19 December 2010

... the Boy, the Cat, the Fish and the Plant, from the Wife


ave you ever been left alone to handle the household for a weekend? Most of us claim that we are experienced enough to do this given that we had plenty of training while studying abroad. We even claim that we can cook and wash our own clothes. All of that doesn't mean anything when you forget those skills immediately after you get married, for why get married when you cannot release yourselves off that burden? Haha,.. by now, readers, you'd probably already guessed that you should be a male before continuing reading this article.

OK, all husbands have to go through this at some point of their married live but I feel compelled to share my 1 weekend of doing so,... simply because it was full of instructions, like the one on the Ikea boxes, if you know what I mean. Here goes.

One Friday night I had to work late because I couldn't afford to work on the weekend. The maid had just left for Indonesia couple of days ago for Raya Haji and my wife leaves that Saturday morning early at 4:00 a.m. to catch a flight to Penang for some company seminar trip. All I remembered was just a quick wakkie from my wife whispering "There is a note on the table.... read it,.... and make sure you follow it okay!..."

Ringgggggg!!!!! 9:00 a.m. the alarm went off. Popped a ciggy in the mouth and picked up the note that reads:



First thing, please don't smoke in the room. It makes my clothes smell like shit! So if you are doing that now, throw it away.

Okay, I will be gone for 2 days and will be back on Monday morning. Please ensure that you do the following:

1. The Boy

Please make sure that you bring him to the footy clinic at 10:00am. Don't put the green jersey on him,... he likes the red one. By the way, you have to pay the academy RM200 for renewal of the clinic courses. So I guess, you have to go to the ATM first before you send him. Don't forget to bring his water bottle... and oh ya, please can you shower him instead of just washing his face! brush his teeth as well. He needs breakfast. Milk and KoKo Krunch would do.

I leave lunch to your imagination but please don't give him Nuggets anymore. Better if you get real food like Chicken Rice and NOT McDonalds. Maybe spare RM200 for his food (and yours as well). Make sure you shower him again before 7:00am and at night, don't put him into short sleeves or shorts,... it'll be cold for him. He needs to have his Multivitamins and Vitamin C once a day and cough syrup 3 times a day after meals. He is caughing, in case you haven't noticed. Oh ya,.. all his clean clothes are in the laundry basket in the maid's room. One last thing. He has fruits for late supper. There are apples in the fridge.

2. The Cat

I know you have sinus problems but please just help me for this one weekend only. I promise I will buy you sinus tablets from Penang. The poor cat has fungal on his left eye. So you need to give him his medication. Please limit the wet food because he loves it,.. use it as a bait, where you put the medication into the wet food and he will eat it all up. The rest of the time give him the cat biscuits only. There are two types of medication. One, a hard pill. You just have to hide it in the wet food. The second one, a capsule. For this, you either shuff it down his throat or you break open it and pour the content into the wet food. I guess the second method is the prefered one given that you have sinus problems and cannot get close to the cat.

Not sure whether there is enough for the weekend but if finished, please get them from the Vet. The Vet is on the 3rd quodron of the rows of the shop at Section 13 and again, when at ATM, withdraw extra RM200 for that,.. sorry, make it RM260 coz the Vetrenarian service charge will be RM60. While you're at it, get some cat litters as well and some more cat biscuits for anti-furball. You'll need another RM140 I think. You have to clean his shit every now and then and replenish the cat litter. The cat normally disappears during day time and comes home at night. You have to wait for him to open the doors so that he can come back in. Somehow he climbs his way out but cannot climb his way in. Weird.

Always wash his food container because we wouldn't want him to eat from a container visited by cockroaches over the night. He will get sick if you don't wash it. If possible, keep him in the backyard because the maid is not around to vacum the lounge,... you have to think about your sinus.

3. The Fish

This is fairly simple. They need to eat twice a day. Don't put too much coz it'll dirty the water. Come to think of it, it is already dirty. So perhaps after the Boy's footy clinic, please clean the aquarium. Oh ya, at the ATM, withdraw extra RM100 and get a new water filter pump. The existing one sucks and it is already full of algae. A new one would be refreshing. Don't forget to wash the corals and the plant in it as well and you have to put a capful of anti-clorine, if not, all the fish will die. Somehow I feel that the fish is going to die. So withdraw another RM100 for some cheap fish. The Boy will get upset if the fish dies, so a new batch will make him under control. The best value for money would be Guppy, Platty or Tetra. Please choose colours that matches the living room, i.e. family of orange, red, yellow and not blue, black or silver.

4. The Plant

There are pots of flowers and small plants at the back and on the front porch. I think around 15 pots. Please give them water twice a day. In the morning and in the evening. There are also the Gardenias along the fence. They need loads of water and spray some on the leaves to avoid dehydration. The grass needs water as well. This will take some time. You need to spray water all over the lawn but don't do it too quickly,.... prolong it, say 15 minutes and make sure the water is spread all over. You must remember to water the plants coz if you miss, they will die instantly. These are delicate creatures.

I guess that should suffice. Have fun managing the house and ya, having explained all the above, withdraw in total RM1,000 for the weekend. Bye!!!!!


The Wife


.... you can guess how my whole weekend went after reading that note.....

* kopihangtuah

| mcmlxxv:viii:xxix |

22 November 2010

Something Fishy


... we now enjoy Filet O' Fish from McDonalds. A decade from now, our kids may only enjoy McBilis?

omething fishy is going on. Years ago, we see decent sized fish being sold in the market. Now it seems they are growing smaller. Perhaps an evolution force taking place? I don't think so. The fact is, the average age of the fish we buy are reducing. We have consumed much of the adult and the queue has come for the babies to take their place in society,... human's society. Just recently I bought Pompret (Bawal Putih) from a commercialised supermarket and the first thought that came to mind was "they're pretty small little creatures aren't they? That's funny, I remembered them to be a lot bigger when my mom cooked them a quarter century ago".

Our fish count has dropped. We are consuming our seafood at a rate faster than their natural reproduction speed. The population of Malaysia has grown from 20 million 20 years ago to 27 million today. To feed these extra 7 million people, our fish catch has increased from 951,307 tonnes in 1990 to 1,390,000 tonnes now (#1). The fisheries industry has also advanced its techniques not only to increase output and sales, but also to sweep clean the seabed off its natural habitat. This is true particularly on the use of trawlers with smaller mesh leaving minimal chances for small fish to escape. According to Wikipedia, this method of fishing involves active pulling of trawls through the water behind one or more trawlers. Trawls are fishing nets that are dragged along the bottom of the sea or in midwater at a specified depth. Trawling is controversial because of its environmental impacts. Because bottom trawling involves towing heavy fishing gear over the seabed it can cause large scale destruction on the ocean bottom, including coral shattering and damage to habitats. And guess what, 51% of our fisherman in malaysia uses this! (#1).

So there you go. A desastrous industrial invention. We should be sad. We now enjoy the Filet O' Fish from McDonalds. A decade from now, our kids may only enjoy McBilis for the extinction of quality fish. In fact, I still remember that when I was 10 years old, the Fish and Chips were made of quality fillets from the likes of Kurau, Senangin and Jenahak. Today, Dory conquers the Fish and Chips market. To be exact, a particular type of Dory now floods the market due to its vast commercialisation. This Dory is known as the Cream Dory (Pangasius), from the catfish family. A far more inferior quality when compared to Kurau or Senangin. Cream Dory made it onto the National Fisheries Institute’s “Top Ten” list of the most consumed seafood in America. The Top 10 is based on tonnage of fish sold. According to the NFI of USA, this mild-flavored white-flesh fish is farmed in Asia and is being used increasingly in food service. It is finding its way onto restaurant menus and into stores as well.

We progressed from Baby Boomers, to Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z and maybe, just maybe, we ought to call the next one "Generation Who Has Never Seen Fish Before"

So let us take stock of the situation. We have more mouth to feed. So we catch more. How do we catch more? We use destructive techniques as mentioned earlier. This depletes the fish population. Hence we experience deterioration, not only from the count, but also from the size and quality. Good fish becomes rare and are replaced with more common less quality fish. It's anti-progression really. If we don't stop, we will deprive the future generations from experiencing what good quality fish tastes like, and of course, that is if there are any fish left! We progressed from Baby Boomers, to Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z and maybe, just maybe, we ought to call the next one "Generation Who Has Never Seen Fish Before" and let them roam in museums to see pictures of fish or even visit the blue plaque marking the first Fish and Chips shop in Britain, in Oldham, Greater Manchester (See photo by the side).

Something must be done. Australia for example imposes rulings whereby fish, crabs and prawns must be released back to the sea if they are less than a prescribed size. Non-compliance is heavily punished by way of monetary penalties as well as jail term. It worked perfectly. Go to Australia and experience their seafood. Fantastic! They are of decent size, decent species and sustainable industry practice ensures the fish population are maintained at healthy levels in tandem with the progression of human's fish demand not to the expense of the ocean kingdom.

A big hurrah to Malaysian Nature Society and World Wildlife Federation for coming up with Malaysia Sustainable Seafood Guide in May 2010. This guide opens the eyes of public to the risk of not having any seafood to eat if we continue to consume indiscriminately. It also highlights that Malaysians are the biggest consumers of seafood in Southeast Asia and that 90% of Malaysia's fish stock has declined due to unsustainable fishing practices. In addition, it introduces the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo that is used to identify fisheries that practice responsible fish catch by meeting MSC's strict environmental standards. If possible, ask for MSC certified fish from your supermarkets.

The guide is a fantastic piece of work that should be alongside your credit cards. It is produced in small pamphlets that can easily be kept in wallets and pockets. It's labelled as "S.O.S : Save Our Seafood". Why would you want to bring the guide everywhere? Well, the guide lists down the types of fish in 3 different categories: (1) Recommended, (2) Think Twice and (3) Avoid. This is just awesome. It gives us new hope. Now all we have to do is just be guided by it. If it's difficult to get hold of one of these pamphlets, visit www.saveourseafood.my. In any case, I will take the liberty of sharing some good tips as listed below:

Well managed sustainable stocks not overexploited

1. Lala Clams
2. Anchovies
3. Tuna
4. Indian Mackerel
5. Spanish Mackerel
6. Mussels
7. Oysters
8. Mud Crab

At risk of becoming unsustainable. Only eat occasionally when 'Recommended' option not available

1. John's Snapper
2. Flower Crab
3. Red Snapper
4. Banana Prawn
5. Coral Grouper
6. Seabass
7. Tiger Prawn

Unsustainable and overfished. Avoid at all cost

1. Silver Pompret
2. Black Prompret
3. Ray
4. Breams
5. Herrings
6. Flounder
7. Needle Cuttlefish
8. Trevally
9. Coral Trout
10. Sharks

I am a seafood lover and at the same time, I do care for the environment. I try my best to eat chicken and beef but being human, once in a while I do order fish at restaurants. I also face the problem of having kids who only eat fish and hates chicken and beef: that I will have to remedy,.. there is still time. I urge everyone to save our planet. Every little help, helps! Do care for our sea creatures. After all, if we don't look after them, we will lose a significant source of protein, iodin and essential oil such as Omega.

* kopihangtuah

(#1 : Detailed and scientific/technical information was taken from an article "Cosuming Juveniles Dooms Fisheries" by Evangeline Majawat in NST Monday 6 September 2010)

| mcmlxxv:viii:xxix |

06 November 2010

Coral Armageddon: A Field of Skeleton


One would hope to see yellows, blues, pinks and reds but a melancholic wide spread white boney corals present itself, like a field of skeleton ...

ecently me and my wife went for a second honeymoon. Having realised that we have not appreciated our country enough, relative to the European tours that we did in the past, a local tropical island was perfect for a destination. We went to Tioman. It was a great retreat but to our disappointment, many of the corals were not as lively as we hoped it would be. No doubt Tioman still has many sites with colourful corals and fishes to offer snorklers and scuba divers, quite a significant portion of the seabed surrounding the island were and are still the victim of excessive disruption by tourists as well as climate change. One would hope to see yellows, blues, pinks and reds but a melancholic wide spread white boney corals present itself, like a field of skeleton. A sad story indeed.

The first thing that came to our mind was pollution by the passing ships, rubbish from tourists, contaminated water flowing from the rivers as a result of factories releasing toxic wastes and many more negative thoughts including destructive fishing practices. Whilst all of that are true to certain extent, what contributes the most is the climate change. Global warming has taken charge to what we all see as the beginning of an armageddon to the planet Earth, at least to the corals and sea life for a start. We see sea levels rising everywhere. In Malaysia, it rises by 10cm to 13cm every 100 years. 288.4km or 6% of Malaysian 4,809km coastline was being eroded by the sea. With such phenomenon, no wonder corals are having trouble staying alive.

This is a sad case really. My wish now is to visit all the other islands in Malaysia such as Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Sibu, Pulau Redang and a host of islands in Borneo. Why? Well, in my mind, give 10 years to 15 years, those coral fields would probably be the fields of skeleton mentioned earlier. A sad case really. Is it going to be like our Rantau Abang? where tourists 'used to be' facinated with thousands of leatherback turtles coming to shore to lay eggs. The number of sea turtles that lay their eggs has severely decreased in recent years. It has been estimated that during the 1950s, over 10,000 of these turtles called the beaches on Rantau Abang their home. Recently the local government have declared these turtles extinct as no turtle landings have been sighted for quite some time. Next, the government is probably going to declare the corals extinct as well? Let's hope not.

....call it the "Coral Bleaching" where algae that gives coral its colour and food dies, turning it into bone white colour..

After having read so many articles in the newspapers lately, I now understand what these fields of skeletons mean. They call it the "Coral Bleaching" where algae that gives coral its colour and food dies, turning it into bone white colour (#1). It is thought that a temperature increase of more than 1 degree Celsius (bringing the temperature to 32 Celsius) and excessive sunlight trigger the single-celled algae zooxanthellae to attack the corals (#1). It was also believed that easterly winds from the cooler waters of the Pacific have been pushing warmer waters into the Southeast Asian region, contributing to the warmth that triggered the bleaching - part of the steady increase of temperature due to anthropogenic climate change since the early 1950's associated with global warming (#1). This will take months to years for those corals to recover from mass bleaching (#1). 50% of the corals are dead after prolonged coral bleaching and 60% to 90% of the reefs in Malaysia's tourists attraction islands are bleached (#1). The same phenomenon exist in neighbouring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines for which, 20% of those corals were lost in the last several decades (#2).

Recently the government ordered the closure of many dive sites in Peninsula Malaysia to give these corals a chance to recover. The closure was for a few months. I wonder whether that is enough for a recovery phase. Perhaps the government should close those sites for a year allowing enough room for those corals to work themselves without disruption from tourists. What is more important is the pollution level in the sea water. Action must be taken to address this, i.e. put a stop to factories flowing toxic into the water, control fishing methods or sea water chemical treatment to stabilise the 'friendlyness' of the sea water to the corals. In any case, significant action has to be taken, or else, we may just now see the last of those corals that will not be experienced by our children and only to be told as a story, a myth, just like how the current generation is deprived of dolphines that used to follow the ferries from Butterworth to Georgetown (A glimpse of my memory).

... we may just now see the last of those corals that will not be experienced by our children and only to be told as a story, a myth ...

* kopihangtuah

(#1 : Detailed and scientific/technical information was taken from an article "Giving corals a breather" by Evangeline Majawat in NST Friday 23 July 2010)
(#2 : Detailed and scientific/technical information was taken from an article "Tap the opportunities of biodiversity" by Zakri Abdul Hamid in NST Friday 1 October 2010)

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30 October 2010

Lest We Forget the History Part 1


istory has always facinated me. Whether it is political, science or religion in context, history provides an insight to the world before our life time. You will be surprised with how much you will learn and understand the world we live in today by merely acquiring factual information from history. A lot of the current social issues, such as racism, arose because the younger generation refuse to do their research on how things became what they are today.

History made reading a pleasure to me. I read historical stuff, apart from my usual Archers and Dan Browns. Just recently I purchased the English translation of Hikayat Hang Tuah (Epic of Hang Tuah) and Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Anals) with the vision to understand Malay history. In the past I have also read many historical books. Some are religion based and some are civilisation based. To name a few: Mein Kampf, The Lemon Tree, The Malay Dilemma, Nasionalis Humanis, Nota Kaki, The Malayan Trilogy, The Cairo Trilogy, A Drift on the Nile, etc. A profound reading would be the Holy Quran which contains historical values. Whilst some of these are actually fiction (eg. The Lemon Tree), they do have historical values in concept.

I would like to share those historical facts that I gathered in my mind to the extent allowable by my human memory. You can either take this as an entertainment value or translate it into your own interpretation of the world we live in. Here they are:

The shortest poem in the world was by Sitor Sitomurang entitled "Malam Lebaran" and it sounds like this: "Bulan di atas kuburan"

Malaysia was earlier known as Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (Federated States of Malaya).

The entire Borneo was actually known as Brunei in 1400's.

The first best film won in the first Academy Award in 1927 was a mute film, Wings, the first and last mute film to win that award.

Which country has the highest number of children? It's Kenya at 51% of its population.

Everest is a colonial name, that tallest mountain has an earlier native name, Chomolungma, which means God of Mother Earth.

Before Titanic was built, a novelist, Morgan Robertson, wrote a book on a ship of similar status in 1808. It was called Titan.

Philosophy comes from the Greek words “Feelo” that means Love and “Sufi” that means Knowledge. Hence, Love for Knowledge.

Gunung Jerai has been a world acknowledged landmark for sea navigation for Straits of Malacca since the early 1400's.

Negaraku was actually Perak's anthem, which was also an old Malay song, Terang Bulan, that stole melodies from a Hawaiian song.

The independence on 31 August 1957 was for Malaya, not Malaysia.

Tasmanian Aboriginals extinct back in 1800's'when the colonial masters hunted every single one of them.

The first man to extract the smooth element out of cocoa beans is Van Hauten. Safe to say he invented the modern day Chocolates.

Hang Tuah travelled as far as Setambol (Constantinople) in the west and Peking in the East.

Before Pahang took the name Darul Makmur, it was Pahang Indera Pura according to Hikayat Hang Tuah.

Before Brunei took the name Darussalam, it was Acheh's according to Hikayat Hang Tuah.

The first Malay newspaper was established in 1876 and named 'Jawi Peranakan', after the founders who were of mixed Malay-Indian or Malay-Arabs.

The main source of the Malay history as we know it comes from Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Hang Tuah whom the authors are unknown.

Bangladesh was initially known as East Pakistan and the current Pakistan was West Pakistan.

Christopher Columbus travelled west searching for India because the Ottomans were an obstacle for him to pass through the East.

Morphine came from the word Morpheus, the Greek God of Dreams.

Before 1993, the site where KLCC now stands was a horse racing track.

The original native eggplant of Malaysia is white instead of purple. The purple ones were imported and commercialised by the English.

A.M. Azhari, a Bruneian in exile in Kalimantan created the name UMNO.

Tunku Abdul Rahman wasn't the first president of UMNO, Dato' Onn Jaafar was.

The inventor of the modern toilet is John Crapper.

Penang was given to Francis Light by Sultan of Kedah for a duration that ends when there are no more sun, moon and stars.

The first and only king to protect Prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h. was a Christian King, the King of Abyssinia (a.k.a. Habshah, now Ethiopia).

The first man to ride a horse is Idris, a prophet.

The original symbol for Christianity wasn't a cross. It was a fish.

666 and Gog & Magog in the Bible is referred to as Dajjal and Yahjuj Makjuj in the Quran, the beast and his army at end of days.

Priest of Median in Bible is Prophet for people of Madyan in Quran aka Nabi Shuaib, father in-law of Moses (Nabi Musa).

Who the bible refers to as Kane & Abel are Habil & Qabil in Quran, the first twins on Earth.

Who Christians refer to as John the Baptist is who the Muslims call Nabi Yahya, cousin of Jesus (Nabi Isa). Peace be upon them.

Of course there are more but for the time being, this should suffice. I shall return with more in Part 2. (Note: Part 2 now available at Lest We Forget the History Part 2)

* kopihangtuah

| mcmlxxv:viii:xxix |

10 October 2010

The Penang Talk Part 1


enangite I am!, an islander that is!. To me, there are a host of things that facinates the world about Penang. The beach, culture, food! and its people, but the most unique character would be the dialect of the locals. No doubt vey much similar to the dialect spoken in Kedah, Perlis and north of Perak, the dialect in Penang is richer thanks to its exposure to imported words from land of Tamilnadu in India as well as the Chinese - a good example of culture assimilation. The base vocabulary and structure is actually Kedahan ("Cakap Utara", ie. the northern dialect) as supported by historical fact that Penang (and Perlis), was once, under the rule of Kedah sultanate until Francis Light leased it from Kedah with a tenure that says "as long as there is sun, moon and stars" - what a weird real-estate-legal con job. Anyways, back to dialect, my facination of the Penang dialect had led me to numerous discussions with friends and families, mostly of Penang origin, about the 'Penang Talk'.

There are words that are unique to Penangites (with significant portion across Kedah and Perlis) like "Ketegaq" (Stubborn) and there are also imports such as "Karapulay" (Curry Leaves) and "Taukua" (Fried Bean Curds) that originated from Indian and Chinese inhabitants of Penang. The base Malay originated words, whilst similar phonetically to the national language "Bahasa Malaysia", have a twist that makes it Penang rather than Malay. The obvious examples would be the conversion of the "r" sound to "q" and the "s" to "aih" as demonstrated in the Penang words "Ulaq" and "Empat Belaih" as converted from "Ular" (Snake) and "Empat Belas" (Forteen), respectively. My discussions with friends and families gave me the idea to collate all these words into almost a dictionary format. To have a proper dictionary would take considerable amount of time and effort - hence, a compilation of Twitter and Facebook statuses on the subject 'Penang Talk' sounded more achieavable; so I only came out with 55 words as below, for the time being:

1. Anak Menakan is either niece or nephew
2. Ayaq is Water
3. Bebai means grumpy
4. Belemoih means messy (of food or sweat)
5. Berlahak is burp
6. BooBoq is poridge
7. Celakoi is Celaka that means "Damn"
8. Che' refers to Mr, Me, Myself and I
9. Deghrian is Durian
10. Gerngau means scratch, not the gentle way, the painful way
11. Goruih Api are fire matches
12. Hari Minggu is Sunday
13. Ice Kachang is a local dessert made of ice, syrup, milk, nuts and jelly
14. Ikan Alu Alu is Barracuda
15. Ikan Rendang is fried fish simply marinated with salt and tumeric
16. Ikan Temenung is Mackerel
17. Jawi Pekan are Jawi Peranakans who live in the British straits settlement
18. Jawi Peranakan are descendants of Indian-Malay or Arab-Malay blood
19. Kanchingprak means snap buttons normally on a Pagoda singlets or t-shirts
20. Karapulay are curry leaves used for cooking curry dishes
21. Katup is to close or to switch off
22. Kerabat means climbing
23. Ketegaq means stubborn
24. Kore means fussy
25. Kupang is the currency Sen in the multiple of 10s. Example, 2 Kupang = 20 Sen
26. Lagu Mana? means ‘How?’
27. Lancha is Beca, ie trishaw
28. Lengkong is Cincau, the black grass jelly
29. Loklak means bad attitude
30. Mamu means uncle
31. Mamun means dizzy of sleep
32. Mapele is the groom
33. Marka means love companion
34. Muka Empat Belaih means u r showing a disgruntled expression on your face
35. Nala means "very" or "extensively"
36. Nana means older brother
37. Nyoq is coconut
38. Pak Tongko is Cakoi, a fried pastry eaten with chilli sauce
39. Panchoq means water tap or toilet in general
40. Peon is an Office Boy, a clerk, a multipurpose clerk
41. Ponu is the bride
42. Punkoq means Buttocks
43. Ralit is captivated
44. Renda are ribbons
45. Roti Perata is a special bread with loads of ghee, a.k.a Roti Canai
46. Sarbath is a red syrup drink with all sorts or herbs in it
47. Senayan is Monday
48. Seymia is a cereal made of wheat eaten with milk and sugar
49. Soq is Sahur, the early morning meal by the Muslims during fasting month
50. Tanjung is the city of Georgetown
51. Taukua is fried Tauhu or fried bean curds
52. Teh (Tea) is pronounced as Tear as how you would with Bear
53. Tokyu is soya sauce
54. Ubi Benggala are potatoes
55. Ulaq means snake

....continue at The Penang Talk Part 2

Ice Kachang!

* kopihangtuah

| mcmlxxv:viii:xxix |

02 October 2010

Muslim's Influence in English Literature


73-year old man once gave me an interesting conversation. A man of wisdom, full of life experience and abundance of knowledge accumulated, particularly in History and Religion. Our conversation revolved around the Muslim's contribution to the world. All sorts of refereshing stories were told ranging from scientific discoveries by the Arab's Ibn Sinar (Avacene) and Al-Khawarismi (Chemistry) to the Moorish architecture of domes and minarets. However, One segment of that range facinates me - Muslim's contribution to English literature. Who would have thought that that would happen. Of course there are bits and pieces of Arabic words in the English dictionary such as Sultan and Reserves (Rizab), but what I am referring to are English sayings that were created solely from the Western world's experience under the rule of Muslims during the Muawiyah, Abbasyds and Ottoman empires. They are:

Building a castle in Spain: What does this really mean? When one says this, it often means you are expressing that certain tasks are impossible to be done, which is true, in the case of building a castle in Spain. Can you build a castle in Spain? Why not? If you have the money to buy a land and contruct one. However, such saying was back in the era when Spain was under the Muslim empire as conquered by the Muslim warrior, Tariq, at the hill where the southern most part of Spain is (Gibraltar = Jabbal Tariq = Hill of Tariq). The Christians were forced to move North at where Catalunya is and could never recover South Spain for hundreds of years. Hence, for a Spanish to build a castle in Spain (South Spain), it would be almost impossible given that they had lost South Spain to the Muslims for hundreds of years. The English had adopted this as an expression to denote 'impossibility'. By the way, North Spain is not Spanish, they are Catalans.

The cat is out of the bag: Those days European cities under the rule of Muslims, particularly in Spain, Roman land, Greek and Cyprus, had great walls surrounding the city with a gigantic gate in the front. Travellers in and out of the city were required to pass through the front gate where Muslim warriors stand guard. These travellers were both Muslims and non-Muslims who lived alongside each other in a harmonious manner. Notwithstanding that, the non-Muslims had always quietly disgaree with the regulation on forbidden food imposed by the Muslim rulers onto them. The 'Haram' food they call it, which was predominantly pig products like ham, pork or even live pigs. The non-Muslims of those cities often smuggled pigs and piglets in sacks (bag) through those gates. When asked by the guards, their standard answer would be "It's just a cat". Of course, like any custom officers at the airport, they would reveal that what was referred to as 'cat' was actually a 'pig'. Hence the phrase "the cat is out of the bag" expressing that the secret has now made known to the public.

Safari in the desert: In English, this simply means travelling in the desert. But what makes travelling in the desert unique is that the Muslims travelled at a particular time of the day. They start moving their caravans at dusk when the sun sets to take advantage of the cool night as well as the directional guide by the stars up above. At dusk, the horizon turns amber, which is 'safar' in Arabic, also the origin of the word 'safron' given that the spice is yellowish-orangy in colour, like the colour of the sky at dusk. So, safar became safari.

There are a lot of Muslim's influence in the western culture. I am sure if proper research is done, we can uncover a lot more that can facinate the world. Simple European behaviours such as eating cheese and croissants are also from the Muslims. Before Europe even knew how to make cheese, the Arabs had already done it with their goats in the deserts - a creative way of preserving source of protein, fat, calcium and other nutrition. That method was introduced to the Europeans by the Muslims during their rule of the western land. Croissants, whilst French in sound, is in the shape of and means 'crescent', a semi circled shape of the moon. This is the symbol of Islam. It is not recorded anywhere that the Arabs may have invented the crescent shaped bread but it is known that the Arabs invented bread. Remember, when the westerners were in their dark ages, the Muslims were the scientists and philosophers for the world - no doubt that they may have learnt a trick or two from the Greeks, Romans and Macedonians prior to the arrival of Islam. Facinating huh?!

* kopihangtuah

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02 September 2010

Najib is not 'Bapa Slogan' after all


".... one of 5,000 Kelabits in this whole wide world, made it to become a minister that help change Malaysia... "

hen Dato Seri Najib Razak (Najib) made Prime Minister, the first thing that came to my mind was, hmmm what 'Bapa' should we call him? Tunku had 'Bapa Kemerdekaan', Tun Razak 'Bapa Pembangunan', Tun Hussein 'Bapa Kemakmuran', Tun Mahathir 'Bapa Pemodenan' and Tun Abdullah 'Bapa ?' (Can't remember really). Najib introduced a lot of abbreviations to the extent the public lost track of what they mean. He started with 1Malaysia, NKRA and all sorts of names. I was inclined to call him 'Bapa Slogan' implying a 'talk no walk' scenario but to the contrary, recently, I learnt some facts for which he deserves some credit. He 'walked the talk' via Dato' Idris Jala (Idris).

Idris, one of 5,000 Kelabits in this whole wide world, made it to become a minister. But of course, he was already successful as the Head of Markets for Shell globally stationed in London. Recently, I had the priviledge of hearing his story first hand face to face, and I must say that I am impressed. To all Malaysians, Idris appears to be the one who shouted "Malaysia will go bankrupt" and scares the entire civil service of KPIs to be met. Behind those shouts, he is an achiever, even if it means progressive achievement. I was impressed with what he shared and it's only justice if I share with you here in my blog. So here goes:

Government Transformation Program (GTP) was one of the efforts driven by Najib via Idris and it involves effective methods that produce results as follows:


14,222 policemen were relocated to 50 hot spots where crime rates are high. 3,557 policemen who were doing deskjobs were redeployed to doing actual police work outside the office. He further ranked all the 753 police stations across the nation and of course, if the station is way at the bottom, they'll have to answer and face consequences of some sort. This created competition to perform and concentrates efforts and resources to areas requiring it the most. As a result, Crime rate has reduced by 14%.


There are many highways in the central business district of Petaling and Wilayah Persekutuan. Some are congested and some are underutilised. Many bus routes go through the congested highways. Ya, you have guessed it right,.. change those routes using the underutilised highways such as KESAS. This happened and bus ridership has risen by 38%.


Only 60% of Standard 1 Primary students have been to pre-school. Imagine that! 4 out of 10 7 year olds may not even know how to read A, B, C when they start school. Idris introduced 1,062 pre-schools that housed 13,000 kids. In addition, 7,616 primary schools were ranked based on 3-year composite score of academic and co-curriculum faculties. This created the same effect like what he did to the police stations. Competition improves quality. I really hope that 60% statistic can be increased close to 100%. We shall wait for the outcome. Dato' (Idris), if you are reading this, please respond.


Government spending was increased dramatically by mutiplefold for key development areas namely Roads (10x), Electricity (5x), Housing (2.5x) and Water (7x). (2006-2008 against 2010-2012)


What does hard core poverty means? Well, according to Idris, it means those who does not have enough to eat. Various efforts were put in place such as 1Azam which means 'Akhiri Zaman Miskin' (Ending the Poverty Era). 1Azam consist of many Azams such as Azam Tani for algriculture, Azam Kerja for employment, Azam Khidmat for services, etc. All these with a sole purpose of providing decent jobs to the poor. Every Tuesday at 8pm, Idris and his gang will be around Masjid India giving free food to the homeless and chat with them to understand why they are jobless and homeless. Some are free riders whereby they just couldn't be bothered to work and lives on free food given out by charity workers at churches, mosques, etc. A sad story but Idris did manage to give jobs to many and within 6 months, his team managed to reduce the count of those within the category "not enough food to eat" by 40%.


Asian countries are porpular in this arena and Malaysia is not excluded. Whistleblower Protection regulations were introduced. 3,680 government contracts were published for transparency. 23 politicians were arrested (12 UMNO, 1 DAP and 1 PKR) as proven guilty in various corruption whereby 169 offences have been published at the MACC web site. Ya, the MACC appearances everywhere, such as PKFZ, is a product of this effort.

"... if we don't do it, we only have ourselves to blame..."

Najib and his cabinets meet on monthly basis to discuss all these with the respective government departments, ministries and authorities. Make no mistakes, KPI are being monitored and they are expected to produce results. If they cannot, they are expected to ask for resources and whatever support required to achieve results. So it's a game of "Show result or else, tell me why you couldn't give results". Idris heads the government body PEMANDU as the CEO who facilitates this. PEMANDU meets on weekly basis with those ministries.

Whilst GTP aims to improve the civil service, Idris also embarked on Economic Transformation Policies (ETP). This is driven by 3 main objectives as follows:

1. High Income - USD15,000 to USD20,000 gross national income per capita by 2020.
2. Inclusiveness - All races are given equitable opportunities.
3. Sustainability - Wealth for a long time.

Key economic areas were identified for better focus:

1. Finance
2. Palm Oil
3. Business Services
4. Telecommunication
5. Health
6. Algriculture
7. Oil & Gas
8. Education
9. Tourism
10. Wholesale
11. Retail
12. Greater KL

By 2020, Malaysia is expected to reach 31.6 million population with gross national income per capita of USD16,800. With that kind of size, it will (is) important to have a central business district that is at a world class standard, hence No. 12 Greater KL. Planning is on-going to fit in underground train tube web beneath KL and surrounding urban. High speed rail from Thailand to Singapore via the peninsula will also be explored and River of Life programmme will help clean our rivers.

20% of the monetary requirement will require private investment and this has been committed by private sectors on various projects that will help create over 3.3 million jobs in view of achieving the intended income per capita level mentioned earlier. 87% funding from private sector worth USD237 billion has been planned for the next 10 years.

The private sector has the opportunity to contribute to the country in a more effective fashion unlike in the past where many hurdles discouraged such efforts. For example, strategy wise, it may be counter productive in the past as shown in the electronics industry. Malaysian companies were doing assembly lines where they could have added more value if they had done manufacturing of core products. Another example would be Oil Palm in the terrains where men were used as transporters instead of buffalos. Idris has embarked on raring buffalos to address this.

The government has also committed to procure products and services produced by the private sector such as health equipment rather than importing it. The government has also started on infrastructure projects. One big example is the High Speed Broad Band (HSBB) via grants given to Telekom Malaysia Berhad. Everyone has gone cyber,.. well guess what, talks have started with various parties to spread the use of e-payments, mobile-payments and the like instead of hard cash. With that, fibre optics have been given a 'must' status for all new real estate development enforceable by new By-Laws in place. Internet has reached schools to promote e-Knowledge and e-Learning and the Government themselves have embraced e-Government and e-Healthcare.

Of course these are all only a fraction of what Idris and his team was, is and continue to put efforts on. There are a lot more to be shared had he been given a whole day to talk but in my opinion, this should suffice. Najib has been in power for over a year and hopefully, he will be as good as his father.

Idris Jala ended his presentation quite elegantly by saying "... if we don't do it, we only have ourselves to blame..."

* kopihangtuah

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01 September 2010

Work-Life Balance: A Mythology or Methodology?


"...hence the motherhood statement 'Work-Life Balance' for which some believes to be a mythology rather than a methodology... "

friend asked me a question:
"I have been very2 curious abt this.. I've noticed a sudden SURGE of posts/status updates from you lately, sooo many, much2 more than usual.. what happened to you all of a sudden.. how do you even find the time to do it??? You also work, play music, and write in your blogs too among other things.. it amazes me actually, it really does"

My reply was:
"... :) everyone asks me the same thing. Ok here goes: I go to guitar classes every sunday morning, I accompany my boy for football clinic every saturday morning, I go fine dining with wife once a month and movies or dvd almost every other weekend, I read newspapers and read books 1 hour before sleep every nite, I jog after work 3 times a week, I go swimming with my boy every sunday evening, my wife makes me eat 4 vitamins every day in the morning ie garlic pills, vitamin b, vitamin c and ginkobiloba; blogging has been slow maybe once a month whenever got time at nite, haven't really started on oil painting but once move house with more space I can start hopefully; I still work committedly from 9am to 8pm but that does not stop me from going to gym at 9pm for the jog; maybe 2 nites in a week I don't exercise but instead put my son to bed while teaching ayat quran, and I only manage to pray 4 times a day coz I cannot wake up early and of course, twitting and FB is done via blackberry 24 hours especially in traffic jams and while waiting for my wife to put on make up or while waiting for late comers in the numerous meetings,.... Fuhhh that was exhausting : ) it is an exhausting life but a delightful one I guess. Hope you can do the same with whatever passion u hav in life and share it with your family, Amin"

OK. What is the message here? For me it's simple. You have 24 hours in a day and if you really put your mind to it, you can do pretty much all that you want to do if you plan and keep reminding yourself. Perhaps not all in a day but give yourself a chance to spread those things that you want to do on weekly or monthly basis.

I used to work in a professional accounting firm for about 13 years and it was 24 hours work a day (well, 18 hours work, 1 hour getting ready, toilet and stuff and 3 hours of sleep and of course 2 hours of traffic jam daily). It was a life not meant for me, and hence, I decided to change. Really, no use blaming others. The onus is on you. You decide on your own life and let God allow it to happen. How did I change?

I know I have many things to consider such as family, health, career, money, hobbies and what not. So, I changed to a job that allows me to accomodate all those. Even so, some people still got stuck in their work and ended up not changing their quality of life. Being a bloody accountant, I deviced a method using a "Mental Checklist". Mine suits my life,... you should have yours tailored made to suit yours. Basically, I have 10 checkpoints to ensure that I consider whether I have the time to do it, either on daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Even if I am too busy and have to work till midnight and not being able to do any of it, I constantly remind myself of it - Insya Allah, you will somehow fit those into your hectic schedule. Hectic life is not just work. Hectic life should be both work and "life" itself - hence the motherhood statement "Work-Life Balance" for which, some believes to be a mythology rather than a methodology. If you permit me, I would like to share my 10 Checkpoints embedded in my head 24 hours like the 10 commandments carved onto the stone for Moses:

1. God - I am a Muslim. I do struggle to battle with my inner demons to pray but now I can do 4 times a day - I know, a bit more to go :) Early morning (Subh) prayers are the most difficult ones. I am a heavy sleeper.

2. Wife - Every month or so, me and my wife find time to do something together. Normally it's fine dining at some cool restaurant (I recommend Rahsia at Jalan Damai KL) but other times it can be movies, DVDs, marathons, concerts, musical, a trip to Penang, whatever. Play hide and seek with your wife if you must. Of course never forget to buy things for birthdays, anniversaries and Valentines!!!!! Get your secretary to remind you if you must.. better if the secretary knows when to buy flowers and puts it in your hands before you leave the office.

3. Kid(s) - I only have 1 kid. A boy. And I am grateful. He is 5 this year. He is a difficult boy to handle. So energetic and chaotic like atoms in tubes. All these energies need to be focused. So what else could I think of? Football clinics every Saturday morning and listening to rock music with him. His favourites are Queen, Metallica and Michael Jackson. I try my best, once or twice a week to be back home before he is asleep so that I can talk to him and put him to bed after reciting some Quranic verses together. You'll be amazed how much a 5-year old can absorb. I couldn't read anything at that age but he can read and memorise Quranic verses. Incredible. Next in mind would be either guitar classes or drums.

4. Health (Vitamins) - My wife forces me to eat vitamins every day - Garlic Pills to reduce gas, Vitamin B for God knows what, Vitamin C for immunity and Ginkgo Biloba for blood circulation and to improve my memory (I am a forgetful person - My staff and wife say so). This actually helped reduce sickness and improved my sinusitis problems. There is a new addition recently, 100% concentrated Cherry Juice. Not sure what it does but apparently, it keeps you young (what's that called again? anti-oksidant?).

5. Health (Exercise) - I try my best to go to the Gym 3 times a week for cardio on the trademill for 5 kms and I would do weights for half an hour or so. On the weekends, while my son swims in the small pool, I'd go for 10 laps in the Olympic sized pool just to record a 1 kilometre of satisfaction (20 X 50 metres). I even cut down on rice and amazingly, over the past year, I have managed to lose weight from 85 kg to 72 kg.

6. Knowledge (Newspapers) - I get free newspapers at work every working day. So why waste it? You don't need to read everything. Just scan through the headlines and if anything interests you, read the first 2 paragraphs and the last paragraphs. Do this for main news, business news, sports, entertainment, politics and whatever sections in the newspapers. I trust that you will feel quite informed to comfortably have a meaningful discussion or conversation at work or while socialising. I did not read newspapers for 13 years. Now I do. And I feel smarter now in 12 months compared to the last 13 years.

7. Knowledge (Books) - Literature and history is my passion. I like reading books on history, religion and politics but I try to balance between serious stuff and fiction. So I switch from the Mein Kampf of the world to Jeffrey Archer, Dan Brown, some Malay religious books from the mosque during Friday prayers as well as classics like To Kill A Mocking Bird. Even if you feel tired and just wanting to sleep after a stressful day, pick up the book and read at least 1 or 2 pages - and get the book mark handy. Go to the book shop and buy 2 or 3 books and get a really good reading lamp to accompany your alarm clock by the side of the bed.

8. Hobbies (Music) - I love music. I learnt how to play the guitar at the age of 14 and was the school bassist back then. I was also the Drum Major for the Brass Band after doing a round of side drums, piccolo and saxaphones but none I managed to remember except for guitar. So naturally, I continued to be a bassist even at University and now in the office band. Every now and then I meet up with old friends from Uni days to jam some tunes from the old days. I am passionate about this and my next step is to build a jamming studio in my new house. To prepare for this, I go for guitar solo classes every Sunday morning.

9. Hobbies (Writing/Blogging) - As mentioned earlier. I like literature. Whilst reading gives you pleasure, creating your own piece gives you enlightenment. I am not a writter, nor am I a poet. But I write poems in both Malay and English. If you ask me, well,.. they are not too bad eventhough they were rejected by the New Straits Times some 10 years ago. I like writing them and I recite them to my friends and family. I must have written over 100 pieces to date. Nowadays, instead of poems, I blog. Of course if you are reading this, I need not expand any further. How frequent do I blog? Well, not that frequent but if you must know, go check my archive.

10. Hobbies (Oil Painting) - This is the only checkpoint that I haven't really been able to address. Before my ears got tuned with music or before my hands went wild writing, my eyes actually fell in love with fine arts at the age of 7. I love drawing. I do pencils, water colours, charcoal, photography, computer graphics, multimedium and the latest adventure is Oil Painting. So far I have only done 3 pieces (One donated to my sister, one to a good pilot friend and the 3rd on the wall at my home). I simply do not have the space for this coz my house is a 20 by 70. I hope to move into a new home in the next 2 years or so depending on the speed of renovation. When that is ready, my jamming studio will also serve as my sanctuary for art... my Oil Painting corner where I can leave my paintings to dry. Canvas, oil paint and eisels (spelling correct?) are all in the store room for the time being.


If you notice, some categories actually appear more than once. It is the sheer relevance and significance that those categories have on my life that made it that way. My hobbies are "art" related so that took 3 points out of 10. And,.. if you notice again, words such as "Work", "Money", "Career" or any of that sort do not appear anywhere. Why? Well, I spend 11 hours of my daily life at work, including the driving, the traffic jams and the meetings over lunch. So, with such working hours, do you really want to put those words in your 10 Checkpoint list? I may not be realistic here. Forgive me. But for some, if you feel "work", "career" or "money" are worthy of being carved onto your mental checklist, be my guess. I actually had the below list for the past 13 years before I had embarked on my "change of lifestyle" mission:

1. Work
2. Work
3. Work
4. Work
5. Work
6. Work
7. Work
8. Work
9. Work
10. Toilet

The sad thing with this is that, I don't even see "sleep", "wife" or "girlfriend" or even "money". Pathetic. Some may argue that you cannot be foolish and forget about career and money. Well, ok, if you really think so, then have it in a positive manner such as "post-grad studies", or "ideas to present to the boss on weekly basis" or "monitor unit trust performance" or whatever as long as it is positive and you feel good about it.

You don't need to spend a lot. You don't need to be rich to achieve this work-life balance. A newspaper a day and a page of Quranic translation a day will suffice. Cut down on rice and fat and jogging at the lake with Power sports shoes instead of Nike will suffice. Play Scrabbles with your wife and kids will be meaningful. Gardening and cooking can easily be a hobby. Everyone is given the chance to make a difference in their lives. You just have to take charge and make it happen. The rest, leave it to God to allow it to happen. By God's will, it will. Insya Allah. Amin.

* kopihangtuah

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01 July 2010

Malay to non-Malay ratio of 1:40


Their majority presence ought to suggest that they should have the urgency to do the right thing as the citizens of the country to manifest their love for the country. In reality, it's quite the contrary actually. Malays have shown disinterest in registering themselves as voters.

here are probably 9 different areas or countries for which the Malay existence is apparent. They are Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, the Philippines, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and South Africa. If I ask an average Malay of Malaysian origin "Would you like to abandon Malaysia and go live in those 7 other countries?"; the answer would probably be "No". Why? well let's see. Maybe because the Malays in Malaysia enjoy the most blissful life when compared to their counterparts in those other countries?

If they go to Indonesia, there are too many Malays - hence exposing themselves to unecessary struggle. If they go to Singapore and Thailand, well they become minority - hence losing privileges - same goes to the Philippines, South Africa, Timor and Papua New Guinea. So the only other option would be Brunei. But then again, the Malays in Malaysia are too pampered with the joyful life in Malaysia that offering them to go to Brunei somehow becomes unattractive - not that Brunei is a boring country but in most Malay's perception, Brunei is a boring country.

We have therefore concluded for the Malays in Malaysia that Malaysia is the only country that is harmonious to the hearts of the Malays. If that is the case, shouldn't the Malays treasure this beloved country of theirs? No doubt that Malaysia also belongs to other ethnic groups but Malays account for 70% of the country's population. Their majority presence ought to suggest that they should have the urgency to do the right thing as the citizens of the country to manifest their love for the country. In reality, it's quite the contrary actually. Malays have shown disinterest in registering themselves as voters.

On page 14 of the New Straits Times (NST) published on 28 June 2010, it was reported that the ratio of newly-registered Malay and non-Malay voters is 1:40, according to a study conducted by the UMNO Youth membership and registration bureau. This is truly pathetic. I find myself in fury when reading this. I feel that these Malays lack the sense of urgency, responsibility, pride and it appears that they are either too complacent, or plain stupid. With 70% presence of the population, it can very well be an inverse impact to the significance of its polical power. Imagine 70% of the population has that "malaise" attitude. What an unecessary erosion it can cause to the Malay political power in a country that they possess the majority population.

The NST also reported that the total number of voters registered with the Election Commission until the end of last year was 11.1 million with 56% being Bumiputra. Out of the 56%, God knows how much are the Malays. Let's just take that 56% as an illustrative figure. We all know that the Malay votes are divided between UMNO, PAS and PKR. So, with simplicity applied, 56% divided by 3 equals 18.6%. Ironically, that looks like the Bumiputra's equity achievement in the country, ie. 18% (Although recently it was reported to be approximately 22%). So, are we saying that on top of the pathetic equity share of 18%, the Malays are on the brink of eroding their political strength to 18% as well?

My comments in this blog will also be read by non-Malays. I must clarify that there are no ill intentions. Malays and non-Malays should co-exist in harmony. All I am saying is that the Malays seem to not care to uphold their responsibility as the citizens of this country. You (non-Malays) would probably be amused (as opposed to me being bemused) when reading this. How can an ethnic group that holds a gigantic 70% share of the population only achieved 1:40 ratio of new voters when compared to the other ethnic groups? It's illogical to the extent that a huge chunk of the Malays are probably blissfully dangerous exposing themselves to self-termination (from the context of political relevance). Last I heard, the Malay population is growing exponentially, contrary to the non-Malays who seem to have a diminishing growth rate - and it's still a pathetic 1:40 ratio nonetheless.

I urge the Malays to wake up. Some of you who couldn't care less about politics may have ignored this responsibility simply because they are frustrated with the government. For the love of the land you proudly sing "Tanah tumpahnya darahku...", you ought to preserve the political relevance of the so called "70% of the population" for the sake of your kids and the future generation. Unless you plan to pack your bags and take the next flight to Brunei, you should get yourselves registered as voters.

* kopihangtuah

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