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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Grey hair

I know that I've always had grey hair since my teenage years. I just noticed that I have more grey hair than I used to have. And the grey hair is getting more obviouos than before.

A sign of old age, no doubt.

Well, at least I'm not balding.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tagged by Izza

It has been quite a while since I was last tagged. Yesterday, I found out that Izza Aripin had tagged me. Fortunately it's not one of those tags with a long list of questions. So, to honour the tag, I'll try my best not to disappoint.

1. Do you think you are hot?
Not in this air-conditioned room, I'm not.

2. Upload your favourite picture of you.3. Why do you like that picture?
I like silhouettes.

4. When was the last time you ate pizza?
Saturday evening.

5. The last song you listened to?
Ramli Sarip's "Bukan Kerna Nama".

6. What are you doing right now besides this?

7. What name would you prefer besides this?
My pen name, Amir Husaini.

Tag 5 people.
(i) Liyana
(ii) Arsaili
(iii) Farah
(iv) Xarafatima
(v) Zaki

8. Who is no. 1?
My little sister.

9. No. 3 is having a relationship with?
She has recently tied the knot with Azdi.

10. Say something about no. 5.
I've never met Zaki in person. Got to know him from my sister's blog. He's my sister's senior at the International Islamic University of Malaysia. He's in his final year of studies doing biomedical science. He hails from Kuala Langat. He likes wearing pink or orange t-shirts. He likes travelling and photography. He has an interesting sense of humour that I enjoy... which is why I frequent his blog.
[How's that for information on someone whom you haven't met?]

11. How about no. 4?
She is a budding novelist who has just published her first novel, Virus L.

12. Who is no. 2?
He is a good friend who is currently pursuing his PhD in Australia. All the best in writing up your thesis!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ushering in 1430H

Today is the 1st day of the Islamic calendar. Let us all strive to make the new year of 1430 Hijriyyah better than the last.

'Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud, one of the closest companion of the Prophet Muhammad SAW was reported to have said:
The saddest thing that can happen with the advent of the new year is that I grow older by a year and yet my deeds do not grow with my age.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A day with Fikri

Flashback: Newspaper cutting on Fikri
after his IVAD operation

Yesterday was a public holiday. But I was at the office nonetheless. I wasn't alone though, as the day was spent "interviewing" Fikri for his memoir, "Echoes of My Heart". This wasn't the first time I sat down with Fikri for this purpose, but yesterday's session was perhaps the most interesting as many "unknown" details before came out. We spent about five hours, going from his childhood days up to his mechanical heart experience all the way to the heart transplant episode.

I am helping him to put his thoughts and experience on paper. When Fikri told me of what he had to go through, there were instances that I felt a tear drop in my eye. I hope I can do justice to his story so that everyone could appreciate the significance of organ donation in saving Fikri's life.

We have, more or less, the concept for the memoir's cover ready. Fikri's mother has also scanned all the newspaper cuttings chronicling his near-celebrity life. We just need to gather some photos of him from his personal collection. I am pretty confident that "Echoes of My Heart" will be ready by April 2009.

On a related note, Fikri will be appearing in "Majalah 3" this Saturday at 9 p.m. on TV3. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Sometimes I like to push myself to test the limit. Often I find that I can actually go beyond what I thought is my limit.

One good example is acquiring a new language. As I have blogged before, I am currently learning Japanese. Initially I came into the lessons without expecting much. But thanks to my sensei, after only four one-hour lessons, I've actually surprised myself that I can identify and write characters considerably well.

The fact that the hiragana table reminds me of the Periodic Table of Elements probably helped a lot. Next week, I'll be practising more hiragana, picking up some new vocabulary, polish my pronunciation and hopefully be able to improve further on my quest to learn the language that I first heard after watching the miniseries "Shogun" on television way back in 1982. The miniseries was an adaptation of the famous James Clavell's novel which is a part of the Asian Saga that starred Richard Chamberlain. And I can still remember my first Japanese word that I picked up from the television miniseries, and it was anjin-san.

Let's see whether I can push myself to pick up Japanese as well as John Blackthorne.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Article in the paper

Yesterday, after blogging on the issue of the privatisation of IJN, I had this nagging urge to write a proper newspaper article on the same subject. I finished writing the article in about half an hour before sending it to a friend for comment and proofreading. After that, I e-mailed the article to Utusan Malaysia.

I didn't actually expect the article to be published since many are commenting on the same issue. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I received the following text message from Sister Salina in IJN:
Thanx 4 ur comment on d IJN SDarby, as d IJN pioneer i m touched 2 know that publics care about us [sic]
The article is published in today's edition of Utusan Malaysia, and the online version can be read here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Leave IJN alone!

Much has been said about the privatisation of IJN. Some of the salient points have been commented by bloggers such as Tun Dr Mahathir, Rocky's Bru and Dato' Kadir Jasin.

I have been involved with IJN in one form or another. I have given talks there. My father had his bypass there. My aunt also had her bypass there. Fikri had his IVAD fitted and heart transplanted there. I have visited friends there. I have friends working there.

I have great admiration for the dedication of the team of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, technicians, paramedics, pharmacists, clerks, receptionists, and the rest of the workforce working at IJN. From my perspective, they are very professional and tireless, and they give it their best for the health of the patients. Sure, there are drawbacks here and there, but I can say that there is an effort for continuous improvement in providing healthcare to the patients.

That is why I am shocked when I heard of the plans that IJN was going to be privatised. To me, IJN should never be privatised. Leave it as it is, a corporatised entity. IJN should not be looked upon as a cash cow for any company. Healthcare today may be a business, but there are certain things that should not be handled by a business entity. Instead of handing over IJN to a business entity, IJN should be run and managed professionally as it is.

I think that Sime Darby should stay away from taking over IJN. Rather than taking over IJN, I prefer Sime Darby to set up its own heart specialist hospital - as an alternative (and even a healthy competitor to IJN). Preferably this private heart specialist hospital should be located outside of the Klang Valley, say in Penang or Johor or the east coast - to cater for patients in those areas. Update: This view is echoed here.

Let us see if Sime Darby can really provide affordable healthcare through this private heart specialist hospital to everyone. I am of course doubtful of this.

I will join the chorus that is already loud.

Leave IJN alone!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

High mileage

I am a wee bit tired. I drove up north on Thursday, before returning to Kuala Lumpur on Friday. Then today, I did a day-trip to Kuantan.

Cuti-cuti Malaysia it wasn't, but it was quite an interesting journey. I noticed some new things along the way.

In this four days, I have accumulated nearly 1,500 km of mileage. Not bad, for someone who doesn't like travelling.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Sometimes I find Wikipedia very handy for some quick reference. But my PhD supervisor always cautioned her students against relying too much on Wikipedia. Some of the write-ups may not be accurate or may just be someone's mere opinion or may just be totally false, as opposed to containing hard facts.

One of my favourite writers, Peter David, wrote this account on his blog regarding the sequel to the movie "Alvin and the Chipmunks". But of course, when I checked, the details have been cleaned up by Wikipedia. Nonetheless, it'd be fun to actually find such erroneous details (which may just be someone's idea of fooling around) in Wikipedia.

So, double check when you use Wikipedia, lest we be fooled ourselves.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mystery of the growing sandals

What is it with me and mysterious incidents?

I went to the masjid for my Maghrib prayer. I left my sandals at one of the entrance. After the prayer, I got out and slipped into my sandals. Then I realised, my sandals are two size bigger than they should be. I wear Size 6. The sandals that I left the masjid with are Size 8.

Weird (or as a dear friend likes to spell it, wierd)!

I entered the masjid using an entrance that is rarely used. So there were not that many shoes/sandals/slippers left at that particular entrance. (Interestingly, this entrance is not the usual one that I would use). When I left, my sandals were exactly where they were supposed to be, but strangely enough, the size was wrong. Same sandals, same design, same brand... but different size?

How could it be?

Either my sandals grew in size, or a more logical explanation that I can think of is that someone else uses the same kind of sandals (only with a bigger size), and entered the masjid using the same rarely used entrance, and mistakenly left wearing my sandals.

But what are the odds of that happening? Pretty much slim, I would say.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Third anniversary

As friends and visitors of this blog know, organ donation is a subject that is very close to my heart. I have been involved with organ donation programmes and campaigns since 1998. So this year is actually my tenth year as an organ donation proponent. It's not an easy job, but the challenge is, in itself, rewarding.

My involvement in organ donation programmes and campaigns started out as a formal assignment when I was with the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM). When I gave my talks, they were very much "academic" in nature, and I felt detached from the subject.

Later, as I got to know the dedicated and selfless people behind the scenes who are actively involved in organ procurement, I began to understand how organ donation is crucial and critical in saving lives - in particular the team at the National Transplant Resource Centre (NTRC) and Institut Jantung Negara (IJN). I also began to appreciate the delicate nature of this oft-misundertood subject, although my perspective was still very much academic in nature.

Three years ago, I came to know a teenager. He was 15 years old then. And he changed my perspective on organ donation - transforming it from a mere academic perspective into something closer to my heart. When I met him, he was just fitted with a device called the intravascular ventricular assist device or IVAD. He was the first patient in Malaysia and the region to be fitted with IVAD (and the only person so far who had it fitted internally). This device served as a bridge for him until a new heart from a donor was available. [One of my earliest posts in this blog focused on him].

Alhamdulillah, he did not have to wait long. Today, three years ago, he received a new heart from a donor. Despite some hiccups now and again (mainly as a result of infection), he has been living a better life. Organ donation has given him a new hope and a new lease of life.So, to Muhammad Fikri Norazmi, thank you for changing my perspective on organ donation. Have a happy third anniversary with your new heart. And may you have a prosperous and happy life ahead.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Picking up Nihon-go

No one says learning a foreign language is easy. It's a challenge, but if one is up to the challenge, the learning process can be rewarding.

I took it upon myself to learn Japanese. Not that I don't have enough in my hands, but it's an opportunity (and challenge) I couldn't resist. Currently, I am learning hiragana which is one of the components in the Japanese writing system. There are 46 characters in hiragana, and I have learned 25. It takes a bit of time and a lot of effort plus memory work to remember all of them, especially if one is not learning this on a full time basis. It is a satisfaction on its own to be able to recognise and read these characters (though often without knowing what the word means).

I sincerely hope that I'd be able to pick up basic Nihon-go in the next year or so. The way I look at it - if other people can learn this language, why can't I?

[I am putting the hiragana table at the top so that I can memorise the characters even when I blog].

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blink... and you'll miss it

Everyone blinks.

In actuality, we can tell a lot from the blinking rate of a person. I can tell if a person is calm, or nervous from the frequency of a person's blinks. Over the years, I have noticed that when someone is calm and relaxed, the number of blinks is far less compared to a nervous or anxious person. [Believe it or not, I noticed this from looking at candidates whom I have interviewed over the years].

When I read this month's National Geographic magazine, I am pleased to note that my observation is, more or less, valid. According to the magazine's article entitled "On the blink" written by Jennifer S. Holland. Here's an interesting point for us to know:
Calm slows blinking; anxiety can cause eyeblink storms. Think of a nervous politician or a bad liar, who usually blinks faster after a fib.
Holland, J.S. (2009, December). In National Geographic; page 26.
The article also lists down the average number of blinks per minute for different kinds of people:
  1. Nervous adult: 50 blinks per minute
  2. Calm adult: 15 blinks per minute
  3. Staring at television: 7.5 blinks per minute
  4. Newborn: 2 blinks per minute
So, there you go. It's not foolproof though. Psychopaths and "professional" liars can reprogramme their brain function to minimise anxiety - making them less likely to blink vigorously.

Nevertheless, the next time when you want to tell if someone is lying or anxious or nervous, just watch their eyelids. But don't blink too frequent yourself, or you'll miss it - or worse, people know that you're nervous.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Birthday number 32

Today is my mariner brother's 32nd birthday.

While he may not be on land at the moment, we certainly wish him the best in his life.

Happy birthday, bro.

Teaser #1

Here's something to pique your curiosity.

Hazard a guess what the two pictures are all about.

The only clue I am giving is the phrase "Coming soon in 2009".

And no, I am not involving myself in fashion design or opening a modelling agency.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Busy is good

It's a very busy period for us at Yayasan Ilmuwan. Being busy is actually good, especially for private organisations like us. Being busy means there is business to take care of.

The project team looking at the Japanese Associate Degree (JAD) programme under the Program Khidmat Sokongan Pendidikan (PKSP) headed by my colleague, Encik Mazilan, is busy preparing the fourth quarter and annual reports. The deadline for the respective education consultants to submit their report to Encik Mazilan is this coming Monday.

I am not involved with the project directly, but I have my plate full as it is. I am currently co-ordinating the publication, research, conference and training activities, aside from the usual administrative stuff.

Currently we are working on ten titles to be published in the first quarter of 2009. Two books are in the layout process, one is being edited while the remaining manuscripts are being readied for editing process. Come April 2009, when Malaysia's biggest book fair - the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair - is slated to be held, we should have at least ten titles, if not more. It's quite a tall order but I cherish the challenge this presents.

We are also finalising our plans to offer courses next year. As it is, we have identified ten core courses to be held at the Yayasan's premises, while at the same time, we would also entertain requests from organisations or companies to have in-house courses to cater for their needs.

Yesterday, I also had a fruitful discussion with my supervisor who is also the Director of Universiti Malaya's Centre for Civilisational Dialogue, Professor Datin Dr Azizan Baharuddin. While still at the initial planning stage, we will be co-organising two conferences in 2009.

Alhamdulillah, I am very pleased with all these developments. There are more, but I won't bore anyone with the details. Just keep your eyes peeled to this blog when new books come out or when there are courses or conferences organised.

I am definitely eagerly looking forward to 2009.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sign of rejection?

I was at IJN this afternoon to visit Fikri who is warded. He was there for his routine biopsy last week before his mother received a phone call from IJN informing them that Fikri has a Grade 3A rejection. Fikri's account of this condition can be read here.

Next week will be Fikri's third anniversary with his new heart. I hope and pray that this condition is only temporary.

On another note, I will be sitting down with Fikri soon to complete the first draft of his memoir - which is long overdue. The cover of the memoir is being done by a friend. I will post the teaser cover when it's ready. And we hope to have the memoir ready by March, insya-Allah.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vision imperfect

I don't have perfect vision. I have been wearing glasses since 1987 because I am shortsighted as a result of a serious eye infection I had the year before.

My current spectacles are relatively new. This pair is less than a year old. However, my youngest son has the tendency to grab my glasses and bend its frame, making the glasses quite wobbly. So this evening, I decided to go to an optical shop nearby to have it fixed. And since I was there, I made a new pair as back-up just in case my current pair breaks or something. The new pair will be ready some time next week.

After that was taken care of, I went to the masjid across the road to perform my Isyak prayer. I took off my glasses when I performed the prayer. Upon completion of this obligatory task, I put on the glasses - and lo and behold, it broke! So, I hurried myself to the optical shop once again in the hope that I could get it fixed. I would be rendered helpless without my glasses.

Unfortunately, the only way to fix the glasses is by welding. And they don't have that facility there. To make things more "interesting", the shop was about to close. I insisted that the glasses be fixed by replacing the frame. The optician obliged, but she couldn't get the glasses done there and then. I have to come back again tomorrow morning to pick up the glasses.

For the first time in my life, I come to realise the importance of eyesight. I had to drive home somehow - without my glasses. It was after 10 p.m. and I guess, in many ways, that was a blessing. There were not many cars on the road at that time. I drove carefully, and had to rely mainly on my instinct and memory.

I couldn't see much, safe for blurry lights from the street lamps and vehicles' headlights. Everything else was sketchy at best. I couldn't read the road signs nor can I read vehicles' registration plates even when my car was behind the vehicle. Yes, my eyesight IS that bad.

Like I said, I relied on my memory. To go home, I chose a longer route which has less traffic. I figured that would be a wiser choice than risking going on a shorter route with heavy traffic. I managed to slow down when I came to speed bumps because I more or less remembered where they are, and also remembered how many speed bumps along said route.

I arrived home safely, and once home, I searched frantically for my old pair of glasses. Fortunately I still keep them stashed in one of the drawers. While this old pair may not be too clear, it will have to do for the time being. At least, it is better than not having anything to assist my vision.

One important lesson I learnt today. Eyesight is an important gift from Allah the Almighty. Rarely do we give thanks for this gift. Only when we are faced with situations such as mine, would we realise how we struggle with imperfect vision.

After what happened to me this evening, I have come to realise the significance of this invaluable gift. And for that, I say "alhamdulillah".

The calling

I celebrated Aidiladha with my family in our hometown up north. My wife partook in the qurban (sacrifice) with her siblings. And on the second day of Aidiladha, my mother-in-law had a kenduri (feast). It was quite a hectic day, but a celebration nonetheless.

I have this wish that I could perform the haj which is the fifth pillar of Islam in the next few years. I do not want to wait until my old age to perform this once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Makkah. And I also plan to perform my umrah in the not-so-far future. It is as if Makkah is calling me, and the call seems to be getting louder and clearer by the day.

I pray that my wish to set foot on the Makkah al-Mukaramah will be a reality.

Until then, I would like to wish all Muslims, a happy and blessed Aidiladha. May we grasp the true meaning of qurban, insya-Allah.

Staying away from the Net

My apologies for the silence. Truth be told, I wanted to stay away from the Internet for a few days. Too much Internet is not good for you, you know. So, I managed to avoid being online since last Friday.

And the result? I feel a lot better knowing that there IS life outside of the cyberworld.

And not to mention a tonne of unread e-mails on all my e-mailing accounts, most of which are spam anyway. [I have five e-mail accounts if anyone is wondering, each has its own purpose].

By the way, it does a world of good to deprive yourself of the Internet once in a while.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Finger talks

It's amazing what technology can do.

In the past, we use our mouths to talk and speak.

These days, with the Internet, we talk using our fingers.

A friend even notes that YM is used even when talking to the person in the next workstation in the same office. Of course, this helps in reducing the noise level.

But at what cost?

Will people lose their oratory skill and confidence to speak in public? I wonder...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Organ transplant info updates

About ten days ago, the National Transplant Resource Centre (NTRC) launched their new website. Have a visit to the website by clicking here.

Also, I have updated the listing for transplantation info on this blog's side panel. Just scroll down a wee bit, and you will find the links to organisations linked to organ transplantation locally and internationally.

And while we're on the topic of organ transplantation, I'd strongly urge that everyone reads up on organ transplantation and donation, and seriously consider becoming a pledger if you are not one already.

Give the gift of life.


Sometimes after a while, you'd get tired of the same old things. That's why, from time to time, I'd change the way the blog looks. I'm not much of a programmer. Even if I am, I can't afford the time to do so. That's why I just use the template that Blogger provides.

So, I hope you all will find these minor changes pleasing.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Promoting local science fiction

Yesterday, six science fiction authors from PTS Publications and Distributors Sdn Bhd was at MPH Mid Valley promoting local science fiction novels. The authors are Kusyi Hirdan (Urana Exham), Nazri M. Annuar (Opera Angkasa), Firdaus Ariff (Sayap Adinila), Azrul Jaini (Galaksi Muhsinin), Suri Mawarne (Virus L) and yours truly under the guise of Amir Husaini (Transgenesis: Bisikan Rimba).

It was a good outing at the bookstore. And after the event, we even discussed on the way forward to further promote local science fiction and fantasy. It is no secret that this genre is dominated by imported novels mainly from the United States and Japan. Most local readers who are into science fiction and fantasy are not even aware of the existence of local authors churning out books in this genre.

One of the aims of yesterday's event was to promote the fact that Malaysia does have its own science fiction and fantasy authors. We will continue to work as a group so that the awareness among Malaysians would be increased.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Working weekend at PD - Day 3

I slept at around 4 a.m. before waking up about 6.30 a.m. It wasn't that I couldn't sleep, but rather I was finalising my slides for my talk at 8 o'clock.

My talk started about 15 minutes late, as some of the staff thought that the session would begin at 8.30 a.m. Anyway, the talk went pretty well, methinks.

As soon as I finished my talk, I checked out and drove back to Kuala Lumpur. I didn't spend much time on the beach, much less dipping in the waters of Port Dickson throughout my 3 days here. After all, this WAS a working weekend. And I managed to get quite a bit done...

...not that it'd make any difference if I were to be in Kuala Lumpur.

So, farewell Port Dickson. Till next time (whenever that will be).

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Working weekend at PD - Day 2

The second day in Port Dickson is a full day for the staff. I don't think there's actually any chance for anyone to savour the sight, smell and sound of the (in)famous and popular beach of Port Dickson.

While the staff was attending the course, a group of us - the executive chairman, the two executive directors, the programme manager and the administrative and financial director - had a separate meeting discussing on the way forward for the organisation. I would say it was a fruitful meeting and hopefully this endeavour would bear its fruits in the coming months.

After the meeting of the "council of elders", I spent the afternoon preparing for the talk I'm giving tomorrow morning to the staff, while the evening was spent together with the staff in the course.

As a side note, during the course, we had to do a personality test to identify our strengths and weaknesses. I have done a lot of personality tests before, and the result from this latest one very much confirmed the results from previous tests. To summarise, I am introverted and unique; able to read what is in between the lines; logical; and, systematic and careful. I'd say these descriptions are pretty much accurate.

I hope that my talk tomorrow will go well. Come to think of it, this will be the first time that I am speaking to every staff member since they came on board earlier this year. Let's hope my message gets across loud and clear.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Working weekend at PD - Day 1

I think it must have been 4 or 5 years since I last came to Port Dickson. While Port Dickson may still be very popular with tourists, it's not really a place I like to spend my weekend at.

Nonetheless, here I am at Port Dickson beginning today till Sunday. We're conducting a course for the staff here.

Port Dickson is very much like what I remember it to be. Not much has changed since my last visit. Hopefully the sound of the waves could rejuvenate my otherwise exhausted self.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Omedetou gozaimasu

Omedetou gozaimasu - that's Japanese for congratulations.

This congratulatory posting is somewhat overdue.

Firstly, to my PhD supervisor who is also my mentor and sensei, Professor Datin Dr Azizan Baharuddin on the occasion of her inaugural lecture at the Universiti Malaya last Friday. I was there in attendance to lend my support as well as to learn and pick up a thing or two from her lecture entitled "Empiricising Spirituality and Spiritualising Science: Harmonising Science and Religion for Sustainability". The lecture was captivating and awe-inspiring. And indeed, I learnt many things from the lecture.

Last but not least, my heartiest congratulations to newlyweds, Azdi and Farah, who tied the knot last week. I attended the kenduri hosted by Farah's family in Ipoh last Sunday. I wish them both all the happiness and very best in their lives as husband and wife. You can read about their wedding story on their own wedding website here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My kryptonite

Everyone has a weakness.

Superman has kryptonite.

Me? One of my weaknesses is books. I can't stop myself if I see books on display on shelves. I sometimes lose control when I go to book fairs. If I pass a bookshop, I will have to stop. And more often than not, I'll buy one or two titles at least. I can spend hours at Kinokuniya or MPH Mid Valley or the library of Universiti Malaya.

My shelves at the office could no longer house all the books I have. My workstation at home is also running out of space for the books I bought as well as those I borrowed from the library.

At least, my consolation is, my weakness is actually something beneficial. Sometimes I feel my brain is like a sponge trying to absorb all the things I read. If Superman becomes weak after exposure to kryptonite, I feel "stronger" after reading books.

Perhaps, it's not a weakness after all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Source of the problems

I know I have been silent for quite a while. During this period, quite a bit has happened. One of which, we finally nailed down the "culprit" behind the problems that we have been facing at the office.

And the source of most of the woes is the roof.

The inaccessible entrance was due to rainwater from the roof sipping into the electronic chip of the entrance system.

The Level 3 blackout took place because of rainwater from the roof sipping into the electrical wiring.

The flooded floor was - you guessed it - because water from the tank on the roof overflooded and caused flooding on the building.

The shattered glass incident was due to the way the roof of the building was designed. The weight of the roof was in actual effect forced on the walls of the building inside. This resulted in increased pressure on the glass wall. It was a matter of time before any of the glass shattered.

The leaking ceiling in the Executive Chairman's office was just another testament of the shoddy workmanship of the building in particular the roof.

We have appointed a professional engineer to assess and come up with a report of the shoddy roof. Once we obtain the full report, we will forward a formal complaint to the developer. Should our complaint falls on deaf ears, we will resort to other means to ensure that the roof is repaired.

I spoke to some of the other tenants here. And some of them too are facing problems with the roof. I guess the problem is not unique only to our building. Nonetheless, I feel that the developer should not brush off the problem, as it is their responsibility to ensure that the building was built as it should be according to the plans.

With regards to the so-called "mysteries", as Tigger always say at the end of each episode of "My Friends Tigger and Pooh", "This mystery is history."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gabanesque busy

I remember back during my school days, whenever someone was extremely busy, the phrase that would be used was "busy tahap Gaban" which literally means "Gaban-level or Gabanesque busy". For those not in the know, Gaban is a Japanese character introduced in the 1980s. More on Gaban - or Gavan - here.

Lately, whenever someone asked about my lack of blogging or absence from the cyberworld, I would casually reply, "I am very busy - even more than Gaban."

Frankly, that is how I feel these days. But at the end of the day, I am thankful that I still have a lot of things to do.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

First in last out

It has been increasingly difficult for me to find the time to blog these past few weeks. My workload has increased extraponentially. I would be the first in the office, usually just before sunrise, and most times, I am the last one to leave, some time between 8 and 9 p.m. Back at home, after my children are asleep, I would continue my work till about 3 a.m.

It is tiring, I admit, for I really miss my sleep and rest. And to a certain extent, stressful. But the weird thing is, I find all this satisfying and rewarding.

Most of the things that I have to do involve writing and reading. And to write and read, I require the right kind of environment. Writing and reading may sound trivial to some, but I can assure you, not everyone can do these as a living.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Money story

I apologise for the long silence. My excuse is, as usual, predictable. The last couple of months of the year looks set to be hectic with a lot of things happening and need to be taken care of.

Anyway, I'd like to share a story I heard earlier this morning, which brought a smile to my face.
A husband was driving his wife to a place for her to attend an official function. Usually the wife would drive to her workplace, but since she was unfamiliar with the place that she had to go to that morning, her husband offered to send her (and would pick her up later that afternoon). This, by the way, was not the first time that the husband sent the wife to work.

In the car, the wife reminded the husband to take note of the mileage. The husband asked, "Can you claim mileage when you're not using your own car?"

The wife retorted, "It'd be a waste not to claim. After all, you're driving me to the place where I have to perform an official duty. So, it's only fair that I claim the mileage."

The husband kept quiet, but thought to himself, "How come I never see the money that was claimed before whenever I send her for official duty outside the office?"
Good question.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Expensive help

Maids or domestic helpers are virtually a must these days for Malaysians, especially in big cities where both husband and wife work. Unfortunately, it is difficult nay, impossible, for us to find local helpers. Most locals prefer to work in factories where the pay is better - and really, this is only logical.

As such, we have to resort to foreign helpers especially from Indonesia. I was surprised therefore, when I was told this morning that the cost of hiring a maid has sky-rocketed if we use agencies. Of course, the alternative is to source for the helpers ourselves, and take care of all the bureaucratic procedures on our own. That way, we can reduce the cost.

For me, I prefer agencies for two reasons. Firstly, I find the process of sourcing for maids and applying for their permits a bit tedious. I know this is a sorry excuse, but I just don't have the patience for this sort of thing. Secondly, and more importantly, most agencies train their maids for two months before they are hired. The training involves a lot of things such as familiarising themselves with Bahasa Malaysia, hands-on training in taking care after babies and infants, using electrical appliances common in Malaysia, etc.

From my personal experience, the training is a lot of help when the helpers come to work for their employers. Miscommunication and the time taken for them to settle down into their jobs are greatly reduced.

However, because of perceived bad treatment that the Indonesian helpers receive in Malaysia, and because of the lure of higher wages in other countries such as Singapore, China and Saudi Arabia, most Indonesians prefer to work in these countries. This resulted in lack of manpower supply for domestic helpers to Malaysia. Even when they want to come to this country, they prefer to work as restaurant helpers, cleaners, factory workers and construction workers - where the freedom is greater.

I was told this morning that it now costs RM8,000 to get a helper through an agency, and their monthly wage is now RM600. So, for a two-year contract, an employer would have to fork out nearly RM20,000 for one domestic helper.

If we were to spread this over two years, that would come to about RM833. Wouldn't an SPM holder want to work with this wage (accomodation and meals included)?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Long Tuesday

With so many things happening around the same time, I feel like I'm coming down with something. Hopefully, it's just exhaustion. At this point in time, I can't afford to be ill. The year's end seems to be the busiest so far.

Today has been a long day (and it's not over yet). It's nearly a quarter to six in the afternoon as I write this. We had just finished an in-house course for our staff here. And somehow I feel so tired. I have another discussion at 6 o'clock.

The good thing about being kept busy is that you're always on your feet. The only thing is that you'll have to ensure that you get enough rest and that your health is not affected.

I am so tired and sleepy at the moment, and can't wait to go home.

Friday, October 31, 2008

I came, I saw, I conquered... Japanese food

My first encounter with Japanese food was about seven years ago in Kuching. I just couldn't take in Japanese food at that time. Since then, there have been a number of occasions where I had to attend lunches and dinners at Japanese restaurants. On these occasions, I tried to "enjoy" sushi and sashimi, but failed. In the end, I would order things like nasi goreng kampung or go for tepanyaki instead.

Yesterday evening, my organisation hosted a farewell dinner for one of our associates, Dr Zulkefeli, who will be leaving to Japan for his postdoctorate. As most of the attendees were Japanese graduates, it was decided (not by me) that we should have our dinner at a Japanese restaurant. I wasn't too keen on the decision, and hesitated to attend. But since Dr Zulkefeli is a good friend, and this dinner was organised in his honour, I went nevertheless, albeit reluctantly.

I actually prepared myself for the worst. And the worst would be to embarass myself by ordering nasi goreng kampung while everyone else indulged themselves with sushi and sashimi.

For some strange reason, I had the urge to give the Japanese finger food another try yesterday evening. And to my surprise, I actually enjoyed sushi and sashimi. It has been a few years since I attended any function at a Japanese restaurant. Despite trying on several occasions before, this was actually the first time that I was able to eat - and enjoy - Japanese food.

I have no explanation for this. I disliked Japanese food before, but now I know that I have no problems with it. It's probably an acquired taste. I have finally conquered my dislike of Japanese food.

Borrowing and paraphrasing Caesar's "Veni Vidi Vici": I came, I saw, I conquered... Japanese food.

And now... leaking ceiling

Adding to the list of woes besetting Level 3 of my office is the newly-found leak on the ceiling in the Executive Chairman's office. When the contractor was called in, he found other leaks on the ceiling.

I wonder, what's next?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Towering accomplishment

I got to know Professor Dr Ahmad Fauzi Ismail when he was in Glasgow doing his PhD at the University of Strathclyde. His area of expertise is membrane technology. His research is revolutionary, and that is why he was made Professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia at a relatively young age.

His accomplishments are too long to list. And I am indeed happy to learn of his latest success when he won a platinum, two double gold and five gold medals at the British Invention Show 2008 for his inventions and innovations. BIS was held recently from the 15th to 18th of October. His achievement at BIS can be read here. [Also, quite a number of Malaysian academics won awards at BIS this year].

Professor Fauzi is an examplary researcher and academic who should be emulated by all. Of late, we have been talking about towering personalities. To my mind, Professor Fauzi is a towering scientist/technologist - a person that Malaysians should know about and be proud of.

Unfortunately, we seem to know artistes much better than scientists.

Return to the papers

I blogged over two years ago that I missed writing for the papers. Since then, I did actually write one or two articles for the papers, though never on a regular basis.

Well, I'm happy to announce that as of next week, Yayasan Ilmuwan will be contributing articles on a weekly basis to Utusan Malaysia. And to get the ball rolling, I will be the first to write.

On a related note, I am also in discussions with a few other newspapers, but we'll see how these go.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kayel heat

Again, it was another hot night.
When it's humid, I find it difficult to write.
This global warming is living up its hype.
This heat is making my skin ripe.

Do what we can, no matter how trivial.
Contribute to the cause, no matter how little.
Just keep on creating awareness, no time to squabble.
To save this Earth, is really quite a struggle.

As much as possible, just stay inside.
Drink lots of water, that is right.
Don't overexert yourself as a guide.
We can't run away from the sun, there's nowhere to hide.

If we fail, the circumstances are terrible.
The future is doomed, that'd be horrible.
At the moment we've to deal with this heat, how unbearable.
Let's pray and hope that things will improve, is that possible?

Keeping global temperature down, now that's a fight.
Making people aware, that's a plight.
The world is burning, nowhere can we take flight.
Is the worse coming? No one knows, not quite.

An impromptu poem by Shaikh Mohd Saifuddeen bin Shaikh Mohd Salleh
- 29 October 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pinch me

I feel like it's a dream. After linking up with Shamsul Anuar a few days ago, today I managed to reconnect with two more good friends from that same era, namely Shazali and Noraihan, courtesy of Shamsul Anuar and Yusrin Faidz respectively.

I just hope that this momentum grows and we could at least be in touch with most of the old gang from primary school.

If this is a dream, someone pinch me please.

Sweltering heat

Last night was perhaps one of the most humid nights that my family has ever experienced since we moved to this apartment several months ago. Both my sons were restless throughout the night, having difficulty to sleep because of the heat. Even when I took my shower this morning, the water felt warm.

I suspect we are heading into drier and warmer days.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Open (house) season

This is another long weekend that we're having because of the public holiday on Monday. As the month of Syawal is still in session, there are still a number of open house invitations from friends that need to be attended. I suspect this weekend break will be filled with more socialising and eating.

It's good for strengthening the silaturrahim, but with all the delicious and mouth-watering food being served, it's not good for my tummy.

[Mental note: Must remember to check my blood cholesterol level soon].


I am still in disbelief actually for having being able to reconnect with a very dear childhood friend, Shamsul Anuar.

We managed to chat over Facebook earlier (around 1 a.m. Malaysian time). He is apparently working in London as a financial consultant. He has been in the UK since both of us bumped into each other near the old Malaysia Hall at Bryanston Square.

Ecstatic could best describe my feeling at the moment, but even that is an understatement.

I was actually hoping that Shamsul was in Kuala Lumpur, so that we could actually meet up. But I guess, that will have to wait for the time being. Our meeting will have to be when he's back in Malaysia for his holidays, or if and when I happen to fly to UK for whatever reason.

Until then, Facebook will facilitate our "reunion".

Friday, October 24, 2008

The world is small indeed

With information and communication technology, affectionately abbreviated to ICT, the four-dimensional barriers of the physical world are broken down. Physical distance is no longer an issue. Even people separated by time difference can communicate these days.

In fact, as I have experienced, we can even get in touch with people from our past. No, I'm not talking about contacting dead people - to me that's a load of nonsense. What I'm talking about is reconnecting the friendship between people who have not seen each other in ages.

Through Facebook, I have managed to trace back and get reconnected (as well as reacquainted) with long lost childhood friends. Since early September, I was able to be in touch with old friends like Yusrin Faidz, Sabeen Wasi and Adeline Er.

And thanks to an old picture put up by Yusrin Faidz, another good friend from the past, Shamsul Anuar, came in contact with me. I was in the same class with Shamsul in 1982 and 1983 before his family moved away. I lost contact of him, until we accidentally bumped into each other in the autumn of 1992 - in London of all places.

I was already in the UK at that time. I was in London during the short break before the start of university, and was walking somewhere near the old Malaysia Hall. A few Malaysian students walked pass me. A couple of seconds later, one of them turned his head back, and I, too, stopped and turned my head. There was an air of familiarity on that student. And almost simultaneously, the two of us called out each other's name.

After close to a decade, that was the first time I saw Shamsul since our primary school days, and unfortunately, it was also the last. We kept in touch using the traditional way - snail mail - but somehow, we got disconnected over the years. I received his wedding invitation circa 1998 or 1999 (can't remember now), but I wasn't able to attend. I gave him a call to congratulate him though, but again, unfortunately, that was the last time I managed to speak to him. [I had somehow misplaced his number, silly me].

But alhamdulillah, earlier this evening, I received a message over Facebook from Shamsul Anuar, who apparently managed to trace me. I am glad that I have been able to reconnect with an old friend again. This time, I will make sure not to loose track of him again.

What a small world indeed. And I am indeed thankful for it being that way.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Spoilt day

Just when I thought that the series of "bad luck" plaguing the office were over, another one crops up. Yesterday, I arrived at the office around 3 o'clock after giving a lecture at ILKAP in the morning. As I was nearing the office, I had already planned the many things I wanted to do when I get to the office. Unfortunately, I nearly blew my top when I found out that there was no electricity, again. This is the third time this problem has occurred. [Click here and here for the earlier occurences]. And this time, it is not a mystery. Someone forgot to pay the electricity bill.

This whole electricity problem, not surprisingly, just spoilt my otherwise good day.

Interactive session

It was an interesting session that I had yesterday when I spoke on biodiversity to a group of people with legal background. Interesting because there was interaction. When talking to a small group of people, I prefer to have a two-way interaction, rather than speaking on my own. This interaction actually makes things livelier.

All in all, a very satisfying experience at ILKAP yesterday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Interesting challenge

It's nearly 2 a.m. as I write this entry, and I have just finished preparing my slides for a talk to be delivered at ILKAP tomorrow. For those who may be unfamiliar, ILKAP stands for the Judicial and Legal Training Institute. Before anyone asks, let it be clear that I am not one with a legal background nor am I in the law profession (or anything remotely near it, for that matter). However, there is a course on the new Biosafety Act organised at ILKAP, and the "custodian" of the act, namely the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment felt that I would be the right person to talk on "Religious Perspective on Biodiversity and Related Issues".

I have been involved with that topic for a few years now, and even edited a book on this subject for the ministry in 2006. It is indeed an honour to be invited to talk on the subject. The only thing that worries me a bit is the time allocated for my session. Believe it or not, the organiser has given me four hours to tackle the topic.

This will be the second time that I have been given four hours to talk on one subject. The first was a few years ago when I spoke on "Organ Donation from the Islamic Perspective" at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). Back then, I had just over 100 slides and my audience was mainly doctors and nurses. In the end, I overshot the allocated time by about 15 minutes.

This time, I only prepared 40 slides and my audience are legal officers. Interesting challenge, this. Insya-Allah, I'll blog on what transpire at ILKAP in my next entry.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Not enough hands

So many things happening at the office and university at the moment. Not to mention some personal stuff too.

It is days like these that I wish I were like Doctor Octopus.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Stone on a Datuk's head

Not much time for blogging this past couple of days, but I just want to share this interesting quote:
If you throw a stone in Japan, it will hit a man by the name of Suzuki.
In Malaysia, if you throw a stone, it would hit a Datuk.
--- Anon
But I'd like to add another line:
And only in Melaka, a stone thrown would land on a Bollywood actor's head.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Shattered glass picture

As promised, here's the picture of the shattered slab of glass (courtesy of my colleague, En Mat Zailani).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Undeserving Datukship

When my father read the newspaper on Saturday, he was less than amused about the Government of Melaka conferring Shah Rukh Khan a Datukship on the occasion of the Tuan Yang Terutama Yang Dipertua Negeri Melaka's birthday.

When I heard from my father about this, I was less than amused.

And apparently, most people in the country are not amused either.

Whatever the reason the state government has for conferring the Datukship (which I feel rather shallow anyway), I believe there are many other Malaysians much more deserving.

If you want to honour an entertainer, why not give a Datukship to Melaka's very own Andre Goh, who coincidentally is only conferred a Darjah Seri Melaka (DSM) which does not carry the title Datuk? I notice most local entertainers are only honoured posthumously.

And what about Datukships to more deserving local heroes who conquered Mount Everest - M. Magendran and N. Mohandas? Are we to say that Shah Rukh Khan, who is not even a Malaysian, is more deserving than these two Malaysians?

The problem with some states is that they don't have a quota for Datukships to be awarded every year, nor do they have a strict rule on the conferment on the supposedly prestiged title. I only know Johor and Selangor as being the two states which are very strict on Datukships. Melaka has always been notorious (though not the only one, mind you) for being far too "lenient" on conferring this title. For only a small state with a small number of population, Melaka probably has the highest Datuk to population ratio, which is ridiculous.

Some people I know even joked that if you want an easy and early Datukship, get it from Melaka. In this day and age, when there are so many Datuks around, the prestige and honour that comes with this title seem to have been diluted. Throw a pebble into a crowd, and the chances that it'll hit a Datuk is high.

Nowadays, it is no big deal if someone is a Datuk. Just ask Shah Rukh Khan, I'm sure he'll just put the Datukship along with his other silverware that he has been honoured with - as paperweight.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


This year's Aidilfitri has to be one of the busiest for me. I can't remember being invited to so many open houses before.

Starting Friday until today (Sunday), I have attended seven open houses. I met a lot of old friends as well as relatives at these open houses.

And there are more open houses this coming weekend. I hope my stomach can take in that much food.

But seriously, open houses are not just about food. They're there to strengthen family ties and bonds of friendship.