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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another pointer: Spell it right

This is basically an addendum to the blog post yesterday.

Back in the UK, when I was secretary to a student's organisation, I was reminded by the president to ensure that the spellings for everyone's name is correct and accurate. Since then, I have been giving extra attention in making sure that I got everyone's name correctly spelt.

The same applies when we write to organisations and companies. If one is a jobseeker, and is writing to the organisation or company that one is applying to, it is imperative that one makes sure that the name of the potential employer is correct, right down to each individual letter.

For example, the organisation that I am attached to is Yayasan Ilmuwan. It is a very typical mistake that many people make when they spell the word "Ilmuwan" as "Ilmuan". In Bahasa Melayu, there is no such word as ilmuan contrary to what many people may think. Ilmuwan means "scholar(s)". Essentially, the suffix wan when added to a noun or a verb would turn the word into a noun that refers to a person.

Common examples include angkasawan, olahragawan, dermawan, rupawan, agamawan, etc. Hence, the same rule applies to ilmuwan. I suspect the problem arises because ilmu ends with the letter "u", and when one pronounces ilmuwan, there is a tendency to think that the word is spelt without the "w" that comes after "u".

I notice most applicants who write to Yayasan Ilmuwan made this common mistake, i.e. by spelling "Ilmuan" instead of "Ilmuwan". The mistake in the spelling highlights the lack of attention given to the smallest of details.

Perhaps, what struck me as even weirder is that there are also applicants who got the name wrong altogether. There are at least two applicants who I noticed addressed their applications to "Yayasan Ilmu".

What happened to the wan? It's one thing to drop the "w", but to drop three letters altogether is simply unbelievable.

The correct spelling for the names of organisations and companies should not be taken lightly. There are also organisations and companies which have spellings that may be grammatically wrong or for historical reasons are spelt using the old system of spelling. PETRONAS as we know is the short form of Petroliam Nasional Berhad. Let's not be a smart alec and change the spelling "Petroliam" into "Petroleum" in this instance. Or the word "Bandaraya" in the case of Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur should not be changed into "Bandar Raya" even though the latter is the correct form of spelling according to the latest system of spelling.

I am sure none of us would be happy if our names are spelt wrong, so treat the spelling for these names just like the way we would want people to spell our names.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Tips for jobhunters

Currently, the organisation that I am attached with has a few vacancies. We have advertised in the newspapers yesterday, and I have received nearly 50 applications thus far which are sent through the e-mail.

The number of applicants goes to show how things are currently. People are almost desperate for jobs, that they are willing to apply anything under the sun, as long as they have something to hold on to. I welcome applicants who are willing to strive and learn new things.

Unfortunately, it saddens me to see that quite a number of these applicants have some basic problems when it comes to applying for jobs.

Some of them did not even bother to write a covering letter. To me, while e-mail can be used for applications, it is important that they also include a covering letter which states at least the job that they are applying for. At the very least, the covering letter is a form of courtesy to the potential employer, and it shows the level of professionalism that the applicant has. A few of these applicants even sent empty e-mails with no text whatsoever, save for the attachment containing their curriculum vitae. I think this is sheer laziness. An applicant should never assume that the employer knows what they are applying for, and an applicant should never think that he/she is the only one applying.

The second aspect that I noticed many applicants took for granted is the use of language in writing letters and e-mails. Great care must be taken when communicating, especially with potential employers. This at the very least gives a fairly good first impression. An abrupt and rude letter and/or e-mail will most probably scare the potential employer away from even shortlisting the applicant. What more if the job requires communication with other people. How can an employer trust the applicant with communicating with other people if the first impression shown in his/her letter/e-mail is bad? E-mail may be an informal way of communicating, but still one must still observe certain ethics in writing e-mails.

The third aspect I find lacking is a good command of language. Some of the applicants do not seem to take the effort to check the grammatical and spelling errors in their resumes or letters. Imagine writing "executive research" when one should write "research executive", or writing "2nd class honest" instead of "2nd class honours". This kind of careless errors show that the applicant is not careful and/or lazy in rechecking his/her documents. If the person is applying for a job as a research executive, which among others requires the person to be extra careful and meticulous, then the errors in the documents will probably show them to be otherwise.

So, if you're looking for a job, make sure that:
(i) Your curriculum vitae is accompanied by a covering letter.
(ii) Write using proper language even when you are communicating using e-mail.
(iii) Check and recheck your documents before sending them to potential employers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A good indication

Last week, shortly after class, a student of mine walked up to me. He is an international student, and he said, "My friends and I have been wondering..."

"Yes?" I asked.

"What course will you be teaching next semester?"

"As far as I have been informed, I will still be teaching this subject."

"Any other subjects besides this?"

"No, I don't think so."


I noticed his disappointment, and promptly asked, "Why did you ask?"

"We thought we wanted to enrol in the subjects that you'll be teaching."

I just smiled in response.

I have been asked to teach this subject, History and Philosophy of Science, by the university. And I was asked to make things simple. This subject is considered a killer subject by many students of the Faculty of Science. I have tried my best, and now we're coming towards the end of the short semester. If the above dialogue is any indication, I would think that I may have succeeded to a certain extent.

And of course, the final exam result will paint the true story.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A blogger's dilemma

I have things that I wanted to blog on. But by the time I look at the dashboard, I have run out of things to write even before I started writing.

I want to keep blogging. But every time I put my fingers on the keyboard, I realise that I don't have the words to say.

I will be back when I find the words.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Irn Bru

When I was studying in Glasgow more than a decade ago, I was introduced to the many facets of its unique culture and charms. Most of us would know some of these, which include bagpipes, kilts, Scottish songs, etc.

And it was around this time I got acquainted with Irn Bru. Dubbed "Scotland's other national drink" - the other being whiskey, in case you're wondering - Irn Bru, as Wikipedia puts it, is a popular carbonated soft drink. The brand is also known for its innovative and wacky advertisments.

A colleague (thanks En Lan!) recently went to the UK for a holiday, and he bought me a can of Irn Bru at a town called Inverness (which is very near Loch Ness). Irn Bru used to be a staple soft drink for me back in those days. So seeing the can somehow made me nostalgic, and brings back a lot of memories.

Here's to Irn Bru (and to good old memories of Bonnie Scotland)!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Well-deserved Datukship

I just would like to express my happiness and extend my congratulations to my former boss at the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM), who is the Deputy Director-General of the institute, on the Datukship he received from the Yang Dipertuan Agong.

In recent weeks, people have been talking about how some would go distance to buy titles like Datuk. But in the case of Datuk Nik Mustapha Haji Nik Hassan, he truly deserves the accolade for his hard work and integrity. I have had the pleasure of working as a staff under him for close to eight years, and in that time, I have indeed learnt a lot from him. To my mind, this Datukship is actually long overdue.

Congratulations, Datuk.

[Looks like I'll have to adjust to calling him Datuk Nik from now on].

In two newspapers

Perhaps for the first time, I was in two different newspapers yesterday which highlighted two different issues.

The first was Berita Harian which carried a paper that I presented at the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) a few weeks ago. The paper was on guidelines for parents in safeguarding their children in light of developments in ICT. The write-up in Berita Harian can be read here.

Meanwhile in Utusan Malaysia, the issue of stem cell transplant (as well as organ transplant) was carried yesterday. This was from a forum I attended at UKM Medical Centre in April, and the article can be read here.

There was also an interview done after the forum that I blogged about last month which was featured in Utusan Malaysia on the 5th of May. The link to this interview can be found here.

Friday, June 05, 2009


When I was in my teens, I used to read about philosophy and the various Greek philosophers that everyone has at least heard of - people like Socrates, his student Plato, and Plato's student Aristotle. Although I may not have understood the philosophical thinking of these ancient philosophers, the subject of philosophy certainly got me intrigued.

When I did my undergraduate studies, the focus on philosophy of science was absent even though in truth, the science that I did have a lot of philosophical underpinnings in it.

A few years back, when I was doing my master's degree, I went back to philosophy even though the focus wasn't so much on Socratic, Platonic or Aristotlean thoughts. My thesis was more of a comparison between the modern western philosophies of science which include the views of the logical positivists, empiricists, Karl Popper (and his falsification) and Thomas Kuhn (with his paradigm shift), and that of the modern Islamic thinkers such as Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Ismail Raji al-Faruqi, Syed Naquib al-Attas, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Ziauddin Sardar and Osman Bakar.

Beginning this semester, I have been teaching the subject of philosophy and history of science to the students of the Faculty of Science of the Universiti Malaya. I find that I am once again intrigued by philosophical thoughts of the ancient thinkers, going back to the pre-Socratic philosophers such as Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Leucippus and Democritus (and many more), all the way to the Chinese sages like Confucious and Mozi, all the way to the classical Muslim philosophical thoughts of al-Biruni, Ibn Sina, ar-Razi, al-Ghazali, Ibn Rushd and others.

I have to admit that reading and teaching philosophy have been very satisfying mentally. Last night, I made a pit stop at Kinokuniya at KLCC, and bought myself several books on philosophy. This subject is indeed fascinating. It may be a bit heavy as it requires a lot of thinking, but it has indeed broadened my perspective on many things. Call me a lover of philosophy - philosophyphile - if you will.

And to quote Socrates, "I know that I know nothing". That's why I'm trying to read on philosophy as much as I could.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


We often complain about bad things. And attention is always given to negative things. Yet, ironically, we seldom if ever highlight good, positive and examplary experiences. That is what I want to blog on today. Something good and something that is refreshing. Something that goes to show that there are still people out there who are genuinely virtuous, selfless and possess good character.

A few weeks ago, I was in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan. I was there to see Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Albakri (popularly known as Ustaz Zulkifli Albakri) who is a lecturer at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM). USIM is located in a relatively new area, and there is no public transport as far as I noticed.

I called up Dr Zulkifli when I reached there. He wasn't at the faculty, but instead he asked me to wait for him at the guardhouse. At the guardhouse, there was an Arab man waiting for a taxi or something. As there were no taxis forthcoming, he started to ask anyone who was coming out of the gate for a lift to the Nilai commuter station. I was unfamiliar with Nilai, and hence I wasn't able to assist him.

Shortly after, Dr Zulkifli arrived in his car. He told me to follow him back home so that we could have our discussion there. But before that, the Arab man asked Dr Zulkifli for a lift. Dr Zulkifli told him that he wasn't going to the commuter station. And yet, he still offered the Arab man assistance. He told him to get into his car (while I followed from behind). Upon reaching his house, Dr Zulkifli asked one of his students who was assisting him in a writing project to send the Arab man to the commuter station. And even before that, Dr Zulkifli offered him a glass of fresh orange to quench his thirst after waiting in the sun for quite a while.

Frankly, I was humbled by this show of virtuous character on the part of Dr Zulkifli. How many of us would assist, what more be hospitable to a total stranger? In this day and age, when crimes are aplenty and the world "out there" seems to be no longer safe, more often than not we tend to be extra careful, usually to the extend that we are unable to distinguish between people who sincerely need our assistance and those who are out to harm or cheat us.

Dr Zulkifli is a pious, humble, soft-spoken alim whose character is truly examplary. I saw with my own eyes how he translates the teaching of Islam into his character. And to see such a character with a virtuous akhlaq in this day and age is really an eye-opener.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Blogging versus other things

Guilty as charged! I have not been updating any of my blogs.

While blogging provides a platform (or perhaps more accurately, an outlet) for me to voice out on matters that I feel important, this activity has to take the back seat for the time being. I may not be able to blog as frequent as before.

Family, work, studies and a few other things have to be given the priority.

My wife has yet to fully recover from her illnesses. While her sinusitis has been treated by the surgery she underwent, the aftereffects from pneumonia and bronchitis are still there. The specialist who is treating her has given her some new medications to treat the symptoms she's having now. And she still has a number of follow-ups in the coming weeks.

Workwise, things are pretty busy. I am trying to get a number of titles published by the year's end. And to do this mostly on my own can be quite time-consuming. Fortunately, one of the executives at the office is kind enough to assist me when she's not tied up to her actual duties. Aside from this, there are a few seminars that I will be involved with in the coming months. And I will have to sit down to prepare working papers for these seminars.

Lecturing part-time at Universiti Malaya is also taking up quite a chunk of my time. The subject I'm teaching, "History and Philosophy of Science", is a killer subject for most of the students. I spend up to six hours at night to prepare for the lectures. I want the students to understand the subject in simple terms and I try to put things in perspective so that they would be able to digest the subject better. I have been told by a few of the students themselves (some of whom are resitting for the subject) that I am doing a good job so far. I hope they are right, and we shall see if they are right from the results of their exam.

My PhD thesis is also something that requires a lot of attention. I am hoping that I'll be able to complete at least the first draft of the thesis by the end of the year. It may sound crazy judging from the things that I have to do, but then again some have said that I am crazy to be taking in so much at any given time. My thoughts? I don't think I am crazy. Eccentric maybe. Workaholic definitely.

On top of all this, two deadlines await. By the 31st July, I will have to submit the manuscript for my third novel which happens to be the sequel for my second novel. By the 31st August, I will have to submit another manuscript for a novel-writing competition. Both are science fiction novels, and I think I'll be sticking to this genre for the coming years.

This coming Thursday, I'll be at the Read Malaysia 2009 book fair at the Malaysian International Exhibition and Convention Centre (MIECC) at the MINES between 2.30 to 3.30 p.m. for a meet-the-author session. If you have the time, do drop by and say hi (and buy my novel).

Phew. No wonder I have been getting less and less sleep and rest these days. With these things to do, I guess that's why blogging comes out bottom of the list of things to do. When it comes to blogging versus everything else that I do, I think everyone could see which of the two becomes the priority. I don't want to promise anything, but I will try to blog if I have the time and energy left in me. Do drop in from time to time though. There just may be something new here.