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Saturday, 27 December 2008

Aku Terima Nikahnya (tajuk sebuah buku)


(Tolong jangan salah faham.)

Buku ini sentiasa mencuit hati sesiapa yang melihatnya dengan tajuknya yang hehehe. Penulisnya ialah Ustaz Hasrizal dari saifulislam.com.

Buku ini kini tidak ada dengan saya kerana sedang dipinjam. Kata Kak (isteri sepupu saya), Bestseller ni!

Bestseller atau tidak, saya sifatkan buku ini sebagai sebuah buku yang sangat perlu ditulis. Dan perlu sangat dibaca oleh sesiapa yang sedang atau bakal menempuh alam pekahwinan. Ustaz Hasrizal berkongsi pengalaman beliau sebagai suami seorang doktor yang berusaha sedaya mungkin untuk mengimbangkan kesibukkan berdakwah dan bekerja dengan masa untuk bersama anak-anak dan masa berdua dengan isteri.

Saya teringin untuk mendengar komen golongan yang sudah lama berkahwin, 7 atau 10 tahun ke atas, tentang buku ini. Setakat ini mengikut reaksi yang diperolehi dari alam 'Net, yang muda-muda kebanyakkannya mendapati Aku Terima Nikahnya sebagai panduan yang sangat berguna. Saya juga teringin melihat sebuah buku susulan, pengalaman Ustaz membesarkan anak remaja dan alam rumahtangga pada peringkat ini.

Kepada yang sudah berumahtangga, bacalah dan amalkan. Yang belum, bacalah dan siapkan dirimu. Semoga berjaya mencari keredhaan dan kebahagiaan, amin.

Seteguh Tekad

Tahun 2008 mungkin satu u-turn untuk saya sebagai pembaca. Saya ingin untuk mengurangkan membeli buku dan melebihkan membaca apa yang sudah ada/dibeli.

Proses ini sedang berjalan. Saya membelek-belek senarai buku-buku yang saya ada. Beberapa tahun yang lalu saya jadi tergerak untuk membuat senarai ini dan alhamdulillah ianya amat membantu.

Apa kata senarai tadi? Masanya sudah sampai untuk saya membaca Seteguh Tekad oleh Cikgu Sidek Baba.


Ya, saya tahu pada kulit depannya ditulis Prof. Dr. Sidek. Apasal saya dengan selambanya memanggil beliau dengan panggilan Cikgu sahaja? Sebab di dalamnya Cikgu Sidek menulis, "Aku amat senang dipanggil cikgu daripada panggilan Dr. atau Profesor."

Buku ini mengubah pandangan saya terhadap beliau. Selama ini saya ingat beliau merupakan seorang ahli akademik yang tipikal, yakni punya rekod akademik yang cemerlang dari peringkat sekolah lagi (mungkin jenis yang dapat A dalam semua mata pelajaran?). Tidak semudah itu buat Cikgu Sidek.

Pertama sekali beliau terpaksa menempuh halangan kemiskinan. Bapa Cikgu setakat bekerja kampung. Perbelanjaan sekolah termasuk yuran bulanan sekolah Inggeris dikumpul dengan bantuan ahli keluarga lain. Cikgu kemudiannya terpaksa berbasikal berpuluh-puluh kilometer kerana tak lagi mampu membayar tambang bas. Di sekolah, Cikgu Sidek perlu memahami pelajaran dalam Bahasa Inggeris. Peralihan ke sekolah aliran Inggeris cukup menduga kecekalan beliau.

Saya benar-benar tak menyangka yang Cikgu asalnya seorang cikgu sekolah. Dan satu lagi perkara yang saya tak sangka, beliau juga pernah mengulang peperiksaan Higher School Certificate (HSC) beberapa kali. Selepas lulus dengan baik, beliau menyambung pendidikan ke IPSI (sekrang UPSI), UM dan kemudiannya ke Amerika Syarikat pada peringkat pasca-graduan.

Sebagai anak seorang bilal, didikan agama yang Cikgu terima mendorongnya untuk bergiat aktif dalam aktiviti dakwah. Usaha-usaha beliau berjaya menarik ramai pelajar untuk mendekati Islam serta mendalaminya. Cabaran besar buat Cikgu ialah apabila di Amerika Syarikat, di mana pelajar Malaysia yang Muslim terbahagi antara yang mengamalkan Islam dan menjauhi Islam kerana cenderung ke arah kehidupan Barat.

Kisah Cikgu Sidek, pada pendapat saya, adalah sesuatu yang lain daripada kisah ahli akademik yang lain. Beliau tidak menjadi usia, kesibukkan berkeluarga atau penguasaan Bahasa Inggeris yang lemah sebagai halangan untuk meneruskan pelajaran. Semangat ini yang amat kekurangan dalam diri saya ketika ini. Insya-Allah, sedikit demi sedikit, saya cuba untuk meniupnya hingga kembali marak.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Malayan Trilogy


On 4th September 2008, siti nuraishah commented,
Interesting book. Why don't you write a longer review?


Well, siti, thanks for your comment. I only learned about it last week. Sorry about that. I'm afraid it got buried in time. One features missing over here is a way of see all the comments made.

I don't quite have the skills to write an actual book review. Book reviews are hard to write. It involves reading while paying attention to things that work and don't work, the facts about the book and other things. I'm still struggling to string words together to come up with a complete sentence, let alone a review. The best thing I can offer you is my 2 cents' worth.

The Malayan Trilogy is 3 books in one: Time for a Tiger, Enemy in the Blanket and Beds in the East. They are based on Burgess's experience a British officer in pre-Merdeka Malaya.

Many have speculated that Burgess might have channeled himself through Victor Crabbe, the novels' idealistic British Officer. Burgess had confessed his fascination with Malaya, its people and culture through some interviews later in his life. While in service here, Burgess learned Bahasa Melayu and mixed around with the many races, which is a very unsual behaviour for a colonial officer. Crabbe's wife Fenella wants to go back to England more than anything and his colleague Nabby Adams longs for India, a country to where his heart belongs.

The first book, in my opinion, is the funniest (they're all wickedly funny). It reminds me of sitcom episodes where the characters are skulking around, hiding secrets from others and seem to have something to lose. The second and third books hint at impending dooms, where Crabbe will soon face an adversary and something horrifying from his past. Despite being a trilogy, there are not many elements that connect the three books together, other than Crabbe and things that involves him. Burgess also says that all the books take place in different states.

The books are not for the easily-offended and Malaysian who feel strongly about their race. Burgess lays all the racial prejudices that we Malaysians have towards each other right on the tabletop. There's no escaping it. As a Malay, I myself am both amused and ashamed at Burgess's potrayal of the Malays. But they're quite true, to some extend. For instance, Burgess writes about Malays then who are casual drinkers, a claim I've heard couple of times already but still unable to verify.

It's astonishing how sharp Burgess's observations are. I thought he couldn't have just been here for several years only and wrote something like this. It's like he had lived here all his life. If there's any indication of what Burgess thinks of Malaya it might be hinted in the dedication. I think it's wonderful that the publisher has opted to retain the dedication in its original form.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Memoir Seorang Guru


Perkenalan saya dengan tulisan-tulisan Azizi Abdullah ialah melalui novel beliau yang sangat terkenal sekitar tahun 80an, Seorang Tua di Kaki Bukit. Mula-mula cuma menonton adaptasi dramanya di TV1. Saya cuma ingat dari drama tersebut saya belajar istilah "M.C."

Kali kedua saya tersua dengan Seorang Tua di Kaki Bukit ialah dalam majalah Bujal. (Ada siapa masih ingat?) Ada sebuah artikel di dalamnya tentang sengatan lebah. Penulis bertanya kepada pembaca, ingatkah babak di dalam novel Seorang Tua di Kaki Bukit di mana watak pak cik tua tersebut diserang lebah madu liar? Dari situ saya belajar yang lebah madu pekerja hanya boleh menyegat sekali seumur hidupnya. Akhir sekali saya membaca novel tersebut, yang saya pinjam dari perpustakaan pejabat ibu saya (kalau tak silap).

Dalam novel Memoir Seorang Guru, beliau membawa pembaca ke dalam kotak fikiran seorang guru pesara dari Kedah yang dilanda ribut perasaan apabila anaknya Kamariah ditawar menjadi guru.

Bapa begitu keras dalam pendiriannya yang Kama patut mencari kerjaya yang lain. Kama dan orang lain menganggap yang sepatutnya Bapa gembira kerana anak tunggalnya bakal menceburi bidang tugas yang sangat mulia, tugas yang Bapa sendiri pernah jalankan.

Dilemma serta keributan jiwa Bapa menjadi plot tunjang novel ini. Melalui imbasan pengalaman, Bapa bercerita apa yang terjadi semasa Bapa masih bergelar guru, menjadi pendidik kepada murid-murid yang bernama Alias, Sakinah, Midun dan Mohd. Dhuha.

Watak Bapa banyak mengingatkan saya kepada beberapa orang guru saya, khususnya masa sekolah rendah. Saya rasa kebanyakkan orang pernah bercikgukan orang seperti Bapa, angin satu badan 24/7 (atau 24/5, jika ambil kira hari sekolah sahaja). Mereka guru yang baik, mungkin pendekatan mereka ialah menakutkan murid-murid hingga mereka dengar cakap.

Jika saya ingat semula, ada beberapa guru saya yang berperangai luar daripada biasa. Ada seorang yang macam Cikgu Shaari (P. Ramlee dalam Masam-Masam Manis), masuk ke kelas kami dan 'berlayar'. Pada masa itu, kami pun macam anak murid Cikgu Shaari, cikgu sudah tidur, mari kita main.

Saya belum sedar yang pada ketika guru saya sedang mengajar saya, secara tidak lansung, tentang satu pengajaran yang penting. Sebagai kanak-kanak kita cuma faham yang orang dewasa patut bersikap mengikut peranan mereka. Seorang cikgu kena sentiasa berpengetahuan, seorang ibu kena sentiasa menyayangi anak-anak dan sebagainya. Dunia nampak lurus dan tersusun, tiada cabang-cabang atau simpang siur.

Cikgu Shaari saya mengajar saya bahawa manusia tak sunyi daripada menyimpang daripada matlamatnya serta peranannya. Saya tak pernah tahu kenapa Cikgu Shaari saya berperangai sedemikian, tapi saya pada umur sekarang dapat mengagak yang tentu ada sesuatu dalam hidup beliau yang mengganggu beliau hingga beliau bermimpi di siang hari di depan kami satu kelas.

Memoir Seorang Guru telah membuka hati saya untuk menerima guru-guru seadanya, sebagai manusia yang seperti saya juga, jauh dari kemaksuman. Jika cikgu-cikgu angin 24/7 serta Cikgu Shaari tidak muncul masa zaman kanak-kanak saya, mungkin kematangan saya akan lambat terbentuk. Mereka tidak sempurna, dan mereka telah mengajar saya tentang ketidaksempurnaan.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Yet another theme makeover

No, your eyes are not tricking you. This blog has just underwent another theme change.

The reason is to accommodate users who are still using 800x600 screen resolution. The previous one was a bit too big for that screen size.

This theme is modified from Salji Fuji by Our Blogger Templates. My many thanks to OBT for making a highly-customisable theme.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

How Flickr became "Flickr", and not "Flicker"

Flickr popularised the idea of naming web-based applications (web-app) by dropping the last vowel in the name. The idea has inspired other web-apps like Tumblr and Pixlr, to name just two. There's an interesting story behind how Flickr became "Flickr", a case of how good ideas are not always obvious.
Flickr’s branding was a lucky combination of good decisions and happy accidents. I really wanted to use a real word as the brand name – something evocative with nice connotations, but which would not limit what we could do with it.

After a few solid days of brainstorming, one of our advisors suggested “flicker” which we all liked... flickering candles, screens; it was very playful and open-ended.

But we weren’t able to buy the domain name flicker.com and were temporarily stumped for what to do. Caterina Fake, Flickr’s co-founder, suggested dropping the ‘e’ which I strongly resisted. I eventually gave in and was very glad I did. It turned out to be a stroke of genius, spawning a slew of imitators. The missing vowel came to symbolise innovation, ‘newness’ and the whole Web 2.0 movement. When people told each other about it, they would always pause to spell out the name “f-l-i-c-k-r” reinforcing the name and increasing the chance of recall.

Of course, the whole product embodied the brand – playful, open, powerful and participatory. From the beginning it had a very enthusiastic community and great press. In fact, Flickr still has never advertised and reaches over 50 million unique users per month.
Read the rest of the interview with Stewart Butterfield, Flickr's co-founder.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Photoscape lets you do nifty things with your photos

No Photoshop? No problem.


Photoscape
is a Swiss Army knife for your digital photos. It can rename multiple photo simultaneously, do basic touch ups, show your saved photo collections and do screen capture.

But what I really, really like about Photoscape is that it can combine different photos together as one photo, and split large ones into smaller parts.

Here's a combined photo I made using 4 different screen captures.


Photoscape might be limited in its set of functions, but very easy to use.


(The video from which I got the screen captures is below. High speed connection recommended. It's über-cute and educational, you might pick up some French.)

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Autobiography of Malcolm X


At the school I went to in my fourth and fifth form, we were allowed to decorate our desks. Any unobjectionable pictures, messages and so on (they must flat, of course) were allowed. We would arrange then on the desk the way we wanted and then cover them with a sheet of transparent plastic. Everyone did it except for a few boys who were living outside, not in the hostel like most of us. The girls generally went all out.

For my desk I had chosen a picture of Malcolm X I had printed out from an encyclopaedia CD-ROM. I knew Malcolm X as an American Muslim figure who got assassinated, nothing more. The truth was I wanted to appear clever. But even until I the end of schooling there nobody had ever asked me who he was and why I had his picture there.

I once saw a picture of him hung in backdrop of an Afro-American sitcom (I don't remember which show). It was supposed to be the living room of an average Afro-American family. What surprised me was that family in the show was Christian. I learned later that Malcolm X was actually famous and revered as a Afro-American activists. Earlier in his Muslim life he identified himself as a Black Muslim, a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI) and disciple of Elijah Muhammad, NOI's leader.

An ex-colleague told me to check out The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Read the chapter where he went to Mecca for Hajj and discovered that Islam is a religion for all colours. It'll be one of the most unforgettable books you'll ever read.

I have before talked the wonders of going to a book sale. It's kind of like going on a treasure hunt. In one such trip I found a copy of this book although was a bit ruined by moisture and uncareful handling.

It is a autobiography but not the true sense. Malcolm X was an extremely busy man. The book was put together with the help of Alex Haley, the author of Roots. Roots was made into a very talked-about TV mini series back in the 1970s. A few of my teachers in primary school told us about it. If your teacher had mentioned the name Kunta Kinte, yep, he or she was talking about Roots.

The book is tells the life of Malcolm Little, who later became Malcolm X, and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. Malcolm had chosen to disclose his wild younger days as a Harlem hustler and a burglar in Boston. He believes they play some part in the making of his future self. We are made of our good and bad pasts.

Malcolm found Islam in prison. He stolen a watch from a wealthy Boston home, a rare and expensive one, and took it to a shop for repairs. The shop tipped off the police and he was arrested when he came in to collect it.

Initially he rejected all kinds of faith. People even started to call him "Satan." (I don't know why but I find part very funny.) Through letters sent to him in prison, Malcolm's siblings told about a so-called true religion for the Black people. It is called Islam.

They spoke of a wise person, Elijah Muhammad, who would lead the Black to greatness. He taught the people that "the white man is the Devil." It's not hard to see how he won many supporters. Malcolm decided to write to Elijah everyday. Their relationship bloomed when Malcolm joined with Elijah and the NOI after being released, and was made a minister. Malcolm proved to an asset. He was articulate and persuasive. Many of the NOI temples owe their existence to his relentless efforts.

Islam warns against fanaticism, and NOI began to show symptoms of it. Malcolm sensed that things are not fine, not just the way NOI functioned but the way top NOI people treated him. It was much worse than a cold shoulder. Whispers had reached his ears that a few people want him dead.

Then came the part my ex-colleague talked about, his Hajj. In those dangerous days, Malcolm turned to Allah for help. And Allah summoned him to the Haram, the holy cities. He met some trials before he was allowed into the Haram, including having to prove to the authorities that he is an actual Muslim. In those days, an American Muslim was almost a paradox to some people. However, trials proved to strengthen his beliefs and opened his eyes to the universality of Islam.

Throughout the book, Malcolm speaks widely about the Afro-American's condition. He was a believer in the "white man is the Devil" doctrine and went all over the country to teach it. But the Hajj and the trip to several African countries he took afterwards changed his world view. He believed that Islam is the solution to the racial problem.
I remember one night at Mudzdalifa with nothing but the sky overhead I lay awake amid sleeping Muslim brothers and I learned that pilgrims from every land — every color, and class and rank; high officials and the beggars alike — all snored in the same language.
My ex-colleague was right; this book had grabbed me and have yet to let me go.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Speed up your PC's boot time with Startup Delayer

In case you aren't following the latest tech news, allow me to update you. Developers are currently working hard to make the PC boot up (start up) quicker.

Long boot time is a common PC problem, especially for older PCs. When the PC boots it will load the OS to get it working. But that's not all. At boot time other programs are also loaded, e.g. anti-virus software. It depends on the setting of the programs, some are designed to start during boot time. The more programs you have starting at boot time, the longer it takes of your PC to boot fully.

Some people, if their PC takes 5 minutes to boot up, they would go fix themselves a cup of tea or even do their laundry and later come back to their completely booted PC. Unlike them I have a patience-deficit problem. That's why I'm glad to find something like Startup Delayer.


Startup Delayer is a great way to speed your boot time. It works by allowing you to set how long should program's start up time be delayed. I chose 5 minutes for most of my programs and in about 1 minute I'm able to use my PC. I couldn't believe it at first, my 4-year-old PC fully booted in just 1 minute.

There are other ways of speeding up the PC's boot time, but I find Startup Delayer to be a flexible solution.

[ In Age of Impatience, Cutting PC Start Time (NY Times) ]

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Siapa yang mendapat faedah daripada nasihat?

Menasihat orang. Oh, sungguh berat bab ini.

Saya tak gemar memberi orang nasihat, tapi kadang-kadang oleh sebab kerja, orang cari saya.

Saya rasa berat sebab kadang-kadang nasihat yang bagi itu pun belum tentu saya mampu mengamalkannya. Pernah Encik rol kata kepada Encik rol, ko amik la nasihat-nasihat bernas ko tu dan sumbatlah masuk ko punye @#$% sendiri! Pandai sangat mengajar orang. (Masa tu tengah marah kat diri sendiri.)

Memang senang untuk diam sahaja atau menyuruh mereka yang datang untuk memikirkan jalan penyelesaian sendiri. Kita pun menimbun masalah serta kekurangan, apa layak kita nak membetul atau membantu orang lain?

Nasihat itu perkara yang penting dalam agama Islam. Bahkan agama itu nasihat. Agama juga adalah untuk semua; orang soleh mahupun orang sesat. Semua perlu pada agama, dan nasihat.

Bolehkah lari dari memberi nasihat? Kalau macam saya, memang kerja yang orang cari untuk rujuk dan dapat nasihat? Mungkin tak. Sudah tanggungjawab. Berat pun kita kena cuba pikul.

Saya jadi lega sikit bila saya ingat balik nasihat orang alim tentang nasihat. Kata mereka:
Orang yang mendapat faedah daripada nasihat bukanlah yang menyampaikannya atau yang mendengarnya, tapi yang mengamalkannya.
Sekarang nasihat Encik rol kepada Encik rol, anggaplah nasihat yang diberi itu adalah untuk diri kita. Dan cubalah amal mana yang mampu.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The Invisible Girl.


This is not the sequel to The Invisible Man. This is actually the book I referred to in the previous post. 

The girl is Debbie Barham, a.k.a. D.A. Barham. Peter Barham wrote this book to honour the memory of his daughter who passed away in April 2003 at the age of 26.  Anorexia nervosa was her life-long battle.

People tend to see anorexia nervosa as 'the skinny girls problem.' Like addiction and other psychological illnesses, anorexia nervosa is never just about the illness itself. Treatment must include exploring the personal issues that could actually be the driving factors behind the illnesses. 

In this book, Peter argues that her daughter's struggle has to with her shyness, her torn-apart family (Peter and Debbie's mother got divorced when Debbie was nine months old) and her fragile relationship with mother. In school, Debbie couldn't fit in. She relied on her talent to get herself out of it. She sent jokes to radio shows under the name D.A. Barham. They were really good that the radio people that they were sent in by some middle-age, pub-frequenting bloke. Emerging from within this painfully shy schoolgirl is a dynamite comedienne and writer. 

With the money she earned from her writing, Debbie sought independence and a career. She steadily graduated to the next level, writing for TV. Before she even realised it, she was sitting in the rooms and having meeting with the titans of British TV comedy including Clive Anderson, Bob Monkhouse and Graham Norton. (I only know Graham Norton because I recognise his name from The Graham Norton Show.) Everything looked like they are moving in the right direction.

Everything except her illness. Debbie had lost any desire for food and couldn't retain them. Anorexia nervosa leads to many kinds of nastiness: damaged teeth, ulcers on the scalp and feet, brittle bones and nails. Patients are often found to have parents with high expectations, a fault Peter admits to. I learned that confronting them aggresively is highly discouraged because the patient might refuse to cooperate in order to gain power over the situation. 

The most striking part of this book in my opinion is the article Debbie wrote on matricide (the act of killling one's won mother) titled Matricidal Mayhem. Peter believes that Debbie channeled her real feelings about her dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship into it. She disguised them using her razor-sharp wit and passed the whole thing off as another one of her brutally sarcastic essays.

This is a very insightful book about a disease I rarely think about. I do feel that I would better understand Peter's feelings and message once I have daughters or children of my own. In the meantime, I hope learn from Peter's mistakes and not repeat them with the existing people in my life.

(Speaking of existing people, my dear eldest aunt passed away on Monday. She, God and I would greatly appreciate it if you could dedicate an Al-Fatihah to her. Thank you so very much.)

Monday, 27 October 2008

Bad way to give advice

Not very long ago an old friend from school told me that she could be anorexic. Her doctor said she's displaying the symptoms. Anybody who knows her would see this as no surprise at all. She's really, really, really slim. For her height.

I think I'm not the only one who's worried about her. Then I remembered that I have this book about an anorexic and I lent it to her. You'll relate to it, I said, wihtout telling her what the book is about and hoping that she wouldn't catch my hidden intention. Innocent lass that she is, she thanked me and took it home.

That was probably one of our last conversations. We didn't get along well after that. Showing up at her wedding was torturous. I feared the groom might come up to me and punch my lights out for having the nerve to tell his lovely bride that she hasn't enough meat on her bones. ("I didn't say anything! It was the doctor who did!") She returned the book shortly before the event. Her silence about it was especially disturbing. It's either she never touched the book or the book touched her, in a hot iron sort of way.

No more advising people using books. I've learned my lesson.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

I broke the template

The old, red one. Irrecoverable damage.

Because I didn't back the template up. ARGHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*rol smashes head against computer table surface repeatedly*

So, how are you guys doing? Long time, eh?

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin, semua

Ramadhan ini mungkin antara Ramadhan yang sukar untuk saya lupakan. Banyak pengajaran dan pengalaman yang saya dapat. (Pahala? Aduh, tak tau la...)

Semua yang membaca, maafkan saya jika ada sebarang kesilapan. Jika kata-kata ada walaupun sekadar mencalar perasaan kalian pun, saya mohon maaf. Hati dan lidah saya masih tebal bersalut noda-noda dosa, sukar untuk saya menulis/bercakap benda yang baik-baik dan bermanfaat macam orang lain. Segala apa kesilapan kalian terhadap saya, saya maafkan.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Selamat berpuasa di bulan Ramadhan 1429H

Semoga amalan kita lebih baik daripada Ramadhan-Ramadhan terdahulu, dapat bertemu Lailatul Qadar dan diterima Allah SWT. Amin.

In a Sunburned Country


Australia memang sebuah negara yang unik, kerana banyak sebab. Salah satunya ialah Harold Holt.

Harold Holt?

Beliau merupakan bekas Perdana Menteri negara pulau tersebut. Yang pernah hilang. Maaf, yang masih hilang. Beliau menjadi PM pada tahun 1966, memerintah Australia untuk kira-kira setahun, sebelum pada penghujung tahun 1967 beliau pergi berenang di sebuah kawasan perairan bernama Portsea di mana tidak lama selepas itu beliau dilaporkan hilang. Gerakan mencari dan menyelamat yang terbesar dalam sejarah Australia gagal menjumpai walaupun mayat Holt. Dua hari selepas pengumuman tentang kehilangan Holt, kerajaan melantik John McEwen sebagai penggantinya.

Apa yang menarik tentang kisah Holt ialah bagaimana ianya hampir-hampir dilupakan oleh rakyat Australia dan hampir-hampir tidak diketahui oleh dunia luar. Inilah antara perkara yang menarik Bill Bryson untuk menulis In a Sunburned Country.

Buku ini membawa pembaca pengembara ke hampir serata Australia, dari outback yang luas terbentang ke bandar-bandar moden seperti Canberra dan Melbourne hingga ke tarikan semulajadi seperti Uluru (nama asal Ayers Rock.) Bryson menulis berdasarkan pembacaan beliau mengenai sejarah Australia dan pengalaman beliau sendiri.

Antara perkara yang sering kali diingatkan oleh Bryson dalam buku ini ialah banyaknya haiwan-haiwan berbahaya yang ada di Australia, sama ada di darat atau di air. Buaya air masin Australia memang antara yang pemangsa akuatik yang paling buas, kebuasannya sukar ditandingi spesis-spesis buaya lain. Sebilangan besar ular-ular yang paling berbisa di dunia berasal dari sini, tak termasuk haiwan berbisa lain seperi labah-labah, kala jengking dan obor-obor kotak (box jellyfish). Namun rakyat Australia seakan lali dengan segala bahaya dan ancaman di sekeliling mereka, pada pengamatan Bryson. (Bryson yang nampaknya lebih risau.)

Tarikan Bryson ialah pada penulisannya yang bersifat humor dan agak sinis, diseimbangi fakta-fakta dan petikan daripada buku-buku terdahulu tentang Australia. Beliau juga turut menulis tentang sudut-sudut gelap Australia seperti ketibaan warga Eropah dan menyingkiran rakyat pribuminya yang dijalankan secara sistematik dan kejam.

Gabungan aspek positif dan negatif ini menjadikan In a Sunburned Country bacaan yang mengasyikkan. Buku ini diterbitkan pada tahun yang sama dengan berlansungnya sukan Olimpik di Sydney.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Business cards: a way of looking at KM


Back in grad school I had the option of either doing a thesis or take up 2 elective courses. At first I decided to do a thesis, and one of my teachers suggested I look into knowledge management (KM). I read up on the subject, hoping to find an area to narrow down to as the thesis's topic. I even went to an architectural firm to see if my ideas were researchable.

But the thesis never materialised. Time was limited and decided to just take the safe route. I signed up for two elective courses, business law and organisational change. I did not do well in either courses, but I did learn a lot.

At about the same time the school decided to introduce KM as a compulsory course. We were the first batch of students to take it. When the final results came, it seems that KM is not a very easy course after all. I was one of the lucky few who did well, and I owe to God because He pointed towards KM long before the others had even had any idea about it. The failed-to-materialised thesis was a blessing in disguise. I had a head start compared to the rest of the class. (I did felt like I was cheating a bit.)

So what is KM anyway? The textbook we used lists down at least a dozen definitions given by various experts.

The explanation I often use nowadays is that KM is about three main things: acquiring knowledge, sharing knowledge and using the knowledge. KM is a fascinating field because it is widely talked about while its actual definition is still being debated.

Some definitions tend to be more of IT-centric, suggesting the use of intranets, e-learning and content management system as KM approaches. Another school sees KM as technologically-independent, meaning KM can be applied without the use of high technology. Some even argue that companies do KM, but they just don't call it KM or even realise that it is KM. The discussion goes on.

One of the reasons why is a sticky subject is the way knowledge itself is defined. Here I'm referring to knowledge in the business context, knowledge in the workplace. The textbook I used describes knowledge as, "understanding gained through experience or study."

Another reason why KM isn't appealing for some people is because it proposes the notion that knowledge has a life cycle. Just the like bread and other food in our kitchen, knowledge will become obsolete at some point. Of course, let's remind ourselves that we're talking knowledge in the workplace and not knowledge in the general sense.

I find myself struggling with this too. We Muslims see knowledge as something that is divine and tawheedic. It is something that guides Man in his journey to the realm of the Hereafter. Picturing knowledge with expiration dates stamped on them doesn't seem right to me somehow.

However, recently I manage to see this point when I went through my collection of business cards given to me by friends and associates over the years. KM talks about knowledge that can useful for business. Not everything we know is useful. Here's what I discovered:
  • a trading company that my former classmate once set up. Today it's no longer in business
  • a friend's old business card, an employee of a medical supplies company. Since 2006, he's working somewhere else
  • another old friend. Still with the same company, but already promoted to a higher position.
At least 3 of the business cards need to be discarded. They are no longer useful. (I can still keep them if I want to make my wallet look thick.)

This may not be the greatest example, but it helps show why KM matters. Businesses need to look into their so-called knowledge stock, and see what's useful and what's not. This is more related the knowledge use part of KM, but KM is far wider than knowledge use. KM itself is broad and emerging (i.e. still developing) field that is both interesting and confounding at the same time.

How many business cards you need to discard from your wallet or purse?

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Kids = sponges

I just came back from seeing one of favourite people, my 1-year-old niece Mizzy. She's just invented a new way of pronouncing my name. Clever gal.

Mizzy's such a fast learner. She'll pick up anything. I heard from somewhere that kids this age are like sponges so we ought to be careful what we show and teach them. And they're always eager to share with others what they've learned. It's probably us who are not quite prepared for it.

All this reminds me very much of a story told by Australian writer Catherine Veitch to her friend US travel writer Bill Bryson. This one is from Bryson's book on Australia, In A Sunburned Country.
In the 1950s a friend of Catherine's moved with her young family into the a house next door to a vacant lot. One day a construction crew turned up to build a house on the lot. Catherine's friend had a four-year-old daughter who naturally took an interest in all the activity going on next door. She hung around on the margins and eventually the construction workers adopted her as a kind of mascot. They chatted to her and gave her little jobs to do and at the end of the week presented her with a packet containing a shiny new half crown.

She took this home to her mother, who made all the appropriate cooings of admiration and suggested they take it to the bank the next morning to deposit it in her account. When they went to the bank, the teller was equally impressed and asked the little girl how she come by her own pay packet.

"I've been building a house this week," she replied proudly.

"Goodness!" said the teller. "And will you be building a house next week too?"

"I will if we ever get the f***ing bricks," answered the little girl.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Al-Fatihah buat S. Othman Kelantan

Minggu lepas, salah seorang daripada penerima anugerah Sasterawan Negara, S. Othman Kelantan (novelnya Juara telah difilemkan oleh U-Wei Saari sebagai Jogho), telah kembali ke rahmatullah. Al-Fatihah.

Saya dapat tahu tentang pemergian beliau daripada seorang teman sekerja, yang juga anak saudara beliau. Kata teman saya masa dia kecil dulu dia dan adik-beradik sering menyerbu rumah allahyarham yang penuh dengan buku. Sampai ke siling.

(Saya pun ada pak saudara yang macam tu, tapi dia garang... Tengok ja, tak berani usik. Tapi sejak saya jadi 'tua', saya pun faham perasaan pakcik saya... sikit-sikit.)

Monday, 21 July 2008

(Apa sudah jadi?)

(Hanya buat yang mereka yang sudi peduli, berikut adalah apa yang telah terjadi kepada saya:)

(Ada sikit hal di tempat kerja. Tekanan? Ya. Tapi syukur alhamdulillah, keadaan semakin baik. Saya pun ada silap dalam"sikit hal" ini. Kata orang, teruskan hidup dan belajar. Dalam bab kerja, saya mengaku, saya sangat hijau. Masih banyak yang perlu saya belajar.)

(Baru habiskan buku ini. Dulu saya pernah mencarinya. Tapi tak jumpa. Sebab ia diharamkan. The Long Day Wanes adalah judul bagi versi pasaran US.)

(Saya tak syorkan buku kepada sesiapa yang mudah terasa kalau bangsa Melayu digambarkan secara negatif. (Bangsa lain pun ada kena juga.) The Malayan Trilogy adalah 3 buku dalam satu: Time for a Tiger, Enemy in the Blanket dan Beds in the East. Tentang seorang pegawai Inggeris, Victor Crabbe, dan masyarakat asal dan asing Malaya sekitar tahun-tahun menghampiri Kemerdekaan. Buku pertama agak lucu dan sinis, buku kedua sungguh suspen (siapakah dia di dalam selimut itu?) dan buku ketiga mempunyai rasa macam ada benda buruk nak berlaku (dan memang berlaku pun).)

(Sungguh mengagumkan, sungguh mendalam pemerhatian En. Burgess tentang fiil orang-orang berlainan bangsa di sini. Beliau pernah menjadi pegawai pendidikan dan pernah mengajar di MCKK. Tapi macam saya cakap tadi, kalau mudah terasa, tak payahlah terus baca apa saya nak tulis. Buat bengang aje. Ada ke En. Burgess ni bagi nama tempat nama-nama tak berapa sopan macam Tahi Panas dan Kenching? (Negeri kelahiran saya diberi nama L_nch_p. (Isi tempat kosong sendiri.)) Tapi abang-abang, kakak-kakak dan adik-adik, ini novel satira. Walaupun banyak benda yang tak berapa enak di dalamnya, Malayan Trilogy merupakan karya seorang yang nyata telah menyelami kehidupan bumi Malaya. Dalam beberapa temuramah, Burgess pernah berkata yang beliau ada terlintas untuk masuk Islam; dan mempelajari Bahasa Melayu telah mengubah cara beliau berfikir. Allahua'lam.)

(Hard disk saya... telah gagal berfungsi. 3,4 tahun punya fail-fail luput menjadi bit-bit yang tak bermakna. Saya tak berjaya mencari puncanya dan terpaksa memformat. Benda kalau nak jadi, sekejap ja. Bi iznillah.)

(Semoga Allah mengikhlaskan hati-hati kita dalam bekerja. Kebelakangan ni, saya banyak kena uji dalam bab ni. Takut jugak...)

Sunday, 22 June 2008

A Naruto chapter to remember

The latest chapter of the Naruto manga really hits me at the core. In it, Naruto is grieving over the death of his teacher, Jiraiya.




I know that feeling...


Naruto and Jiraiya in happier times.

Naruto chapter 405 will be noted as one of its most memorable chapters, IMHO. (At least by me.) Well done, Kishimoto Masashi-sensei.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

What's your kid's name again?

I am a horrible uncle to my friends' children.

I am single and surrounded by people, married people, who blessed with their bundles of joy. There's this baby delivery express train going about and making stops at my friends' houses. It's one baby after another, almost like a chain or something. Amazing. Oh, and this train also make stops at relatives and cousins' houses too. So things like this can happen.

Me: Thanks for the call. Give my salam to your kid, Fulan-fulan.

Friend: But my kid's a girl. Fulanah-fulanah.

Me: Oooohhhhhh...right. Yep, yep. Fulanah...Lovely name, by the way.


Oops, wrong kid. And wrong parent.

It's back to Facebook and Friendster and blogs and other whatnots, to go have a really good look at the pics of my friends' kids, proudly posted by their parents.

To my dear friends, and cousins, with new born kids, whose kids I got their names wrong, Uncle rol is deeply sorry.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Merantau ke Deli

Pembikin drama Melayu sememangnya suka dengan tema lelaki menikah banyak. Mungkin sebab mereka terlalu terpengaruh dengan filem Madu Tiga. Berlambak-lambak drama serta filem tentang poligami yang sudah (dan mungkin sedang?) diterbitkan hinggakan dalam dunia drama tempatan ianya seolah-olah satu genre tersendiri.

Filem Madu Tiga bolehlah dikatakan sebagai sebuah cerita yang berjaya mengimbangi antara komedi dan nasihat. Walaupun kita ketawa tengok En. Jamil kena kejar dengan ketiga-tiga bininya, sedar atau tidak itulah yang turut berlaku dalam kehidupan masyarakat, terutamanya akibat berpoligami mengikut hati dan nafsu.

Perkahwinan bukan sekadar menemukan dua manusia lelaki dan wanita. Ianya juga membawa dua hati yang berlainan untuk saling mengasihi antara satu sama lain. Pertautan dua hati ini bukannya sesuatu yang akan berlaku sehari semalam, bahkan bertahun-tahun pun belum tentu dua ini akan menemui titik percantuman yang membentuk apa yang dipanggil satu hati. Kata ulamak penting untuk suami dan isteri untuk satu hati, sebab dengannya barulah anak-anak beroleh tarbiyah.

Pokoknya, peranan hati dalam rumahtangga amat besar. Begitu juga dalam soal poligami, hati juga menerima kesannya, baik dan buruk. Namun malang sekali, kisah tentang hati sering dipinggirkan dalam drama-drama lelaki menikah banyak. Kesian hati.

Sekadar pandangan saya, para pembikin drama genre lelaki menikah banyak, cubalah baca buku Pak Hamka berjudul Merantau ke Deli. Ianya sebuah kisah tentang sebuah rumahtangga yang teruji akibat poligami, poligami yang jenis jujur dan terang-terang dan bukan yang jenis sembunyi-sembunyi atau yang 'merantau' ke Siam. Dalam terang-terang pun poligami boleh berakhir dengan duka, apa lagi yang bukan.

Pada awal pertemuan mereka, Leman berjanji pada Poniem kesetiaan tak berbahagi. Kedua-duanya orang susah, berkerja sebagai kuli dan peniaga kecil. Leman mengajak Poniem berkahwin dan bersamanya mencuba nasib di negeri baru. Poniem yang sebatang kara setuju.

Sebagai isteri, Poniem berbuat apa yang dia terdaya untuk membantu suami maju dalam perniagaan. Tak cukup dengan dorongan dan layanan, barang kemas miliknya pun turut diberi akan modal Leman bertambah. Seperti mana-mana isteri pun, Poniem ingin melihat suaminya Leman berjaya.

Kalaulah perkahwinan itu ibaratnya bahtera, adat bahtera dilambung gelombang. Tatkala perniagaan Leman mula maju dan namanya mula disebut-sebut, muncul cubaan besar yang tak diduga buat pasangan suami isteri muda ini. Leman orang Minang, dan adat orang Minang harta mesti disalurkan kepada kaum perempuan dalam keluarga. Isteri dan anak perempuan. Poniem pula asalnya Jawa, satu perkara yang kurang disenangi oleh kaum kerabat Leman. Demi menyambung dan menyanjung adat mereka, Leman mesti beristerikan orang Minang. Seorang anak gadis Minang dari kampung dicadangkan mereka kepada Leman.

Ini kisah seorang suami yang dianjurkan oleh kaum kerabatnya supaya bernikah lagi seorang. Bukan dia yang pergi cari. Tetapi poligami tetap poligami. Ianya hanya akan terjadi jika si lelaki yang hendak. (Setakat ini baru sekali saja saya dengar kisah benar lelaki yang terpaksa berpoligami dan dia buat demikian atas sebab-sebab yang munasabah.)

Sebab buku ini tak panjang, saya tak ingin mendedahkan lebih lanjut tentang jalan ceritanya. Cukuplah dengan apa yang sebut tadi, yang buku ini lebih kepada cerita hati-hati yang terlibat dalam poligami. Perasaan mereka dan peristiwa-peristiwa yang selalunya timbul akibat poligami yang tidak diurus dengan adil serta mengikut lunas-lunas agama. Merantau ke Deli adalah sebuah kisah yang sarat dengan perspektif tentang hidup berpoligami serta dikarang dengan penuh rasa ehsan dan belas khasnya terhadap wanita-wanita di dalamnya. Disyorkan khusus kepada mana-mana suami yang berkeinginan untuk bernikah lagi.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Currently enjoying: Architecture Inside Out

Boy I wish I had someone like Prof. Tajuddin back when I was in school.

Prof. Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasidi writes a fortnightly column in the Sunday Star, Architecture Inside Out (AIO). AIO is an immerse guide to the world of architecture, discussing the ways it affects the lives of people and the impact it can make religiously, culturally and historically. Prof. Tajuddin's engaging explanations and his ability to link relevant issues with architecture makes this column something to look forward to every other weekend. He has tackled things from the proper design of a home (he contends the house should be able to grow with family) to the design of mosques (spanning several instalments.)

If you haven't been reading it I suggest you start here. Trust me, you won't see architecture the same way again.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Competency

How often do hear this word at your workplace?

Been looking at a lot of stuff regarding this for some time now, and it's starting to me make wonder about my own level of competency.

From what I gather (without going too deep into the technical definition, discussions etc.), competency is what an employee is capable of.

Performance, on the hand, is what the employee actually does and achieves.

The details are lengthy and the actual stuff are at the office desk, not with me. Now I see why competencies don't count when our performance is being evaluated.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Resit beli barang

Diskaun terhebat, hanya di kedai Pak Sood.

Monday, 19 May 2008

From Gutsy to Hardy

I waited for 24th April o8. Why? Because it was the release date for Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron.

But I missed it. Too many things to take care of and do. I waited and read about it at blogs and websites.

The Ubuntu I first installed was 7.10, a.k.a Gutsy Gibbon. Ubuntu has an interesting way of naming its releases. The figure 7.10 stands for year 2007 and month of October, the time it was released. The code name is especially amusing, it follows the form of an adjetive and an animal. Warty Warthog for release 4.10, Breezy Badger (5.10) and Dapper Drake (6.06). It makes it easy for people to talk about a specific release without having to remember numbers.

Upgrading from Gutsy to Hardy was done via download. A notifaction icon appear via Update Manager, telling me a new release is available. It took a few hours, leaving me with ample to pray to God that nothing terrible will happen.

Alhamdulillah, downloading the update went well. Except for a few minor hiccups, I amazed at how easy and smooth everything went.

Overall, I wish there are significant changes to report. But mostly the changes are internal, and they make Ubuntu feel more stable. That's a good thing. I also feel it's somewhat user-friendlier a bit. They've added a new CD buring software called Brasero, but I don't have a burner so I can't test it out.

The minor hiccups, one in particular, was the change in the resolution of the login screen. It was big that I couldn't see where to type my username and password. This led to a few seconds of panic. I solved the problem by switching to a less prettier-looking Debian login screen, which fits my monitor's resolution nicely.

Like I said just now, Hardy is a solid release, one that I makes me feel more confident to recommend to anyone interested in Linux or Ubuntu. If you're installing from the installer CD (that you can order for free but remember to sign up first), there's WUBI. WUBI is probably the easiest way yet to install Linux, it makes the installation process similar to the way we would usually install any new program in Windows. Neat!

One thing I'm waiting for though, a change in Ubuntu overall look. The one now is a bit too brown and orange-y. Earthy maybe the word, but how's about more colour scheme options, yeah?

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Working Muslim

There's an amusing line I read from a career development blog: "8 jobs before turning 32." Heh. I'm halfway there already.

My new job is starting to look up. Not that's a downer to begin with, but we get into that awkward first few months where we stagger along our roles, expectations and so on. It's not easy, especially when your boss is someone you know before you work for him. But give it some time and insya-Allah things will slowly fall into place.

I also got a lot advice about work recently, including on the intention of working. We do know that finding a halal means of living is commanded in Islam. In the same way, we are forbidden from stealing or begging or any other form of evil or dependency anything other Allah.

And that's the tricky part, to work with our hearts depending on Allah. Our alim ulama says that Allah hides himself behind this world to test our faith. Who will believe in things and beings and who will believe in Allah himself. Do we see that our company is handing out money to us on pay day, or it is Allah gracefully bestowing just a tiny portion of His infinite wealth?

If we believe that our sustenance is from Allah, then we must try our best to obey Him and not provoke His displeasure. We work with sincerity, not for recognition, wealth or anything else. Because of Him only.

Of course, that takes a lot effort. Such belief doesn't appear in our hearts magically. It's up to us to remind ourselves and other constantly, and be careful of anything that may tarnish our sincerity. Work is ibadah if we perform it with sincerity and remembrance of Allah.

Where am I in my own sincerity, I have no idea. But may He help me and us all, amin.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Vets Might Fly

The 1940s. A war is brewing. James Herriot, like a lot of his compatriots, is summoned to defend the country, as a air crew member of the Royal Air Force (RAF). In crazy times like these, even vets must fly.

This is his 5th book chronicling his days a veterinarian in the Dales of Yorkshire's Darrowby. So far Herriot has survived Darrowby's farmers, pet owners and of course, animals. But how would he fare in a training stint with the RAF?

Making the situation more unsettling is the fact that his wife Helen is pregnant with their first child.

Vets Might Fly seems like a story of how Herriot coped with the training and the then ongoing war. He endures the days in training by reminiscing the times when he still in Darrowby, injecting sick dogs with medicine, castrating bulls when asked by their owners and treating cows that communicate their pain and discomfort by kicking.

Being under the strict order of the army also drives Herriot to a bit of mischief. When he got moved to an area near Darrowby, he secretly snuck out to see Helen. Luckily, he did not got caught. And soon later, he was allowed to go home when his son little Jimmy Herriot was born. He grew up to a veterinarian like his father, and even wrote a book on him.

More on Herriot in the war in the next one, Vet in a Spin.

Monday, 5 May 2008

The return of MS Office (into my life)

I'm one frog that's been sitting under the coconut shell for far too long.

I've been OpenOffice exclusively for nearly 2 years. In my new job, I'm reunited with ol' MS Office, now the 2007 version. And what's this? The "ribbon" interface.

A lot of things come to mind when I work using the ribbon. One is feeling impressed at how much improvement MS has added to its aged office productivity suite. It's certainly looks cool too.

On the other hand, this definitely changes the learning curve. Finding ways to do things like adding tables and formatting the text may take users some time. (Or maybe it's just me.) Familiarity is important because it helps with intuitiveness.

One thing I dislike about Office 2007 though is the difficulty to get it to save file in older formats like Word 2000, for example. But this the same with OpenOffice, where it saves your work in its default format unless we specify otherwise. However, with Office 2007, I had to dig deep into the options to find and enable the 'Save As' function. This is not the way to score points in terms of user-friendliness.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

By the Sea


Apabila Rajab Syaaban, seorang bekas warga Tanzania dari Pulau Zanzibar tiba di UK, dia berpura-pura tak tahu berbahasa Inggeris. Tujuannya ke negara bekas penjajah itu ialah untuk menyelamatkan dirinya daripada ancaman bunuh dan memohon suaka politik.

Pihak yang menguruskan hal ehwalnya tiada pilihan selain daripada mencari seorang penterjemah, sebaik-baiknya seorang yang datang tempat yang sama. Orang yang mereka cari dan akhirnya jumpa ialah Latif Mahmud, seorang pensyarah dari London. Latif bersetuju untuk menolong.

Latif ada sebab tersendiri untuk menolong. Rajab Syaaban adalah nama ayah kandungnya. Dia ingin berjumpa dengan orang yang sudah mengambil nama ayahnya, yang juga mungkin orang yang dicari-carinya selama ini.

Jangkaan Latif ternyata benar. Dia merupakan saudara jauh Latif melalui perkahwinan. Seperti Rajab, Latif juga sudah meninggalkan Zanzibar, mutiara Lautan Hindi yang dari berkurun zaman dulu tak putus-putus dikunjungi pedagang dari serata dunia. Bertahun-tahun sebelum itu, beberapa peristiwa telah berlaku di desa mereka di Zanzibar yang menyebabkan keluarga Rajab Syaaban yang sebenar musnah. Latif percaya Rajab Syaaban palsu ini puncanya. Mereka berdua sebenarnya terkait dalam satu siri tragedi yang bermula puluhan tahun lampau di negara jauh dari pulau kampung halaman mereka.

Seperti yang tertera pada kulitnya, tema By the Sea ialah pemilikan. Tentang bagaimana pengkhianatan dan fitnah boleh memutuskan pertalian silaturahim antara ahli keluarga serta kepedihan menerima hakikat pahit mengenai orang yang dicintai.

Sebahagian besar kisah ini ialah mengenai bagaimana Latif dan Rajab (palsu) sama-sama mencari punca pangkal tragedi yang telah menimpa mereka berdua. Mereka bercerita tentang apa yang mereka tahu, faham dan sangka. Cerita mereka membawa para pembaca ke Tanzania, Jerman, Oman, UK, Iran dan, seperti yang saya ada sebut dulu, Tanah Melayu.

Watak-watak dalamnya ramai yang Muslim, jadi penulisnya Abdulrazak Gurnah banyak menyebut tentang solat, puasa serta membaca Al-Quran serta peristiwa seperti Israk Mikraj dan Aidilfitri kerana bagi ini semua perkara-perkara dalam hidup Muslimin. Saya rasa Abdulrazak tidak bercadang untuk menulis sebuah novel Islamik, tetapi lebih kepada novel yang berlatarbelakangkan Muslimin dan Islam. Tapi ini sekadar pendapat saya sahaja, belum tentu betul.

By the Sea berjaya menarik minat saya untuk meneroka buku-buku Abdulrazak yang lain. Adakah yang lain juga akan seindah (dan sepilu) yang ini?

Buku ini beberapa kali merujuk kepada cerpen Bartleby the Scrivener oleh Herman Melville, penulis Moby Dick. Jika berminat bolehlah membacanya di sini.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Che di Pesta Buku

Pesta Buku KL 08. Tak sangka. Punya penuh sesak dengan orang. (Patutkah finding yang mengatakan rakyat Malaysia hanya membaca 2 buah buku setahun dikaji semula?)

Tak cadang nak pergi, asalnya. Tapi malam sebelum tu ada kawan telefon kata anak dia yang tengah cuti baru lepas operation teringin nak pergi, tapi takda kawan. OKlah. Pergi dengan syarat, lepas Zohor kena balik, saya ada kerja.

Anak kawan saya rupanya seorang yang peramah, teman yang tak mengecewakan. Kami merayau-rayau je lebih, sebab tak cadang nak beli sangat. Gerai-gerai yang penuh orang kami tak masuk.

Kami berhenti kat kedai Penguin. Anak kawan tunjukkan saya Martin Luther King pada muka depan sebuah buku tentang tokoh-tokoh dunia. Sebelah dia?, saya tanya. Mandela. Nelson? Nelson Mandela.

Yang seorang lagi? Ada tiga gambar. Anak kawan tak kenal.

Fidel Castro, kenal? Ni kawan dia, Che Guevara.

Kami selak ke halaman 200 lebih, bab tentang Guevara. Baca kat situ je sebab harganya mahal.

Lepas Zohor kami balik, dengan buku yang lain.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

This year's?

Girl from Class F. Guy from Class A. Girl has crush on guy. Girl confesses to guy.

Guy rejects.

Girl is speechless.

Guy explains.

Everyone is speechless.


Could Itazura Na Kiss be 2008's Lovely Complex? :)



Friday, 4 April 2008

I feel like a force-bathed kitty

Sometimes.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

An excerpt from The Children's Story

The name James Clavell takes me back, 20 years or so. He's the guy who wrote sagas like Tai-Pan, Shōgun and Noble House. I never read those but I did watch the miniseries/movies (Dunhill Double, anyone?). I still remember Bryan Brown Richard Chamberlain in Tai-Pan Shōgun in a scene where he got captured by the Japanese and was thrown in huge hole and then they poured "air siang ikan" over him and his comrades. I thought if I were him at that time I'd die there and then from excessive puking.

(Was it Bryan Brown in Tai-Pai with the Chinese, or Richard Chamberlain in Shōgun with the Japanese?, I can't remember exactly who was it that got poured with fish-entrails-water. Anyone, help, please?)

Clavell did write something besides lengthy sagas, one in particular is The Children's Story. The excerpt below is taken from The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America, a book detailing the rise and design of the modern US education system. It's mostly findings and evidences, but a part seems to call out to me is this one. Maybe because it's Clavell. I'm not sure.

Anyway, please read on and ponder. I'll leave you to your own conclusion.

It was a simple incident in the life of James Clavell—a talk with his young daughter just home from school—that inspired this chilling tale of what could happen in twenty-five quietly devastating minutes. He [Clavell] writes: “the children’s story came into being that day. It was then that I really realized how vulnerable my child’s mind was—any mind for that matter—under controlled circumstances.” Some excerpts from the last pages of this remarkable book follow:

“Sit down, Johnny, and we’ll start learning good things and not worry about grown-up bad thoughts. Oh yes,” she said when she sat down at her seat again, brimming with happiness. “I have a lovely surprise for you. You’re all going to stay overnight with us. We have a lovely room and beds and lots of food, and we’ll all tell stories and have such a lovely time.”

“Oh, good,” the children said.“Can I stay up till eight o’clock?” Mary asked breathlessly.

“Well, as it’s our first new day, we’ll all stay up to eight-thirty. But only if you promise to go right to sleep afterward.”

The children all promised. They were very happy. Jenny said, “But first we got to say our prayers. Before we go to sleep.”

The New Teacher smiled at her. “Of course. Perhaps we should say a prayer now. In some schools that’s a custom, too.” She thought a moment, and the faces watched her. Then she said, “Let’s pray. But let’s pray for something very good. What should we pray for?”

“Bless Momma and Daddy,” Danny said immediately.

“That’s a good idea, Danny. I have one. Let’s pray for candy. That’s a good idea, isn’t it?”

They all nodded happily.

So, following their New Teacher, they all closed their eyes and steepled their hands together, and they prayed with her for candy.

The New Teacher opened her eyes and looked around disappointedly. “But where’s our candy? God is all-seeing and is everywhere, and if we pray, He answers our prayers. Isn’t that true?”

“I prayed for a puppy of my own lots of times, but I never got one,” Danny said.

“Maybe we didn’t pray hard enough. Perhaps we should kneel down like it’s done in church.”

So the New Teacher knelt and all the children knelt and they prayed very, very hard. But there was still no candy.

Because the New Teacher was disappointed, the children were very disappointed.

Then she said, “Perhaps we’re using the wrong name.” She thought a moment and then said,“Instead of saying ‘God,’ let’s say ‘Our Leader.’ Let’s pray to Our Leader for candy. Let’s pray very hard and don’t open your eyes till I say.”

So the children shut their eyes tightly and prayed very hard, and as they prayed, the New Teacher took out some candy from her pocket and quietly put a piece on each child’s desk. She did not notice Johnny—alone of all the children—watching her through his half-closed eyes.

She went softly back to her desk and the prayer ended, and the children opened their
eyes and they stared at the candy and they were overjoyed.

“I’m going to pray to Our Leader every time,” Mary said excitedly.

“Me, too,” Hilda said. “Could we eat Our Leader’s candy now, teacher?”

“Oh, let’s, please, please, please.”

“So Our Leader answered your prayers, didn’t he?”

“I saw you put the candy on our desks!” Johnny burst out. “I saw you…. I didn’t close my eyes, and I saw you. You had ‘em in your pocket. We didn’t get them with praying. You put them there.”

All the children, appalled, stared at him and then at their New Teacher. She stood at the front of the class and looked back at Johnny and then at all of them.

“Yes, Johnny, you’re quite right. You’re a very, very wise boy. Children, I put candy on your desks. So you know that it doesn’t matter whom you ask, whom you shut your eyes and ‘pray’ to—to God or anyone, even Our Leader—no one will give you anything. Only another human being.” She looked at Danny. “God didn’t give you the puppy you wanted. But if you work hard, I will. Only I or someone like me can give you things. Praying to God or anything or anyone for something is a waste of time.” [all emphases in original]

Friday, 28 March 2008

Mengenali Abdulrazak Gurnah

Jarang saya menulis tentang buku yang saya belum habis baca. Tapi kali ini saya betul-betul tertarik dengan penulis yang bernama Abdulrazak Gurnah.

Abdulrazak Gurnah berasal dari pulau Zanzibar, Tanzania. Zanzibar dikatakan antara tempat (bukan setakat pulau) yang terindah di dunia, yang masih terpelihara keindahan semulajadinya.Tanzania juga mempunyai bilangan penduduk Muslim yang ramai. Saya pernah berbual dengan seorang junior yang berasal dari sana, dan masih ingat dia bersungguh-sungguh menunjukkan di mana letaknya Zanzibar di dalam peta dunia.

Tak banyak yang ditulis tentang Abdulrazak di Internet. Beliau pernah dicalonkan untuk hadiah-hadiah sastera Whitbread dan Booker pada tahun 1994 untuk novel ke–4 beliau, Paradise. By the Sea ialah novel beliau yang ke–6.

Saya harap beliau bukan daripada golongan mereka yang nama macam orang Islam, tapi bukan. Nauzubillah. (Semoga Allah selamatkan saya dan kita semua.) Tapi saya rasa tidak. Sebab isi By the Sea ada sedikit sebanyak menceritakan tentang Islam, aqidah, tentang Allah dan Rasul, bulan-bulan Hijrah, Israk Mikraj dan lain-lain. Dan ini baru bab satu dan lebih kurang 5% bab dua. Abdulrazak juga menyelitkan pelbagai maklumat dan sejarah tentang Zanzibar dan negara-negara lain termasuk Tanah Melayu. Tanah Melayu diceritakan melalui watak Jaafar, seorang saudagar berketurunan Parsi yang membuka sebuah perniagaan di sana. Antara perkara yang disebut ialah tersungkurnya kerajaan-kerajaan negeri satu demi satu di bawah 'pengaruh' British. Rasa terharu pun ada melihat sejarah negara ini disebut, kerana saya lansung tak sangka.

Insya-Allah, ulasan By the Sea akan menyusul tidak lama lagi. Saya harap.

(Sebab saya tak berani nak janji.)

Monday, 24 March 2008

Redhead

So this is what I do. I compensate for my lack of writing with a tweak in the layout.

Behold, a new header. Er, masthead? Banner? Whatever, it's the thing sitting at the top of this blog with the title in it. Sure, it's not the coolest in the world but I'm happy with and glad about it.

And it's in red. I tell you, red is not exactly my colour. You won't find me in public wearing red. If you do, you can safely assume I may be forced against my will to wear it. I don't hate the colour, I just think it's a bit too strong for me. In fact I find yellow, coral or peach more tolerable.

This whole red thing going on is actually my attempt at breaking out of my own box. I just hope nobody's eyes will get hurt in the process.

Anyway, credits should be where they're due. The thingy above was done using Inkscape, the wonderful open source the scalar vector graphics (SVG) editor. SVG is much, much smaller than JPG or PNG, making the header's size small and faster to load (I hope).

My gargantuan thanks to mulomen, the person who shares the SVG of the RAF 977E van over at the Open Clip Art Library. Great job, couldn't done this without it.

And a big bouquet of gratitude to SMeltery for the font Audimat Mono. Love it, and the other free fonts being offered too.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Get more PDF power with pdfsam

I once found a free PDF ebook that that is downloadable chapter by chapter. Brilliant, I thought. The whole book would probably take a long time to download. Then after I got all the chapters, I realised that getting them combined into a book would easier for keeping.

Before that I heard about a software that can combine different PDF files together, PDF Split and Merge (pdfsam). I tracked it down, downloaded it and put to work. Seconds later, the seperate chapters became a complete book.


To tell you the truth, I was sceptical about pdfsam the first time I heard of it. All I know was PDF is pretty much an airtight thing, i.e. there's probably nothing we can do with it besides opening and reading it. But pdfsam proved me wrong. It can also take out any page out of a PDF document and save it as another PDF document. The interface is simple to understand even for a first time user. pdfsam is an essential tool for anyone who works with lots of PDFs.

pdfsam requires Java for Windows to work, so make sure you've got installed first.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

A entry for the history books

I was thinking the same thing as some of the politico-pundits: the GE results would be shocking. But I wasn't sure whether it would a good or a bad one.

I consider myself as apolitical in my writings. I have my own opinions, but I only share them with people close to me.

It's now a day after the GE. Those In and Out have been named. The new government is taking shape. I'm grateful to God for an election that didn't end in bloodshed or violence.

Time to work, elected servants of the people. You have a lot answer for from now on. Million of eyes are fixed on you. Time to prove yourselves, put aside your differences and work together. All the best. May God help us in all our sincere endeavours.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Memoirs of a browser user, part 3

Thunder echoed from afar. A storm was coming.

We don't hear much about IE these last 18 months or so. IE 7 was released, and finally tabbed browsing included. But IE is still IE. It is still part of Windows.

Improve it has. IE finally earned some respect for introducing major improvements. IE 7 may be behind Firefox 2 and Opera 9, but it's slowly reducing the gap.

But these improvements appear at a very slow rate. Even Firefox and Opera's development cycle are much faster. What's the deal, some analysts asked. Microsoft is famous for being aggresive, but why isn't it showing teeth when it comes to IE?

Some speculate that Microsoft has set its sight on other things. Its video game venture has proved to be an applaudable success, pulling in millions each year. Its hardware sales —mice, keyboard, etc.— also proved to be another cash cow. IE was probably shown the backseat.

But rest assured it's far from dead. IE 8 is in the pipeline, and previews have been positive. It's said to be the most standard-compliant IE version yet.

As someone who once tried his hand at web design, I share their agony. You design your web page to appear a certain way, but once you open in IE it gets mangled. In IE, it looked slightly different. Earlier IE versions don't fully support CSS. Those of us who use CSS positioning to position things on our web pages had to work around the issue because if we don't IE would display the things out of place.

IE wasn't (and still isn't) a standards-compliant browser. The standards I'm talking about are the ones maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium or W3C. These standards include HTML, XHTML, CSS and DOM.The standards are very important because they allow the Internet to grow in a more guided direction. If there a more than one set of standards, the Internet be one massive chaotic mess. Browsers and website cannot understand each other. People will bite their own heads off.

I still use IE for testing purposes. If IE 8 is as good as they claim, I might use as often as I use Firefox and Opera. Other than these two, there are other Windows-based browsers worth checking out. Maxthon, like IE but way cooler (same same, but different.) Apple released its own browser, Safari, for Windows last year. Safari (the Mac version) is already known for being one of the best browsers around. And let's not forget about Flock, the so-called the social browser.

What's next for the browser scene? Possibly 3D browsers. But I think it would another a few years before they become mainstream.

In many other industries competition has waned down due to takeovers, mergers and a shrinking number of competitors. On the other hand, the competition between the Windows-based browser is just heating up. This is interesting because as I mentioned in the first part, these are free products going against each other. Revenues, at least direct ones, isn't a driving factor.

When a competition actually works, it can a beautiful thing. And as a user, I can certainly appreciate the beauty.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Memoirs of a browser user, part 2

The dragon is soon to be de-fanged.

I learned about Firebird and Opera from computer magazines. I tried out Opera first, because it has tabbed browsing.

Once you've tried tabbed browsed, you'll never go back. In fact, I dare you to go. You'll only make yourself cry.

That aside, it's honestly one of the best things ever invented.

Opera exceeded my expectations. It was fast and made very little fuss. It did crashed, but rarely. Opera is a browser that keeps getting better and better. I would consider it as one of the best engineered software at the moment. Many of its feature such as page zooming are ahead of other browsers.

Opera wasn't free at first. It was ad-supported. Users had to contend themselves with seeing banner ads in Opera's toolbar. The ad-free version is downloaded for a fee. Opera is made by Opera Software, a Norwegian company based in Oslo.

The ads in Opera concerned me a bit. So turned to Firebird, a hatchling in the browser market. Firebird also had tabbed browsing, but by then I was a veteran. Like Opera, it didn't gave me any major annoyances. Firebird was young but raring to go.

The name Firebird didn't stick for long. There was another software project named Firebird, a database management system. Earlier before that they named it Phoenix and that got them into a trademark dispute with software company Phoenix Technologies. So the people behind the browser finally settled for Firefox.

When Firefox first came out, I jumped for joy. I changed me, along with millions of other people. Never before I had the chance to customise my browser to my liking. Add-ons, like tabbed browsing, is something of utter ingenuity. The Internet browsing experience has been transformed.

Today, I'm happy with both Firefox and Opera. Firefox 3 is coming soon. Opera has gone gratis and ad-free since version 8.5. The two browsers have grown leaps and bounds.

The dragon laid silent. It stared into sky, wondering about the future. The sky looked dark.


To be continued...

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Memoirs of a browser user, part 1

I think the first browser I used was Netscape Navigator. This was back in the late 1990s, and it was going head to head with Internet Explorer (IE). Remember the browser war?

Browsers are free. As in they cost nothing. Gratis. Therefore, the war is not about how much money can be made from browser sales. It's about the percentage of usage.

IE became a market leader through a controversial strategy. Microsoft, the makers of IE, made it the default browser for the Windows operating system. Internet usage was still growing at this time, and many people didn't know any better. Only a few users went for Navigator or other Windows-based browsers.

Navigator grew, but sadly got obese. Netscape developed Navigator further and added more features to it, but performance did not improve much. It got too slow in fact. I was sad to see Navigator sink. Netscape is a company that will be remembered as a short-lived but revolutionary. It transformed the industry in many ways.

Microsoft was happy about this, undoubtedly. It wanted to be the #1 in many areas, and this was its chance to make IE the browser king.

Soon later new facts emerged about IE. Scary facts. IE is not only the default browser for Windows, but it is also part of Windows. There were reports that uninstalling IE would cause some critical bugs in other software. Without it, Windows and other software would refuse to work properly.

Then came worse news. Due to the fact IE is part of Windows, evil hackers saw this as a window of opportunity to attack Windows-based system. IE also uses ActiveX, a Microsoft-owned technology that was supposed to deliver more functionality and multimedia capabilities. Evil hackers use ActiveX to create malicious software (malware) like trojan horses instead.

(Hacking can basically be described as taking apart software —or even anything— to find any ways to improve it. It is not an 'evil' activity by itself. Hence the term "evil hackers.")

All these issues landed IE in trouble and eroded the user's confidence in it. It was no longer seen as secure. People needed security, and they began to look elsewhere.

Enter young sparrows, Firebird and Opera.


To be continued...

Friday, 29 February 2008

Jangan malukan roh dengan amalan buruk kita

Allah maha melihat semua amalan kita, tapi ada juga lain yang turut menjadi pemerhati.
Berkata Abu Darda' RA bahawa segala amalan orang yang masih hidup, telah didedahkan kepada roh-roh yang telah mati. Oleh yang demikian, apabila para roh orang mukmin yang melihat amalan hasanah (baik) anak-anak mereka dan kaum keluarga mereka, maka merasa tenang sekelian roh itu. Sebaliknya jika amalan buruk kaum keluarga yang masih hidup diperlihatkan kepadanya, maka merasa dukacitalah sekalian roh itu.

Apabila Abu Darda' diberitahu oleh Rasulullah SAW bahawa amalan orang yang hidup didedahkan kepada roh ibubapa dan keluarga yang telah mati, maka Abu Darda' RA berdoa kepada Allah SWT, yang bermaksud:

"Ya Tuhanku, aku bermohon kepadaMu, supaya Engkau beri kepadaku pimpinanMu, semoga tidaklah amalanku akan memalukan ibubapaku dan juga kaum keluargaku yang telah berada di alam barzakh."
Petikan dari Insan, Ingatlah!, oleh Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz bin Nik Mat.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Firefox too slow for you?

Speed is a big issue for Firefox. This well-featured browser has a lot of potential, but some people are still not using it because they say it's too slow. Nobody likes to crawl on the Net.

The story behind the why is a bit funny. And complicated. Firefox is actually designed to be fast. One of the ways to speed up a browser is to cache images and files. Caching is the storing of all the files that make up the websites we visit. Cache is a small part of your computer that the browser uses for storage.

Image files are often cached because they're often bigger than most other kinds of file. Caching image files would mean that the browser wouldn't have to download the same image file again and again when it needs to. The browser will get the needed image file from the cache instead. This is the same for other kinds of file, not just image files.

Conceptually, caching would make the browser faster. However, caching also uses up your memory (the RAM). Lots of it, actually.

And this will subsequently slow things down again.

Sounds like a contradiction, right? But like I said, the story is more complicated than that.

If you have a large RAM, maybe 512MB or higher, you'd probably won't experience the slow down. But if have a PC with a small memory, you might want to consider something else.

Like Opera. I love it. Opera is seriously unappreciated. It's fast and very user-friendly. In my humble opinion, it's one of the best designed browser right now (in some ways, even better than Firefox). See for yourself why many people are singing praises about it.

Still can't let go of the fiery Fox? Check out these speed-boosting tips (thanks, mudin!). All the best.

p/s: I use both Firefox and Opera, alternately.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Kulihat... merah

Saudara, saudari, blog ini bersalin lagi.

Bersalin kulit.

Harap yang pilihan warna ini tidak akan memudaratkan penglihatan saudara saudari semua. Jika ya, itu bukan niat saya. Saya minta maaf.

Sebenarnya saya geram. Saya geram sebab dah berpuluh-puluh kulit yang saya cuba, tapi satu pun yang melekat (di hati). Saya cuba itu, cuba ini.

Akhirnya saya kembali kepada pilihan yang ditawarkan oleh Blogger. Alhamdulillah saya masih ingat CSS sikit-sikit. Cuil sana sikit, cuil sini sikit—akhirnya kulit yang ini siap.

Satu lagi harapan saya ialah supaya blog ini akan dimuat dengan lebih laju.

(Saya berdoa semoga tidak akan ada rentina-rentina yang tercedera ketika melawat blog ini kerana blog ini tiada perlindungan insurans.)

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Terharu? Atau Malu?

Hanya walrus saja yang tahu.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Ava's Man


Ava's Man is Charlie Bundrum. To people around him, he's "Chollie" Bundrum. He nailed roofs to the top of people's house for a living. He also worked many jobs to feed his family. He fished and hunted for fun, and when food was not affordable to him. He knew the forests and rivers and streams like a ranger would. He needed to, because from time to time he would have to run from the police. Not because he was a crook, but because he illegally made and sold his own liquor. He drank of course, but never in his house in front of the children and wife. Same thing he did with cursing.

He was dashing man, but more than others he was blessed with the gift of gab. In men, that's a rare thing. He loved to talk. Stories would come out of him like water out of an unclogged tap. Everybody knows Ava loves Charlie because of this. A lot of men would return from work and wait for dinner quietly, but never Charlie. They are happy that way. Their happiness is further shared with their children, including Margeret, the silent survivor. Margeret's story was told in All Over but the Shoutin'. Margeret is Rick Bragg's mother, and Charlie is his Paw-Paw.

Ava's Man is my second Rick Bragg book. I love the first one greatly and consider it one of the best I've ever read. Shoutin' was a book I bought without any plan. I had never of Bragg. I just went to a sale one day and saw it lying the table. I opened it up and read the first page. He described something about seeing redbirds in flight. I couldn't understand much but I was sold. Then I saw Ava's Man in a nearby pile. I couldn't believe it. It was rezeki.

Charlie passed away a year before Bragg was born. Even if he never met Charlie in the flesh, he's convinced that the man is still alive. The way his family and relatives talk about him is almost as if he's out at the back minding his business by working his hands at repairing stuff or something. He's gone, but never far.

With the help of the surviving Bundrum clan, and folks who know Charlie, Bragg retraces the steps once took by a man who is himself nothing short of a legend. He was fast, they say, fast enough to be able to grab a squirrel in a tree with his bare hands. He drank and sold his own moonshine, and that brought all sorts of people to him. He taught some rude people a lesson or two in manners, and sometimes manners would come into people only after some of their blood got out. He let his fists or his gun talk for him at one or another, but this Alabama-Georgia in the era of the Great Depression. Sometimes talking plain sense makes no sense. Action, on the other hand, speaks volumes.

As larger than life as he was, what is most legendary about the man is his heart. Charlie was poor but he never turned down a plea for help.

For over a decade, even at Ava's disapproval, the Bundrums sheltered a man called Hootie. Hootie lived alone by river in a shack, and Charlie found him living alone when he went fishing there. He was a harmless, timid man and Charlie calls him son although Hootie is older than him. Charlie was like an angel to Hootie. Nobody understood with anyone would allow a strange-looking person like Hootie to live with them like he's family. Nobody, not even his daughters. But that's just Charlie.

Clearly he was dearly missed by all. He was the kind of man his daughters loved to be around, and modelled their future husbands over. When Charlie walks in a room, the babies in it laughed. Babies melted him, and softened the edges that make unscrupulous people stand well out of his way. Principles matter to Charlie. Being poor is no excuse to steal or beg.

Ava's Man is heartaching for me because Charlie reminds me so much of my deceased grandfather, who is himself a legend in our family. The two men share a few traits, and very much missed by the people they leave behind. They stand like giants —as flawed as they are human— their shadow loom over us. We look up to them, and we wonder how do they get so tall.
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