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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Life is like spaghetti

An old friend of mine, Shamsul Anuar spontaneously coined that phrase when he came down to Paddington to meet up with me yesterday evening. "Life is like a spaghetti," he said referring to the different points in our lives that we have crossed paths with each other.

I first met Shamsul way back in 1982 when my family moved from Alor Setar to Johor Bahru. He was my classmate in Sekolah Rendah Seri Tebrau. His family moved away from Johor Bahru in 1984, while I left the city to move to Kulim in late 1985.

I entered Sekolah Menengah Sultan Badlishah for my secondary school, and was there up until I finished Form 5 in 1991. Amazingly, Shamsul entered MRSM Kulim during Form 4. While we were in the same town literally, we have never met each other.

In late 1991 after our SPM examination, both of us attended an interview for scholarship offered by Petronas. We were interviewed on the same day (as I remember it, it was a Friday). Shamsul, whom I had not seen in 7 years noticed me, and said hi. It was a very brief chance meeting so to speak.

I left for the UK in January of 1992 under the Petronas scholarship initially to do geology. Interestingly, Shamsul was offered to do geology as well, but he turned it down. Had he accepted, we would have been coursemates at the University of Glasgow.

In September of 1992, I went down to London. Whilst walking back to Malaysia Hall (then located at Bryanston Square), I passed by Shamsul. I didn't realise it at first, but seconds later, it hit me that the person was Shamsul. I turned my head, around the same time he did. It was one of those "one in a million" chance encounters, and of all places, we met in London. He had just arrived in London then under MARA scholarship. Later that afternoon, I went up to the place he was staying before going to Concorde College in Shropshire, and we chatted for quite a bit.

For the next couple of months, we got in touch with each other using snail mail. This was a time when e-mail was not common yet. Naturally, we got busy with our studies, and we just lost contact over the years.

When Shamsul got married, he sent me an invitation. I was already working at IKIM at that time. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend his wedding, but I did give him a call to congratulate him. That was the last time I was in touch with him...

...until 2008. Thanks to Facebook, he was able to trace me. Since then, we have been in touch using Facebook albeit virtually.
Yesterday, alhamdulillah, for the first time since 1992, I met my old friend, Shamsul Anuar again. It was a nice warm feeling despite the rather cold winter temperature. We talked and reminisced about old times and old friends. While we have not seen each other for nearly 17 years, it never felt that way. I guess that is the uniqueness of childhood friends. No matter how long you have been apart from each other, the shared "childhood years" is actually a strong bond that is difficult to sever.

With our somewhat "unique" history, I figured that was why Shamsul said, "Life is like spaghetti." Imagine each of us is a strand of spaghetti in a bowl or a plate. And that strand of spaghetti is the path that we take in life. There are times our paths will cross with one another. There are times when they are completely apart from each other. And yet, there are also times when the strands (paths) are so near and yet are apart.

While I have part ways with Shamsul for the time being, I pray that our paths will cross yet again, insya-Allah.

That perfect feeling

As I write this, I am in London. I arrived on Christmas day, and will be flying back to Malaysia on the 2nd of January. Apart from London, I managed to go up to Scotland revisiting Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Much can indeed be written about this nostalgic trip. I was a student in Glasgow between January 1992 and June 1996. While I have been back to London a couple of times (mainly on transit between flights), this was my first time to have really gone back to the place I studied once. And what a memorable return it has been.

As I walked on the snowy hilly grounds of the University of Glasgow, every little bit of memories past passed me by. The snow that has fallen days before made the visit all the more special. When I walked into the compound of the main building, a bagpiper played some bagpipe tunes. Apparently there was a wedding at the chapel, but the tunes of the bagpipe music was played as I walked in giving rise to a very special feeling.

The sky was clear. The ground was white with snow. The air was fresh. Bagpipe music was playing in the background. The temperature was just above freezing point. But I could certainly feel the warmth of memories of yesteryears.

Everything was just... perfect.

And truth be told, it really felt like I have come home.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

You never know

I was at the money changer earlier this afternoon to buy some Pound Sterling for my UK trip. I had to wait a while as the money changer had to get the Pound Sterling from one of his nearby branches. While his assistant was sent to the other branch, I sat patiently while chatting with the owner.

He asked, "Your voice sounds familiar."

I replied somewhat surprised, "Really? Where have you heard my voice before?"

He said, "I am quite sure I have heard your voice in the radio. Have you been on air on Radio IKIM?"

I froze for a second. All this while, I never thought that it is possible for a person to actually recognise a voice he hears on radio. Hesitantly I answered, "Yes, I do have a programme on Radio IKIM".

He later went on to say how much he loves the programmes on Radio IKIM. He gave very positive comments on the radio, which I think is a very good indication for the Islamic radio.

While waiting, we talked about a host of other things. Around this time, I glanced at a notice on the wall that says, "Exchange rates are negotiable."

I am not a person who likes to bargain for things. Most times I buy things according to the price indicated. Similarly when it comes to this, I was not really in the mood of bargaining. The exchange rate for Pound Sterling for today was RM5.60 to a Pound. Without asking, he suddenly said to me, "Tell you what, sir. I can give you the best rate for exchange. For you, I will give RM5.50 for a Pound Sterling."

I nodded in agreement. For me, it is better than the actual rate that was initially offered. Deep in my heart, I find this episode rather amusing in a good way. The money changer recognised my voice from radio. He said that he likes and benefits from the programme that I have been doing all these years. It is indeed a motivation for me to hear this from a listener in person. But what surprised me was that he was willing to offer me a rather good rate for currency exchange without my actually doing any bargaining.

I guess you never can tell how we influence or impact other people. I never imagined that the programme that I contributed to on radio has such an impact on people. It is indeed a compliment, but you never know what people are willing to do to assist you once you know that you're the person they hear on radio.

Aside from the good rate, the money changer even offered to come to the office should I ever need his services again. Talk about personalised service. I guess there are some perks to appearing on air.

You never know.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You can never go home again

There is a saying. It goes something like this. "You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home."

My one and true home is Malaysia. This is where I was born. This is the place that I grew up as a child. This is also the place where I went through my early teenage years. And this is also the place that I am earning a living and building a family. There is no substitute for Malaysia in my eyes.

Yet, there was a place that I spent nearly half a decade towards the end of my teenage years and my early youth. That place welcomed me to its chilly and cold weather, yet its people were pleasantly warm and friendly. I regarded that place as my second home. This was the place where I studied. This was also the place where I learnt to be independent. And perhaps, it is not wrong to say that this was the place that taught me the meaning of life.

That place was Glasgow in Scotland.

I was last in Glasgow in 1996. That was more than 13 years ago. Now, it seems that I will be setting foot to my second home again very soon. I will be leaving for the United Kingdom in less than 12 hours. Upon arrival in London, I will be going straight up north to Edinburgh where I will spend two nights. And from there I will be heading for Glasgow.

The feelings that I have now is somewhat difficult to explain. The best that I can think of is that the feelings are similar to the time I was leaving Glasgow for good. This time around, I am returning to Glasgow for a brief visit.

I have a fondness towards this city. It has a special place in my heart. Indeed while I may have left the city, the memories of the city never left me.

It will be good to be back "home".

Monday, December 21, 2009

New things in the horizon

The Hijrah new year just started last Friday. The year 2010 will commence in ten days time. It is somewhat of a coincidence that there are a couple of new things looming in the horizon for my life with the beginning of the new year. These new things are very much like a hijrah for myself and my family, as well as for some of my colleagues.

My two boys are growing up. They are very active, and they require space to run around and play. Our current abode is an apartment. Living in an apartment with two young boys can be stressful to the boys. I don't actually allow them to play outside the apartment because of the cars zooming by on the road. There is no compound for them to play.

After giving it a long thought, I decided to search for a landed property some time around August. After viewing a number of houses, I decided to buy a double-storey link house which is also an end lot. The house is also located in Taman Setiawangsa and is quite near Masjid Muadz Bin Jabal. After a bit of a wait, I finally got the keys to the house yesterday evening.

I took my family to see the house earlier this afternoon. My two sons were ecstatic. They were running around the empty house in joy. My eldest son especially seems eager to move into the new house.
The house has been tastefully renovated and extended by the previous owner. I will be doing some repainting job and minor repairing in the next few weeks. Hopefully, if everything goes as planned, we will be moving into the new home in mid-January insya-Allah.

Meanwhile at work, renovation work has also commenced for the office unit situated on the third floor (just across where I am now). It is expected that the work will take a month to complete. I have been given the indication that I will be one of those affected with relocation once the new office space is completed. Should the original planning remain the same, aside from myself, seven other people will be shifting to this new office space. If everything goes as scheduled, barring unforeseen circumstances, I may be moving into the new office by the end of January.

It looks like 2010 C.E. and 1431 Hijriyyah are off to a promising start. I pray that the rest of the year will be good as well. And I believe that is indeed everyone's hope.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Shared concerns unite people

I was at Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) yesterday morning, specifically at the blood laboratory. I was there to give my blood sample for my upcoming appointment with my cardiologist next Tuesday. Before anyone starts messaging me to inquire about my health, let me assure everyone that everything is well. I was at IJN in late August for a screening programme to ensure that I have a clean bill of health. Alhamdulillah, my heart is fine and dandy. The only thing that was somewhat worrying was my cholesterol level, which my cardiologist referred to as "alarmingly high". Essentially this coming visit is to check if there is any improvement from my last visit.

In any case, that is not really what I wanted to blog about. Rather, I would like to share my observation which I have seen many times before, but have never put in writing.

When I arrived at IJN, there were already many people of different races waiting at the laboratory for their turns. The seats were full. Most of the people waiting were elderly people. I opted to wait outside the laboratory while keeping my eyes peeled for my number to be called.

While waiting, I saw an elderly Malay pak cik exchanging his by-pass experience with an elderly Chinese uncle.

There was also a Chinese lady who was probably in her sixties giving encouragement to a Malay woman slightly younger than herself. The Malay woman looked somewhat worried, but the Chinese lady managed to calm her down.

Then there were three elderly gentlemen, one Indian and two Malays, talking and commenting about their health and the medication that they have to take.

I smiled when I saw all this. I have noticed this before whenever I am at hospitals and medical centres. When you are there, people don't look at you as a Malay or a Chinese or an Indian. People look at you as a patient who is in need of treatment. And believe me, IJN is one of the places that you can actually see this happening.

As I was observing, the elderly Chinese lady who was earlier giving encouragement to the Malay woman beside her waved at me. She pointed to an empty seat nearby. I smiled back gesturing my thanks, and walked to the empty seat.

Shortly after, it was the Malay lady's turn to give her blood sample. After the procedure was completed, she walked out and promptly shook the Chinese lady's hands saying good-bye.

Then it was the Chinese lady's turn. She went in for about five minutes. And when she got out, she walked pass me and gave a cheerful smile. I smiled back while nodding my head.

Each of the elderly men that I mentioned got in when their turns came. And each time, when they came out, they would shake the hands of their newfound friends wishing them well and saying good-bye.

To see this happening right before my very eyes, where perfect strangers of different races with nothing much in common safe for their illnesses, chatting merrily and shaking hands when bidding farewell, was somehow humbling. The people that I observed were mainly elderly people who were over 50 years of age. I sincerely wonder if the young generation has the same quality as these elderly people.

Over the past many days, I have read that sports can unite people of different background. Aside from sports - and some would argue, music - another uniting catalyst is perhaps the shared concerns on health.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two targets

The Muslim New Year begins with the beginning of Maghrib (or sunset) early this evening. It has always been reminded that Muslims partake in the hijrah to better themselves in all sense of the word. It is somewhat similar to the new year resolutions that one often makes at the beginning of the Gregorian new year.

For the past few years, I have not made any particular resolutions. Rather than having resolutions, I set myself specific targets to achieve. I admit that I have been pretty ambitious in the past couple of years. But for this year, I have set my eyes on two specific targets that I hope to achieve in the new year (be it 1431H or 2010CE).

The first target is to complete my thesis for my PhD. I will be starting my fifth semester at the end of this month. I hope that the whole writing process will be completed in this semester. I pray that I be given the strength to do this.

The second target is more spiritual in nature. I hope and pray that this will become a reality. I plan to perform my haj in the coming haj season.

Let us all pray for a better year with the beginning of the new year. Salam Hijrah to all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Condolences to Adyani

On Monday evening, while I was on holiday in my hometown up north, I received a call from one of the research executives attached to Yayasan Ilmuwan. She informed me that her father had just passed away.

The next day, a number of her colleagues from Yayasan Ilmuwan drove to Banting to visit her and her family to offer the organisation's condolences. I was unable to make it since I was still in Kedah.

Nonetheless, I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to Nor Adyani and her family on the passing of her beloved father. I pray that his soul will be blessed, and that Adyani and her family be given the strength to carry on in spite of this big loss.

Al-Fatihah!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Welcome home

I was at KLIA at 3 a.m. on Monday morning waiting for my parents' return from their pilgrimage to Makkah. Their flight touched down just after 4 a.m. and they finally got to the departure hall around 5:30 a.m.

There was a huge crowd as expected. Family members were waiting anxiously to see their loved ones. It was an emotional wait, as most of the jamaah haji are senior citizens, most of whom like my parents, have never been overseas (or at least as far away as Saudi Arabia). They have been away for about 45 days, and everyone was most definitely eager to see them walk out into the departure hall. One interesting banner caught my eyes. The writing on the banner was: "Welcome home, Haji Abah and Hajjah Mama". Cute wordings, but yet very apt.

Alhamdulillah, my parents arrived safely. While they have some coughs and fever due to the harsh conditions especially in Makkah, Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina, they are well. As their eldest son, I am happy that I have been able to assist them in sending them to perform their fifth pillar of Islam. I know that it has always been my parents' dream to go to Makkah. And this year, their dream has become a reality.

Welcome home, Haji Abah and Hajjah Mama!

Monday, December 07, 2009

In memoriam: Adawiyah Yassin

Last Monday, I received the sad news of the passing of Puan Adawiyah Yassin. She was affectionately known to many of us as "Kak Ada". As I blogged in October, she suffered a stroke. This happened in the month of Ramadhan. Now, just a few days after Muslims celebrated Aidiladha, Kak Ada has left us forever. She was 56.

Everyone I spoke to remembers her as a kind, hardworking and sincere lady. I knew her way back in 1999 when I started doing programmes for the Voice of Islam which is under the Voice of Malaysia belt of programmes. She was a producer for the English programmes under the Voice of Islam, and later she headed the Voice of Islam unit. Indeed, while she remained behind the scenes in the production of these programmes, her role was significant in ensuring that the programmes are aired successfully.

To her family, I pray that all of you will be strong in facing this loss. On a personal note, I shall miss her kindheartedness. To this day, I can still hear her golden voice. May Allah SWT bless Kak Ada's soul.

Al-Fatihah!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Voices in my head

That famous and oft-quoted line from the movie The Sixth Sense suddenly comes to mind. "I see dead people...," so said Cole Sear, the character played brilliantly by Haley Joel Osment.

Don't get me wrong. I do not see dead people. But I have been hearing voices in my head. More specifically, when I read books.

For the past couple of months, I have noticed that whenever I read books written by people I know personally, the words on the pages "speak" to me when I read them. And the voices that I hear are the voices of the people who wrote them, right down to their intonation. It is a surreal experience, most definitely, because I find myself hearing the words rather than reading them. It is as if the authors are speaking to me instead of me reading their work.

Somehow I don't feel that this is something that I should get freaked out with. Instead, I find this experience rather stimulating. It makes reading more interesting. I guess that is one of the reasons why I could finish reading three books at one go, virtually cover to cover, last night. Rather than reading as a mere visual experience, reading has now become an auditory experience as well.

I mentioned this experience to a friend earlier this afternoon. I may be off-tangent, but he seemed somewhat worried with what I told him. Anyone else has a similar experience, or at least knows of anyone else going through this experience? Do share.

Like I said earlier, I am not freaking myself out by this development. I prefer to look at this from a positive point of view. It enriches my reading experience. Either that, or I have obtained a mutant power.

"I hear my books talking."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New personal benchmark

I have been writing academic articles for journals since 1998. All these articles are mainly for locally-published journals. During this time period, I have not actually written anything for international journals, even though I have presented academic working papers in international conferences and also contributed to chapters in internationally-published academic books.

A few months back, Professor Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman of the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya asked me whether I would be interested in co-writing an article for an international journal. Most definitely, my reply was in the affirmative. Earlier this evening, I received an e-mail from Professor Adeeba informing me that the article has been accepted for publication. The article will be published in the journal's issue due in April 2010.

The journal is the International Journal of Drug Policy, which is an ISI-WoS journal with a high impact factor. Professor Adeeba, by the way, ranks at number 15 in the Top 20 academics in Universiti Malaya who publishes in these high impact factor academic journals.

I am very grateful to Professor Adeeba for giving me this very valuable opportunity, and I am also thankful to Allah SWT for providing me with this avenue for my academic development. This first step is actually a new personal benchmark for myself. I hope to continuously challenge myself to do better in all that I do.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Writing mode in full swing

Writing is something that I love doing. But as with most things, writing is also something that is very much dependent on mood swings.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been writing quite a lot. Most of the things that I write lately seems to focus more on academic stuff. Creative writing seems to be temporarily on hold. Of course, my attention lately is more towards writing up my thesis.

I pray that I be given the strength and good health so that I can continue to write consistently (and subsequently complete) my thesis.

[Note: The picture in this posting has nothing to do with this blog entry. It's there just for a smile or perhaps a giggle].

Monday, November 02, 2009

Heartfelt condolences

The news of the passing of Datuk Pian Sukro, the Chairman of the Energy Commission took me by surprise this morning. He passed away in Rome, Italy. I do not know him personally but I most certainly know his wife, Professor Datin Dr Kobkua Suwannathat-Pian whom I worked with way back in 1997-1998.

My heartfelt condolences to Professor Kobkua and her family.

Al-Fatihah!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The perfect straight line

I am currently editing a compilation of articles for a philosophy book to be published by the Centre for Civilisational Dialogue, Universiti Malaya. I came across a phrase I personally feel very interesting:
Science is not about drawing the perfect straight line.

Of course, this phrase can be interpreted in many ways. To me, most people look at science as a means to achieve perfection. But ask anyone who is a scientist, in conducting experiments, it is well-nigh impossible to draw a perfect straight line from the data gathered from the experiments conducted.

Students who study science have the tendency to manipulate and change their data so that they can draw the best straight line. Such manipulation is a manifestation of insincerity, and hence affects the students' integrity as future scientists. For, if this is to be allowed and if this is a common practice, are we to say that in the search for perfection, we are allowed to cheat? What then is the meaning of perfection when the road leading to it is far from perfect?

To me, these are thought-provoking questions. As a part-time lecturer teaching History and Philosophy of Science, I believe that the above-mentioned phrase can be a topic for a lengthy discussion all on its own.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Less blogging, more writing... and other things

I can't seem to get myself to blog as often as before. I am unsure why this is so. I still have much to comment on, but most times when I get on the Internet, I just could not bring myself to focus on blogging. At the most, I would only blog hop friends' blogs.

I hope to be able to blog more frequently although not as often as before. Blogging is a good training to polish up on my writing. But at the same time, there are other commitments that have taken up quite a bit of my time.

Although 2010 is still a couple of months away, I can say in almost certain terms that blogging won't be heading the list of things to do in 2010. I have several targets that I have set for next year, and most of them involve writing but blogging, fortunately or otherwise, is not one of them.

My number one priority is of course to finish up the writing of my PhD thesis. I do not wish to prolong this any longer. All the materials for writing up the thesis have been gathered. What I need to do now is to push myself to sit down and write it all up. Sounds easy, but believe me, I find myself staring at the computer screen without actually doing much.

I have also tasked myself to be more productive in coming up with academic journal articles. This is perhaps an avenue which I haven't actually pushed myself into doing in the past. Actually, if everything does go as planned, my first international journal article will be out in the first quarter of next year. More info on this in the future.

Aside from this, I also owe my publisher the manuscript for my third novel. I have started writing this, but it is quite difficult for me to find the momentum to keep going as I get sidetracked with other things. Coincidentally, I am writing two novels simultaneously - both of which I hope to get published in 2010.

The work at the office also involves a lot of writing and editing. I am currently editing an autobiography, re-editing the second print of a book that Yayasan Ilmuwan published some time back, assisting with the writing of another autobiography, co-writing a book, co-ordinating the editing process of a number of other books, and trying to write a few books myself. I know this sounds like quite a workload but this is actually far less than what I had to shoulder at my old work place. By comparison, this is more like a breeze rather than a storm.

For the past few months, I have also been active in presenting working papers and giving talks at least once a month. Next month, I will be presenting a paper at Bio Malaysia 2009, the biggest biotechnological event for the country. The conference programme can be seen at this link.

I know it sounds like my life revolves around writing. And to most people, I guess, this sounds boring and monotonous. The fact of the matter is that I am loving what I am currently doing, and I do not plan to stop doing this, at least not in the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, I am trying to spice up my routine by doing things that I don't normally do, or by doing things which I have stopped doing for a long while.

One of this is travelling. Having said this, I have to admit that my travelling plans are not exactly holiday trips but rather working trips. I have quite a list of countries to go to beginning December. I will shed more light on this when the details are clearer and firmer. But probably as a hint or a teaser, the December trip will be like returning to a place where I was most fond of.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Respect thy customer

I am a firm believer of giving credit when credit is due. If a service rendered goes beyond expectation, I think that it is only fair that the service be praised as exemplary. An example is the experience at the Immigrations Department that I blogged a few months ago.

I am also a person who does not tolerate rudeness and non-professionalism. Again I have blogged about this before in this entry. To me, a service that is given in a manner not professional and worse still, rude is a service that does not deserve my patronage and hard-earned money. If I had a bad experience at a place, I will no longer go to that place.

This past couple of weeks, I have been extremely busy with work at the office. As such, I don't really have that much time to spend on meals. Most times, I would choose one of the three cafes in my office compound as they are the most convenient.

On Thursday, at around 11:45 a.m., I decided to have an early lunch since I had an appointment at 12:30 p.m. at the office that will most likely eat up my normal lunch time (no pun intended). The cafe that I went to is literally just a few steps away from my office. Anyone who is familiar with my office would know which cafe I am referring to. I chose this "red" cafe (which supposedly promotes Penang, the "island" where I was born) to have my lunch simply because it was the nearest and most convenient. Should my guest arrive early, I could easily hurry myself back to the office.

When I arrived at the cafe, there were only three other people sitting at one table. I noticed they were waiting for their take-away order. A waiter almost immediately attended to me. I put in my order, and about five minutes later my drink arrived. While waiting for my food, I sipped the drink I ordered.

Around this time, I noticed that the three people at the next table who were waiting for their take-away order actually ordered something for 15 people! I knew at this point in time that my order would take a while to be ready. I also noticed that there was only one cook in the kitchen, which to my mind was odd, because lunch time is a busy time for an eatery. To only have one cook during a busy period was plain ridiculous.

I glanced at my watch. The time was already 12:10 in the afternoon. I had already waited for almost 25 minutes. Even the three people who ordered take-away meals for 15 people were still waiting for their order to be ready. My glass was almost half empty.

Knowing that there was no way I could have my lunch in time before my 12:30 appointment, I called the waiter to inquire how long it would take for my food to be ready. Innocently (and I must say quite rightly), the waiter went into the kitchen to ask the cook. At this juncture, I could distinctly hear the cook scolding the waiter (and indirectly scolding me) with a very loud voice. He said something to the effect that, "Be patient! Can't you see there's only one of me? Can't he wait?"

The cook's voice was indeed audible. I heaved a heavy sigh. The cafe's captain then came to me apologising for the lateness (but not for the cook's outburst). I told him just to cancel my order, and I would pay for the drink I just had. After paying, I walked back to the office without even having lunch. By then, I had also lost my appetite.

This is just another example of people who are not professional and sincere in doing their jobs. In the first place, there seems to be no respect for the paying customer. The principle of "the customer is always right" does not seem to apply. Scolding a customer whether directly or indirectly is something that should never be done. Chances are, as in my case, you will lose your customer.

Secondly, the management of the cafe should have been more professional in managing the running of the cafe. Anyone with a logical mind would be able to say that there should be more people during peak hours. Frankly, you would never face this kind of a problem at a mamak stall.

Sometimes I truly wonder if there is ever a place "where everyone knows your name". As I said earlier, places like this cafe do not deserve my hard-earned money. I have decided not to step into the cafe again. After all, there is no point going to a place if you don't get the respect a customer deserves.

And when you choose to do that to a blogging and Facebooking customer, then word would certainly spread almost instantaneously!

Wishing her well

My colleague Encik Mazilan and I went to Seremban on Monday to visit Puan Adawiyah Yassin. As a result of her stroke, she has been bed-ridden for a month now. In spite of her condition, she remains strong-willed.

I pray for her recovery. Her strength in facing this test is indeed a motivation to everyone.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Joy and sorrow

I was back in Kedah over the weekend. My parents organised a kenduri kesyukuran as they will be going to Makkah for their Haj in about two weeks time. Many relatives and friends came over to wish them a safe journey. It was quite a touching scene actually to so many people coming over and praying for my parents' safe sojourn for their pilgrimage.

On the same day of the kenduri, two friends namely Szakif and Sholihin were at the International Islamic University Malaysia for their convocation ceremony. My heartfelt congratulations to the both of them on their academic achievement, and I pray that they will continue to achieve success in their respective careers.

Later that same evening, I received a text message from the son of someone I have known for many years. His mother Puan Adawiyah Yassin, affectionately known as "Kak Ada", had suffered a stroke and is now unable to speak. Kak Ada was my producer back when I was a contributor to the Voice of Islam, a radio channel aired by RTM. According to the message, Kak Ada has been discharged from hospital and is now in Seremban. The news took me by surprise. I pray that her health will improve and that she and her family be strong in this trying times.

Around the same time I received the text message regarding Kak Ada, I received another text message from my colleague Encik Mazilan who informed me that our executive chairman at Yayasan Ilmuwan, Dr Khairul 'Azmi Mohamad, had just underwent a surgery in Johor Bahru. He is recovering well from the surgery. I pray for his speedy recovery.

Quite an eventful and emotional weekend indeed.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Congratulations, Prof Abu Bakar

Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Professorial Lecture of Professor Dr Abu Bakar Abdul Majeed at Universiti Teknologi MARA. His lecture was on the issue of cloning and other bioethical issues entitled "To Clone or Not To Clone... and Other Ethical Issues in Pharmacy and Medicine".

I have known Professor Abu Bakar since I joined the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) way back in 1998. In more ways than one, he was my mentor and teacher when I was then a junior officer at the institute. His articles and talks are always thought-provoking and inspiring. His Professorial Lecture yesterday was no different.

I must congratulate Professor Abu Bakar on his lecture that was awe-inspiring. I noticed many in the audience gave great interest to his delivery, and even after the lecture many people went up to him to not only congratulate him but also to get his further comments on the issue that he put forward. Rarely do people talk about cloning from the academic point of view. To hear Professor Abu Bakar talk on cloning from an academic and an Islamic point of view was indeed fascinating.

I wish Professor Abu Bakar all the best in his future undertakings. He has recently been promoted to the rank of Assistant Vice Chancellor of UiTM. I believe he has a bright future ahead of him.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Subtitling gone wrong

I cringed when I watched an episode of "National Geographic" on TV1. The narrator mentioned the word "deforestation".

And the subtitle read "stesen depot".

Huh?

More subtitling horror here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A week away for Aidilfitri

I have not had that many opportunities this year to return to my hometown up north. So, this year's Aidilfitri was the opportunity for me to head up to Kulim for about a week.

I left the capital on Saturday morning right smack into a seven-hour drive to Kulim. On a normal day, it will take just over four hours but because of the long festive holiday, people were leaving Kuala Lumpur in droves.

The weather throughout Aidilfitri has been quite unpredictable this year. I didn't actually move around that much, just jetting from my parents' house to my mother-in-law's house throughout the week. Relatively speaking, this year's Hari Raya was quite quiet.

The week away was also good in that I stayed away from the Internet. It's quite a relief to actually have a life outside the virtual world. Anyway, now that I'm back in KL, chances are it will be back to routine.

In any case, allow to me to take this opportunity (belated though it may be), to wish all my friends and blog visitors, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri and maaf zahir batin.

Blame it on Facebook

I know I haven't been blogging in quite a long while. Blame it on Facebook.

I also know that I don't get that many visitors anymore. Blame it on Facebook.

I noticed that the number of physical Hari Raya cards sent and received this year has dwindled tremendously. Blame it on Facebook.

I also noticed that not many shops actually sell Hari Raya cards this year. Blame it on Facebook.

I noted that the number of e-mail notifications has increased twenty-fold. Blame it on Facebook.

I also noted that I don't actually send out that many e-mails anymore. Blame it on Facebook.

I observed that many friends have taken up virtual farming. Blame it on Facebook.

I also observed that many colleagues are enjoying the virtual world more than the real world. Blame it on Facebook.

But bottom line, in my case at least, I have managed to get in touch with many long lost friends. You can blame that on Facebook too.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mistaken identity

This happened twice to me in the last two weeks.

Last week, I received news that "Prof Halim" of Universiti Sains Malaysia passed away. But it turned out that the "Prof Halim" who passed on was the one in Universiti Malaya.

Tonight, I received news that "Dato' Ismail Kamus" passed away, when in actual effect, it was "Datuk Ismail Salleh" who passed on.

It is understandable that people would spread news of someone's death without giving it a second thought. But one lesson I think we can all learn from all this is that, whatever the news may be, in this day and age of fast information, it is worthwhile to stop and check first.

Online forms not original?

Last Monday, I took my parents to the Immigrations Department to have their passports done. As I had blogged some time back, my experience dealing with the department was pleasant. The experience on Monday was similar. The service provided by the department was efficient, prompt and pleasant. The whole process took less than one hour much to my parents' delight.

However, there was one thing that I found somewhat "odd". My parents had to fill a form in order to get their passports. It was the same form that I had to fill up when I renewed mine. So, I went to the department's website to download and print the form. My parents had the form filled up at home before going to the department.

Here comes the odd part. When we got there, the officer at the counter informed us that the downloaded form could not be used. Instead we have to use the "original" form. I find this pretty absurd. Why have the forms online for people to download and print, when people have to use the original forms?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ramadhan is here again...

I know this post is somewhat late as Ramadhan has started on Saturday, but nonetheless, may I wish all Muslim friends and visitors a blessed Ramadhan.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Where can I get this?

I received this picture in my e-mail. Any idea where to get one of these delicious-looking keyboards?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Reading Room

Two of the books I edited when I was with IKIM are reviewed in a column called "Reading Room" in The Star. Incidentally, these were the last two books that I edited during my tenure at the institute.

Unfortunately, I could not find any links online for this column. As such, I am reproducing (by retyping) the part which featured the two books.

READING ROOM
Compiled by ROUWEN LIM

Food and Technological Progress
Author: Multiple authors; edited by Shaikh Mohd Saifuddeen Shaikh Mohd Salleh, Azrina Sobian
Publisher: MPH Group Publishing
193 pages

We all need to eat to live. Common food-related issues that are raised globally include famine and poverty, nutrition, ethics, and shortages. The subject of food in relation to Islamic beliefs is rarely, if ever, raised in detail. This book delivers an Islamic perspective on the subject of food security; the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food; and the ability to acquire food in socially acceptable ways. It maintains that it is important to fulfil the criteria of halalan tayyiban (lawful and of good quality).

Genealogy and Preservation of the Progeny
Author: Multiple authors; edited by Shaikh Mohd Saifuddeen Shaikh Mohd Salleh
Publisher: MPH Group Publishing
223 pages

This is a guide to upholding the tenets of Islamic religion against the challenges of the biotechnology age. It kicks off its argument with referencing Islam as a way of life and goes on to explore various dimensions of biotechnology in relation to preservation of the progeny. It is likely the first book to link one of the objectives of Islamic law, maqasid al-shariah (preservation and safeguarding of the progeny), to advancements in biotechnology.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

That one decision in life...

I am somewhat nostalgic, perhaps overly-nostalgic, this afternoon. For some reason, I got myself thinking about my memories of Scotland, a place where I called home for nearly half a decade. Without actually realising it, it has been 13 years since I left Scotland. Time does actually fly, I guess.

Never in my wildest dreams when I was growing up would I think that I would wound up in Scotland. But alas, that decision that I made in December 1991 changed the course of my life. Regrets I have none. Only fond memories of the lochs and the bens of Scotland, as well as its unique culture and friendly people that I got to know over the years.

While it is true that there is no place like home, and home to me is Malaysia, I have to say that if ever there is a second home for me, then Scotland would be the place.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Friday, August 07, 2009

Misdirected mail

This morning just before leaving for work, there was a letter in my mailbox. It was quite odd, because usually the postman arrives around noon. Most definitely, the postman does not send letters that early.

The thought that came to mind almost immediately is that in all probability, this letter was sent to another address (probably one of my neighbour's). This neighbour (whoever he or she is) probably put the letter into my mailbox on his/her way to work. I am very grateful for this neighbourly act.

However, I am a bit saddened for two reasons.

First, the date on the stamp is 22nd July. That was 15 days ago. As far as I know, the mail service in the country only takes two to three days to arrive at its destination. Did the person who got my mail keep it for almost two weeks? Or did the mail itself arrive late?

Second, I found the envelope opened. Who opened my letter up? Could it have been an honest mistake? Or was it the act of someone curious? Whatever the reason may be, I find this worrying. Fortunately the contents which included a letter, a few documents that I needed to sign and a cheque were left intact (at least I think there was nothing missing).

I was a bit upset over this in the morning. Not only the letter (which I have been waiting for since early July) arrived late, its private contents were, most probably, irresponsibly scrutinised by someone.

I have to say that I am grateful that the letter is finally in my hands. But this is an episode that has left me rather suspicious.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Double H threats

Most people's concern in the country lately is the haze and the Influenze A (H1N1) virus. I call this the "Double H threats".

The roads today were relatively empty. For some reason, not many cars were on the road. Traffic was pretty smooth. A friend said it could be due to the fear of H1N1. It feels somewhat surreal to see Kuala Lumpur with very little traffic on a normal day. The city was not deserted, but the roads were certainly rather quiet.

Quite a few schools, offices and institutions are closed. A man working at a kopitiam near my office told me that a few offices at our office complex are shut down for a few days. He wondered out loud if it could be down to H1N1. Later in the morning, I found out that my sister's faculty in Kuantan is also closed down for a week because of H1N1.

Just after 4 p.m., I drove to Universiti Malaya for my lecture at the Faculty of Science. I noticed the dark grey hazy skies. The haze has enveloped the city for the past couple of weeks. Brief rain brought some respite, but only temporarily. One could smell smoke in the air.

When I arrived, I noticed quite a few students coughing. I'm not sure whether this was due to the haze or flu (hopefully not H1N1). During the lecture, I could hear a number of students coughing from time to time.

As I switched on Facebook not too long before I type this blog entry, a doctor friend wrote on her status:
H1N1... getting worse... HUKM at least 15 patients infected... including one doctor. Some patients resistant to Tamiflu!

One does not need to be a genius to figure out that the situation is not improving. And yet, I find it ironic that many of us seem oblivious of these Double H threats.

Be safe everyone. Stay indoors if there is no reason to be outside.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In memoriam: Dr Alias Mohd Yatim

You have to admit, Facebook does have its advantages. It was through this Internet application that I learnt of the death of Dr Alias Mohd Yatim albeit somewhat late. Dr Alias passed away on 28th July 2009.

Dr Alias was perhaps the longest serving chairman of my secondary school's Parent-Teacher Association. My father knew him quite well. When my sister was in school, both of them became quite close as they waited for their daughters to finish the day's schooling.

His eldest daughter is one year older than myself, and his youngest was the same age as my sister (14 years my junior). I know three of his daughters quite well. In fact, his second daughter Arni Aryani Sarlis was in my batch in school. His passing is most definitely a great loss to his family.

In my professional career, I have met him several times during academic seminars. He lectured at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) and more recently the Open University of Malaysia (OUM). I am sure his students will miss him dearly.

A childhood friend, Wong Chee Hong, would never miss visiting his home in Kulim during Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Dr Alias was always a father figure to the friends of his daughters. We are always welcomed to his home.

My only regret is that I came to know of his passing rather late. I was unable to pay my last respects. Nonetheless, I pray that his ruh will be placed amongst those who are promised paradise in the Hereafter. And to his family who mourn his passing, I pray that they would remain strong.

Al-Fatihah.

A poem: "A Man's Trail"

I found the following poem from an online source some years back, and read this as one of the capsules for Radio IKIM. To my mind, this is one of the most touching Islamic poems that I have ever come across. The poem was quite popular back then, and I am putting it up again as a reminder for us all. After all, we need to be reminded from time to time so as to not stray from the right path. (A special thanks to Alawiyah Ahmad for reminding me about this poem after all these years).

Note that the author of this poem goes by the name of Dee77. I believe the author is a Singaporean. If anyone has details about the author, do let me know. Thank you.

A MAN'S TRAIL

This is the story of an average human
From his story there is so much to learn

"I work through life working day and night
Let me tell you of my miserable plight
Before that, let me thank Allah Most Merciful too
That's why I'm sharing my story with you

From young I was told I had to be the best
I must learn to score for my exams and tests
I studied hard to be the top in class
So that my friends will respect me with all the fuss

In my youth days, I was actually insecure
So much temptations and many are impure
I prayed sparingly but it didn't help me
Why couldn't I feel that Allah was watching me?

I wanted to be the cream of the cake
I didn't allow myself to make a single mistake
I wanted more friends and also be praised
When I didn't get complimented, I felt so dazed
I began to doubt myself again and again
Was I not good enough or was I insane?
I was feeling inadequate for my lack of looks
Was I too fat, short, or did my smile give the spooks?
I learnt to dress up in trendy clothes bought from stores
I wanted people to look at me and say 'wow' in awe

I wanted to be adored, praised and be popular
Success to me is to be top scholar
I wanted to shower myself in fame
I also hoped to earn a big name
I studied hard and topped my school high
I believe that to make friends, success is a tool

Whenever I was with friends and my date was just beside
I felt the pressure to display my witty side
I'm afraid my friends would leave me if I'm not nice enough
So I bought them gifts and other good stuff
Branded clothes, car, intelligence and friends indeed
You may think I have all that I need
But I'm still unhappy inside and I don't even know why
Was I not good enough, too ugly or too shy?

At work, I pleased my boss to show him I was the best
I treated my colleagues lunch and sacrificed all my rest
I was afraid that my boss disliked me if I lazed about
In front of him, I did my best and tried to stand out
Then I climbed the corporate ladder and be my own boss
Finally, I was successful but I was still in a loss
I was cheerful outside but scared inside
I was not even sure what I'm doing is right

I looked around to see all my best friends
I wonder if they still like me if my wealth ends?
I cannot bear to face rejection or even fail
If I become poor and old, will my friendships be stale?
I work hard, but who am I trying to impress?
The fear of losing my reputation is causing me stress
I want friends to respect me forever and ever
I could imagine my friendship to sever

But alas! My business failed me terribly
I was down with illness and suffered painfully
All the people whom I thought were faithful friends
Left me because my status has no stands
I'm left alone and wonder whether it is true?
To make good friends, wealth matters too?

I looked at the side of my bed and saw the Qur'an
Guilt enveloped me because the Qur'an I have read none
Since I was alone and feeling so bored
I explored the Qur'an to know about Allah the Lord

True Muslims friends start to befriend me
It doesn't matter whoever I'll be
They accept me and love me despite my flaws
I don't have to make them like me by using force
I don't have to impress Allah with my witty charm
I already know Allah loves us and protects us from harm

With Allah's help, we can attain peace in self
So let's put doubt back in Satan's shelf
If there are problems with work and with men
Please remember that it's part of Allah's plan
Ask from Allah because He listens to us always
Allah will help us with His Kindness and Grace

I met a man who is unfortunately blind
He then advised me with words so kind
He said, 'Love yourself and be grateful for what you are
You owe it to Allah for coming this far

Allah loves us and makes us Muslims
But many people don't appreciate it, it seems
It doesn't matter if we're poor or earn less
Allah loves who we are and He cares
Don't do good deeds if you do it for show
Or else your spiritual status will sink below

If you're humble, do good deeds and pray to Allah Most Wise
You can earn yourself a place in Paradise
Good Muslims overcome worries and insecurity
They are unfazed even if they are treated with hostility

Why be a slave to affluence and glamour?
Why worry if we are not witty with humour?
Always be yourself, dear brother, have no pretence
Allah will still love you, even if you don't have any fans
Why be afraid, dear brother, when friends shun away
When Allah is there for you it's always that way.'

After the blind man left, my mind started working
I was still surprised and truth starts coming
It seems that I may be a boss or lying here poor
but good Muslims greet me with salaam, a smile and no fear

I kept wondering, what is success to me?
Is it about having friends, or earning a good degree?
I had all these and yet I was not satisfied
Could it be because that Allah was not on my side?

Then I realize that I have been foolish
My INSECURITY is the one that was my leash
Why was I ungrateful to Allah Most Great?
Allah's helping us all the way as Fate

Oh! I'm ashamed for being so proud
When my success was actually a passing cloud!
Now I realize my great big mistake
So I do more good deeds now with sincerity and no fake

Let's learn from this life and tread the virtuous road
Remember that this world is only a temporary abode
Now I live through my life devoted to the Islamic cause
And repent, so Allah will love me despite my flaws."

Remember true success is not about having lots of friends
In fact, it is about passing Allah's tests
Happiness is not about showing off your generous part
In fact, it's about the ATTITUDE of your heart

Say: 'I like who I am and I'm glad to be me
I love being a Muslim and Allah sets my heart free!
I can feel in my mind and in my little heart bone
I confess - with Allah around, I know I'm never alone'.

-Written by Dee77

Monday, July 27, 2009

Happy birthday, Abah

Today is my father's 60th birthday. This entry is just a short note to say thank you for being there all these years.

Happy birthday, Abah. May happiness always come your way.

Friday, July 24, 2009

This amuses me

From time to time, I find something in the Internet that I find amusing. And the following is one of them...

Professional

I have come across many people who claim to practise professionalism when it comes to carrying out their duties. I often hear them say, "I will be professional when dealing with this matter" or "I can be professional about this" or "When it comes to work, I am a professional".

I truly and honestly wonder, when we mention the word "professional", do we really know what this word mean? More often than not, I find people misuse and misunderstood this word.

Some equate professionalism with power and superiority that come with a certain position. Some regard professionalism as a means to create castes and cliques in an organisation. To me, those with this myopic understanding does not understand the meaning of being a professional. Rather, they are confused between being professional and being bossy.

A professional is someone who is able to create a conducive working environment, and not someone who creates animosity, uneasiness and feuds, thus giving unnecessary headaches to the upper management.

A professional is someone who checks all the facts before making a conclusion. Even in the Quran, we are reminded that:
O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest ye harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done.
[Al-Hujurat, 49: 6]

A professional is someone who is able to facilitate matters efficiently, effectively and promptly, He/she does not procrastinate or delay matters. As a matter of fact, he/she who is a professional would ensure that the matters need taking care of are expedited, and know how to prioritise.

A professional is someone who does what is said. He/she is a believer of action speaks louder than words, and not the other way around.

A professional is someone who does not feel threatened when there is someone better even if that person is lower in rank. He/she would instead treat this situation as an opportunity to learn and improve, rather than treating the situation as a threat.

A professional is someone who is able to take criticisms. In other words, a professional's ego does not dominate. After all, no one is perfect and flawless. Criticism is a part of continuous self-improvement.

Of course, this list can be longer. The reason why I listed the above is simply a reminder to myself and others. Do not simply claim to be a professional if we are unable to meet the above "requirements" so to speak. Personally, I have never claimed to be a professional. I find it odd to be saying the words, "I am a professional" because it sounds so egoistic and aloof. To me, let others judge your actions whether you are a professional or otherwise.

My concern in my line of work has always been to make things easy for others. That has always been the maxim in my working life, i.e. "memudahkan, jangan menyusahkan" as outlined by the following Hadith related by Ahmad:
Make things simple, and do not make things difficult. Give news that makes the heart happy, and not news that worries the heart. And one should obey, and not feud with others.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Body language

The first day of interview for Yayasan Ilmuwan ended at around 5 p.m. which saw 21 of the 34 candidates called for the interview attending. Today's interview was for the post of research executive. The candidates had to go through three stages of interview. The first was the personality test, followed by the writing test (to test the candidates' flair for writing in Malay and English) and the third was the face-to-face interview. Alhamdulillah, we found three candidates to be suitable for this post.

Anyway, the point that I would like to share here is the importance of body language when attending an interview. It is important for candidates to remember that their body language "show" a certain aspect of their character. Slouching, continuous scratching of the arm and fidgeting would easily be detected by interviewees. Admittedly some of these "movements" are done subconsciously. Having said that, I think it's always crucial that candidates be conscious with regard to their body language.

Just my two cents...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Aquaria: Trip 3

It has been a long while since I last took my family on an outing in Kuala Lumpur. Well, shopping doesn't count.

Last night, my eldest son Amir Husaini told me that he wanted to see fishes swimming in water. So, I decided to bring the family out to Aquaria. This would in fact be Husaini's third trip to Aquaria. The first visit was blogged here. As for my youngest son Ammar Qusyairi, this would be his second trip there.

There weren't that many people there compared to the previous visits. Husaini was of course excited with the various fishes and other marine life that he saw. He was particularly interested in the big fishes such as the sharks and manta rays.

Qusyairi on the other hand was more interested in the people getting excited with the exhibits. He wasn't paying much attention to the fishes, rather his attention was fixated to the excitement of other children.

All in all, I think the boys had a good time. I will take them there again when they are slightly older, so that they'll be able to appreciate the marine life better.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Choosing the best option

There are many times that we make choices that change our direction in life.

I had always wanted to be a doctor when I was schooling. But immediately after the SPM examination, I made the choice of going to Glasgow, rendering my early ambition null and void.

All the while when I was in Glasgow, I had always envisioned myself working for the oil company that sponsored me. But almost immediately after returning home, I changed my mind despite getting an offer to work in a chemistry laboratory. I chose instead to go into the academic world.

It has been 13 years since I made that decision. And during this period, I made other "crazy" decisions as well.

And all these have indeed changed my life for the better, alhamdulillah. While the choice that I made in 1996 did not seem to be logical, I can say that I have no regrets whatsoever despite many of my friends questioning my sanity for choosing the path I chose.

To those who have stood by my "crazy" decision those many years ago, including my family and my closest friends who have helped me to go through some difficult times back then, allow me to say thank you.

No doubt choosing what is best for us may be difficult. Often we do not want our decision to disappoint others. There are times when the choice seems to be paved with difficulties ahead.

But sometimes, we have to put ourselves first when deciding what is best for us. Choose, and leave the rest to Allah SWT, i.e. by observing tawakal. I am often reminded that it is better to make a wrong decision than not making one at all.

Back on tv

A year ago, as was blogged here and here, I was involved in the production of a documentary entitled "Rahsia Anatomi".

I had just been informed that the programme is now on air at 9 a.m. every Tuesday on TV1. The documentary has 13 episodes altogether.

I missed the first episode already as I was not informed earlier. Too bad I won't be able to watch the rest of the episodes as well as I'd be working.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mondays

What is it with people and their dislike for Mondays?

I noticed many of us complain when we get to Monday. Quite a number of us start Monday rather reluctantly.

Frankly, I don't believe this is a good attitude to have.

For me, I am grateful that I have been given another day to live. The fact that I get to start the week breathing is reason enough for me to be thankful.

If people say, "Oh, no. It's already Monday", I would say, "Alhamdulillah, it's Monday."

For that matter, I would say "alhamdulillah" for the other days of the week as well.

Pi joke

One of the things that intrigue me academically is the study of the history of the irrational number, pi. So, I find the following to be quite funny.I guess there is such a thing as a pi joke.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The search is on

I have to say that it is going to be quite a task to sift through the 400 or so applications that we have received up till the closing date (yesterday). Currently, the summary for the applications is being compiled, and the next step would be the shortlisting process.

I hope to have that done by Monday, so that we can fix the date for the interview by the third week of the month. Of course, this is just my wish but the final say belongs to the big boss.

I am aware that some of the applicants have stumbled upon this blog when they searched for Yayasan Ilmuwan. A note for all applicants, only shortlisted candidates will be contacted for the interview.

If you are one of the lucky ones to be called for the interview, may I share the following advice:
  1. Be presentable, i.e. dress smartly.
  2. Be punctual.
  3. Bring all your original certificates.
  4. Equip yourself with general knowledge.
  5. Speak confidently but politely.
  6. Be honest. If you are not sure or you do not know something, just say so. It is unwise to try to guess or kelentong because that will only put you in a bad light.
All the above are of course common sense. Please be aware that we are looking for someone who not only possesses good grades, but also someone who has the potential to perform in carrying out his/her responsibilities.

As an aside, Yayasan Ilmuwan's website is now up and running at www.yi.org.my.

Should you receive the call for the interview, I wish you all the very best.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Small but significant pointer: Don't let your words shout

In everything that we do, politeness is important. We have to be polite, not only when we speak, but also when we write.

Those familiar with netiquette would be aware that using capital letters is akin to shouting. Therefore, even when we communicate with others using e-mails or chat programmes, it is important that we do not use capital letters, because if we do, we give the impression that we are shouting to the other person.

Now, imagine that you are a jobhunter applying for a job. Would you write in your application using capital letters to the organisation or company with the job vacancy? I think common sense would dictate that we should not. Nevertheless, I have found one application with the following message:
Dear Mr/Mrs,

THIS IS MY RESUME AND COVER LETTER FOR JOB APPLICATION...

THANK'S...

To me, the message is somewhat crude and sounds like shouting. And I am not even commenting on the grammar.

I believe it is important that jobhunters polish their letter-writing skills and know the basic of netiquette especially when applying online. Don't take the smallest of things for granted. Every letter in every word in every sentence of the application will draw the picture of the applicant and give prospective employers a certain degree of what to expect from the applicant.

Choose your words carefully. And present your words politely.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Two points to remember

I thought I wouldn't be blogging about how to apply for jobs anymore, and I guess I thought wrong.

Anyway, I would like to highlight two more points. These may seem trivial but they do carry weight if the prospective employer is particular. More so when the number of applicants is high.

Point number one, when sending in applications over e-mail, make sure that you apply to one employer at a time. Do not c.c. one application to several employers in one e-mail. One applicant actually did this when sending her application. Aside from Yayasan Ilmuwan, she also sent the same application to two other companies. The message in the e-mail is a generic message, something along the line of "applying for a suitable post".

My advice is to never do this. Send individual applications to the respective companies and organisations. Take the trouble to address individual company or organisation, and state the actual post that you are applying for. The applicant may be thinking that it is good to just c.c. one application to several companies and organisations, but the impression that the applicant gave is that he/she is lazy and just trying out his/her luck.

Even if you still want to send one application to several companies and organisations, please be smarter. Use blind carbon copy (b.c.c.) in your e-mail. This way, those receiving your application would not be aware of other applications. But still, one must state what position one is applying for. Bear in mind that the prospective employer has to sift through hundreds of applications for more than one position.

Point number two, when attaching files, make sure that the files are properly (and decently) named. Remember you are applying for a job, not writing an e-mail to a friend. Improperly and indecently named files will give the wrong impression to the prospective employer.

Like I said, these two points may seem insignificant, but they do give a certain impression to the companies and organisations that one is applying for. Always remember that there are hundreds of applicants applying for the same position. It is important to give out the right impression from the way we send in our applications. Otherwise, one would risk not being shortlisted for interview.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Final tip, hopefully: Be thorough

This is essentially an extension to what I wrote a few days ago.

It is important that we check and recheck any document that we want to send in order to ensure that there is no mistake. Surprisingly, quite a few applicants sent in their applications twice, and one actually sent the application thrice. When I compare the original submissions to the ones sent later, there are a few new information here and there added in the applicants' curriculum vitae. The impression that I get is that the applicants updated their information after the original submission, and reubmitted their applications.

Again, this highlights the applicants' lack of thoroughness in submitting their applications. Applicants should first update and check their curriculum vitae and all related documents before sending them in. When one resends the application, it is as if he or she was not thorough the first time.

And please, never ever do the following mistake. An applicant e-mailed in the application three times. The first submission had an attachment containing a curriculum vitae. The second submission contained a message saying that the first submission was erroneous because the curriculum vitae actually belonged to someone else, and hence the second e-mail contained the right attachment. The third submission had no messages whatsoever, and contained an attachment which in essence is the same as the second attachment. The only difference is the photograph in the last e-mail is different compared to the second one.

Now, if you were an employer looking for an employee, would you employ someone who is not careful, thorough and meticulous?

I think not.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Yet another pointer: Send appropriate photos

Thus far, we received close to 200 applications for the four vacancies that we have. One point that I feel I must emphasis is the need to send in an appropriate photo to accompany the application.

Most people would use passport-sized photographs which, to me, is the best thing to do. The passport-sized photographs are suitable for job applications. Some may argue that this kind of photos are formal and emotionless. But to me, if you are serious in applying for a professional position, then this kind of photographs is the best.

Having said that, I have noticed some applicants who send passport-sized photographs which show them wearing collarless t-shirts with writings on them. Unfortunately, such depiction give the impression that the applicants are not serious especially if they are applying for management positions.

There are also applicants who send photographs which have been cropped or photoshopped. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but again please make sure that the photos are appropriate for the purpose of applying for jobs.

The reason I raise this is that there are applicants who send photos of them posing in a rather unsuitable manner. The first thing that came to my mind was, "Is this person applying for the position of a researcher, or is this person applying to become a model?"

The fact of the matter is photographs will project the applicants' image and will give the prospective employer the first impression of those applying for the vacant positions. Therefore, it is important to project the right first impression to the prospective employer.

Do a little bit of homework. Know the nature of business of the employer. Do not send casual photographs if the employer is looking for a serious and professional employee. The safest bet is to dress smart (no collarless t-shirts though) and take a passport-sized photograph.