Monday, July 6, 2009

Misc 2007 Part II (from

Four books and no time

I am exasperated - as always, I think.

We are left with only about 14 more days in 2007 and while I am not a believer in new year's resolution and the likes, I can't help but feel that I am simply running out of time. Two weeks will fly by my very eyes, and by the time I realized it, they are all gone.

I am of course referring to my work load.

Dont get me wrong; I am not complaining that I have too much of them. After all these years of working as an independent consultant, having too much work is a nice problem to have. Anytime.

You see, three month ago I bought a book that caught my interest mainly because of my entry of unsolved equations (So you want to do a PhD?). The Equation That Couldn't Be Solved - How Mathematical Genius Discovered the Language of Symmetry, by Mario Livio caught my eyes. I became interested in this hearing the story of two prodigies who work independently on ultimately proving that quintic equation (to the 5th power) cannot be solved by simple formula.

The Equation That Couldn't Be Solved: How Mathematical Genius Discovered the Language of Symmetry

However, both died tragically young. One of them, a romantic Frenchman named Evariste Galois (1811-1832) was known to have written his treatise the night before a duel where he was destined to be killed - he was provoked to the duel (for wanting to help out a woman). In one version, it was reported that Galois had even written the circumstance surrounding him while writing his thesis. "I can see the sun breaking through; I know I only have a couple more hours to finish of this paper."

He had been writing his thesis all night, the night before his deadly duel!

Sad and tragic story. But I have not completed the book. The version above is the one I got from my partner Peter. I need complete break from everything to complete the book.

Then a former English teacher of this writer, knowing this former student of hers likes to write, send him a book entitled "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss. This is a book on punctuation, lamenting how the punctuation is now a lost art. Unlike the previous book, this is written light-heartedly and with humour. The title of the book was taken from a joke on a bad punctuation.

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

“Why?” asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder. 

“Well, I’m a panda,” he says at the door. “Look it up.” 

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. “Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

I quickly sms-ed this former English teacher of mine. "Cikgu Nik, I hope your gift is not a reflection of my writing." It was more in hope than anything else. I know I am guilty as charged. She must have dreaded about my punctuation and my grammar whenever she reads my blog - if she ever did.

Of course she would not say so, being the nice Form 1 teacher that she was in 1976. "No, I know you love writing. I thought you would like it," she insisted. The book was a best seller in the US in 2004.

Again, I am guilty. I have not completed the book. I need to. I would like to call myself a writer and I owe it to myself to be reading it.

But I need spare time and I simply do not have it. I need 40 hours in a day and 400 days in a year. Is there anyone doing research on this thing who can make this dream comes true? Help!

My predicament grew when Dr Satyro, our thermo guru, asked me to bring him to Kinokuniya. He recommended a book I had thought of buying many moons ago, but didn't get around to buying it. So I bought it upon his recommendation.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Since then, I have gotten around reading the story on chemistry. Enlightening to say the least. Whether I would get around to finishing it is another matter. Arif is also reading it and he loves it.

To make things worse, prior to leaving Kino, Dr Satyro handed me a book by Stephen King. No, not all those horor novel so typical of Stephen King, but one is more of his thought on writing. Apparently Dr Satyro loves to write fiction and the book on writing by Stephen King comes highly recommended. A must read for any budding writer. I am not much into fiction; I know my limit. But in the future, who knows.

On Writing

There you go. The four books I need to complete when I have the time. Don't get me wrong; there is no way I would complete all four of them within the next 12 days. These four books come highly recommended and I thought I would like to share the pleasure and burden of reading them.

Looking at my schedule, I have no doubt you would complete them all before I do.

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Monday December 17, 2007 - 09:36pm (SGT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 0 Comments
Let's have a Mecca Mean Time
Let's have a Mecca Mean Time magnify

Things have been getting a bit hectic here in remote Toronto.

Toronto - the KL slang for Tronoh - is located in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the middle of Perak. For some reasons, someone decided to locate a branch campus of Universiti Sains Malaysia here in the early 90s, and later on Petronas took over this campus and made it their own. I have been stuck here getting my daily doses of the modern rendition of the Van der Waals equation of state.

Never mind; it is not my intention to be talking about classical thermodynamics. It is enough that I have to work with it; I don't want to be writing about it.

While waiting to drive to Tronoh yesterday, someone told us that the Eid-ul Adha had been changed to the 19th. I thought the Royal Keeper of the Seal had announced that the Eid will be held on the 20th; so I was a bit surprised and confused. Apparently the confusion arises due to the fact that the Saudis announced later that the Haj will be celebrated on the 19th in Mecca.

Can we not as a community decide properly a universal date for our religious festivals and activities?

Of course with Malaysia sitting on 101 East (+8 GMT) and Mecca in the +3 GMT means that Malaysia is 5 hours ahead of the holy city of the Moslem world. In other words, Malaysia would see the new day five hours ahead and based on this should be celebrating the Haj earlier than our moslem brethren in Mecca.

The 24-hour clock at Greenwich

However this is not the case and it looks a bit odd that a country further east which should be seeing the dalylight earlier would be celebrating a new holy day a day later.

This is one of the many occasions we moslems had to endure oddity in our religious lives and we have no one to blame but ourselves. As the United Kingdom grew into an advanced maritime nation, British mariners kept at least one timepiece on GMT in order to calculate their longitude from the Greenwich meridian, which was by convention considered to have longitude zero degrees [Wikipedia]. The centre of the universe is now in London. If we moslems had the foresight to have MMT (Mecca Mean Time) instead, then Mecca would have become the centre of the universe and that all of our religious activities throughout the world would be dictated towards Mecca.

In this case, I am advocating that the MMT be the 180 degree longitude (unlike the GMT), and as far as the moslem world is concerned, Mecca would see the first dawn of daylight daily, all year round.

There would be no way that any other location would be celebrating the Eid earlier than the two holy cities of the moslem world. We would not be celebrating Eid on two different days in any part of the world; and would stop us from becoming the laughing stock of the world. As if we could not figure out how to determine the date of the holy days.

Eventhough the world revolves around GMT/UTC, I don't think there is anything wrong for us Moslems to have our own invinsible time convention of MMT. By moving the location of the longitude 180 degree to Mecca (and let's redefine it as the 0 degree longitude), we could revolve our religious activities based on this new time standard.

Map of Saudi Arabia

From what I know, the locations of the international dateline and the so-called GMT are arbitrary. While it has became the norm and accepted as the standard (and should not be changed), I see no reasons for us not to adopt MMT, just like we have a second (lunar) calendar for all our religious holy days. It is just an imaginary line.

In other words, since the time standards are arbitrary at best, we should have no qualm celebrating anything after the dust has settled in the capital of the moslem world, irrespective what international time and date said.

The MMT is to the moslems what GMT is to the universal date and time.

What say you?

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Thursday December 13, 2007 - 10:44pm (SGT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 2 Comments
Airport Polonia - What is a Polish airport doing in the midst of the Malay Archipelago?
Airport Polonia - What is a Polish airport doing in the midst of the Malay Archipelago? magnify

So Airport Polonia is in the news again!

I have not heard that name for a long, long time. Airport Polonia is a name from 80s made famous - to many of us - by Kumpulan Harmoni. Kumpulan Harmoni, on the other hand, is a group of four, led by Zubir Ali, who made poetic songs as their calling.

Of course I was away at uni in Melbourne, so during the year my diet was more on English pop music; I had no idea that poetic songs were making in big in Malaysia then, with Harmoni pioneering the way, until I returned home during the summer hols.

Then the song "Penantian" was the song of the year that year (sorry, can't recall the exact year). Even though Zubir Ali was no Mawi - he's better actually and he can sing eventhough he's no M.Nasir, but his strength (and hence Harmoni's) was his music with poetic lyrics. (To be honest, anything ballad would make it big then - poetic or thrash lyrics. Not quite, but close to.)

One of the song in the Penantian album, was a poem written by Zubli Zainordin about Airport Polonia. Azie's voice was so soft, so romantic. She sounds great.

I remember the conversation about this song very well at our house in Bukit Kerajaan.

Sister:"So where do you think is Airport Polonia located?"

Me: "This is a Pop Kuiz question. Give me a question with more substance."

Sister: "OK, so where on earth is Airport Polonia?"

Me: "Ah well, there goes my plan to save the world. OK, it has to be in Poland."

Sister: "And you told me you are so good in Geography that your teacher gave you RM1. You are wrong, it is in Medan Indonesia."

So I have always wondered then, how the 'heaven' did they derive the name Polonia for an airport located in the Northern part of Sumatra. It sounds Polish to me, but then again may be not. "Must be some Batak name," I thought. I had passed through this airport many times during my days at Hyprotech, on my way to the gas fields of Aceh, and I had never bat an eyelid about the name while I was there. But while the airport was a bit crowded and perhaps rundown, I never had problem there with the authorities unlike Palembang.

Until the news 2 days ago about the fire at Airport Polonia which destroyed a good part of the Bandara. That basically triggered my interest in that name again after all these years. Searching the web in general, Wikipedia in particular, I found that the name Polonia is indeed Polish. The area where the airport was built was owned by these Polish entrepreneurs who developed the area for tobacco farming.

Don't ask me how these two Polish entrepreneurs got to own a good piece of real estate in the third biggest town in Indonesia.

I thought I should celebrate the beautiful music of Harmoni while I hope that the Indonesian government would repair and upgrade the airport quickly and swiftly. The song Airport Polonia was about a group of Malaysian poets meeting their Indonesian counterparts in Medan, I guess, for a discussion on poems and literature.

 here to listen

Airport Polonia - Zubli Zainordin

Aku tiba jua oh Polonia

Didakap jambangan senyum

Jari-jari lembut menyambutku

Sebagai pengembara yang rindu

Terasa senang dihati

Rindu terubat sudah

Bila ketemu di Polonia

Penuh memori

Salam puisi aku ucapkan

Pada kalian saudaraku

Ketanah air ku kan kembali

Membawa kenangan abadi

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Tuesday December 4, 2007 - 10:22pm (SGT) Edit | Delete | Permanent Link | 0 Comments
The Hariris - A response to the comments

I could have answered you in the comment sections, but I guess it will all be embedded there without any attention. So I decided to recycle them here.

Blog Entry: Kenang-kenangan Hidup

Yup, first line on friday was his aims. My outing with him always about going to the fresh market - no wonder I have sharp eye for fresh ingredients for my cooking, and nowadays all my kids always love to follow me to the market as well.

Bapak enjoyed shopping for food as much as he enjoyed eating them. I don't recall anymore if he went to the wetmarket on a daily basis or not. It seems like it looking back. And food is not one thing he would scrouge on. No wonder his kids can all play rugby. 

(KK- Bkt Residence) 
Shopping with My Bapak 
Bapak and Mak informing us, that they are going to take all for shopping, visiting a watch shop in lembah sayong. My first watch was QQ brand, cost 30ringgit (I think) that time, my choice was the most expensive among all, and since I really wanted it so much, he bought it anyway (I am quite sure there are some discussion of my "expensive taste" back then). The brand is still around (found out it was a cheaper version of citizen brand), and it always reminds me of him. Thank you bapak.

Hahaha, I bought myself a QQ watch costing me RM45 in 2000, and I still have them today, though Arif is the one using that now. I guess by the time we were in KK, I am practically out of the house, so I don't remember much of your discussion. Of course by then he had given me a Citizen as a present for SRP, and I used them till the late 80s; until I decided to test out the 'water-proof' feature of it and took at dip at Teluk Bidara, near Dungun with the watch on my wrist. Sad to say, that was the end of the watch!

There is another story, in KK - how bapak feel so annoyed after knowing one of his colleague, - going opposite the principle - but then, life not easier anyway for the person despite taken few piece of land for himself. (maybe you could verified with Mak)

Blog Entry: Mother’s Day Special - Have you ever really loved a woman?

on my education journey 
She told me how frustrated she is once she saw my SPM results "lemah lutut mak, bila tengok result rashi" over the phone as I were working in KL then. She put high hopes on me to score, but I guess I was just lazy then, despite quite "intelligent" (obviouslly cannot beat you, abg. man :) By the way, that has touched me so much...I guess, I hope she is happy now on my qualifications.... "just ONE more Mak in 2009, Insya'allah"

Again, all these escape me. Must be while I was away. I think in life one must progressively improve ourselves and that will determine whether we are successful or not. I have seen far often excellent students at school level, but did poorly at uni. Great students at uni, but did poorly in career.

Again, attitude is important. EQ vs IQ is another. In essence, how we carry ourselves is crucial. Good luck with your PhD.

Blog Entry: Mother’s Day Special - Have you ever really loved a woman?

on the difficult times, we used to sell nasi lemak, until she is down with "demam" as additional burden to her just to get additional income. Visiting the "pajak gadai" was a routine then. And some years ago, her economy was improved, most of us are working, she proudly announced that she manage to get all the jewellery back and vowed not visit the "shop" anymore, until now. 
(Most of the time, I knew, I will never be able to compensate her at any amount)Thank you Mak

Yeah, I remember that conversation reasonably well. How bapak and mak wanted to start some food business for that extra income. At one time, mum had cook all those puffy curry puff for sale. It didn't last long. May be they didn't have good business acumen or may be us kids typically would finish off the food before they could be sold!

But I didn't know that she stopped because of her health. In any case, I am glad we had tide over those lean years a long time ago though it was difficult of times then.

As for the pawn shop, those were life in Lenggong and Taiping I guess. It was not easy feeding 13 hungry and growing children. Both of them were prudent with their money, unlike many of us nowadays.

Blog Entry: Kenang-kenangan Hidup

Rashi and Abang Man, 

Talking about pi masjid, do u still remember...we all went to masjid in Kg. Sayong naik bot accross Sg. Perak? One time, Rashi's slipper jatuh dalam air dan terus hanyut kat sungai tu. Haha! :D As we both argue whether we should tell u or not as u were quite far from us kat hujung jeti....(mesti kena marah nyer) haha! :D Anyway, by the time we mentioned to u...the selipar dah berenang jauh dah. And you really shown us a true abang comppasion....u loaned Rashi's...your own selipar and u walked back umah kat bukit kerajaan tu "kaki ayam"! Dari Jeti Kg. Sayong tu...Jeti Kuala...naik bukit..lalu kat girls school's tu...balik umah...Sakit pun...u act macho jer... 
Actually, Arwah Bapak pun selalu pi sana...then I cant really remember why Arwah not with us...mungkin dia kerja kat tempat lain masa tu. Yes...I did ask Arwah Bapak..."Bapak, kenapa bapak suka pi masjid kat sungai ni?" And Bapak said " Tak ramai orang kat mesjid ni". 
To My Little Sister, Arwah was very, very compassionate man when Arwah dengan anak-anak dia. He seldoms laugh but He always smiled when he sees funny in us. Bukit Kerajaan home is really best place to grow masa tu. Kalau dia dokong Zali, he used to sing syair taubat tu...that I am replcate to my owns now. Lagu taubat tu dah jadi nyanyian Raihan dah sekarang. I am sure all of us knew that song by heart dah.... 
Try yourself.

Yes, of course I remember going to the mosque on the other side of Perak River, and yes I remember Rashi losing his slipper, but not how he lost it. It doesn't matter then I guess. I mean I am not going to jump to Sg Perak to retrieve it (i.e. I was not that macho), so I guess the next best thing to do is give him my slipper. The skins of my soles must be thicker than yours by then, so I should be able to withstand the hot tarred road at mid-day. Or at least I pretended that I could withstand it.

I don't remember him there; I remember him mainly at Ubudiah though.

If you are referring to "Illa ilas tulil firdausi ahwa.." nasyid, he learned it from an Indonesian ustaz who came to Lenggong to teach in the early 70s. Him being him; always the compassionate person, even provided shelter for the ustaz at our home at the edge of Lenggong town, next to Jame' Mosque Lenggong. I guess it was the Indonesian ustaz - he was a bit 'tempang', who taught him that 'song'. We all love it then - bapak had a good voice, though our version was much slower than Raihan's and of course more melodious.

But I can't try that myself - Akmal is just way too big now for me to carry him!

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