Tuesday, 6 December 2005

Working in groups

It seems that full-time students here at my school are literally swimming in the course work. Stop moving and sink yourself.

Group work is unavoidable. And for me, I have different people for different groups in different classes. Not a single person is in the same two groups as I am. Without me, these groups will be mutually exclusive in terms of members.

This can be to a disadvantage since the rest of the group may not understand the workload you're already carrying. They may ask for your contribution without knowing that you're already up to your nose with other things.

But it's not all bad. Most importantly I've managed to gain experiences from working with different people. There were moments of blazing debates and bruised egos. But there were moments when we learned new stuff from each other and shared a couple of laughs.

At the end of the day, we returned to same spot again, as friends and fellow learners, to fix ourselves a nice, warm cup of drink over at the beverage/coffee machine. We are united by our belief, friendship and our quest for knowledge and success.

And free coffee and Milo.

Meanwhile, this weblog will be taking a break for about a month. Come listen to the sound of My whirring head and let me know what you heard. Feedbacks are most appriciated.

Friday, 2 December 2005

The smell of bunga

The good folks at PTPTN sent me my annual balance statement (is this correct translation for Penyata Kira-kira Pinjaman?) for the past three years.

And I got my first whiff of the rotten smell of bunga.


Saturday, 26 November 2005

A fortnight (almost) offline

For the last two weeks, I was (almost) entirely disconnected from the online world. My Internet connection was down, possibly due to a violent late afternoon storm that happened while I was napping quietly.

It's not because the people from my ISP was unresponsive to my predicament. I purposely called them a few days later after I realised it was down because I was busy preparing for the new semester. In fact, the technician came to my house in less than 24 hours after my complaint call was made. Kudos, TMNet, for the improved service quality.

The two weeks (almost) without any Internet made realise one thing. Although before I was online nearly everyday (reading my favourite sites, occasionally emailing or IM-ing or IRC-ing or blogging or downloading manga/anime), I seem to go well without the urge to rush and find a PC with Internet access and get online.

I did however spent some time online at the computer lab just before class started the other day, just to kill the time. Hence 'almost' part.

In other words, now I'm quite sure that I'm not addicted to the Web. A fortnight offline didn't bother me much. Alhamdulillah.

New semester

Ah, the new semester. There has been changes this time around, apart from the new lecturers, the new subjects and the new schedule. I'm now a full time student, which means that I have classes every night from Monday to Thursday. Which also means that I'm charged with double the last semester's fee.

I'm taking two subjects that I'm not really good at: finance and economics. I'm not good with money. I'm the worst person to talk to about how to get rich or ways to expand the wealth. Even primary school children are more adept at money-making then I am.

At least I still get to be in the class with the beverage/coffee machine in it. Alhamdulillah.

New possible (and somewhat crazy) career option

I should stop watching the National Geographic channel. It seems that almost every time I watch it, I start to get unusual ideas that gets me all fired up and wanting to actually do them.

Like for example, the other day I watched a ShowReal Asia episode that briefly featured the falconers of Xingjiang. For about a whole 10 to 15 minutes, my jaw just stayed dropped due to awe.

Those birds looked so magnificent. I just couldn't take my eyes off them, especially when they're in flight with wings spread wide. In my best Crocodile Hunter impersonation I muttered the man's most famous words, "...gorgeous..." Although the Golden Eagle seems as the top bird in the game, I'm eyeing the slightly smaller but equally formidable falcon.

If things things don't work out with management school or any of my future undertakings, I could scrape every sen I have, fly to Xingjiang and become a falconer myself. A cool job, albeit one which my mother will not be too happy about.

Mental note to self: stop watching the National Geographic channel. Or stop coming up with crazy thoughts when watching the National Geographic channel. Insya-Allah.

Monday, 7 November 2005

Bats, blood and brotherhood

First of all, let me welcome you back from your kampung or Hawaii or wherever place you have spent your Eid or Raya at. I hope you had a wonderful time during the blessed days.

The other day, I watched an episode of Human Instincts called Real Life Heroes over the Discovery channel. It talks about the science behind feats of heroism in humans and nature and what causes them to happen. The instinct to survive in times of direness is astonishing, and often in these circumstances, humans and even animals can act in ways that defy believe.

The show highlights stories of strangers helping strangers, friends putting their own lives on the line for the other's sake and family going all out for each other. But for me the part that caught my real attention was the one about the display of altruism by vampire bats.

Vampire bats, in case you still haven't figured it out yet, are the type of bats that feed on blood. Mostly cattles, horses or pigs blood, but on rare occasions humans are also said to be preyed upon. Found in South American countries, these flying mammals are built as stealth and agile attackers. They are light and attack when their victims are asleep, making them blissfully unaware that their blood is being consumed. They also do not actually suck blood, they instead puncture a hole through their victim's skin and lap up the blood that comes out. Their saliva contains draculin, a subtance that stops blood from clotting.

Another thing about these flyers of the night is that they cannot go two days straight without blood. If so they could die and this where the fascinating part comes in. It is discovered that vampire bats often help their family or friends or cavemates who are unable to get a decent shot of good ol' blood by actually giving them some of the blood that they have collected. They regurgitate the blood that they lapped up and give it to the 'blood-thristy' ones through an act that appears to look like a kiss. In exchange, the receiving party returns the good favour by rendering grooming services. A case of one good deed deserves a good-looking fur.

According to scientists, this display of compassion and altruism is quite rare in the animal kingdom. This has certainly painted the vampire bats in a new light (although light may not be something they would actually like very much).

Sure, vampire bats may not win the title 'World's Most Cutest Animal' easily (by normal standards of cuteness, anyway) and they turn out to be such caring creatures towards one another. They are also found to be intelligent and it has been recorded that these bats can respond when their names are being called (some children should take a lesson from this).

Subhanallah. Who would have thought? Not me, that's for sure.

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

Eid mubarak

Syawal is dawning upon us as we bid farewell to Ramadhan. I wish that Allah will reward all your efforts during the past holy month and may this new one bring joy, peace and success to everyone everywhere. Amin.

Please forgive any mistakes that I've done to all of you in my writing or in real life. Eid mubarak. Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin.

Monday, 31 October 2005

The Long Day Wanes

Mental note: must borrow Anthony Burgess's The Long Day Wanes from the library. It's in the other campus branch's library, though. I hope I don't to travel there just to check out one book.

More mental note: must exploit library staff for this (they're paid to help us in this sort of things, right?). Resort to Jedi (or Sith) mindtricks if they refuse. And thank Sharon for the info on Burgess being a former MCKK teacher.

Sunday, 30 October 2005

There's psychology in everyday things

I read about Donald A. Norman's book, The Design of Everyday Things, in an article a few years ago. Being the design-freak that I am, I made a self mental note that I would read it one day.

And my mental note reminder alarm didn't go off until recently. I don't remember what triggered it, but once it went off I immediately scoured my campus library for the book. To my disappointment, the library does not have any copy of it in its collection. However, they do have the next best thing: an earlier book the same author called The Psychology of Everyday Things (POET).

I'm quite sceptical about books that are written academicians because they tend make you flip through the dictionary every few sentences and consequently make the books less accessible to the ordinary readers.

This book is also written by an academic, but one who's a storyteller as well as a keen observer of the relationship between cognitive science and everyday life. POET is a noteworthy read for all designers and the ordinary, non-designer folk. In his book, Norman takes his readers on a breezy and entertaining guided tour on how design can either make or break a product and cites examples ranging from doors to nuclear plants.

I'm still reading the early chapters and I'm certainly looking forward to the later ones.

UPDATE I just learned from Norman's official website that both The Design of Everyday Things and The Psychology of Everyday Things are the same book, where the latter is harcover version while the former is the paperback version with new preface, introduction and, of course, title. Just my rezeki!

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Read any good e-books lately?

(This post has been sitting quietly in my Drafts section for quite some time. Due to lack of time and ideas, I've decided to finally publish it and share with you some of my views. The information contained in it may not the latest and for that I apologise. I hope you will gain something useful from it.)

I love paper. The sight, the touch and even the smell of it. There's nothing like the sight of rows and rows of neatly shelved books in a library or a bookstore. Or the feeling of flipping through a thick paperback book with your thumb. Or the smell of a book that has just been taken out of its plastic wrap (but that's mostly the chemicals used to make the plastic wrap and the book I guess).

Thank you, God, for the gift of paper.

In this day of 'e-this' and 'e-that', e-books are fast becoming common. Aside from the physical, paper-based books, readers now have the option of reading books and other text material in a virtual, 'electronic' form. A convenience for those with computers or electronics devices like a PDA, but not so much for the rest of the people.

I used to have a brilliant, soft-spoken but highly engaging researcher as a lecturer. At the end of a chapter that he finished covering, he would upload two sets of PDF (portable document format) files containing his lecture slides. One would contain one slide per page and the other six per page. He told us that the first one is meant to make it easier for our eyes, and the other one is meant to make it easier on the trees.

I think, in the beginning, e-books was meant to reduce the use of paper and chopping down of trees. A noble intention, but people like me are a stubborn bunch. We still want our paper. We want to see it, touch it, hold it, feel it and smell it. Especially those free perfume samples in magazines.

But we're not an entirely closed-minded crowd. E-books are a good way to spread the written word. Some books, especially the ones on programming, often come with a CD that also carries the entire book's content in PDF. We love e-books too. But not as much since we can't actually get sample perfume from e-magazines.

Just a few pickings

Over the last several months, I've amassed a small collection of e-books that are of interest to me. It started with an article I read about Project Guttenberg, an online reservior of literature classics that are now part of the public domain. I downloaded Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, but its length is the reason why I haven't started reading it yet.

I don't know if you'd be interested in reading them or not but I'm sharing them in case you anybody who would be. Some of these books are downloable for free and some of them are licensed under the Creative Commons deed, just like this blog. Without further ado, here they are, in no particular order:

Depression : A Primer
by Ellen
A light-hearted and humorous look at depression, and ways to beat off the blues. From the author of The Reign of Ellen.
[ Get it!/Read it! ]

How To Manage Smart People
by Scott Berkun
After spending nine years at Microsoft managing some of the smartest people in the world, Scott has a few tips to share on the art of managing the best.
[ Get it!/Read it! ]

Free Software for Busy People
by Mohammad Al-Ubaydli
Can free software work for you? Yes it can, according to this Bahraini doctor, who believes in the untapped potential of affordable technology. Even if you're not a busy person.
[ Get it!/Read it! ]

Down and Out the Magic Kingdom
by Cory Doctorow
Life, death, immortality...and Disneyland?!! Cory Doctorow is one of the rising stars of sci-fi as well as the European Affairs Coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who not only sells the books he wrote but also gives them away for free in electronic form. He was in Singapore not long ago to give a talk on "Copyright and the future of media".
[ Get it!/Read it! ]

Palin's Travels
by Micheal Palin
In the land of celebrity hosted travel shows go, Micheal Palin is the king. No celebrity is more enthusiastic about setting foot in strange, foreign lands like he is. As a former cast member of Monty Phyton, Palin mixes humour, wanderlust and genuine curiosity to bring the world some of the best shows and books on exotic travel ever made. Some of his books are available for you to read on his website, or better yet, grab a copy from the local bookstore.
[ Get it!/Read it! ]

Friday, 21 October 2005

A trayful of posts

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who came here to read, leave comments or just checking to see whether I've deleted this blog or not. I've been busy lately with some personal and family matters so naturally this blog is left not updated until I'm able to muster up enough sanity to be able to write something. Anyway, thanks again everyone.

Al-Fatihah, Datin Seri Endon Mahmood

This may not be breaking news, but it's a sad one. The wife of our Prime Minister, Datin Seri Endon Mahmood, passed away yesterday morning.

Our Pak Lah is a national leader going through a personal loss, and as fellow Muslims, we should give him our best support as brothers and sisters of the same faith. As for Datin Seri, she is in a place beyond our senses, but indeed a place where we shall be in the future, indefinitely. May Allah grant both of them, their family and all of us strength and divine help to get through the testing times.

Innalillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.

Ramadhan: the last few laps

In terms of making the best of the holiest month in Islam, I sincerely hope all of you are doing better than me. Clearly this is (one of) the most testing Ramadhan I have ever faced and I'm not too proud with the way I handled things lately. May Allah have mercy upon me.

The best thing to do now is to make the best out of the situation. Amend the bad and aim for the better. I'm not an ustaz or a person of strong faith. I get derailed easily for the smallest reasons. Take a lesson from me, people, and do your best this Ramadhan. May Allah give us all strength and will to please Him the rest of this holy month, and the rest of our lives.

Print your own calender

In an unrelated topic, I would like to point your attention to a very nifty, methinks, service by The site offers free printable custom calendars for everyone to specify, download and print easily.

The calendar can be displayed by week, month or year. There are options for us to specify the start date, add images for a touch of décor and quotes to inspire us throughout the days.

My friend Ishe used to make calendars like these manually using Microsoft Word, and now he can do the same with this service using just a few clicks.

This service requires a browser with Adobe Acrobat plug-in installed. 2.0


Now this one is breaking news. Yesterday, fresh out the oven, comes version 2.0 of the multiplatform, multilingual and open source office productivity suite, is just like the Microsoft Office suite, except it's free. Well, not exactly. The 'free' part is true, the 'just like' part is not. I won't jazz over all the details and put you to sleep in the process, this article covers most of what's important for everyone to know.

All I can add to the subject is this: OpenOffice is just as good as Office, if not better. Sure, it may need some getting used to, but it's free, stable and open source.

Let's face it, most of us use the pirated version of Office in order to get our job done on our PCs. Even the so-called Student and Teacher version (possibly the most 'affordable' Office version Miscrosoft is offering) costs more than five hundred ringgits. Most people just ignore that version and buy the pirated version that comes everything Office has to offer with no restrictions for under RM 10.

Why feed the pirates? Get OpenOffice instead and give it a test drive.

Bubur lambuk

bubur lambuk

Yesterday, we had some homemade bubur lambuk for iftar. It seems there are many versions of this dish that it's hard to say which version is the authentic one. Ours as featured above is slightly peppery and without seafood (because someone in the house can't take any). Don't ask me for the recipe. I just eat it.

Saturday, 15 October 2005

The Trump Blog

It's only a matter of time if you ask me, before The Don starts a blog of his own.

Way out of the jungle? (Long pause)

My project partner and I ran into this problem during our final year. We got ourselves signed up to do a project that sounded fairly simple but later turned out to be a rather complex problem that has algorithm experts racking their brains in search for answers for years. Lucky us.

Assuming that the whole project is simplified into a 5-step process:
  • Milestone A - where we started, obviously
  • Milestone B
  • Milestone C
  • Milestone D
  • Milestone E - the project's goals
In finer details, this was how things actually looked like:
  • Milestone A
  • Milestone B - we have some ideas on what to do here
  • Milestone C - we sort of have some ideas on what to do here
  • Milestone D - we have no idea on what to do here
  • Milestone E - (how on earth are we going to get to here?)

Compass and bridges

We've both actually stumbled upon a common obstacle in the planning phase: the inability to identify and define what is the next step needed to accomplish a goal. Much like being in unfamiliar jungle with no idea of where to head next.

This is most common when we are faced with a task that we are not familiar with. Although the goals are specified beforehand, reaching them is another story altogether.

The important thing to note here is to know where we are suppose to go in terms of accomplishing the goals. An idea of what the goals are serves as a guiding compass.

We may not be sure which path to take, but we can feel confident that we're moving on the right track. We need to stay focus on the goal, visualise it and feel passionate about achieving it. If we can do these things, we're already well on our way to getting ourselves out of the confusion jungle.

Having a sense of direction isn't enough. We still need to get to know and see where we are and what we need to do. This is where figuring out the next suitable course of action is vital. Obstacles in our way to the goals are ravines that need to be crossed, and we know that the there are bridges that can get us across. But can we cross the ravines when we can't see or find the bridges?

Finding and crossing the bridges is a matter of understanding what we should do and actually doing it. If we have no idea on how to proceed with an unfamiliar task, we need to consult people who are experienced or perform our own research. But before that, the compass must be readable and working properly. In order to ask people or start researching, we need to know what to ask first. This could save us from being distracted with other things or feeling frustrated with unsatisfactory findings or feedbacks.

With compass in hand and bridges in sight, we should now be able to find our way out of the jungle. And with that too, I wish all the best in your life, work and other endeavours.

Sunday, 9 October 2005

First lesson in photography

Vivex colour photo instantaneus camera. Source: NYPL Digital Gallery

For the longest time, I wanted to give photography a try. The main hurdle was: no camera.

Now, alhamdulillah, I'm able to borrow a digital camera that belongs to a relative of mine. The camera ends up being more used by me than him.

Unfortunately, my knowledge of photography is next to zero. The pictures I took are less than impressive. Some are too dark, some have backgrounds that are too bright and most appear to be grainy (due to shaky hands). I felt very discouraged about the whole photography thing.

I wondered if I had used an expensive camera (the one I use is of the budget range and costs less than RM 800), the pictures might look better. My neighbour came to visit me several weeks ago and showed me the shots he took using his dad's expensive, RM 1000+ Canon digital camera. I drooled all over the carpet looking at them.

In the following days, the camera was left alone in its pouch. I dared not to touch it and I was thinking that maybe I should convince my relative to trade-in his camera for a more expensive and feature extensive one. But I know for sure that he's going absolutely hate the idea (he's less critical about photo taking than me, and it was his money after all).

I started looking online for ways to improve my camera. I was so focused on my camera's limitations that I thought that I should forget about taking any good pictures altogether and specialise myself in taking truly awful pictures. That should be easy since I'm already an expert at it.

It's not the camera, mate, it's you

While scanning through the various articles online, I stumbled upon a gem of an advice that's worth noting. It's the first, most basic thing that everybody must learn and understand before he or she starts snapping away pictures using his or her camera.

"It's the photographer who takes beautiful pictures, not the camera."

It took me awhile to digest this simple truth, and over time every single word started to make sense.

Any expert or experienced photographer will tell you that even the most expensive cameras can't guarantee that the pictures taken will turn out awesome. And there are numerous people who are able to capture breathtaking shots using a simple point-and-shoot budget range camera.

A camera can only take a photographer to a certain distance, the rest is up to the photographer to work with camera's advantages and disadvantages.

Working with what we have

I guess in other areas as well, we are often presented with limited amounted of resources. Aspiring cooks like some of my aunts would love a state-of-the-art kitchen of their own. A friend of mine owns a car that would go from 0-100 km/hour in 300 seconds (an estimated figure), keeping him from overtaking and using the fast lane most of the time. And let's not forget about those who impaired either visually, verbally or physically.

We all have our own set of limitations. As humans we that's what define us as individuals. But we must also look for the strengths that God has bestowed us with. No one is made of entirely limitations and devoid of any strengths or advantages.

Our daily challenge is work with what we have. History is full of accounts of people who overcame the odds and emerged triumphant. And success without struggle isn't as valuable as success that comes after many trials and tribulations.

Suddenly my camera doesn't seem all that bad. It may lack certain fancy features but overall it performs rather well once I'm familiar with its workings.

Two chefs

All this talk about using limited resource amount reminds me of story that I read during my school days. Once there were two chefs who were masters at food decoration and sculpture. They both entered a food sculpting competition that pitted them against one another. When the judges came to look at both their works, they were astonished to see that both of them displayed an equally high level of skill.

The judges were stumped. They did not know whom the best sculptor award should go to. After much thought, the judges decided to the ask both the chefs personally a simple question. The chefs answered the question and the judges smiled in delight. They finally found the competition's winner, and it was the first chef.

How did the judge found their winner? The judges asked the chefs how many tools were used in their sculpting. The second chef answered a few, while the first chef answered only one. That one question solved the dispute of who between the two is more skillful in food sculpting.

Perhaps we could learn a thing or two from entreprenuer E. Joseph Cossman's words on overcoming the odds.

Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.

Wednesday, 5 October 2005

Ramadhan is here

To my fellow Muslims,

May Allah grant us taufiq and hidayah for us to fully reap the benefits of this blessed and holy month. Amin.

Sunday, 2 October 2005

"Tak nak!", the Japanese way

My stomach aches incredibly from laughter after looking at these anti-smoking campaign posters from Japan.

Humour, in some ways, is the universal language. If you smoke and you look that these posters, do you feel offended or do you laugh instead? Either way, the message has been successfully conveyed to you.

Meanwhile, I still can't look at these posters without cracking up. That's Japanese humour for ya'.

[ Source: Presentation Zen ]

Wednesday, 28 September 2005

The art of presenting

I've been secretly studying how people present their presentations for the past several years.

I think it began during my English for Occupational Purposes (EOP) class, where we were to taught to write memo, conduct interviews, perform feasibility studies and write apology letter to the top management for using the executive toilet unknowningly during the first day of work. I was in charge of preparing the presentation slides for our group's product, a hi-tech personal assistant device called Digital Buddy.

Looking back, the presentation was horrendous. It lacked direction and theme, too lengthy and frankly, too ambitious. Classic beginner's mistake.

That was second year. Then we spent the following three semesters attending the dreaded Seminars I, II and III. Seminar is held every Friday at 3 PM, a time when most would rather be doing something else. Seminar is compulsory and it's supposed to give the third and second year students the experience of presenting. And as far as I could tell, most people including me, hated doing presentations.

Presentations are quite intimidating. As someone born with stage fright, I prefer the job of preparing slides over doing the presenting any day. But presentations are important to us as students of engineering. We would at least be required to present our final year projects at the end of Project I and II. The grade for final year project is also largely based on the presentation given, like it or not.

But what sometimes happen during Seminar and Project presentations are truly dreadful presentations. I don't mean that in a bad way, just in the fact that some of the presenters made little effort to present a sensible, understandable presentation. They read everything off the slides and mumbles them back to the crowd. Some even came with unfinished Powerpoint slides.

I'm no better myself. I read off slides too. I mumble. And worse, I mumble my jokes and I laugh by myself.

But presentations are about communicating ideas. It's a brief moment when people already give some of their time to listen to what we have to say. The least we could do is to respect their time and present properly to the best of our ability.

The art of presenting is something we all can learn in time. It may seem as if this skill of commanding people's attention and making them listen to what we say is bestowed upon a chosen few, but in reality we communicate this way everyday. We need to engage people's attention in order to tell them something.

Presenting is communicating to the masses. Sure, it's different from the personal, one-to-one type of communication but there are times when we simply can't avoid this one-to-many form of communication.

In the job place, for example, running away from doing presentations is not an option. Failure to communicate properly with a potential client during a presentation can cost the company dearly.

When we start seeing presentations as a communication form, we would probably take it more seriously. Every details matter: from colours selection and font used to arrangement and white spaces to the flow of speech and the lighting level. They may sound like some lingo to us, but learning them can make a huge difference in how we can channel our ideas to the audience and leave an lasting impact long after the session is over. It's not about being the company's (or the world's) best presenter, but it's about getting ideas across the best way we can.

And if we've managed to get people thinking about the things we've presented, we should feel glad. We've successfully accomplished what presentations are supposed to do: get people to listen, understand and think. Knowledge grow from ideas, and like the water that revitalises the earth and the plants, they need to continously flow and not stay stagnant.

[ Garr Reynonds's Top Ten Slide Tips ]

Saturday, 24 September 2005


My dear lecturers, there's something about me that all of you must know.


So, about those mid-terms and finals... they're actually hazardous to my health.

[ Notebook stickers, from ]

Saturday, 17 September 2005

Not an ordinary bus trip

To peninsula's end

Title: She Got Off the Bus at the Peninsula
Story/Art: Urushibara Yuki
Published in: Kondansha's Afternoon 2004-09
Scanlator: Kotonoha


Kunizaki Mitsuko is a single mother who returns to her childhood place, the grocery shop once ran by her deceased grandmother. Located at the tip of a peninsula, the shop was mostly frequented by tourists and bus drivers who drove them there. Slowly, Mitsuko begins to recall the people who went there and things that happened near the shop during her childhood: the tourists who came to see the beautiful sights the seaside has to offer, and the few who came in order to leave to the their worlds behind and never to return again.


If you're wondering why I make so much fuss about manga, then this is one of the reasons. Unlike the comic scene in the West or even here in Malaysia, manga has taken the art of pictorial story telling to new directions.

In this one-shot (a single release, as opposed to a running series or a mini series) story, we are taken for a walk in the shoes of single mother, who is trying to start fresh by returning to the life she once knew. She intends to close her grandmother's shop with the hope of moving on with life with her only son but in doing so she reopens a window to her own past.

The story borders on the supernatural but there's nothing too frightening here to send chills down your back. Horror fans, prepare to be disappointed.

The setting also sets the tone for main character's feeling. The shop, which is situated at the edge of nowhere, is metaphorical of the feeling of a single mother struggling on her own.

In just about 40 pages, the author manages to tell a poignant tale of hopeful souls looking another chance in life, where everything is never really what it seems and the road to better things is often concealed beyond the horizon.

Wednesday, 14 September 2005


pink flowers...YIKES!!!

I guess this is bound to happen when you are a guy, and you want to borrow stuff from your siblings and all of them happen to be gals.

I asked from my sister to borrow anything that I can use to keep money in and she gave me this pouch. With flowers on it. (PINK flowers!!!) Luckily I'm only borrowing it for a while and the other side of the pouch is plain (no PINK flowers, thank God).

On the subject of using a pouch, someone told me years ago that it is one of the sunnah of Rasulullah SAW. He was said to have used it as a means of keeping his money. Like every sunnah, there is blessing to this practice. People who use it claim that this practice help ease their financial woes.

But more importantly, we know and believe that practicing the sunnah will earn us the love from God and His Prophet. That reward alone is greater than having millions of ringgit in the bank or not having to worry about money for a single moment in our impermanent life.

No choice

With the flood of anonymous and spam comments that I have to deal with lately, I have decided to activate the word verification feature for the comments. I don't understand why they are targeting my weblog, it's not like it's popular or anything. According to statistics, I barely get 50 returning visitors per week. I hope you can be patient about it and that's all I'm asking. I welcome constructive comments, not annoying marketing ploys. Thank you.

Tuesday, 13 September 2005

The Last Class

Finally, I have managed to finish this book.

Shortly after the mid terms and a period of feeling like crud, I mustered up some strength to read the book right up to the final sentence. And boy, to my surprise the final chapter is best chapter of the book.

Titled The Last Class, the author serves out some wonderful advice on writing and being a writer. Things like what to do and what not to do. To find reward and satisfaction in the craft and not to be obsessed with being getting published. To write because of heart, of the spirit, of the depth and of the expansion.

If you only have time to read only one chapter from this book, I recommend attending The Last Class wholeheartedly.

Friday, 9 September 2005

Lest I forget

With so many things going on this week and the last, there are times when I actually forgot that I have a blog. Not that anybody's really reading it, anyway.

I'm slowly learning what people mean by when it rains, it pours. Believe me (or "wallahi", as my friend Osman from Eritrea would say), the stream of workload is unpredictable but steadily increasing.

My Tok Wan is admitted at HUKM right now and a few of my relatives are in town as well. I occasionally drive them to HUKM before class or whenever I'm free. Tok Wan's condition is quite worrying.

And the finals are coming. Exhilarating days to look forward to.

When I have some free time, maybe I would write something here. Insya-Allah.

Provided that I don't forget my Blogger username and password.

Monday, 5 September 2005

Life after Katrina

A blog is not just a way for friends to know what's going on with you, and in this case a blog is a way to tell friends that you've just survived one of the most devastating natural disaster in recent history.

This blog is by a New Orleans resident who survived hurricane Katrina. His descriptions as well photos tell stories that might have been skipped by the media radar. Let's spare a few prayers for these people who are in the their hour of test and need.

Roasted corn

Roasted corn usually usually reminds me of Tok Wan. My grandfather. This is one of his favourite nibbles.

He is in town after undergoing an endoscopic procedure about a week ago. He was scheduled for surgery but the doctors decided against it after considering the fact that he is now 77. He is resting at our home at the moment.

When I saw this plate yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised and I tried to remember the time I saw roasted corn. I realised that usually I would be eating roasted corn when he is around. Nobody I know loves roasted corn right down to the last kernel like he does.

Friday, 2 September 2005

Inkscape 0.42.2

Arabic Inkscape
Source: EGLUG

I've been secretly waiting for this for several weeks and now it's here. Version 0.42.2 of Inkscape, the open-source scalar vector graphics editor.

Inkscape is similar to graphics software like Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw and Macromedia Freehand. They are used to create scalar vector graphics (SVG), a graphic format that allows us to resize, shrink or stretch our graphic without reducing its quality. SVG are often used in designing logos, icons, diagrams and maps, but there are some who have even used it to design websites and CD covers. I have some ideas about using it, but I think I'm going to play around with it first.

Inkscape is a free download. Excluding your Internet connection bill, though.

Inkscape interface

I N K S C A P E . Draw Freely
A Guide to Inkscape (still a work in progress)

Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Di pagi Hari Merdeka yang ke-48

Rakyat Malaysia mempunyai satu sebab besar untuk bersyukur kepada Ilahi iaitu nikmat hidup di sebuah negara yang merdeka dan aman. Seperti nikmat-nikmat lain, nikmat kemerdekaan akan hanya benar-benar dihargai apabila ianya diambil semula oleh Empunya segala nikmat. Sebelum masa itu tiba, bersama-samalah kita mensyukuri pemberian ini dengan memanfaatkannya untuk lebih lagi mentaati segala perintahNya serta menjauhi laranganNya.

Semoga nikmat ini juga dapat dinikmati oleh peduduk negara-negara lain yang sedang atau yang kini berada di simpang pergolakan. Mereka juga ingin melalui hari-hari mereka dengan aman, tanpa digemparkan dengan bunyi bedilan mortar serta ratapan insan yang kehilangan orang yang mereka kasihi.

Negara secara zahirnya sudah merdeka. Tetapi adakah kita rakyatnya sudah benar-benar merdeka?

Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Slow reading

It's been over a month since I bought Bird by bird and I still haven't finished reading it. It's less than 300 pages long, but the American cultural references in it are beyond my knowledge making it a less than smooth sailing for me. Aside from than, I think it's an honest and wonderful take on writing, worth your time reading if you are looking for any good reasons to start writing and becoming a writer in your own right.

I hope I can finish it in a few days so that I can move other books as well my courses' list of required readings (i.e. the textbooks, notes etc.). I truly marvel at people who read their textbooks and course materials like it is a brilliantly written, life altering book that stirs your soul, lifts you from the ground and flies to you places foreign yet familiar and aquaints you with people strange yet comprehendible. I have yet to read a textbook that has that effect on me. But then again, textbooks are said to be written by brilliant people and if you really read your textbooks and do well in your studies that can lead to some sort of life altering consequences.

Perhaps that's why I'm never on the Dean's List or the Honour Roll or the list of nominees for the 'Student Who Shall Elevate The University's Name To Greater Heights Than Where It Already Is When He or She Graduates' Award.

Maybe if I boil my textbooks and...

Friday, 26 August 2005

"Jauh jawapan dari skema"

Oh tidak!
(Fuuka, dari Yotsubato!, terkejut besar)

Tentu pernah dengar peribahasa "jauh panggang dari api", kan?

Ini pula peribahasa baru yang tiba-tiba muncul dalam kepala saya semalam ketika pensyarah perakaunan saya sedang rancak membincangkan jawapan (atau lebih tepat lagi, skema jawapan) untuk ujian pertengahan semester yang diadakan Sabtu lalu. Satu peribahasa yang tak mungkin diiktiraf oleh DBP.

Tuesday, 23 August 2005

Them crazy days are over

The dust has finally settled. My cousin's wedding is over. My mini family reunion is over. My mid-term examinations are over. My convocation day is also over. Which means that my days as an undergraduate student are over. So are my days being around my comrades, trading anime, borrowing computers games and going out to mamak stalls for dinner. They too are no longer.

Time to return to life as usual. I have a presentation and term paper due as well as possible job offers and a class that I'm suppposed to teach on how to use Powerpoint but it seems to be postponed every time I asked about it that I wonder if there is going to be any class at all as the final examinations are just around the corner.

Anyway, congratulations to all IIUM graduates of the recent 21th IIUM convocation that ended last Monday on receiving your 'files' (instead of the usual scrolls, which I think is a good idea as it helps prevent the female recipients from getting their 'air sembahyang terbatal' due to 'accidents' involving the some Sultan's or male VIP's hands). The recipients on the first session were the lucky people who got to bow three times, in front of three royal dignitaries: the Sultan of Pahang (IIUM's Constitutional Head) and the Sultan and Sultanah of Johor, who were there to celebrate their anakanda's, the Puteri of Johor, graduation.

Everybody had a wonderful time, especially the parents and the parents of the award winners. I had the chance to meet some of old comrades like Mior and Che, and we talked for while. And as I left the campus grounds after the ceremony was over, my mind kept wondering when will I ever get to see my comrades again.

I think I'm gonna miss them crazy days.

Thursday, 18 August 2005

Good news, bad news #1

air mata air terjun
(A scene from Yakitate!! Japan, a hilarious anime about bread making.)

Good news: my accounting examination, the one that's slowly turning my hair grey, is postponed to Saturday morning.

Bad news: my cousin's getting married on Friday evening. In Melaka!

Sorry la, Abang Nasrul. Looks like I won't make it to your wonderful wedding. I've just earned some extra study time, but at the expense of not going to your wedding, where our pakcik-pakcik and makcik-makcik and cousins will be gathering. It's almost a family reunion, something we've haven't had in ages. Believe me, Abang Nasrul, that on the inside, I look like the picture above. I also hope that during your moments of joy, you could at least spare a thought or a supplication for your single cousin who will be grinding his brains trying to solve mind-boggling accounting problems while the rest of his family partake in generous spread of wonderful food that your family have kindly provided for all that are present on that day. I wish all the best of things for you newlyweds and may Allah bless both of you.

Tuesday, 16 August 2005

Quarterlife crisis

This never occured to me before. We've probably heard of midlife crisis, but quaterlife crisis? Apparently it's the transition stage that twentysomethings go through from after graduation to life in the "real world."

Ah. So that's why I'm feeling a highly displaced quantum entity in a sea of solid unknowns for the last few months. Or like the fly that accidently fell into the ice cube tray and ended up being frozen in the freezer.

Quarterlife crisis, eh?

Sunday, 14 August 2005

Exam week

Finally, they've arrived. My 'D-days'. Please pray for me and may God repay your kindness. Thank you.

Thursday, 11 August 2005

SD Gundam subjected to amateur photo shoot session

A relative of mine has just bought a digital camera. I'm trying it out and this is (one of) my first subject(s). It's a 2-inch tall plastic figurine of an SD* Gundam given to me a few years ago by my good chum, Muhammad Nasiruddin, who's now studying in UTM. All the best with your studies and project, mate!

As you can tell immediately, I have much to learn about digital photography.

*super deformed, as in cutely re-proportioned, or its Japanese term chibi

Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Hazy preoccupation

Malaysia is currently experiencing a haze that was caused by the fire in Sumatera. And it's slowly turning us Malaysians into Brits.

The British are known for their constant concern with the weather, so much so that it has infected their neighbours the Scots and the Irish as well, although to a somewhat lesser degree. They would talk about everything that other people would talk about, but they would never forget to add the subject of weather to the conversation. And if they have nothing in particular to talk about, they would always turn to the weather talk.

With the haze hanging in the air, most of us have gone British. The weather has become our main preoccupation for the past few days . Most of us are wondering when will the haze be over or it is safe to go jogging/power walking again or could the haze be responsible for the unceasing sleepiness that I seem to be suffering from lately especially during the day?

We may not talk as frequently about the weather as the Brits because our weather normally alternates between hot and wet only. The weather in Britain changes according to the seasons and that can have huge effects on their daily activities.

As for me, I'm inclined to believe that the weather has something to do with my inability to write anything for the past few days. But it's easy to blame something than to blame yourself. I do see a lot of people who are at the their normal production level, despite having the haze shrouding the atmosphere. Perhaps their noses have a special haze-filtering mechanism that prevents them from slowing down in doing their work. I wonder if I have it or not.

Let's hope and pray that the haze will be over soon, insya-Allah. (Now why do I suddenly crave a plate of fish and chips and warm cup of tea? Crickey, the haze's gone to me head!)

Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Al-Fatihah: Ahmad Deedat

Most unexpected news for me, but most certainly He has His own plans and reasons. Ahmad Deedat passed away yesterday, 8th of August. Al-Fatihah.

Thank you, TasTE Of LiFe and Profar, for the info and SMS message.

Many thanks

Without these people's help, I wouldn't be able to finish updating my layout. The title banner is partly the result of their effort.

Tom Coates, who created and shared the font Coates.ttf, which he created with his colleagues using Fontifier. Judi Seiber a.k.a. akkia, of Union, Ohio, for sharing the picture of my favourite thing to find on the table in the morning. The banner title and the picture of a lovely cuppa (I can almost smell it) was edited using The GIMP and hosted at Flickr.

My heartiest thanks to all of you.

Saturday, 6 August 2005

Read the labels

[ Acme Label Maker ]

Friday, 5 August 2005

Colour play

This is ultra-cool, a digital designer dream come true.

Play with the slidebars and see what colours matches with which. Almost endless inspirations for updating blog templates, finding background and font colours for Powerpoint slides or designing websites.

[ colorblender ]

Thursday, 4 August 2005

Online Islamic resources


Some of my latest findings during my recent Web-crawling hours.

Quranic recitations in MP3 and Real Media
A collection of digital recordings of Quranic recitations listed by the surah. You can select from a long list of reciters and hear various style of recitations.
MP3 Quran Online

Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Considered as one of the foremost and widely accepted source of Quranic interpretation and written by Ibn Kathir, the content of the kitabs are now available online for your research purposes. Tafsir Ibn Kathir

Quran and Hadith search engine
It's a Quran and Hadith search engine!

Sorted under: ,

Tuesday, 2 August 2005

ClearType Tuning

Do your eyes a fayour. If you're using Windows XP and you want to improve the readability of your monitor screen, then try ClearType Tuning.

Part of PowerToys for Windows XP, this small utility program is actually intented for LCD displays but also works fine on normal CRT (cathode-ray tube) monitors. The ClearType technology enables fonts to look as sharp on LCD displays as they do on paper. And I have the screenshots to prove it, taken from Garret Dimon's site/blog.

Before ClearType tune-up

After ClearType tune-up

There is also a wizard (not Mr. Potter, though) that helps you pick the best setting for your display.

Notice how smoothen out the fonts are? The contrast level is amazing, though fonts can appear a tad blurry depending on the setting you chose. I took me a while to get used to how things look now but it's the closest thing to owning a RM800+ LCD flat panel display, I reckon.

Very highly recommended.

Monday, 1 August 2005

Pausing moment


The arrival of a new week often makes me wonder what is coming for me in the following days. It also means that another week in gone off the semester calender and the mid-terms are near and I should be spending more time going through my notes and materials.

I'm planning to write a long post on a rather controversial subject and it's still in the draft state. Hopefully it will be out this week. It may also strike a few nerves with some people and for that I must urge all to look beyond what is written and instead dive deep into the ramifications of our decisions and actions, regarding to the topic that I will be posting.

It that a "hah?" I hear? Well, please look forward to it in the next subsequent days, insya-Allah.

Friday, 29 July 2005

Time is a treasure

An alim once told a student, time is a student's wealth.

This advice of course was directed to students (since students rarely have any property of their own) but it holds significance to every one of us. I once heard from my ustaz in secondary school that time is life. If you are wasting your time, you are wasting your life. Sounds a bit alarming, when you think of it that way.

Let us do our best to make best use of our time, for time past is time gone. Allah says in surah 103, Al-Asr:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

[103.1] I swear by the time,

[103.2] Most surely man is in loss,

[103.3] Except those who believe and do good, and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience.
Ulama says pay attention to the word 'and' being used, and not 'or'. To be successful we need to believe AND do good AND enjoin on each other truth AND enjoin on each other patience. We need to fulfill all the criteria before we can consider ourselves as no longer among the loss.

May Allah give taufik and hidayah to practice it and convey it to others, amin.


A time to be joyous

I've just received a wonderful piece of news. The daughter of my dearly departed neighbour, Pak Ad, is getting married tonight with the walimah to be held in our surau at 8 PM.

I hope to be there to not only celebrate the joyous occasion but to also honour the memories of a man who has taught me and watched over me all these years. May Allah place you among the pious and successful, Pak Ad, amin. Only He can repay your kindness to us all, the people who you've helped during your lifetime.

Thursday, 28 July 2005


What is it about papadom that I find so irresistible? Yesterday, we fried an entire roll of papadom and barely by the day's end I myself alone managed to finish about 5/8 of them.

The persons who taught me the wonders of this crispy delight are my Tok and Tok Wan. Papadom is a common item especially found in the kitchens of North Malaysia households. Sometimes when we go balik kampung, we the grandchildren would raid the kitchen for papadom. Then when meal time comes, Tok Wan would ask for papadom, since it is normally eaten with rice and lauk, and Tok would tell him to turn his head towards us. All the culprits would then smile back slyly at him like guilty foxes who cleaned out the chicken coop.

Wednesday, 27 July 2005

Busy facelifting and reading birds

It's been a while since this blog is updated. I'm not sure if anybody notices or not, but the template underwent a facelift of sorts.

Despite the opinion that I get from many people saying the colour white is boring and bland, I still can't find a colour that matches white's flexibility. It complements either light and dark colours and it improves readability on computer screen displays. A versatile and underappreciated colour white is, IMHO.

It took me many, many, many hours to tweak the template in order to get it to look like now but alhamdulillah it turned out better than I expected. I was about to give up half way when I couldn't the suitable colours to go with one another. It's times like these when I really wish I have a web colour chart with me so I can see and pick the suitable colours more quickly. I believe webmasters buy colour chart/poster/book/guide that lists all the possible colours usable on the web with their value to help them with their work. Colours are often represented in RGB (red, green, blue) or HSV (hue, saturations, value) values.

There are still design bugs here and there, maklumlah, a work in progress.

As a result, no posts were written for some time. That plus assignments and group works from my classes. My group is up for an accounting presentation this Thursday night and I'm the slides-preparer of the group, which is good because it frees me from having to present. I still have to go in front and help control the slides' transition, but still, better than having to present. My classmates are one tough crowd to please.

See bird, write bird

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'
-Anne Lamott
So goes the story behind this book's title. I found it at Pay Less Books in Ampang Point.

This the second book about writing that I bought and actually read. Books like these really open up a whole new world for you as they invite you to view writing in entirely different ways.

Got too much on your mind? Write them all out, they say. The children acting up? Mothers, the pen and paper are never too far from reach. Horrible childhood? According to writer Flannery O'Connor, anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life.

In short, they claim writing to be therapeutic, calming to the mind and spirit. It liberates oneself from hidden fears and unlocks the hope that is trapped somewhere in the psyche. And I'm beginning to see it too.

Usually the inability to come up with something to write stems from the fear of having to search into the mind and having to conjure up something unpleasant about one's self or others. The mind needs to sort the details out and rationalises the whole thing thoroughly, be it a school trip to Melaka (I think every school in Peninsula Malaysia do this) or a family tragedy or a thing that only you yourself know. It's a daunting and mentally exhausting exercise, and people rarely went through the process till finish.

But the payoff is both stimulating and satisfying. You'll be able to form a clear and concise train of thought and your communication skills will improve significantly. You'll see yourself, others and the whole world in a different light as your mind will continuously amaze yourself in its undying wonder and unrelentless pursuit for greater understanding of things.

Getting published, receiving rave reviews or clinching the best-seller list are just bonuses that may result from writing. But they should never be the true reasons for a writer to write. Otherwise the writer will miss out on the delicate but delectable fruits that bear from the patience, discipline and humility of being 'just another writer'.

Start small, the writing teachers often say. Scrap paper, the back of an envelope or business card or unused diary of years past can be used to get your writing engine started. And few lines every now and then is enough to get you going as a writer.

So go and write something, and get creative. Come up with a shopping list for your next shopping trip and write short anecdotes for each items if you can think of any. Mine would go: "Milk. A wonderful natural bounty. And it makes me wonder how lactose-intolerant baby cows cope with their intolerability..."

Not just that though, but don't just go unleashing your creativity everywhere. Your boss may not be too impressed by your jabs about the office's working condition that you so funnily (and accidentally) describe in the report you have prepared for him.

Be smart, be creative, be kind to your learning self, be patient, be crazy, be inquisitive. Anne's brother went writing bird by bird. Others may go from a short story to another. Or a diary entry to the next. I often go from scrap paper to empty space on a newspaper to whatever paper I may find at the moment when ideas struck inside my empty head. No matter what you wish to write on and what pace you may decide to take, just keep going and picturing that one day you will reap the bounties of writing that only you may be able to taste and enjoy. If anybody else wishes to savour them too, then tell them to "get a pencil and paper, and..."

" ... write whatever you feel like writing."

Saturday, 23 July 2005

A slacker's confession

In my class, most of the students are working people. Only a few are not working and in-between jobs. And there's me, the full-time slacker/'si penghabis harta orang tua.' Someone in my class offered a part-time job at her office but so far no news from her yet. The best I can do now is to give my service to my family as needed (or rather as required, according to Islam).

Actually I'm torn between two opinions: one camp is exhorting me to concentrate full time on my studies as I'm not in any financial difficulty and that I should try to graduate as soon as possible, while the other side is querying why I'm not working, serving the nation and contributing to the economy like the rest of the hard-working rakyat.

Yes, I understand all of their concerns, but let's not forget that in post-grad studies it's B and nothing less. Failing to achieve the minimum of 3.0 CPGA upon graduation means you've fail the entire course. Although getting 3.0 is sufficent, I'm hoping to get a better result than the just minimum. Coming from the engineering line as an undergrad, getting an A was quite difficult for me because I'm an uneven performer. Unless you score in all aspects like your quizzes, labs, mid-terms and finals, then A is dalam tangan. But me, usually when I score in some areas, I somehow manage to mess up in the rest. Like if I score in my quizzes and mid-term, I would usually mess up my final or my lab marks. And vice-versa. In this situation, an A (or A- or B+ for that matter) is galaxies away from my reach. And I hope and pray that I will do better in my post-grad.

I know there are others with bigger responsibilities than me who both work and study, but I've stop measuring myself against others years ago. Since then I've understand myself better and I'm less frustrated with myself. In fact, I work harder and rely less on others than before. Alhamdulillah.

As for other people, I salute you for what you are doing. Taking care of your own family while pursuing your studies. They even have specific reason for doing post-grad studies. From the few I've heard from: to get promoted, to switch to the managerial line, to join the government sector and one Mejar in my group took the course in order to get his child to study harder and to become a good role model (his child is now studying law).

Unlike most people, I haven't a clue on why I took the course. I don't know what to expect when I go out to the working world once I finish with this and I don't know what I really want to do. There's so many things to explore and discover, how can I make up my mind?

All I know is that most ustazs say that if we have the chance to study, then study. Study to the highest level that we can manage. That's my reason for doing course actually. To study and to do well, to the best of my capability.

So forgive me, my dear fellow rakyat, for being a liability and not an asset like all of you. I shall pay back all of you someday, but I still don't know when and in what way. Please pray for this slacker so that he could humbly be of your assistance in the near future, insya-Allah. He's a slow learner but he's trying his best.

Wednesday, 20 July 2005

Privacy matters

Recently I've created a stir among a few people when I asked them to not refer to me with my real name whenever online. I cited privacy reasons for the rationale of it.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study Computer and Internet Security as an elective in my final year as an undergraduate. It helps me understand a bit about the intricasy or complexity of maintaining order in wide, wild world of the world wide web.

One of the things that I learn from the course is privacy. Privacy in the computer and Internet security context is seen as others having access to information about us while we are holding the power to control who can get the information, how much information should given away, when and with our awareness and consent.

Privacy is a right. Yours, mine and everybody else's.

We can share things about ourself with others online, and as a blogger, that's one of the reason behind the blog itself. But remember, it is we who chose to write about ourself and to put pictures about say, our friends' wedding, our bundle of joy, or your imaginary pet whale. We write and post pictures about things we want to share with others.

But sharing also means exposing ourself to not only the people who we know but to strangers as well. Thus, it is important for us to put an extra thought about what we post. Even in real life, we only share certain things with certain people.

When it comes to privacy, it's best to maintain a certain level of anonimity. We want people to know us, but not everything about us, especially about our private life. And how do we do that? Here are just some of the many suggested practices:
  • Don't easily give away our email addresses, real address, phone no. or credit card no. to untrusted parties.

  • Many sites and services requires you to at least give our email address upon registration and next thing we know the inbox is flooded with spam (unwanted junk mail). What to do? Open a special email account for sites and services registrations and use it exclusively for that purpose. Yahoo! Mail and GMail comes with (more than) 1 GB inboxes, plenty of space to trap those pesky spams should they find their way to our address.

  • Always read the agreement whenever signing up with any sites or services. The good news is most sites and services nowadays are against spam and pledge to not reveal information about you to party (yeah, they hate spam too).

  • For really sensitive and private email messages, try using encryption.

  • When we surf online, we leave a digital trail that gives away the sites that we visited which indirectly tells others about our online activity, preferences, what we buy and so on. If you prefer not to be tracked, you can surf using Anonymouse or Anonymous Browsing. Bloggers who blog about serious stuff and want to stay anonymous would want to try onion routing (blogging about sensitive issues has gotten people fired from their jobs and in some cases, jailed).

  • Try Googling yourself (use quotation marks like "your name here" for a specific name/phrase search). See how much of you is online. If nothing turns up: THAT'S GREAT!

  • Do you know that when we post or display our email online there are web bots ('robots' in the form of software) that crawls the Web looking for email addresses and collecting them for unknown parties? For a safer (and fancier) way to display an email address, try PrivacySig.
Anonimity can help fight against threats like identity thefts, where our personal information is used by other people masquerading as us to do things that like hacking or using our credit card to buy things online and making us pay for it; and invasion of privacy, where information about us are being divulged without our permission (sort of like being paparazzi-ed, but less glamorously).

There's no reason to stop we have been doing all these time which is telling people about what's going on with us in our blogs and so on. Just remember to be extra careful about what we say, how much, when and to whom. We should keep in mind about the privacy of others as well.

Blog safely and surf safely, everyone.

Friday, 15 July 2005

"Never sell your soul"

Carly Fiorina made headlines when she was appointed as CEO of HP (Hewlett-Packard), one the biggest computer and IT company in the world, in 1999. It catapulted her into the limelight as one of the most influencial women in corporate America and she was chosen 6 years in a row as Fortune magazine's most powerful woman in business.

As CEO, Fiorina made some drastics decisions regarding the company's direction including the highly debated HP-Compaq merger. I was personally affected by the decision since my laptop was still under warranty at that time and suddenly I had to go from the old service center in Jalan Semangat/Jalan Bersatu, PJ (near the Colgate factory in Section 14) to the new one currently at Bukit Damansara.

She made headlines again earlier this year when she was asked by the board to resign after seeing the company performing inconsistently under her control. She parted ways with HP with a cool US$42 million in severance payment package.

Since then she mantained a low profile and shied away from the media radar. She finally made her public appearence recently on May 7 at the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University where she delivered a speech at their graduation ceremony. Calling it her 'Mother's Day gift', she shared with the audience her experiences rising up the corporate ladder as a woman and probably for the first time some clues on how she really feels about her ousting from HP. This is one of the final parts of her speech:
Most people will judge you by what they see on the outside. Only you and God will know what's on the inside. But at the end of your life, if people ask you what your greatest accomplishment was, my guess is, it will be something that happened inside you, that no one else ever saw, something that had nothing to do with outside success, and everything to do with how you decide to live in the world.
Earlier she mentioned:
For 25 years, when people have asked me for career advice, what I always tell them is don't give up what you have inside. Never sell your soul because no one can ever pay you back.
How I wish speeches at Malaysian university/college convocations are like this. My thanks to The Buck Stops Here for posting the transcript.

Wednesday, 13 July 2005


stock.xchng is one of my favourite spots on the Net. It houses a huge collection of stock photos for both commercial and non-commercial uses. I go there because I love looking at beautiful photos and the fact that I don't own a digital camera.

I was there not so long ago, scouring its archieve for a photo for a photo-editing project. While I was there, I found some photos of signboards sent in by people from all the world. These are some that really caught my attention, and they are a 'sign' that the world is one big funny place. Or at least, that's how I see it.

Most signboards are hanged or mounted. But this one is left floating on the sea's surface in order to serve its purpose.

Due to the rising number of accidents involving mosquitoes, the local municipal council decided to put up this signboard.

"Oh, people, come on! Have a heart..."

Can't seem to find the summit you're trying to climb? Try turning right.

Some people simply like to make generalizations about everything. And a number of them ended up working as signboard makers.

That Wednesday feeling (?)

Actually, there isn't such a thing. It's the same on any given day. The feeling that resulted from having some time on your side, but after spending too much time thinking about how to spend it that in the end you're left with only a little amount of time, which is the actual condition that you were trying to avoid in the first place.

Plenty of time is nothing if it is not properly-managed and spent. And as any management text would suggest, management begins with planning.

Planning is crucial but it should be done swiftly and effectively. If the planning itself has already taken a large chunk of the allocated time, you'll get the feeling that I've mentioned earlier. In the Islamic syura (mutual consultation) concept, more time should be given to the task, not the meeting, discussion or plannning. Even the Japanese practice the same principle in their industries and managements.

I'm not sure where I got this but it does echo a deep truth about our lives.
Yesterday is gone and will never return. Tommorrow might not even come at all. All you have is today.

GTD goodies

While we are still on the topic of management, I'm happy to share with you some good stuff that I've amassed during my early morning Net-surfing today.

Earlier, I've mentioned about the book Getting Things Done (GTD) and how profoundly it has affected the thinking or viewpoints of many people and businesses. Some helpful people including the author himself have visually illustrated the system in diagram forms.

The original chart is shown below (click on it for larger view) and you can also download a PDF version of it. It can be a bit tricky to make sense in the begining but it's real beauty can be fully appreciated when it is running in full swing, according to the thousands who swears by it. I myself am still figuring how it works but judging from the enthusiasm shown by these people, I also might become a GTD sytem adopter in the near future.

There's also another more colourful and more advanced version of the GTD flow diagram also in PDF, by Scott Moehring.

But if text is more your thing, then read Matt Vance's wiki on GTD. It pretty much covers the basics of GTD without glossing over too much on the detail. Or better yet, grab the book from a library or bookstore (just don't forget to pay for it) and go straight to the source.

With that, I wish everyone: have a nice day and a productive life. Insya-Allah.

Sunday, 10 July 2005

Week wrap-up

Busy, busy week. Busiest period of my life for quite some time.

Graphics grokking with the GIMP

Earlier in the week I was asked to design a logo for a sports club of a department in a government agency. Okay, I replied, give me a few days and I'll see what I can do.

Later, I got in front of PC and started playing around with my graphics software. I tried to couple of this and that and 10 minutes later, voilà!: I finally realized that I'm a complete graphics noob. My knowledge of graphics manipulation and editing is actually next to nothing.


I'm using GIMP 2.2, which is an excellent piece of software, by the way.

A noob like me needs all the help he can get. And as Carey Bunks would say, I need to grok graphics and the GIMP.

Grokking the GIMP is a book and website by Mr. Bunks himself. The book covers the basics on how to use GIMP as well as concepts related to graphics and photo editing. The book's entire content is available online and it's even downloadable in .tar.gz archive format. .gz is an archiving format similar to .zip that Window users often use, except .gz is more oftenly used in Unix and Linux.

But what is grok or grokking, anyway? In the introduction to the book, the author wrote,
The title of this book, Grokking the GIMP, is drawn from Robert A. Heinlein's classic science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land. His story is about Valentine Michael Smith, the only survivor of the first human expedition to Mars and raised from infancy by Martians. The rescue mission arrives twenty years later to bring a young man knowing nothing of his own kind back to earth. The story recounts his repatriation and his adventures as he comes to grok the human race and his place in it. Grok, a word he often uses, is the Martian word meaning ``to drink,'' but which also serves as a quasi-religious metaphor in the Martian culture for having a profound appreciation and understanding for something.

Heinlein's book, published in 1961, drew immediate acclaim in the science-fiction world, and the story became a part of the iconoclastic cultural sentiment of the 60s in the United States. Today, the word grok is a part of the U.S. computer hacker vocabulary, and its definition can be found in The New Hacker's Dictionary.
After some 'grokking around', I managed to do the below: a drop-shadow effect for the patterned square. Nothing nifty, but it's a start.


Classes commenced

Last week was also the first week of class, and there were surprises in store for me.

First of all, everyone was given a name-stand-thingy to be placed in front of them so that the lecturers can recognize them. Not only for the first class or the first week or the first month, but for the whole semester. Other surprises were pleasanter: post-grad students do not have to collect their ID matric card from the designated office, they GIVE you your ID matric card in class. Even the library bar sticker used for borrowing books was pasted on by them.

Did I mentioned that there is coffee/tea/Milo-making machine in the classroom? Sweet.

The people in my class are nice and helpful and come from all walks of life. Engineer, lecturer, insurance people, manager, government servant, Omanese, Thai, Eritrean, Bangladeshi, fresh graduates, not-so-fresh graduate, etc. A lovely bunch.

Looking forward to the rest of the semester.

'Death' at Kinokuniya

Over the weekend, my friend Nasir from JB was in town. While waiting for him to arrive later in the afternoon, I stopped by Kinokuniya to kill some time. And this book caught my attention. Maybe its the "decides to die" part, or maybe because it's penned by Paulo Coelho, author The Alchemist and the recently released, The Zahir.

I read the whole first chapter and about 0.5% of the second. I can see why Coelho is one of the most celebrated writers at the moment and this is my first time reading any of his works. One of the smoothest wordsmith I've met so far.

In the book, Veronika takes a trip from living to a brief death (a failed suicide attempt actually) and back to life again. In the process of killing herself with pills, Veronika encounters questions about things around her that are stilll unanswered making her think hesitatingly about dying. Slowly life unravels herself before her and she realizes that everything happens for a reason. Including why she didn't die, although I haven't got to the part yet.

I haven't saved enough money to buy it and donations are welcomed. :)
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