through with it, paying a smuggler to leave your family behind, is a gut-wrenching decision that you can’t imagine until you have to.
I paid a smuggler about $3,000 in cash to arrange to get me to Indonesia via Malaysia. I took a flight from Islamabad, and after deplaning in Kuala Lumpur, before getting to the immigration control counters, I met up with a group of men who guided me to an immigration official they had presumably paid off. From Malaysia I took a boat to Indonesia, from where I hoped to move on to a safer place. I had Australia in mind.
Again, finding a smuggler to arrange a trip from Indonesia to Australia was not difficult. In the early hours of July 28, 2013, I boarded an overcrowded fishing boat with 100 or so others on the southern coast of Java. We were all refugees or asylum-seekers from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The plan was to head to Australia’s Christmas Island. This time I paid about $3,200.
Everything seemed O.K. — until the storm hit. Winds, rain and waves pounded our weak wooden boat. A vessel full of people who had escaped terror at home found that once again our lives were on the line.
We screamed and cried. Someone deep inside the crowd shouted in Farsi, asking if anyone could speak English. I yelled out that I could, and I was hustled forward to the bridge. The captain had already called for help. I was handed a satellite phone. Seconds later I was talking with someone from Australian search and rescue.
“Hello. Can you hear me? Hello? ... We are asylum-seekers in distress on a boat. Our boat is broken and we will drown!”
Rescue: “Could you read me your G.P.S. location?”
I didn’t know how to do that. I had never used a satellite phone before, but I was guided by a voice in my other ear.
Rescue: “What do you wish us to do for you?”
“We are in a real bad situation, sir. We will drown. Our boat is broken. We are nearly 100 people on board. Could you please rescue us?”
Rescue: “What do you wish we do for you?”
“We wish to be rescued, sir! I repeat, sir, we wish to be rescued!”
We stayed low in the boat, helpless, counting every second. They’d said 15 to 25 minutes. Seventeen hours passed. It appeared that the Australians didn’t believe our plea for help.
In desperation, I called an Australian journalist I knew in Jakarta to ask if he could alert the Indonesian authorities.
Nine hours later, a warning bell heralded the arrival of Indonesian search and rescue. We were given first-aid and water. It felt like a miraculous act of kindness.
Our voyage ended in Puncak village in Bogor, Indonesia, where many refugees, including myself, remain. I didn’t get my $3,200 back from the smuggler.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the United Nations refugee convention, which means that we refugees can’t work or settle here permanently. Migrants like me hope to be legally classified as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a process that takes years. After that, we must wait, for more years, to be resettled in a country that will take us in.
The waiting is soul crushing. It’s been more than three years since I left Afghanistan. It’s been more than two years since I arrived in Indonesia. And more than 10 months ago I was officially accepted as a refugee — and all I can do is continue to wait.
Once a week I go to the U.N.H.C.R. office to check on my case, and I’m told politely to wait more.
We refugees know that our plight raises many challenges for host countries. These issues must be acknowledged, understood and addressed through multinational action. The source of our problems may be local, but the solutions are global. The quest to satisfy basic human needs should not be victim to political expediency.
People and nations that aid us have done something our own countrymen were too filled with hate to do. For that, we are very grateful. But at what point does a protracted wait for acceptance and resettlement become a violation of human rights? Is it after three years? Five? Ten?
Leaders with the power to find solutions need to listen to our stories and put themselves in our shoes. We risk our lives to flee our homelands because we have no choice. In the end, we want only what everyone else wants: to live with freedom and dignity.
Naqsh Murtaza is a former television news presenter writing a book about his experiences as an asylum seeker.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Survivor

I knocked out the following for World Humanitarian Day, Aug 19.

She’s survived al-Shabaab’s fatal attraction and the murder of her father, two-days crammed aboard a boat adrift in the Malacca Straits, weeks living off handfuls of rice, shattered dreams of safety abroad, years in limbo under IOM’s care in Indonesia and most recently, a bout with cancer. Unshakable in her faith, eyes forward and a smile on her face, Asma Mohammed Hashi is ready for what she hopes will be a final struggle, for health and safety and relevance in a foreign land.
Just 22, Asma has seen a lifetime’s worth of upheaval that began in the streets of her war-torn hometown, Kismayu, a gritty Somali port city where the Jubba River empties into the Indian Ocean. She grew up under siege. During the country’s prolonged civil war the city of 180,000 fell to Islamist militants who imposed their own austere brand of the faith on the population.
It’s there, in 2011 that al-Shabab soldiers, one of the patchwork of militias that had emerged over the years of conflict, arrived at her door. It wasn’t the first time.
“They told my father that I had to go with them to be married,” she recalls. “He told them ‘No, she will not go with you’.”
A short time later her father and uncle were murdered by al-Shabab.
Asma fled the city for an uncle’s home in Mogadishu but there was no safety there. The following year, the same al Qaeda-affiliated militiamen again came knocking, looking specifically for her.
“My uncle told me I could not stay there any longer; his own family was in danger. He found the smuggler who took me out of the country,” she says. “He accompanied me to Malaysia.”
She spent a harrowing, stormy two days aboard a small fishing vessel in the Malacca Strait along with roughly 20 other Somalis desperate to travel to Australia via Indonesia. Together they flew to Makassar where the smugglers promised a boat was chartered to take them to Australia. They waited together in a small beachside home for weeks, surviving on a bit of rice and a handful of water, terrified they’d be arrested if they ventured out, but no one showed up.
“It was the Eid, (Eid ul Fitri is the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan) and we had so little to eat,” she says, tearing up. “For us it is supposed to be a joyful time… but it was very hard.”
Dreams dashed and out of money, Asma and her companions reported themselves to the authorities and, after uncomfortable weeks sleeping on the floor of an office, were processed into the local immigration detention centre, where she first encountered IOM staff. A short time later she was released to stay in a rooming house.
“There are many Somali people in the detention area; we are a big group. We cared for each other,” is all she offers about that trying period.
It can take many years for irregular migrants like Asma to be resettled to a third country. Ultimately, she was determined to be a refugee and a cousin in the southern United States was located who was prepared to support her should she be approved for settlement there.
“We have never met but she sent me pictures of my room in her house on Viber (social media),” she says with a gentle smile. “I have learned not to lose hope. We must be patient and pray for a brighter future.”
Finally a light had appeared at the end of the tunnel only to be dashed when she fell ill in early 2015; the young woman who had endured so much was diagnosed with a malignant form of cancer.
With IOM’s assistance and donor support from the US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, she underwent surgery at a leading Jakarta cancer hospital to have a tumor larger than a softball removed from her abdomen in July.
“Throughout these difficult times Asma received close support and care from her compatriot Ms. Sadiya who stood by her like a loving sister and helped Asma maintain her positive spirit, optimism, hopes and dreams despite her diagnosis,” says IOM senior migration health advisor Dr. Sajith Gunaratne.
“She’s a shining example for people affected by conditions that drain hope from life itself. She has shown a strength of human spirit that is boundless. With further treatment, she will hopefully have many more productive years ahead of her.”
Though she faces further treatment, her humanitarian resettlement to the US was approved. Just a week after her release, Asma was strong enough to meet the IOM escort who accompanied her on the momentous move overseas in early August.
“I always believed I have a future. I know only God can heal me so I relax and I pray and I don’t lose hope,” she says when asked how she has remained positive in the face of so many storms.
“I think when I get to America I want to be an oncologist… Math and science were my best subjects in school; now I want to help people like me.”

For more information about global migration issues please visit:
IOM Indonesia


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hear My Train a Comin'

There’s an agonizing 45-seconds of something that sounds like Jimi fed through a steel drum, opening riffs setting up a “YEAH” and a…. “yeah..” before steering away from something that sounds suspiciously like Voodoo Child… I
t’s 910 and I’m hard right & immediately left by the kali lima and roadside tire surgeon, accelerating past the 3-in-1 suckers biding their time behind smoked glass.
Well, I wait around the train station / Waitin' for that train / Waitin' for the train, yeah / Take me home, yeah /From this lonesome place
Drop a gear and throttle seamlessly left onto an empty six-lane strip, ignoring the pack of cops’ spidery mirrored eyes, aware the DOT half-helm, Hendrix on the ear-buds and speed are all very haram: bite me, boys. Accelerating hard into the rise above the grungy Blora strip, past Sudirman Station, and now we’re four, running hard in formation, gatecrashing the Landmark Tower bottleneck.
Dig / The tears burnin' / Tears burnin' me / Tears burnin' me / Way down in my heart
Scooter girl’s lime green jilbab is streaming beneath her Hello Pussycat dome as she forces the wedge between the Metro Mini idling across two lanes and the army green TLC who’s hard against it’s bumper, and we compress to follow her, one-two-three-four, zip-zip-zip-zip… swarm theory in action.
Well, you know it's too bad, little girl / it's too bad / Too bad we have to part (have to part)
The posse splinters as the KTM climbs into 3rd and 4th. A middle-aged moto bekek wingman pulls into my blindside in busted flip-flops and GoJek green as we hit the dangerous patch of busted cement and gravel by Plaza Marein where a Kopaja shark’s magic hand signals the rusted green beast is gonna take us out and I run outta room and testicular fortitude trying to break right and watch the GoJek force the bus to a shuddering stall & sail on through to the other side. Dahm…boy can ride; must be something about the whole ‘surrender’ thing…
Dig / Gonna leave this town, yeah / Gonna leave this town / Gonna make a whole lotta money
Past the stalled bus, the road opens and I click up fast through the gears, 0-60 in three seconds “…hear my train a’comin/ hear my train a’comincarving sweet lines through the puttering 125s and aging Road Kings. Wismet and WTC coming up fast on the left, an ugly, angry 100m strip where bankers inch into the parking lot, Beemers inch-out into bike & bus traffic and try to break right to enter the fast lane.
Gonna be big, yeah / Gonna be big, yeah / I'm gonna buy this town / I'm gonna buy this town /An' put it all in my shoe
A cherry red CBR250 whistles past on the right, the rider’s palms are hard on the bars to keep ‘er steady as the front end catches and wobbles, caught in a nasty seam in the road; “Get yer eyes up, man,” I’m thinking, as he locks up the rear and starts to slide. “Look where ya wanna go or you’ll end up smeared on the back of that cube truck”.
Counter-steer into a fast left up the hill behind the Sampoerna tower mosque just as twin Sukhoi, wing-to-wing, split the sky above, working out the kinks ahead of tujubelasan, Independence Day fly-over next Monday. Past warung city a side-street falls away beneath a neighboring tower into a dimly lit corrugated cement parkade choked with lines of parked bikes. The KTM finds her berth in a far corner; she’s lean & ticking, shaking off the heat as I pull off the dome & shades and head for the elevators.
Might even give a piece to you / That's what I'm gonna do / what I'm gonna do / what I'm gonna do