Sunday, March 29, 2009

When was it in America ?

It was the time when Michael Jackson shot to no.1 with the thriller album and showed his moonwalking during an award ceremony. After that everybody just went crazy. His video music with the dead coming out of the ground and that red&black leather jacket was shown every where during that summer. It has been a while I guess;now MJ has gone from a black kid to a skinny white man. Lionel Ritchie was out with Hello and Sting was still with the police. Johnny Depp was still unknown at that time doing teen summer movies showing his ass and all. ET was also prime that summer. We came out of the cinema with tears all over.Stallone was out with that vietnam war movies.Also out was The Porkys I,II and III, the breakfast club, ……John Ritter was in three’s company, a sitcom that we had never missed, it was on every day.John died last year. David letterman was on late night and the show is still running till today. Dave had more hair back then but the jokes are cracking funny as always. Jay Leno was only a guest on Monday night show with Johny Carson….Jay now has replaced Johny but the jokes are a bit lame compared to Johny. Days of our lives was a must-see soap. Ron Jeremy was in every xxx-movies. He's due to speak at Oxford …wonder what is he gonna talk about….Lana the pussycat !

Kareem abdul Jabbar ,Magic Johnson were playing Lakers; Jordan with the Bulls and Dr with the Sixers. Everyone in America loves sport and they’ve got all kind of sport on TV….except soccer,it was not that popular over there. I started playing basketball and american football with other malaysian students of course. There were so many of us that we could have 3-4 basketball teams and a couple of American football teams playing everyday especially during the summer. Summer was long and hot. MostAamericans will spend summer at their summer vacation camps; where they bring everyone in the family to this place living in caravans and mobile homes for the whole summer….playing, fishing,just enjoying the sun.Schools are closed in the summer. But we , malaysians, would spend the time taking summer classes, the chance to upgrade the cgpa. There would be a couple of weeks at the end of the summer semester that we could use to travel around america. The thing about living in america is that you could really enjoy the freedom. Everyone respect your privacy and your rights. It was the chance for me to really grow up and be myself. I learnt to drive a 400-dollar-mazda-rx and finally found a girl to learn about love and all. No one called me names anymore or told me to do stuff that I don’t like . It was really the time that God gave my life back to me and let me live it the way I wanted to live. At the university, the undergraduate classes was tough… I mean with english and all…..i was not making the grades . English subject was a university requirement, meaning that you have to pass it or you are not going in. I was on my third and final chance to pass the subject, when this lecturer came along. He was a man in mid 30s, long hair and tatooes all over his arms and neck…the rocker type. But I respect him till this day because he was the one that inspired me and made me like to learn english. I am still wondering how he turned me around as I was about to give up. One thing that I remember about him is that he never scolded or put us down although our english (the whole class) was bad. He encouraged us a lot and made us do assignment that needs researching and finding materials in the library. He told us to find out about love, sex, beautiful places, ladies, our bodies etc….things that we could relate to and enlighten us all at that time. So being a good teacher is not about teaching the subject alone but knowing what matters to the students and stimulate their minds. Unfortunately,I forget his name!

……and it was also the time they discovered AIDS.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Life In Denver…the mile-high city

We were in Denver through the fall and winter of 1982. It was beautiful during the days of the fall season when the sunshine steaming brightly through the thick blue sky. We visited many theme parks around the Denver area only to see the park attendance busy cleaning up the leftover fun of the summer. For us it was good enough to have all the rides to ourselves. We went up the rocky mountain to see the last scattered of the snow that year. What amazing site that was to be up on one of the highest peak of the Rocky Mountain and breathed the thin cold air. Those were the activities that we would do during every leisure opportunity that we could find in between the classes and class assignments.

The classes at the Bridge International School were hard and boring. They were mainly English class preparing us for the TOEFL and language skill that we were supposed to have. English was always hard for me. I guess I did not try hard enough to capture the essence of the language. Therefore, I can truly understand the hardship that people face regarding the issue of PPSMI , the teaching and learning Math and Science in English. I came from the background of no English at all whatsoever. I heard my teacher spoke English only a few minutes in a day and he was the only person I knew that spoke in English. So it was so foreign and completely out of place to converse in English. That made my English a lot harder. So during my short period in Denver my performance was not encouraging as the test date drew nearer.

While in Denver we were visited by Arab brothers a lot. They were the Jemaah Tabligh people that practiced dakwah as we do in Malaysia. I reluctantly joined them and going places with them. The thing was that we wanted to enjoy life not knocking doors at someone’s apartment. Many of my friends would “run through the back window” if the Arab brothers came knocking on their front door. But my inner soul told me to find refuge in these people as you never know your fate in the future. So I calmed myself down and made myself to realize what’s happening. It’s was hard to trade fun with some daunting tasks like dakwah. But I persevered and tried to accommodate the Arab brothers whenever they came around. It was nice actually to have some elder people looking after you in the place you thought to be safe but in fact too dangerous for a young mind and soul. So we went places visiting mosques around Colorado and during the Christmas break that year we went to LA for the ijtimak. I even set up a small surau for our Malaysian friends to pray jemaah with the financial support from those Arab brothers. They were rich lot too. By January we have to find a place at the university for a start of our undergraduate program. I found a place in Wichita, Kansas at the Wichita State University doing a program in computer science.

The old tough Plymouth

So one day my buddy and I set off in a used Plymouth to Wichita. In the blistering cold and snow storm we disappeared into the dark of the night. The ice was inches thick on the road that we had to put chains on the tires to increase the grip as we sped off to cross the Rocky Mountain. I just could not imagine how we did it but we finally made it to Wichita, Kansas.

Arrived in Wichita

Friday, March 27, 2009

Once Upon A Time In America

1982. I was all excited to go to America. My parents were not that joyful as another of their child will be leaving home. My sister was in Canada at that time. The night before my departure, it was so quiet, dead silence. As if the family was in mourning. I didn’t care actually, I was all too excited. The next day ayah fried me a few cuts of chicken. Eating rice with chicken was an honor in my household. And that’s all they could possibly offer to send me off to America. I did not finish up the chicken, I asked dad to wrap it up for the journey. My brother took me to the Subang airport by bus if I remember correctly and a group of students were already there. I felt awkward that day, being from Kelantan and all , that was my first long trip to KL. You know the feeling that you are all wrong…inferior that is…and everyone else seems so right. But later on I found that they were all nice and friendly and we had great time together.

There were about 40 of us about to embark on great journey of our lifetime. We made a stopover at Manila for a day; enough time to tour the city and Rizal memorial park. The most important thing was that we have started to know each other. It was my opportunity to make a new start and projected a new image……not the whimpy twinky image that haunted me all this while. The guys were great as they all accepted me as is…everyone was trying to cope with our new life so we were all at the same level. The next day we continued our flight to San Francisco with a brief stop at Honolulu. It was a long journey. We reached SF on a delayed flight from Honolulu; so we had to make a rush to catch another one to Denver. Because there were 40 of us, they waited for our arrival. This domestic flight was a bit small as we filled up almost half of the seats. The old mat salleh sitting next to me said that they have been waiting for over an hour and glad we were finally here. I didn’t know much of English at that time so I smiled and nodded a few times. We reached Denver early in the morning. The weather was a bit cool as we arrived there in August which was the end of summer and the start of Fall season. The leaves were turning yellow and they started to fall off the trees. A van was waiting to take us to a motel where we stayed for the night.

The next morning the sun was bright and I woke up to a new world…the land of freedom….America. I greeted “good morning” to the motel’s housekeeper, but didn’t get any response from her…I guess I said it wrongly.. kelantanese style. A guy from the school came over and took us to the place that we are going to study until end of the year. It was an old teaching college and we were going to study English before getting into the first year at a university. Then we were taken to the apartment where we lived through the fall and winter that year. It was very nice there in Denver; so beautiful but had one of the highest crime rate in America. But we had each other and we looked after each other…we really did. We went to the city (downtown) one day for sightseeing and did not realize that the day was getting late. There were no more bus going back to our place….we have to take other route which none of us had a clue. We ended up at a gas station and hanged around not knowing what to do. We were lost to be exact. Now with little English that we had, we tried to get help. It was so agonizing as people saw us like some shit from god knows where. One of us got hold of a man, in desperation, and told him that we were lost and asked if he could help us get to our apartment. we were so lucky as the man was not a psycho who has just escaped from prison…he was a policeman off duty. we finally arrived at our place around 8 pm, tired and exhausted.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

FSKM in dilemma

These are emails from my colleagues about some events in the faculty that we could not agree with each other. I find it interesting to put them here because the faculty is certainly in great dilemma. My comment (in English) is at the end of this posting.

Tn Hj Z put forward an issue :


Di fakulti kita, sejak kebelakangan ini banyak sangat program pelajar yang
bercorak aktiviti “fun fair”. Semuanya berlangsung di hari kuliah.
Pertandingan permainan “Monopoly” pada pagi Jumaat di dewan mulia Imam
Al-Ghazali. Pertandingan Teh Tarik pada petang Khamis di ruang legar
FSKM. Saya fikir program sebegini tidak memberi banyak manfaat sangat
melainkan hanya suka-suka sahaja. Memanglah tiada salahnya bersuka-suka,
tetapi seharusnya ia dibuat di hujung minggu sahaja dan tempatnya harus
jauh-jauh dari fakulti. Kehebohan acara Teh Tarik memang sangat mengganggu
pensyarah yang perlu mengadakan kuliah pada petang tersebut malah
kebisingannya tembus dan memecah masuk ke Dewan Al-Ghazali yang ketika itu
sedang berlangsung syarahan oleh Prof. Osman Bakar. Tarikan Teh Tarik
ternyata lebih kuat dari syarah seorang Profesor.

Kita sedang menghadapi banyak masalah pelajar yang begitu longlai
semangat, tumpul fikiran, banyak senda gurau, banyak ponteng. Tambah parah
dengan persekitaran dalam dan luar universiti yang banyak aktiviti “fun
fair” dan hebahan mengajak "Jom kita heboh-heboh". Apa perlunya membuat
iklan besar-besaran untuk program kecil begini. Pelajar pun jadi keliru.
Suasana universiti mesti ada keseriusan. Suasana fakulti juga mesti ada
keseriusan. Barulah pelajar merasa terangsang untuk belajar. Kalau sana
sini penuh dengan iklan pasar malam, rasa hormat pada tempat ini juga
hilang. Saya tidak nampak di Fakulti Pergigian ada benda-benda sebegini.
Seperti yang disebut Prof. Ahmad Zewail, “Universiti is a sacred place”.
Seperti yang disebut juga oleh Al-Attas, universiti mesti ada suasana
serius, bukan tempat main-main.

Satu lagi tentang pemilihan nama untuk suatu aktiviti. Hebahan dengan kain
rentang besar berkibar di halaman fakulti berbunyi “Pink Panther Night”.
Bunyi macam malam sosial-sosial. Nama malam sebegini tidak seharusnya
dibiarkan begitu sahaja digunakan oleh pelajar. Mungkin ada nasyid atau
bacaan al-Quran pada malam itu, tapi pemilihan nama sangat penting kerana
memberi nama yang betul adalah yang pertama diajar oleh Allah kepada Nabi
Adam a.s. Guna nama yang baik, ia akan menjurus kepada kebaikan. Guna nama
yang bukan-bukan, ia pasti akan memberi natijah yang buruk juga. Alangkah
baik kalau diberi nama "Malam Kesyukuran" atau “Malam Muhibah” atau
seumpamanya sebagai tanda syukur kita atas semua nikmat yang diberi.

Salam. Harap maaf atas ketelanjuran bahasa.

Prof Madya A responded:

askm dan ss

Saya amat setuju dengan pandangan ini. Kita wajib memantau pilihan kegiatan mereka. Saya cadangkan adakan satu elemen dalam borang permohonan tentang faedah serta keilmiahan sesuatu kegiatan yang mahu diadaka/diluluskan. Ini mestilah ditekankan. Sekurang2nya mereka perah otak mereka untuk fikirkan apakah unsur keilmiahan yang boleh diterap dan dicapai melalui kegiatan yg mereka mahu anjurkan itu. Memang tak salah berseronok tetapi digelanggang akademik biarlah kena pada tempatnya. Budak2 ni apa tahu .. kitalah yang wajib membuat keputusan yang baik untuk mereka.

Deputy Dean responded:


Pada mulanya saya keberatan untuk menjawab isu ini secara terbuka tetapi
memandangkan isu ini telah dibuka untuk dibincangkan maka saya kira saya
perlu menjawab memandangkan ia berkait rapat dengan tugas saya sebagai

Saya akui sememangnya 3 aktiviti tersebut tidak bersifat akademik:
1. Monopoly merupakan aktiviti anjuran HEP UiTM dan FSKM memberi kebenaran
untuk menggunakan Dewan Al-Ghazali. Hampir kesemua fakulti terlibat sama
dalam program ini termasuk daripada Fakulti Perubatan dan Fakulti
2. Teh Tarik dan Iron Chef merupakan pertandingan aktiviti pelajar untuk
mengumpul dana bagi lawatan akademik ke Vietnam. Penyertaan pelajar
melibatkan hampir kesemua program dalam FSKM.
3. Pink Panther merupakan aktiviti anjuran Kelab Sains Aktuari sempena
meraikan kejayaan Kelab Sains Aktuari menduduki tempat ketiga dalam
aktiviti sosial dan kebajikan di peringkat UiTM. Aktiviti ini tidak
menggunakan Tabuing Amanah tetapi menggunakan duit pelajar sendiri.
Wartawan dan Alumni juga hadir pada program ini.

Saya kira, kita perlu lebih fleksibel dengan keterbatasan yang ada bagi
pelajar kita menganjurkan aktiviti sama ada bercorak akademik dan bukan
akademik. Ada aktiviti untuk golongan sasar yang tertentu dan ada aktiviti
untuk golongan sasar yang berlainan.

Janganlah kita "menghukum" seseorang sebelum kita "menghukum" diri kita
sendiri. Kita perlu tunjukkan keseriusan kita sendiri sebelum kita meminta
pihak lain lebih serius. Saya kira keseriusan kita di Pusat Pengajian
dengan menghadiri mesyuarat Jabatan dan tanggugjawab kita untuk
memperkasakan SIG (bukannya mematikannya), PP dan fakulti adalah lebih
utama difikirkan dahulu.



N said in response:
Terima kasih atas pandangan Dr M. Saya mohon, seperti yang Dr M sebutkan selidiki dahulu dan hampiri pelajar. Mereka perlukan kerjasama untuk memahami diri mereka. Jika ada kesalahan bolehlah kita tegur secara hikmah. Saya turut melihat aktiviti monopoli dan pink panther night. Mereka buat aktiviti sekadar menyahut seruan Prof Zainab untuk aktifkan diri. Aktiviti petang Khamis adalah untuk aktiviti pelajar. Prof Zainab sendiri menyatakan tiada kelas boleh dibuat waktu itu. Oleh itu saya rasa tidaklah salah mereka memilih waktu tersebut. Jika kita lihat jadual waktu dipintu bilik kuliah memang waktu itu dikosongkan.

Harap dapat memberi sedikit ruang kepada aktiviti pelajar. Setiap aktiviti dipantau oleh pensyarah. Lainlah jika aktiviti itu dilakukan diluar kawasan UiTM.

Sekian ,terima kasih


One of the organisers explained :


Sebagai salah seorang penasihat Young Investors Association UiTM, saya terpanggil untuk memberi sedikit komen memandangkan isu yang Tuan Haji Z timbulkan turut melibatkan program "Monopoly Challenge" yang dianjurkan oleh persatuan ini.

Untuk pengetahuan Tuan Haji Z dan lain-lain, persatuan ini adalah di peringkat universiti yang menganjurkan pelbagai aktiviti dan program mengenai investment (pelaburan). Persatuan ini disertai oleh pelajar dari pelbagai bidang i.e. pelajar fakulti perniagaan, kejuruteraan, etc yang meminati bidang pelaburan. Tidak ketinggalan pelajar Sains Aktuari yang sememangnya belajar dan minat bidang pelaburan. Presiden dan AJK persatuan ini ramai juga dari kalangan pelajar Sains Aktuari. Jadi, atas sebab itu program ini memilih fakulti kita sebagai tempat berlangsungnya pertandingan.

Aktiviti yang dianjurkan oleh persatuan ini tidak lah aktiviti bersosial atau sekadar aktiviti "suka-suka". Pada tahun lepas, pertandingan yang dijalankan ialah "Mock Invesment League". Pada tahun ini pula pertandingan monopoly diadakan. Monopoly memanglah sejenis permainan (board game), tetapi dari satu aspek, ini adalah satu latihan untuk membuat pelaburan properties misalnya. Jadi, pertandingan monopoli anjuran Young Investors Association, UiTM ini bukanlah sejenis hiburan bercorak fun-fair, aktiviti bersosial atau aktiviti "suka-suka". Memang ada aktiviti purely-academic yang turut dianjurkan seperti mendengar ceramah pelaburan, lawatan ke Bursa Malaysia, tetapi aktiviti serius seperti itu perlu diselang-selikan dengan pertandingan yang menjadikan persatuan seperti ini tidak bosan untuk disertai oleh pelajar-pelajar.

My response :


Please forgive me but I can’t help to budge in as the issues are of great importance. I hope everyone is calm , cool and collected as we digest the long and complicated emails. Hmmmm…now we know that people do have to time to write … given the “hot” circumstances and issues to reason with.

I, for one, stand to deem that all those activities are meaningless for whatever reasons they stood by. I am sorry for being so mean but youngsters must be taught with “a stick” not “a carrot”. It is correct that I don’t know the contents for those activities but I know for sure they are for “fun”; and “fun” these days means “trouble for young Muslims”. As part of the faculty I think we do have the right to comment and give opinions. It is a bit “pedas” but that’s how the things are when values and morality are at stake. I am a bit concerned if the faculty allow these sort of programs and hope for the best that “nothing bad will happen”….well the lecturers are around to pantau… you believe that those youngsters will do bad things in front of you…do you believe that you have also opened the flood gate that has been warned in the Holy Quran (….janganlah kamu hampiri zina…). You want to be flexible that’s fine; you want to be active and dynamic, that’s fine; you want to have some fun, that’s fine…but with “the funfair” type of program ….please do it somewhere else and not in this faculty .

How could you stand to see our youngsters choose to downgrade the professorial lecture over another event? A sign of diminishing glory of knowledge in the place that we claim to aspire a world class education. I am very sad indeed. Just could not imagine to stand before Allah and say that I would allow it for the sake of fun and “space for the young ones”. But would I say and do different thing if I were in your shoes, I would not know would I? nonetheless, I know one thing for sure ---my conscious is clear and would stand by it no matter what InsyaALlah.

I guess we are time and time again trapped in the vicious cycle of maksiat and munkar. A cycle we were in once before and is here again to haunt us. We can let go on one hand but just could not get it off on the other. Confused between nostalgic past and a dream of reality. Imam Ghazali described this as an-nafs ……(lupa lak nama dia)---a mixture of good and evils that will limit someone to attain a higher level of spiritual purity (an-nafs muttma’innah). No matter who we are, where we are or what post we are holding…we want to let go of the evils that will tarnish our remaining years on this earth. And I do mean that for none of us will remain standing to hold the sky up above. Do not be surprise to know that there are people who, during the qiam before dawn, pray for our leaders in the faculty to remain strong and make right decisions for the sake of Allah and ar-Rasul. Our students are here to be educated and protected….to be within the “benteng” with us as the guardians. We do not want to betray that trust

The critics are not harsh, they are sincere and in good faith. The challenge is to go back and review the programs. Ask a lot of questions and answer them truthfully. Things will get better, InsyaALlah.

Friday, March 20, 2009

It’s Friday again!

Time flies and before you know it it’s Friday again. What have I done this week? Not much really….I mean nothing. I finished a couple of reports ,that’s it. It’s school holidays so things are very hectic at home. It looks hectic really; because when everyone is at home the noise level is on top notch; ass-kicking activities are at rampant, whining sounds are all over and things do not just settle down like that….they go on ….like forever. The house used to be quiet most of the time and by the late afternoon everything settled down and we plan for tomorrow. So when chaos is the order of the day, I just could not think straight and before you realize it is already 4.50 pm.

Ifah has not been well this week, she got an infection in the lung and kept coughing for over a week. The doctor got to see her today , ordered an x-ray and a blood test ;the Doc seemed relief and issued her a clean bill of health. Nothing to worry about, he said, this medicine will clear her lung in a few days. If not then come back, we try another way. I wonder what that will be. Anyway if you don’t trust your doctor ,then who else ? Ariefah seems to be OK, responding to the treatment better. I hope she will take care of her health more and take the medicine as prescribed.

My heart goes to Datuk Hassan Din today as he was admitted to the ICU for falling down in the bathroom at UTM Skudai. We held a hajat prayer after The Friday prayers for him to be at ease in his great struggle to return to his normal health. At 62, it must be hard for him as the body is not as strong as it used to; may Allah give him strength and courage to battle this through. He is a man that we all know, everyone in Malaysia and his pain is ours to be endured as well. Wish him well.

And today the workmen are here to start a work on the toilet that has been leaking for ages. My house is a wreck at the moment and as the toilet being the most important part of the house things will be difficult for a while. My in-laws are here for a visit so that will be something…with the toilet is upside down I myself feel at odd.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

There will be a point in time that all you want is a cat

That's a fact! I just found out that particular fact recently when Ahmad and Maryam were insisting for having a pet. We did not expect anything but later it was completely took us all with surprise especially myself that I am a cat lover. It really got into me that these two furry animals are not just cats to me; they are much more than that. I mean I got it for them but somehow I got more excited than everyone else in the house; let alone my other three daughters who still “geli geleman” with the sights of the two beautiful and adorable cats.

I for one used to have many cats around when I was growing up. My mom and dad loved animals so much that they would come home with a stray cat from the pasar sometime. But we did not really care well for the cats; not really have any reason to give them proper care or place to lounge. The cats were free to roam the house, sleep any where they like , getting our food from under the saji and litter everywhere. I did not know that a cat can be trained to litter properly or groomed for healthier fur or properly fed for a good growth. I did not know that because those things need money and we did not have that much money to spare for the animals. We simply did not have them so the cats just stayed around as much as they like and we fed them fish and rice from the leftovers.

And when the two adorable kittens came , I just accept them as new members of our family. The little ones that I feel better than a baby. Sorry if that sounds so selfish but I really do feel that way. Not that I hate them but the feeling that …” there will be a point in time that all you want is a cat.”

Last time I was awakened by a screeching sound of a baby crying in the middle of the night. And I got really nervous and upset for reasons I did not really know myself. I guess it was the crying part that made me feel hopeless and worried like hell…what if the baby was sick or something, could not digest properly. I was worried about the future of that baby….what will she be like growing up 10 or 15 years from now. I was worried if she could make it at all to be an adult. Every time my children were born I felt like a helpless man carrying loads of things on his back; dragging his feet to the place that he did not know himself where exactly it is. I felt burdened and pinned down with huge responsibilities that I have to carry but could not really endure. I guess that is what the society wants me to do, my mum, my arwah dad, my in-laws and just about everybody in the family circle. To tell you the truth I am a bit tired of that. I am on the last leg of my journey in life; like I am riding a train. The long train journey has only a few stops before I get off; my children will carry on as they have now their own train stops. My train rides were bumpy and noisy and smelly but that was in the past and I have a few great moments to cherish before my last train stop is due.

I just could not handle stress as well as I did a few years ago. A crying baby is a stress call for me now. And definitely a devastating stress if it happened at 3 o'clock in the morning!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ahmad got his cat

On Monday, we finally fulfilled Ahmad's wish to have a cat. He was very excited and so did we. We never had a cat before and could not imagine how the smell and the chores that come with it would make us "loya tekok" (sick to the stomach). but as the cats (we got two of them, the other is for Maryam) set foot in the house, we were all delighted. The cats are so adorable that we just glad to have them around.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Prof Binshan Lin at CSSR08/09

Over the weekend, all UiTM researchers converged at our annual research conference called Conference for Scientific and Social Research. This year it was held at A'Famosa, Malacca, Malaysia. I had the opportunity to send in 2 papers and presented one of them.

Prof Binshan giving the keynote address

Some of the participants

at the keynote address

my fellow presenters after the session

colleague from Faculty of Business Management

Prof Zainab(2nd right) with team members from Faculty of Computer Science and Mathematics

See! I was there.....just in case some of you might wonder...but they do have beautiful golf courses.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I am all ears …

I’m not sure whether that expression is right or not but it sounds like that or something like that…trying to listen to somebody’s plight. I drove to USJ this drizzly morning to meet up with a couple of friends. They need someone to listen to their ordeal; and thought I might be the best person to talk to. I was not sure myself what the fuss was all about but went along anyway. I arrived there a bit late due to normal traffic jam in Subang Jaya and started to ask what is it all about. From what I understood it’s nothing serious; a regular problem facing most students all the time. I guess they just need someone to listen that’s all. And I just sat there listening, comprehending and occasionally responding to the discussion. I just do not believe that I really did not do anything; just listening to what they have to say. I think my listening is getting better.

I used to be so wrong when it comes to listening. Making the talker more upset than the two of us. The art of listening has to be acquired, learned and practiced for it to get better and better.But when I am watching TV then nothing else will get into my ears other than the voices of Jandi, Junpyo, Jihu…hmmmm those are the Korean fellas from Boys over flower. But my dear wife will definitely have something to say or tell me when I am all ready to set off to Seoul, Korea …… so things will get difficult sometimes.

But listening to the Friday sermon is quite an experience one has to persevere, don’t you think? Especially when you have just finished a bowl of sup tulang from the near by sup power from somewhere. The head starts to get heavier by the minute; and you wish to rush by the wall and lean for a while. It is rare to get an exciting sermon these days more so if the sermon is read off the manuscript.

As I grow older I listen to myself more than before. Usually I would listen to others for what to do and how to do it; but lately I have become more comfortable to listen to my heart and soul for what I want and what I should do. After all I am completely responsible for what I do so why not just listen to myself for a change. I guess I have found this inner satisfaction in doing that….a complete self that is able and active.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The moment of truth, SPM results Out Today!

As I am doing this entry, my daughter Aqeelah is battling with anxiety as she approaches the school’s compound to get her SPM result. She and many like her all across Malaysia will see their fate today; whether they can proceed to a higher level education or not. For us in Malaysia , SPM is everything; it represents the future of our kids. If one fails to get good results in SPM a girl might as well find a man and get pregnant; and for boys would never go out to ask her girl for marriage until he gets a job in a nearby factory. I mean the certificate really dictates the way you will lead your life. So that’s why most of us have become so exam-oriented and certificate-madness-social-structured society. Everything must be certified and approved. We hang all sort of certificates on the wall to prove that we are real and truthful as claimed. Even children in the kindergarten will get certificates for whatever they have finished doing---reading, writing, running etc. I don’t know where this entry is going but I am quite fed up with people trying to do something and get a cert to prove it all. Can’t we just make do with whatever we can produce, the skills that we have with the best of our ability. There is no need for extensive certificates to prove everything. But sadly that is how the things are in the world we are living in; and have been like that for hundred of years since the British opened up the first school in Malaysia. Those who were “successful”---pass the stupid exam---would lead a good life with a good job and big house. My late father, for example, he did not proceed through the British school…(or known as The White Man’s school) life was quite difficult for him. But during that time it was more due to the poverty rather than a choice. He moved to town(Pasir Mas from Kg Tendong Sungai), got a job and married Mum.

My grandmother Mak Jah and I, seen here after her return from Mecca. She was a rich lady back then; owned several houses and plots of land. I never knew my grandfather. Grandma lived a long and illustrious life as a rich widow; she died a few years ago at my house hopelessly poor and lonely.

Without proper certificate, what else could he live on other than an odd job like a coolie at a train station. That was the train station in Pasir Mas, Kelantan He would lift anything that came by the train and put them into the godown(gudang) or on a waiting lorry. A job definitely for the poor unsuccessful lads. He would come home with a few ringgit and some food for the twelve of us . Everyday for the rest of his working life. He passed away some years ago. May he rest in peace.

I guess he learnt the lesson well and told us to go to school and study hard. I have nothing for you all, he once said during the meal, so better do well in school if you do not want to end up like me. At that time I did not understand; I felt it’s nothing wrong with what father had been doing. I could eat, grow up and play like everyone else. Maybe a TV or radio would be better as we did not have them to watch my favorites like Giant Robot or Ultraman. Father worked hard as I remember him and we never complained being bored at home or anything like that. We had each other to play , fight and kick-ass with; the twelve of us, yes twelve, and I still have them all today living and working some where in Malaysia. The only thing is that now I wish things could be different. But fate has it its way and I should be grateful for things have turned out to be alright after all.

(then)Some of my younger brothers and sisters at our house in Pasir Mas

(now-2008)Some of them during the last Raya

some of my nephews and nieces
Fortunately, my father took care of our study quite well. I remember him sitting by me, after a long day at work, making sure I was studying and doing my homework under the “pelita ayan” (that small oil lamp) way into the night. Four of us including myself were fortunate enough to be offered places at boarding schools. That was the point and time when I started to be “adopted” and living in hostels; I was eleven years old. After secondary school , they sent me to the United States and then later to the UK. Until today I still wonder what would happen to me if I were still at the kampung and running around trying to get something good out of me. I would probably end up doing the same odd jobs at the train station.

>>>Alhamdulillah, Aqeelah got 10As in her SPM. Excellent indeed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Working ,living and puffing

I guess working and living are synonymous with each other. Some people work his ass off for a living; while others living is working (kerja untuk hidup atau hidup untuk kerja). I prefer to be in the first category where working is only to maintain a good living. Sometime I drag myself to the office. Not that I hate my job but the idea of working and endless paperwork plus the boss keeping an eye on you really make me sick. How long do I have to do this ?why can’t life be easy and simple ? well it used to when we were kids…right?! Nothing to worry about, no deadlines, no class to attend and what not. But then we could not wait to grow up and be adults and do what adults do…smoking for example. It was so cool to smoke when you were 17 or 18. I started smoking during the long break after SPM. I would go to my mate’s house ,bought a couple of marlboros from kedai kopi and spent the afternoon puffing away with him.

with my buddy Ameng at Bradley University, Peoria ,Illinois, USA
Once we were passing a group of guys hanging around the “wakaf” (the coolest place to lepak in my kampung). I approached one of them and asked if I could light up my cigarette with his cigarette. It’s a bit tricky to light this way. You have to put the two heads together and try to burn yours while keeping his head intact…smokers will know this. I did not do it properly and his cigarette’s head fell off. I was so embarrassed that I still remember that incident until today. I was trying too hard to be one of the guys; acting with cigarettes and all but…it did not go very well I supposed. But why do people (especially the men!) keep smoking ?First of all this writing does not promote smoking but to look at some reasons on why people especially men keep the habit of smoking. Despite the campaign of anti- smoking we do see people puffing around oblivious to the impact it might do to their health and environment. Let’s pause for a moment the aggressive campaign and ponder the real reasons why people smoke. The idea is that when we understand the underlying motivation that drives these people to keep on their habit, we can take more effective steps to deal with the situation. It worked for me, so I hope it will shed a light for others as well. I started smoking when I was seventeen or so and kept on lighting the cigarettes for another eight years. I quit in 1990 and still struggling to keep away from the smoke until today; ninteen years later. The urge is still there after every meal. As a man who used to smoke at least a pack a day, I would list the following reasons for smoking :

1. Smoking is the “men thing”. People who attracted to smoking is attracted to this “men thing”. We see women who smoke are attracted to ‘ men thing”. We bump into children who smoke and they are attracted to this “men thing”. So what is this “men thing” ? It is a power within one self. The power to attract friends; control people and signify the presence. Men tend to socialize in groups; being in a group is a social tag saying that you are okay and not from mars. We get together and smoke.
2. At home, men smoke to flag a need for privacy. Daddy wants sometime alone now, could you go and watch TV or something. So daddy would pick his favorite corner in the garden or by the verandah to puff the night away. Nothing matters anymore it’s me and my cigarettes. The hormones will get settled, emotions restored and he will get back to the family and act like a good father the society approves. A good wife would understand this and give some space. It’s not easy to realize that a husband also needs a space to activate his “men thing”. Some women would object the habit for so many reasons but never realize the emotional needs that some men are struggling to cope.
3. Men like to have a “play thing” with him all the time. Some people cannot move a round without a hand phone or PDA. Some would be “patah kaki” without a car. A man with nothing on him would be like a soldier without arms. He has to have a reason to approach another guy for a companion even while waiting in a queue to pay the bill. We have to talk to someone or do something on the phone …it’s the “men thing”. So the most practical tools here are a lighter and a pack of cigarettes. With most premises ban smoking, the place to exercise such social needs are very limited.
4. The image of real men. Image to a man is like a mane to a lion. It shows who is in charge. Every man will pose an image that he will be comfortable the most. Whether we like it or not, an image of a man with a cigarette is hot and macho. James Dean or Marlon Brando, for example, weren’t they so “macho and manly” ? ( and dead as well….hmmmmm that tells something else ain’t it.) Don’t we all miss the big-ass advertisement with a man and his beautiful lady biting a cigarette butt!. Yes those were the days.
5. A quick fix to stress. Life as a man is stressful; not that I know how is it to a woman. But the demand that society put on a man’s shoulder is sometime unbearable. A man is supposed to do this and that which are things if not hard must be heavier or riskier. I guess it is natural for a man to be tough or stupid enough to act like a tough guy. At the end of the day, man has got to do what a man has to do. But a man is also human; and if he could not do it he would take refuge to compose himself. This is where most men choose to puff away the stress. We would see most men chose to smoke to clear the head or revitalize the tired body and minds.
6. label territory. Just like in the animal kingdom where a lion or a tiger would go around and label his hunting ground, men would do the same with a cigarette. When a cigarette is lit up, the smoke will signal a ceremony has begun. This guy is sending a message to the mass that this is his territory, he is a man and ready to play his role.
7. To attract women. It is natural for a man to flirt with a beautiful lady whether he is single or not. Unless he is gay, a man needs a woman in his life for companionship or sexual relationship. And if a man with a smoking cigarette is not hot enough for a lady, nothing would. A genuine lady would see in him a burning manhood ready for action.
8. actively living his life. Another perspective is that, a man who smokes is someone active and living. He has the money and time to enjoy whatever he is doing and smoking would signify this opportunities.

But, what about destroying health and environment ? well, death and destruction are inevitable; it will come sooner or later.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Day The World was Blessed

12 Rabiul Awwal… the prophet Muhammad (saw) was born in Mecca. People have talked about this every year for more than a thousand years. The prophet was indeed very special to us all. The first 13 years in Mecca and the next 10 years in Medina had seen a man struggled to bring Islam to the world. The simple life of Arabic pheasants have been transformed into the most structured social strata the world has ever seen. They conquered the world and showed people the way to the heavens. The glorious days of Islam have today turned into days of conflicts and confrontations. The light that the prophet brought to the world has started to dim. People are in the dark walking towards the many lights that deceive them and lead to destruction. We are in need of the guidance that was shown to humanity some 1430 years ago. Today we want to remember Prophet Muhammad for the nur and path of Islam he brought to the world.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

PIBG SMK Seksyen 7

In the afternoon there was this PTA meeting at my children's school in Shah Alam. I went in right on time but as usual the VIP will arrive late due to previous engagement. I picked a seat after filling up a form for an insurance agent. I was attracted by the goodie bag but actually it was just that--- a goodie bag--- with nothing much inside.....a pack of tissue, a thumb-sized notepad and a bunch of leaflets that have no use whatsoever. I saw the most idiotic presentation that anyone could possibly imagine---choral speaking---I don't know who created this stupid presentation, but it is all over the schools in Malaysia and even have a national level competition. They spoke together in English (i guess that what "choral" is)like telling us some stories, no rhythm. they moved while doing the talking but so stiff and awkward. Frankly , it's just boring. What else can I say ? Even after reconsidered it and replayed it a thousand times in my mind, it's still came out exactly that---uninteresting. I pity the students who have practiced and practiced maybe a zillion times to make it so; but sorry guys choral speaking is not my thing. I would love to see the performance with more innovations such as some bits of soprano, ghazal or cha-cha in between the "speaking" thing. in other words, make it more interesting. maybe you guys were too conscious with the rules and regulations for this type of performance----but, do me a favor next time , BREAK IT! break all the rules and make all the parents dancing in their seats with excitement. Then I would get up and say BRAVO ! BRAVO!. You could have done that, but you did not. Too bad.

then the emcee and big people just kept praising the Pengarah guy for coming....what are you talking about? that's his job! to come around and check on his subjects. Would he come on his own time and accord? I don't think so. Can we just do away with praising the VIPs? and give them gifts as well. can't you understand that it is his job to come! All this tradition has made our VIP so bigheaded. and it is more so for events in schools when they call on a hot shot from Kementerian or Pejabat Negeri/Daerah. A tradition deeply rooted among teachers and their KP goonies. I left the event midway through.

About Choral Speaking
by Anita Geller, Arts Consultant with the District School Board of Niagara and is based on The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8, The Arts, 1998. Thanks Anita, from all of us at CODE!

What is Choral Speaking? When groups of students recite passages they've committed to memory, they are involved in choral speaking. (In choral reading and reader's theatre, students are not required to memorize the text, as the names imply). Students interpret text (poems, stories and other sources) by exploring the elements of choral speaking and movement. Together, they experiment with language and explore their voices in a "safe" environment. Since choral speaking is such a highly flexible strategy, individual student needs can easily be addressed within the context of whole group activities. For example, students who are less comfortable "performing" can be placed in large or small groups; others, more excited by the opportunity to experiment, can be given greater challenges such as solo lines.

How do I get started? Find a piece your students are interested in exploring. Select several poems, stories or prepared pieces to begin with and then explore them all with the group. Choose your favorite! Beginners find Shel Silverstein's poems wonderful starting points! Take time to discuss the meaning of the piece you've collectively selected (interpretation), after reading through it several times. You need to do this in order to know what you hope to eventually 'say"!
Practice speaking the piece, focusing on one element of choral speaking at a time. Through this work, you will discover a great deal about the poem, its meaning, not to mention the group itself.

What are the elements of choral speaking'?

They are, in random order:

Number of voices: Choral speaking utilizes every voice in the group. Students can be given solo lines, divided into sections or small groups, or the entire group can speak a line simultaneously. This ability allows you to increase or decrease the sound or volume as well as express the meaning of the text. "Playing" with the number of voices in this way is a large part of the learning process.

Pitch: Pitch refers to the "highness" or "lowness" of a sound, or more technically to the variations of the voice on a musical scale. This is often referred to as inflection as well.

Tempo: Tempo refers to speed. The rate at which a piece is recited has an impact on both the reader(s) and the listener(s). The tempo, ideally, should relate to the overall rhythm of the piece.

Dynamics: Dynamics refers to volume or loudness. Altering this element allows for emphasis (either sentence, phrase, or word). This emphasis conveys mood, emotion and meaning to the listener.

Tone: Tone refers to the quality of sound unique to each voice. Our ears perceive voices as "light', "medium", or "heavy/dark'. Depending on the piece, you will combine students who have similar tones, grouping them together for effect, or you will combine a variety of tones for special effects.

Movement: Choral speaking involves movement! Experiment with gesture, large physical actions, or even choreography!

Rhythm: Rhythm reflects patterns of sound. Sounds can be short, medium or long, and they can be arranged in a variety of forms. The rhythms in a piece are often more easily identified as phrases or combinations of rhythms. Rhythm often involves repetition and through this repetition a feeling of movement is evoked.

These are the essential elements. If you choose to share your work with other classes in the school, you may wish to consider staging: this involves organizing the students either on stage or risers or mime boxes for the benefit of the audience. Practical concerns involve sight-lines (i.e. can the students be seen by the audience) as well as other logistical considerations such as: entrances; exits; and movement. Costumes too can be worn if desired! Use simple "suggestions' of character such as hats, scarves, canes, etc., or dress in full character attire.

Are there different types of Choral Sneaking?
Yes! Use one or all of these common forms below either individually or combine a few within a piece (length permitting) to produce the effect you and your students collectively desire! The key is to experiment until you have achieved your intention for the piece.

  • Unison: The entire groups reads the material together. You may add sound effects if desired.
  • Antiphon: The class is divided into two or more groups, each responsible for a different portion of the piece you've chosen.
  • Refrain: A "narrator" reads the majority of the text; the refrain or "chorus" is spoken by the rest of the group. Solo: Individual students are assigned lines within the piece.
  • Cumulative: Here individual voices or groups of voices are either added or subtracted, depending on the desired effect.

Teacher Tips: Be sure students have had ample opportunity to become familiar with the
text before putting it "on its feet". Focus on one or two elements at a time when rehearsing the piece, making sure to discuss the effect each had for both the listener(s) and speaker(s). As students gain experience, allow them to suggest possible changes such as the number of voices designated to individual lines or any other changes they feel would enhance the piece. Have them work in groups to prepare new pieces on their own, using he elements of choral speaking they have learned thus far. Think of the group as you would a choir of singers. They too are broken into sections, have solos, etc. The key principle is unity. When groups of voices speak a line together they must remain unified at all times. This means paying careful attention to articulation and inflection. The benefits of choral speaking are many and the process of preparing pieces is enjoyable for students (and teachers!).

In addition to meeting overall and specific expectations for drama and dance, you will find growth in the following areas: x diction/enunciation cooperative group skills/inter-personal skills vocabulary knowledge of literature .Try choral speaking with your class, using poems or selecting material from the source book JAZZ CHANTS. Keep in mind that there is no 'right" way to interpret the material; experiment and have fun!

IISSA Sports Day 2009

Today is saturday but we have to be busy as usual early in the morning. Sports Day !. I don't know what to say just went along for the sake of everybody. They have been practicing since so many weeks ago so obviously they are all looking forward for this day. I guess there is fun in it , I would not know. I usually jog in the morning and have a blast on the badminton court until late noon; all that vanished from today's memory and sat myself among the screaming children doing the battlecry. Some pictures from the event....

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The long overdue research grant

Yesterday the list of UiTM’s internal research grant recipients was finally announced. This grant is the last hope if you can get a grant at all. In academic circle in Malaysia there are so many grants available (so I keep hearing !) to fund your research. So many avenues ( so I was told) to get support for your research to get off the ground. There are funds from e-science, FRGS, sime darby, felda, mohe, pnb, akept, RU grant(for research university) and the list goes on. Of course there are so many, but none is for me. There is always something not up to standards, out of our priority areas or too many applications and yours will be KIVed. That kind of shit that really makes me want to forget about it all. This particular research took more than three years to get the fund; and you are talking about easy money. Funding a research agenda is the last item on the list of any organization; even in the academic institution, ok maybe not directly chop off your guts but they will come out with all sort of choosing criteria to pick the one isn’t yours. The exercise is even more true during the economic crisis when the budget is heavily compromised.
I presented the same research for an FRGS boss from UKM some time ago. He finally came to evaluate my proposal after so many years. So you know when the materials are so old you kinda forget the details. I was blasted for that and for so many errors in the proposal. OK I admitted the mistakes but you know the whole experience made me sick to the stomach. The fact that you were like having to sell an old tattered sweater with holes everywhere for a price was unimaginable. Never mind that, I should learn from my mistakes. Having failed to impress that prof, I went for this last resort saviour called Dana Kecemerlangan UiTM (UiTM Fund For Excellence ). This fund is supported internally by UiTM staff---all staff contribute some portion of their salary to the fund every month. I feel so guilty for taking it ; like borrowing money from your poor colleague. The fund is meant for small budget research but it also include for some poor guy who could not get it somewhere else like me. But I am very grateful; I feel like UiTm is even more closer to my heart than I could possibly imagine.
I started with UiTM some 19 years ago (but I feel like it was yesterday!). At that time it was still ITM (an institute without a university status) and sadly was regarded as the second class place of study! ….everybody wanted to go to a university and not an institute like ITM. But for me from the start I felt so proud being with ITM. I was there during my pre-university workshop and regarded the life and living in ITM as so happening! So after I finished my masters degree I chose to be back here; and have been with UiTM ever since. There were some frustrations and deep disappointment here and there but I persevered and waded through the high tide until today. I was denied some things but being given the others; so plus and minus I am doing okay. Nothing is easy; like a Malay proverb : yang pipih tak datang melayang, yang bulat tak datang bergolek (not all things will come flying or rolling into your lap), so I learnt long time ago.
So now they gave me another chance to prove myself worthy of my words. It means so much to me; I would not let anybody down.
The grant worth RM48,000. ( not that much eh, maybe not for you,but for me it worth millions)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Meeting Prof KJ

I was very delightful to have the opportunity to have lunch with Prof KJ renowned professor from UPM. He is currently with Yale University. As an academician , it is very enlightening to have a long conversation with experienced Prof. Any chance to ask question and get feedbacks will not be a waste of time but a rare moment indeed. it should be cherised and greatly appreciated. Prof KJ entertained my request to meet him although he has a very tight schedule at UiTM; I am very grateful. that was my first ever meeting with him and to my surprise he talked to me as if I was his long lost friend. we talked about work most of the time; about research and publications. that were the two areas that I am struggling to cope with; so he came up kind of like saving me in the middle of a drowning incident.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Just Glad To Be Alive

It’s Monday; and some people just hate Mondays. But today, ironically, I’m glad to be alive. The moment I woke up for Fajr prayers at 6 am this morning ; I felt so fresh and so thankful that I would live for another day, InsyaALlah. Do you have that feeling sometime? I am sure you do! A kind of feeling that looks forward for another day or another week. A very contrast picture when you open your eyes and feel like an old wet dirty cloth that smells terrible. So tired and hopeless as life has given up on you. I guess this is what the ups and downs in your everyday life. Like a wheel that rotates; round and round to count the moments that we have.I long for my purpose in life? Why am I here and for what purpose?

Today while I lined up for the prayers with the rest of my community, I sparked a thought that I want to do something good and big for the people. The kind of activity that serves the very purpose of my existence. I am waiting for that moment. So far my intention remains good on paper and seems to be nothing but just a thought. I led an NGO since last year but all my aims and effort did not materialize as expected. In the end, I left with unfinished tasks and a huge waste of time. For me it was not a mistake, it was just not meant to be my avenue to work. Then I started another NGO ---IHSAN---a kind of parent support group for my children’s school in Shah Alam. I see no clear way as well. Maybe my fate is somewhere else; my effort is needed somewhere in the world. I don’t really know; just waiting for any opportunity to go and to serve.

In the meantime, I will be here in the city of orchids trying to understand the political dominoes that have started to crumble the states administration (in Perak and now Selangor). Getting pissed off for no place to park my car at the faculty and being outrage when there are still people don’t know how to queue up. A kind of ordinary events happened to ordinary people at the ordinary time interval in life.

But, please,I am no ordinary man!