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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.