Tuesday, December 29, 2009

THE THING ABOUT US - AZAM TAHUN BARU


Its that time again to renew or to make our resolution.

Seriously, more often than not, we never follow through our new year's resolution, (if we even have one that is!). Lets be honest, who among us did what they berazam to do and were actually successful in achieving it.

Blame it on our weak mind, struggling spirits, or just plain busy schedule, but honestly I think there's not a lot of us who successfully completed the goals that we set out to achieve.

Some of us might also argue that we should not tagged the beginning of our new year azam by the Gregorian Calendar, being unislamic and all, and we should adopt the Muslim Hijrah Calendar for our new year resolution instead.

As for me, as far as I can remember, I never had one. I just couldnt be bothered about what I will or will not do in the coming year. It doesnt make any sense to me to have a new year resolution since I think the most important thing about azam, is whether you have the will to execute the plans to achieve the targeted objective(s).

Or not.

It doesnt really matter if its Gregorian or Hijrah too, as long as that objective are successfully achieved. And we dont have to wait for a specific date to start a resolution. We could make up and choose our own significant dates to begin our azam, for that matter.

Its either we do it, or we dont. No in between, and no lagging excuses.

Having said that, I think , having a new year resolution is perhaps the most mistaken concept of self improvement ever thought of.

Of course, all are welcome to disagree with me.

If some of us did have a resolution in the beginning of 2009 and managed to pull through though, I sincerely applaud and salute you.

SELAMAT TAHUN BARU 2010

Please dont wake up in the morning of 1st January 2010 and find yourself in jail or in bed where lies on that other side a person of the same sex, tepi longkang, etc.

Have a good one.

BUTT SMASHING TIME!

Its not my intention to neglect this blog.

I am nursing an injury. A broken tail bone, to be exact. Sitting on a chair is really uncomfortable and sometimes painful. So thats why I did not update this blog for quite sometime.

I picked up the injury while sledding. My sled (and my butt) were smashed up by an unseen rock on a hill slope. The weather was at its worse (- 12 C) and a snow blizzard was moving in at that time, peppering our group with hard, falling snows.

Drove all the way back to Geneva from St Cergue, with broken tail bone (which I didnt know it yet at that time) and all. Didnt even think of going to the hospital and only manage to do so 3 days after it happened.

Not that I am tough, but I had a flu at the same time too. So I opted to lay in bed until I recovered a bit. Popped some under the counter painkiller tablets to counter the pain.

When I finally went to see a doctor, he diagnosed that I had a broken tailbone and had to rest for 6 -10 weeks. And no jogging for 3 weeks.

Oh well.....I sort of got bored of waiting for it to heal.

I started jogging again exactly a week after I had my butt smashed.

Hehe.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

THE THING ABOUT US - FAILING TO REMEMBER

The passing away of my dear friend last Monday hit me hard.

I cant imagine how his wife and his 3 little children must have felt. And I could offer nothing more than my sympathy.

We were warned, cautioned and reminded, time and time again in our daily prayers that we have to prepare ourselves to face life in hereafter. But, are we prepared to face it? How about those we'll leave behind. Are they prepared to face the fact that they will loose us too, someday?

The thing about all this is, sometimes we think death only happens to other people. It does not involve us, or our family members, or our friends, or people we know. We think those stories that we read in the newspapers will never be us. Its other peoples lives. People we dont know.

All is well, we presumed.

Until it hit us right on our faces. And at that time, we realized that we are after all, mere mortals.

We scrambled to search within our inner feelings for that something which could comfort us from our sorrow. We felt lost and helpless.

Over time, we will recover from our sorrow. Our fighting spirit, and determination will make sure we survive the sad episodes in our life.

Sadly, we will also forget about our loss. And we will again act like the sorrowful death comes only to other people.

Unfortunately, the cycle begins again.

For you, and for me, we wont live forever.

Immortals, we are not, and will never be.

Monday, December 14, 2009

FAREWELL, BROTHER - MOHD SHARAFI MOHD SHARIF (1969-2009)

Its always hard when we loose someone.

This morning, I went jogging as usual, but this time I was overwhelmed by the news I received earlier. A good friend of mine passed away. He was one of the first person I befriended when I arrived in the boarding school. We were in the same class for five years and played rugby for the school team.

How would I describe him?

Funny, jovial and a good man. And that is saying the least about him.

I last met him back in 1997 when I was working in Thailand. I went to his hometown in Parit Buntar, Perak and spent a night with him at his parents house. We talked about those stuff we used to do when we were in the boarding school. Laughter filled the night when we recounted every event that happened to us back then. When we parted ways the next day he told me he is going to get married soon after and his bride to be was pilihan his parents. Sort of arrange marriage, I would say. Of course, I ribbed him endlessly about how he still need his parents to find him a wife, and not finding one himself. He just smiled.

Thats the kind of person he was. He never went against his parents wishes and respected them so much. A good kind soul.

Over the years, whenever my school friends and I met, we exchanged news about others. His was always mentioned in our conversations.

I did not keep in touch with him after our last meeting except for occasional phone calls.

The news of his passing shocked me to the core. Perhaps, because in my head, I would always think that wherever I am, I knew, he will still be there in his home town, living his life, and I will have the time and meet him one fine day. But suddenly, now, that wont be true anymore.

Tears were streaming down my face while I ran. Flashes of schooldays memories with him keep on going through my head.

Getting ready to go to work, my youngest daughter noticed my tears and asked me why I was sad. "Ì never see you cry Abah, why you so sad?". I pick her up and brought her to my computer and showed her my friends pic. "I am sad because my good friend has just passed away". I explained. "He wont be here anymore?" She asked. "No he won't be here anymore". She was silence for a moment, deep in thought, and continued "You love your friend, Abah?"

With tears, I replied "Always, Adik, always.........".

Al Fatihah. Farewell my brother.

Friday, December 11, 2009

THE THING ABUT GENEVA - TOLERANCE AND LIBERALISM

Switzerland self-image of tolerance and multiculturalism took a beating recently when more than half of its population voted to ban Islamic minaret. The Swiss Government in the meantime assured Muslims in Switzerland are free to practice their beliefs and that the minaret ban is not a rejection of their religion and culture.

From Wikipedia;

John N. Gray, the essence of liberalism is toleration of different beliefs and of different ideas as to what constitutes a good life.

For me, its expected. Its a decision that reflects the wish of majority. And honestly, I dont have any problem with that. Their country, their vote.

But the thing is, if a person's or a community religious symbols are not tolerated in a country, can we say that the country in particular practices tolerance and liberalism, as what was touted and championed and sold around the world? Lips service? I am more incline to think that is the case here.

In contrast, we Malaysians are not liberal, however we want to justify we are. But at the very least, in that sense we are brave enough to admit that we are not.

There is no point to sell and paint the image of multiculturalism and liberal thinking all around the world but back in their own backyard, all were thrown out the window.

Well, that and their decades old self image of tolerance.

Monday, November 30, 2009

THE THING ABOUT US : OUR CHOICE

Our community is a concern lot. We tend to make comments and pass remarks about happenings in our community life, even if it got nothing to do with ourselves. I would like to think that its because of our caring and loving nature. We care about others. Usually I dont have any problems and are quite fine with that.

That is, as long as we don't pass any judgement. Anything other beyond the normal comments of such sometimes` devoted act', for me, will be considered as kind of interfering in others affairs.

Lets just say for instance, we heard our friends wants to marry another. We would, of course, (as what we always do) for no good reason, offered our own piece of mind, where it could be;

1. "Oi, dia tu kawin dua". or,
2. "Tu tak puas dengan sorang la tu, dah berumur, kubur kata mari, rumah kata pergi, masih nak cari lain!"

While the first comment sounds innocent enough , the second one is totally uncalled for. So he wants to marry another, so what? Are we the one who is paying for the belanja kenduri? And why the need to lace such comments with such poisonous words?

The following happened to me.

Back in Malaysia, I did my marketing at Pasar Borong, which is very near to my house, and for the reason that its quite cheap, plus its fresh.

Mr. J, never went to Pasar Borong. His shopping was done at Jusco, Tesco and the likes. One day, in a social gathering, our conversation drifted to where we bought our stuff.

Mr. J (With an eeeewww facial expression) : Dont you think Pasar Borong is dirty? And the smell. Fuhhh, you tahan macam mana?

I was taken aback, since I did not expect something like that from a big shit shot.

Akula: What?
Mr. J : Eh, you marah ke?

I countered with a polite answer but raised my voice loud enough to be heard by everyone else at the gathering.

Akula : Eh tak lah, itu opinion you, tapi saya beli kat situ okay, and so far tak la pernah jentik telor you pun.

I walk away, leaving him with a red face which also gave me the impression as if he was trying to squeezed his brain for a great comeback remarks. Other guests were staring speechless at him.

And then theres this friend of mine who told me that he really did not understand how a religious person we both knew, enjoyed his life, since he jaga solat, insisting to pray immediately bila masuk waktu by stopping whatever his doing right there and then. This guy went straight home after office hours to be with his family. "Engko tengok mamat tu, bila masa dia enjoy ntah? Orang pergi la bawak anak bini tengok wayang ke, hapa ke, baru enjoy life". I told that busybody friend of mine, perhaps, that IS the way this mamat enjoyed his life. And for me, theres definitely nothing wrong with that.

My former boss, back in the days when I was working in one of the company somewhere in Damansara, scolded me when I did a mistake in doing my job, "Abis kalau semua orang terjun lubang taik, engkau pun ikut terjun sama?". To which the capitalist side of me boldly answered "Tengok la berapa nak bagi, kalau ratus ribu, why not. Saya tak de hal, bukan tak boleh basuh". The thing was, at that time, I was dead broke with huge debts hanging on top my head, and I figured if there is some way I can earn easy money, seriously, why the hell not. I wasnt going to offer the standard meek reply, "Tak mo lah, giler, tu taik tu" (as what was logically expected) to my boss. I was promptly fired, not because of the mistake I did, but because of "menjawab". I could have offered a safe answer, toe the line and my job will be secured, but I chose not please him. It make more sense to me to just piss him off.

Sometimes we found ourselves at odd with people around us, since we do not share their opinion. We could of course choose, either to confront them with our own thoughts and defend our stand to the death or keep our mouth shut, with a fake smile and nodding our heads even if our inside are screaming to argue back.

Sometimes back, someone asked me whether I prayed. I politely replied, "I am really uncomfortable with your question, and besides, its none of your business". It was an awkward situation. It feels like my very basic integrity was being laid in the open, questioned and judged. Definitely not a good feeling to have. And the weird thing was, I think the question was not even about the prayers. It was about what I should be doing, being at this age, according to her opinion. I really resent that.

I honestly think that we dont have to live our life according the normal, accepted standard of our community, which were set and determined by God knows whom, and since God knows when. Its our life, we should be able live it the way we want to. At this middle age juncture, if we want to listen to Metallica and do some headbanging, do it. If we feel like cycling that 10km mountain road up to the top, hey, do it too. And if we want to devote ourselves to prepare for the afterlife, by all means, carry on with it. We dont need other people to stick their nose in our business with their unwelcome and unnecessary degrading remarks just because we dont do things their way.

Its simply just our own choice. The least people around us should do is to respect that.

Friday, November 20, 2009

READING

Reading is a passion.

I will read about anything and any subject matters, be it economics, politics, social, religious, whatever. Over the years I manage to build up quite a collection, overcrowding the shelves in a couple of book racks where I kept them.

Of the personal things that I own, books are very precious to me. I rarely let other people borrow them since I am a little bit fussy about it. I dont have any problem to lend other things but when it come to books, I will definitely think twice about letting other people getting their hands on it.

Theres this one time, back in Malaysia, a visitor to my house was shocked to see my book collection. She remarked "Nak muntah tengok buku banyak", to which I venomously countered; "Ah! ingat nak muntah sebab kena bunting". She ceased to speak to me since. (BTW, what is it about these people coming to our house and passed unwanted negative comments and remarks about our stuff? Please, have some dignity to respect other people's things la. I am really uncomfortable with that kind of character. I mean, I wont do that if I am at other people's dwelling. Its not my house, and not my stuff, and I am pretty sure I don't have the right to comment about other people's preference.).

I think I was deeply influenced by my late uncle's and grandfather's love for reading. From my uncle's collection I read Sejarah Melayu, Tulang-tulang Berserakan, Keluarga Gerilya, Hikayat Inderapura, Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, Raja Haji, a lot of Malay literature books. I was introduced to Readers Digest and Mastika (the old version) with my grandfathers' collection. Both were teachers, so I guess, maybe thats sort of why they like to read. Both too, were idealist and were quite active socially in their community. Come to think of it, I think its a true fact that those in teaching profession reads a lot.

My favourite author then, was (and still is) Enid Blyton. Famous Five, Secret Seven, The Adventure Series and her other books were constantly borrowed from Ipoh's Perpustakaan Tun Abdul Razak and the school's library. Other books were Alfred Hicthcock's - Tiga Penyiasat (The Three Investigators Series), Hardy Boys, Nancy Drews, Willard Prices Adventure Series to name a few. Tin Tin is still cool to read until now. All these books were translated to Malay from English and were very popular back then.

Theres also this Encyclopedia Britannica that my parents bought. I think they could not resist that very persistent salesperson sales pitch and ended up buying the whole volume. I read through that lot too, although I must confessed I could not even remember a single word of whatever they printed in there now.

Money was a little bit tight at that time, and I do not have enough financial resources to buy books and always have to depend on the local library to supply me with the reading materials that I need. Sometimes I dont even have enough for tambang bas to go to the library in town. I would then hang out with my friends at this one kedai runcit mamak in Gunung Rapat and read the various Marvel comics and magazines there. The Malay ones usually on display were Bujal, Gila-gila, and I think there is also Bambino. The mamak kedai was always pissed off at us, because by reading them, the otherwise sellable items were ruined. Soon after, they sealed the magazines in a see through plastic cover, (a practice presently adopted by bookstores and street newspaper vendors) to discourage our not-buying-just-reading habit.

A teacher told me, if I want to improve my command of English, the best way to do it is to read printed English language materials. Heeding his advice, I latched on Readers Digest, The Star and New Straits Times and an Oxford Dictionary to help me with words that I dont understand. I am too lazy to pay attention to the grammars then and it shows in my blog postings. Still confuse about it to this day, I might add.

When I attended college and moved to Shah Alam, a second hand bookstore in Central Market, Kuala Lumpur became a favourite place to get books. In a sort of sewa buku type of arrangement, you pay a small amount of money and the book is yours to keep. Return it back to the bookstore and they will give your money back minus RM 2-3 for the rent. I dont know if the bookstore is still there though.

By this time, my interest graduated to those heavy topic stuff, non fiction, history and autobiography mostly, and learned that girls were crazy with Mills and Boons. Of course, taking advantage of the presented opportunity, I tried to pick up girls in bookstores, sadly to no avail. It seems like those Mills and Boons fans were totally into tall, dark and handsome guys, portrayed religiously by Mills and Boons authors as the perfect specimen of men. Tall and dark I am, but never handsome, so my chances of getting to know those Mills and Boons girls were swept down the drain even before I opened my mouth.

Those Malay novels published by Creative Enterprise (the Gila-gila company) were a hit with the Malay public back then. I love Warisan by A Talib Hassan, Sindora, and Tangisan Bulan Madu by Shamsiah Mohd Noor, and books by Ahadiat Akashah to name a few. In the twice a month published Gila-Gila, there were this short, funny and thought provoking articles, written by Akula M.D about everyday happenings and life, Matt Romeo on the adventures of a playboy and Minah Leter, err.... well, she leter about everything under the sun, plus the kitchen sink.

(READERS BEWARE! If you are a religious zealot or if you are afraid your pure soul and brain will be contaminated by my next following sentences, PLEASE STOP READING NOW! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!)

I should mention here, apart from discussions with friends, reading did expose my innocent young mind to the taboo world of sexuality. Malay porn books like Mona Gersang, Permata Yang Hilang and Kehausan were high in demand and were discreetly available and sold. Although, I would argue that Permata Yang Hilang was not actually porn. It was actually a collection of referrences, suggestions and practical advice on sex. With drawings and illustrations. Since these kind of books were very hard to get, a friend of mine actually made a lot of money by making photocopies and selling it. (Talk about acute business sense. He is a successful businessman now, by the way). We do not have Internet back then, mind you, so we feed our inquisitive mind the secret of sexuality by reading about it.

Reading like I said, for me is a passion. On average I read about 2 -3 books a week. I just finished reading I Am Ozzy, by Ozzy Osbourne which is really, really funny, and are well into the next one, Madoff - The Man Who Stole 65 Billions which I think would be a very interesting book.

Beside being a cheap and accessible tool to gain knowledge and information, reading opened up the whole wide world to me. It brought the sense of adventure, with thrills and excitements to the mind of a lower middle class kid like me back then, who could hardly afford to go anywhere.

Monday, November 16, 2009

THE THING ABOUT US - PARENTING 101

Kids.

My children are grounded for 1 month. No TV, no computer, no Ipod, no outing, no whatever. Except books. That, they can read anytime they want.

Why?

They take things a little bit to easy and for granted. They didnt do their daily chores. Kemas katil, helping their mother in the kitchen, bilik bersepah, all the everyday daily chores stuff. My love one and me really had it with them this time. Penat cakap. Penat marah.

I know it may sounds a bit strange, coming from me, but I believe in discipline. Of course, those who knows me might kutuk, "Eleh, hang pun tak berdisiplin gak masa sekolah". Which is true, but at least growing up in a boarding school did teach me something about life. Punishment beckons if we did not follow the school rules.

The children were of course devastated at first since the privileges of all the things they love to do were taken away from them. But I gave them a choice. They have to earn back those privileges. If they do whatever that was expected from them, I will consider lessening their punishment duration. But they have to proof that they can do all this without me or my love one telling them.

Its been 2 weeks.

They no longer complain they are bored. They read a lot more. The eldest started to act more responsible and always reminding her sisters to do their chores. My second daughter finished the whole Enid Blyton Secret Seven and Famous Five series. The youngest one can now read on her own without any help. Out of boredom, they became creative and created games on their own to play to pass the time. My love one and I spent a whole lot more time with them without the distraction and captivating lure of television and the online Internet gaming world.

And now, they dont need both me and my love one breathing down their neck, harassing them to do their responsibilities.

I might even extend this long time grounded thing a little bit more, since its been working very well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

LAKSAMANA TUN TUAH AND MODERN DAY POLITICS


Have you ever read the book, Laksamana Tun Tuah, authored by A Samad Ahmad? Its the authors take on the legend of Hang Tuah based on the more well known manuscript of Hikayat Hang Tuah.

Anyway, I read it when I was still a young boy. A chapter in the book described in details Hang Jebat's final moments, dying in Hang Tuah's lap, after being outwitted and stabbed by Hang Tuah in their famous duel. In the book, Hang Tuah said something about being loyal to the Sultan is above and beyond everything else, his longtime friendship with Hang Jebat included.

I remember being upset at this point, pondering why Hang Tuah did what he did. This issue stayed with me for a while and became a favourite topic to discuss with friends whenever I had the chance to bring it up.

Until I grew up and understand politics.

The way I see it, with Machiavellian maneuverings of modern day politics in mind, I wish to argue that what Hang Tuah did was simply to protect his periuk nasik and to regain favour from the one who was in power.

Forget loyalty. Forget principles. There is no such thing.

What is more important is the opportunity or means and benefits one could get to surpass his opponents of the day.

The often quoted phrase, there is no permanent enemy or friends in politics is quite true. Its all fair.

Lets just hope nobody will share Hang Jebat's fate.

Monday, November 9, 2009

FACING OUR FEAR

I hate towers and high places.

Theres this time when I went to the Calgary Tower, in Calgary, Canada.

On the very top of the tower, inside the viewing area, theres a section of the floor, which was made from glass. Meaning, you can see all the way straight down to the street level, without any obstruction.

Upon seeing that, and since I thought that its kind of interesting to feel what its like to stand on the glass floor, coupled with the thinking that perhaps its the best time to conquer my fear of heights, I decided to try and to get on it. Calmed myself, and fought my feeling of anxiety and nervousness. Took me a while debating with myself whether I should do it. Finally, after few long pauses, with a `f**k it, lets do this!' attitude in my head, I took a deep breath and step on the glass floor.

Well, seriously, its actually more like I was down on my all fours and crawled on the glass. To view the street from that very high place, really scared me. But I did it.


I was elated and felt very pleased with myself albeit the crawling thing when suddenly, these 2 kids joined me on the glass floor and started jumping up and down without even the slightest fear of height. (By the way, it is not advisable to drop down on all four limbs in a public area, since people gave me strange looks, with judging eyes). Those kids action jolted me back to my acrophobia state of mind and I quickly retreated to the safety of the non glass floors, breathing a heavy sigh of relief. My colleagues were laughing hysterically.

I looked at them and said " Oh, thats right. You guys will surely burn in hell".

oooooooOOOOOOooooooo

According to Wikipedia, fear of heights is;

"Acrophobia can be dangerous, as sufferers can experience a panic attack in a high place and become too agitated to get themselves down safely."

Like I said, I have this nagging fear of heights.

The Wikipedia definition, and while I am not the most extreme case, more or less describe what I feel whenever I am at very high places.

The thing about it is this, I dont feel any fear if I am at the highest point INSIDE a tall building, on an airplane, or on a mountain. What fear me the most is when I can see that vertical long way down from the point where I am standing at. I will then, be imagining all sorts of thing that can happen to me if I fall down. In that kind of situation, I would always think that if I make a wrong move, I will fall and, its really a long way before I hit the ground, splattered . In those kind of places, I will usually stay away from the edges.

I hate to ride in those glass elevators usually found on the side of a very tall building, which of course other than its main function, to get us up there, is to provide us the enjoyment of viewing a city's beautiful sight and sky line. Usually, I won't have time to leisurely enjoy the view since I'll be busy calming myself down and at the same time gripping the handling beam as tightly as I could, with my fake, nervous smile.

Last 2 weeks, I was instructed by my superior to do a recce work in Chamonix, Mont Blanc. I already heard stories about the route there from Geneva, where a section of the road includes a very high bridge crossing a valley up to a mountain.

"I felt like I was driving on top of a cloud".
"Usually I have no fear of heights, but that bridge really scared the shit out of me".
"I will drive right in middle of the bridge when there is no other cars, to avoid seeing the long way to the ground".

Those were the descriptions of that particular bridge by friends who had been to Chamonix.

I was thinking, if these people were scared to drive on that thing and they are not the kind to fear heights, what that would do to me? I definitely dont want to drive on it myself.

But work is work regardless, so I took the easy way out. I hired a local driver to drive me there. And off we went. After half and hour drive from Geneva, Ahmad pointed out the bridge to me. It was a long, winding and damn it, its really high. I could feel tinge of nervousness crept inside my stomach, tightening its hold. And before we knew it, we were already on the bridge. Ahmad drove slowly but never took his eyes of the road, chatting away the minutes. I was clinging to my seat. After what seems like eternity to me, we were off the bridge. I breathed a sigh of relief, turned around and snapped a few pictures.

Of course, needless to say, I survived the ordeal. Its not a pleasant experience for me and I still did not conquer my fear of heights. The thing is I could easily avoid going there by presenting facts easily obtained information from the Internet. But nothing beats the real thing. I just have to see and experience it myself.

Like the glass floor thing in Calgary Tower, I need to face up to my fear every now and then. Otherwise, I am sure I'll miss a lot of interesting places and experiences.

The thing about all this is, in our life, there are times when we need to face our deepest fears. We may not easily get over it and it may stay and lingers with us all our life, but at least we know we can always give our best shot to overcome it every time we need to.

As for me, the very next on my list to face my fear of heights, if I ever have the opportunity, will be tallest building in the world, Burj Dubai.

But I'll settle for something less, like Petronas Tower's bridge as I have yet to be on it, anyway.

:0

Thursday, November 5, 2009

THE THING ABOUT US - SAKA TURUN TEMURUN

The hasad dengki and adu domba strikes again, it seems.

Its really sad to see, even at the highest level, our community still has not change our turun temurun keji ways.

Allegations were traded like hot commodities, without any regards or respects to the truth and teachings of our own religion. And yet, we dare called ourselves as followers of the true path.

Those who spoke their frank mind in our community are being penalized and shunned off. And all this were for a lousy privilege to head an insignificant organization. Which remain as rumours as far as I can tell.

Perhaps a hard, brain shocking slap in the face would help wake us up.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

THE THING ABOUT US - MAKING DECISIONS

How do we all make decisions?

Better still, perhaps the question should be, how do we conclude that the decision we made is the correct one?

Well, seriously, my humble and frank opinion is that, we don't really know. Until that decision played itself out, that is. Even then, good or bad, there will be question marks on how it actually should have been.

Its harder still, if we are dependent on our friends (or for that matter) our family members opinions to guide us on how we should decide.

We Muslims took to solat ishtikarah, as what our common practice dictates whenever we are ever in doubt. I have my own opinion about that, but perhaps mine is best not to be discussed here.

I honestly think that whenever we are confronted with a certain dilemma, in our life, more often than not, unconsciously we already know what we are supposed to do. What we usually think about, is to wonder what others might thought about it. Thats why we sought other people's advice, to see if they are having the same line of thinking too.

The other thing about that is, we definitely dont want people to judge us on our decisions and usually, we restrained ourselves from making radical conclusions that are not in line with our community accepted standards on a certain issues, fearing retribution to ourselves. And based on that, somehow and in some way, we convinced ourselves that certain decision was the best one, even if at the back of our mind we know that we could have made a better, more logical choice.

A friend of mine, once told me that, we could asked thousands of people for advice but the best decision remains our own since we are the one who will live with it. Not them.

I'll let you decide on that.

Note:

This issue has been bugging Akula's mind and brainwaves while he's busy whacking his enemy playing Mafia Wars on Facebook these past few weeks.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

THE THING ABOUT US - THE MOTHER TONGUE QUESTION

In one of the meeting I attended back home a few years back, matters about how children of Malaysians who worked overseas cannot speak Malay cropped up.

Lady in the meeting : I blame the parents for not teaching their children Malay language. Maybe these parents only communicate with their children in English. The parents should be held responsible for raising their children without the knowledge of their mother tongue.

The accusation ticked me off and my other colleagues. And yes, its because our children do not speak Malay. And because of that, we were obviously the ones targeted with that statement, since we worked overseas for almost the entire length of our careers.

Without waiting for my colleagues response, I shot a question to the lady.

Akula : Have you ever been posted overseas?
Lady in the meeting : No, I have not, but that not what I am getting at.

My colleague, Mr AN shot another question from across the table.

Mr. AN : Do you have any children?
Lady in the meeting : No, I dont, but....

I cut her off.

Akula : Are you even married?
Lady in the meeting : (With a red face), I am not married.

Mr. AN: Then obviously you dont know what the hell you are talking about. How can you say something that you dont have any knowledge of? You never experienced any of that, and yet you found it appropriate to label us irresponsible. What kind of person are you?

The Chairperson, seeing the matters were fast going out of hands, immediately called for a short break.

oooOOOooo

The thing is, its true that our children cannot speak Malay. And so were many other children of my colleagues. For instance, my 3 daughters, all of them were born and grew up in foreign countries. Up till now, they have only lived in Malaysia for just a few years in their whole young life.

Growing up in a foreign country does effect a child's development. They are surrounded by an environment which might be alien to us parents but to them, its their world. Plain and simple. Its just logical for them to latch on to the language they were surrounded with. I think the same thing will happen to any child brought up in any country for that matter.

Here in Geneva, children of some Malaysians speak fluent French like any other Swiss children. And so are children of other foreigners who work and live here. In Berne, since the language spoken there is German, the Malaysian children speaks German.

My question was (and still is), is it fair to label us, who earn our living in a foreign country, as irresponsible parents just because our children do not speak Malay?

Its easy for some people to form an opinion which suits their thinking without having the first hand experience like that, but unless they are in the same situation as mine and my colleagues, facing the same problem that we faced, living the same nomadic life as we live, they have no bloody right to label us as anything as their smart mouth desires.

I am not being apologetic, but I do speak to my children in Malay, and so is my love one. While they understood what were being spoken, they are more comfortable to answer me or my love one back in English.

Does that make me and my love one irresponsible parents and my children any less Malaysian?

My colleagues and I have this wonderful job that enables us to live in faraway foreign countries. We raised our children in foreign environments, adjusting, adapting and living in unfamiliar and sometimes challenging surroundings as best as we could. After so many years abroad, and so many countries we have traveled, we remain as proud as ever being Malaysian and for that matter, being Malays. So are our children.

Even though they, do not converse in their parents mother tongue.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

THE THING ABOOUT GENEVA - THE GENEVA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

One thing for sure, Geneva International Airport is no KLIA. Much, much smaller in size, the airport served about more than 11 million passengers in 2008.


One may wonder, why the hell this post is about the Geneva International Airport, and not other interesting stuff in Geneva?

Well, the thing is, I found out this airport is rather unique and has interesting characteristics. Beside, yesterday, I had the privilege of touring the airport itself, which include the runaway, the VIP room and all things which is normally not accessible to the just-passing-through airlines passengers.

Fact # 1

The airport lies between two mountain range which are the Jura mountain range and the Alps. I was told that this meant there is not crosswind factor here. And if I am not mistaken thats also the reason for the single runway at the airport. What significance this facts to the airplanes landing and taking off in Geneva International Airport, honestly, I don't have any idea.

Jura Mountain Range


The Alps

Fact #2

The Geneva International Airport can be accessed from both France and Switzerland due to it really close proximity to the Swiss/ France border. That means, passengers in the France sector do not have to go through Swiss immigration and customs as long as they remain there. I was informed that this arrangement was made way back when the Swiss government wanted to expand the runway and there is no other way to do it except on the French side. Thus the French government retain it rights in form of sharing the airport with the Swiss. Lucky that they arrived at this unique and amicable solution. Otherwise, who knows what will happened.


Fact #3

Switzerland is a party to the Schengen Area countries which had abolished all border controls between each other. In a simpler terms, no passport stamping, no visa needed if a traveller travels between these countries. Fro example if a passenger arrived in Geneva International Airport from Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Paris, they can just walk through the arrival gates, to the luggage area, collect their bagages and disappear into Switzerland. There is no immigration and customs counters in the airport since December 2008. Very convenient.

Fact #4

Geneva International Airport is well connected with trains, buses and the regular taxi services. What makes it different from KLIA is that there are free public transportation ticket dispenser machines before the exit. Passengers can travel to the Geneva city centre transportation station using buses or trains. It has a 80 minutes time limits. Would love to see that kind of free stuff services in KLIA, no need to pay for expensive limousines or be conned by the ulat teksi.

Fact #5

While my group visited the runway in the airport, we noticed there were a lot of birds, big black ones, calmly minding their own businesses, amidst the very loud noise made by the obvious airplanes landing and taking off. I asked a question to the person in charge, "Aren't these birds poses a danger to those aircrafts?". She answered "Oh, dont mind them, they know where they are not suppose to be. We never had a bird sucked in a jet engine before, here in this airport". Such confident answer of course made me looked at the other colleagues, with raised eyebrows. But, what do I know anyway about large flock of birds happily trudging the airport runways.

So there, now you know a little bit about Geneva International Airport.

I am done here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

THE THING ABOUT US - KUTUK MENGUTUK MEMBAWA BAHAGIA

What is kutuk?

I am not sure whats the correct Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka definition on kutuk, but I am pretty damn sure its not nice. Some would argue that its to condemn, while others might say that its to insult. For me its more like ribbing. I think, whatever it is, all of us had indulge in the mengutuk aktivity, in one form or another, at any one time.

I would not argue here, if mengutuk is right or wrong. Nor will I explore why kutuk mengutuk has been part of our daily life. I am just sharing my experiences on this weird behaviour of ours. I mean why exactly we want to rib our friends? It must be because of we have nothing better to do. Besides, lets admit that its rather fun to see our friends squirming, their minds scrambling and working in full drive, trying to think of something good for that great comeback in a kutuk session.

For a start. let me say that I am really cool with this kutuk thing. Either way is okay with me, whether its being at the receiving end, or the one who mengutuk. In short, kena kutuk pun ok, mengutuk lagi la ok. I dont now about you, but I consider it as one of my fun activity.

But still, there are some unwritten rules which for me, I would try to adhere to. For instance, I would definitely try to avoid saying things about a person's disability.

Let say if someone is blind, pekak or kurang upaya, I will not say anything about it, even if they are open minded enough. But there are exception to this rule. With good friends, disable or not, I tend to shoot off my mouth if I find the situation potentially funny, and if I know he can take it.

A close friend of mine when I was in Canada, Subar, is blind. He works as senior manager in one of the local company there but loves to practice his part time real estate agent skills during his free time. I asked him to look for a house for another friend of mine who was interested to buy a property. After 2 weeks, Subar called;

Subar : Akula! I found a really nice house for your friend.
Akula : Really, how is it?
Subar : I've SEEN the house, I think its perfect for your friend.
Akula : *Laughing* Oit bro! You are blind, how come you said you have seen it?
Subar : Oops sorry, I meant its my wife who has seen it and she described the house to me.
Akula : Ahh, ok.

At first, I felt guilty since I thought I had insulted him, and offered my apology. He just laughed it off, explaining that what he meant was, he went to the house to check it out with his wife and his wife description of the house (to him) was as good as seeing it himself.

The number two rules is to kutuk only if you think your friend can take it. If there is any indication that they are overly sensitive person, forget it, just keep your level of friendship as formal as you can with them. Otherwise, you'll risk the lost of a friendship. And it will be years in the future when your friends finally get over your ribbing and forgive you. If ever.

Back in my college days, a friend of mine, J.E, was really cool with this mengutuk thing. The best thing about him was that I could trade insults about anything without having to worry whether or not I hurt his feelings and vice versa. Our most celebrated ribbing subject was the mother jokes.

J.E: Akula, semalam aku tengok race haram, aku nampak mak hang, baiknyer tengah lap kapchai 5 kupang, cecah telinga, berapi ekzos.
Akula: Itula, hang bawak mak hang pegi tengok race tu kan? Ala tak kan tak ingat, mak hang, baguih giler dok cucuk lengan, happy semacam aku tengok pekena dam (illegal drugs).

We would trade insults like that back and forth. And when we got tired of insulting each other mothers, we turned our attention to our friends, and usually it ended up with fist fight since they couldn't accept it. And nor would other people, I think. But we know that we didnt mean anything by it. Let me just caution you that this kind of kutuk mengutuk is not for the faint hearted and definitely NOT for everybody.

The number three rules and the MOST IMPORTANT one, is do not get involved in kutuk mengutuk sessions if we ourselves tak tahan kena kutuk.

But of course, sometimes, there are those people who cannot take it themselves, tried to be funny and started to rib their dear friends. And when the tide turned and they are at the receiving end, they went crying to their mothers. I encountered this kind of situation a lot of times.

When I started working I rented a house with some friends, and of course, the kutuk mengutuk is one of the things that we did endlessly. My housemate favourite ribbing target on me was my voice since I have this deep, bass like sound whenever I spoke. Which is fine by me (I was ribbed about thatby my schoolmates since my school days, loudspeaker, etc,). One of my housemate concentrated on that particular factor when we were engaged in a kutuk war.

Mr. J : *Imitating my deep voice* SAY SOMETHING AKULA.
Akula : Tak de kerja lain ke?
Mr. J : *Still imitating my voice* COME ON, SAY SOMETHING!.

Since he was so intent to make me say something, so I did.

Akula : Hek eleh, hidung Kembang Setaman pun ada hati nak kutuk aku.

Upon hearing that, he was really pissed off and immediately get up to confront me. He said to my face;

Mr. J : Oi sial! Hidung aku hang jangan kutuk.
Akula: Eleh! Sudahlah! Kutuk suara aku tak pe, kutuk hidung hang tak boleh. Kalau tak boleh kena kutuk, pergi duduk dalam hutan Borneo la, ada monyet sama hidung macam hang.

Needless to say, it ended up in a fistfight. My point is, if we cannot take it, dont get involved. Heck, dont even think about starting a kutuk session. Its so not cool to loose tempers over that kind of things.

Its my opinion, the kutuk thing are meant to be that sort of a fun bonding session with our friends. Its never meant to be taken seriously. Like I said before, if we cannot stand it, dont participate. We always have the choice to walk away before it escalated into something undesirable.

Now, did I just hear someone kutuk this post?

NOTE

Kembang Setaman was the popular friend finder column in the pop mag URTV. Its kind of insulting to be associated with it back then, at least among my friends.

If you are wondering how that monkey look like, here is the pic of the said primate, a proboscis monkey. The idea to associate that friend with this guy in the following pic came from a Tin Tin book, Flight 714.



Monday, October 12, 2009

THE BIG GREAT BELLY


My big, jelly like pot bellied stomach was constantly abused by my 3 daughters. It started right from the day they were born and lasted until early this year.

Perhaps I may be at fault here too since the thing was, I love to cradle my daughters, in their infant and toddler years, on my big belly, lulling them to sleep. Each one of them.

Growing up, I think they sort of adopted my belly to be their plaything. They jumped, pinched, hide their fingers inside my deep belly button hole, bit the poor thing when they were teething, and did all imaginable things as toddlers would have. They jiggled and rearranged it so it become an angry ocean in a violent storm. They pretended that its a quicksand, swallowing their little fingers to its depth, shrieking and giggling a sigh of relief whenever their tiny fingers survived the horrific ordeal. They turned it into an imaginary birthday cake or a big jelly, enough to serve everybody at their parties.

I did get angry at my daughters sometimes for their abusive behavior. But always only for a short while.

And then there were those times, when they were upset and crying, they would crawled up the belly mountain and somehow they were calmed down by just lying on it. It became their own comfort zone, land of peace and security. They slept on it with their mouth opened wide and I am sure they dreamt of the nicest dreams. They told their mother that my big, great belly is the best thing in the world.

One night last May, the youngest one with her sleepy eyes came to take her position on my belly, as usual to sleep on it. I could see she was restless and forever trying to adjust her little frame to a comfortable position on my belly. After a little while, frustrated, she sat up suddenly, looked me in the eyes and said;

"Abah, I dont like your tummy anymore, its not the same like before, and I cannot make it into a big jelly like always".

I told her that it has since shrunk because of I lost weight.

"Can you exercise and keep your big tummy?"

I didnt say anything, and shushed her to sleep. I suddenly realize that lately, their favourite thing in the world was not given enough attention as what they usually did. Perhaps they grew out of it.

That night, looking at her face, while she shifted endlessly on the once great belly, I suddenly felt I was missing something.

I miss those belly time with my daughters.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

CANON EOS 5D MARK II

If I have money to spare right now, I would definitely drop everything and buy the Canon EOS Mark II 5D.

The thing is, I am beginning to like Canon DSLR cameras, after witnessing the visible quality difference of pictures taken by series of Canon DSLR cameras owned by my friends, as compared to my own Nikon D70s. I have to say, pics by Canon DSLR cameras projects more clarity and captures almost every details available at that moment of the particular shot.


Researching hundeds of reviews on the Internet, reveals the superior advantage Canon DSLRs had over Nikons.

The problem with that is, I have invested a lot on my Nikon D70s. 3 different zoom lens, speedlights and various other accessories which I acquired over the years. If ever I decide to buy a Canon DSLR, I would have to start spending quite a bit of money again.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II costs around CHF 4,999.00 which translate to about RM 16,000.00. Its a damn lot of money. With that amount of cash, alternatively, people can use it as a down payment of a decent house, or a car, or buy 3 kapchais, or to buat belanja hantaran. But, of course, all that will not measure up to the 21 megapixels, 1080p video, 3.0" VGA LCD, Live view, and higher capacity battery offered by the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, that is, if your die hard interest is all about taking awesome pictures.

Admittingly, I have to reluctantly conclude, its not that Nikon DLSR cameras are not great, its just that Canon DSLR cameras are better.

Now, if you want to help me out, I am accepting cash donation.

:)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

THE THING ABOUT GENEVA - BUILDINGS PICS

I still have a lot to learn on how to take awesome pictures of buildings. The following pics are test shots. Camera used was Nikon Coolpix P6000.








Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WILL POWER ?

Akula's friend: Bro, I want to lose weight. Can you give me some advise?
Akula: I don't have any actually.
Akula 's friend : But you loose so much.

Akula : I dont think you can do it my way. That is 2 times a day working out, every day.

Akula's friend : I think I can do it, but not when I am busy. I mean I dont think I have enough time to exercise like you do.

Akula : And that's exactly why you cannot do it.
Akula's Friend: What?
Akula: You give excuses before you even starts.

Silence.

Akula: I rest my case.


I think the most important thing, is to get over our denials that we don't need to exercise and our own self serving excuses of not to do it. People I met spoke to me about this and while they told me that they want to start exercising, in the same breath gave lame excuses such as;

1. Their doctor said they are still ok.
2. They did blood test some time back and did not find anything wrong.
3. They can still climb stairs without any problem.
4. Brag about their long past athletic ability.

I told them all that are good, and that they are wasting their time and their precious saliva (and mine) asking me for advice.

The thing is, I was like them before, always coming up with a lot of bullshit excuses to justify myself that I dont need it, although at that time I was physically in a really bad, bad shape.

Seriously, you have to want to do it to make it work.

Plain, brutal and simple.

Monday, September 28, 2009

THE THING ABOUT US - OUR SOCIAL DEPENDENCY

A few years back, when Facebook (or FB) was making its mark on the Internet, a lot of my friends quicky subscribed to its service and jumped on this social networking bandwagon.

I did not.

I really think that social networking services in the Internet are meant for those who have a lot of free time at their hands and honestly, I am not into that kind of thing. Well, I did join some social networking site but its more of a strategy to promote and to popularize my previous blog, Nasi Lemak and Nescafe Tarik.


Now I think, almost everyone I know has a Facebook, and if they are not, I'll bet you that someone they know are Facebooks users. Thats how big the circle of FB users around you. I think its most appropriate if now we say, kalau baling batu tengah orang ramai mesti kena sorang Facebook user.

Anyway, that is not what I am getting at.

People loves to hear news about someone they know. Doesnt matter if that someone is a relative, friends or an old flame. Hey, people even loves to know something about a friend of a friend. And sometimes they dont have any idea who the hell that friend of a friend is anyway. Rather than labelling that kind of behaviour as nosy or busybody, I would personally say that its normal inquisitive human nature at work. Its embedded in our DNA since forever to want to know about something even if it got nothing to do with ourselves.

The old way of catching up latest news, gossips and happenings back then in my growing up years, would be at the gathering of parents searching for their children right before maghrib. Usually parents will berkumpul in front of a popular neighbour's house turned playground, and while yelling "Oi budak, engko balik mandi SEKARANG, kata aku!" they exchanged information on everyday stuff.

I also remember that whenever the fishmonger came to our neighbourhood riding his Honda 70 kapchai every morning, all the wives and mothers came out in droves from their homes. And of course while buying foodstuff to cook for the afternoon meal, they grabbed at that opportunity to exchange latest gossips.

And they did this every single day.

It made me think that perhaps our social act of getting together far outweigh the importance of exchanging of the news itself.

Make sense?

I mean that is what millions of Facebook fans are doing, arent they? Like our parents before us, we discussed about everything under the stars in there. Need that particular recipe? Just post what we need on our FB wall, and someone will surely give the much needed help. Got wishes to send? No problem, just send it through one of the many available FB applications. Want to share share a particular news? Type what we think inside our head in the FB and everybody will know the instance they launched their own FB.

We gathered almost all the person we know in our own space. And we wholeheartedly embraced social networking application like Facebook to share our news, happenings and gossips with one another, much like what the older generations did. Long distances doesnt mean a thing these days and we could easily keep in touch wherever we are.

The thing with all this is that, we cannot but be dependent on one another for that need to interact. The way of keeping in touch might be totally different now compared to 10 - 20 years ago, but we are no different from our parents generation or the generation before them. Our social dependency still remains the same. We got together on Facebook and socialize, even with the obvious lack of personal touches and the privilege of having the interaction face to face.

Joining other middle age adult this year for me, I think I am beginning to morph and form new characteristics that were very alien to me before. Like subscribing to Facebook. I admit with no shame that I now consider myself as a heavy Facebook user. I enjoyed the user friendly interface and the space provided for photos storage. And I found Mafia Wars is very, very fun and engaging to play.


Oh yes, I am putting the blame on the age factor, definitely.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

2009 AIDILFITRI REPORT

How do we Malaysians, celebrate Aidilfitri in Geneva?

Obviously, of course its not the same as in Malaysia. No true lemang, ketupat here since we cannot get buluh lemang and daun kelapa or daun palas. But what we did were to improvise. Lemang was made in aluminium foil and for ketupat, my love one made nasi himpit. No problem to make rendang and kuih kacang since all all necessary ingredients are readily available in various Asian grocery shop in Ferney (France) and around Geneva.

Days leading to Hari Raya, we paid our zakat fitrah in the local mosque. The difference doing that compared to Malaysia is that theres no one to accept the payment, thus no akad. Zakat fitrah money were simply dropped in a box placed in the mosque. Thats it. Dont ask me sah ke tak sah. I dont know, and I am not the appropriate authority to comment on that. What I know is that I have fulfilled my obligation according to the practice here.

I went to a prominent Malaysian residence who was kind enough to volunteer his house for our Aidilfitri prayers. And nope, I was not the Imam, in case you are wondering. I dont think I was fit to be one, (banyak tanggung dosa) :).

We had delicious nasi dagang and sate and various Malaysian food prepared by the host. Others brought along additional pot luck traditional kuih muih too add up and to complete the Hari Raya gastronomy extravaganza.

My family and I stayed there until noon, meeting and renewing acquaintances and enjoying the good crowd. Just like in Malaysia where we visited rumah saudara mara on the first day of Raya, we visited other friends here instead and this continued well into the night, one house after another.

Raya second day, we visited another prominent Malaysian open house, and feasted on the variety of Malaysian dishes, again! Not that I was complaining. I am a simple man, and what more could you expect during Hari Raya celebration here in Geneva. Having delicious food among good friends and friendly crowd, is more than enough for me. The tradition of visiting other Malaysian house continued on the second day of Raya.

We were tired with the hectic schedule but neverheless, felt satisfied and happy to celebrate our first Hari Raya here.

And I know you readers had a wonderful Aidilfitri too in Malaysia.

Tomorrow, my family and I will be going to Berne to attend an open house invitation there. I know it will be great.

Salam Aidilfitri from Geneva.

Note: Pics will be uploaded once I have free time la.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

THE CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH THE THIRD KIND

So there I was, chatting with a friend, at my big boss Hari Raya Open house when a guy approached me.

The man : " You Kampung Melayu Geneva?"

I was startled with the question. I shot a look at the friend I was chatting with and burst out laughing. I turned to the guy and said to him with a smile.

Akula: So you read it?
The man: Yes, I was in fact googling about Geneva before I came to Switzerland. Thats when I came across your blog. BTW you should write more.
Akula : Hehe, I think I should too.

What I dont know was that he had been asking other guests who's based in Geneva whether or not they are the one who owns Kampung Melayu Geneva. Another friend told me that later.

The other day, I attended a function in Bern, when a colleague (who I know she dont have any idea that I have blog) shot me a remark.

Lady colleague: I know your secret !

Now, when somebody said something like that in your face, it must mean that somehow and some way, your irresponsible but really fun as hell past has finally caught up with you (not that I am implying I had an irresponsible but really fun as hell past, mind you, hehe).

Akula (nervously) : I think I dont have a secret.
Lady colleague: I read your blog.
Akula (with relief) : Aaaah, THAT secret.

It turned out her friend was (and still is) a fan of Nasi Lemak and Nescafe Tarik, and continued to read my ramblings in Kampung Melayu Geneva.

Back in Malaysia, this one time, I was having a Teh Tarik conversation with a fellow blogger, when a young lady, sitting at a table behind ours with a male friend, turned her head around towards us, smiled and said, "So you are Akula! And you are (name censored)!. I know its you guys! Woo! Unbelievable!". We just nodded our head acknowledging her statement and smiled back at her (and her I-dont-have-a-clue male friend).

Well, let me just say that I am always glad whenever I stumbled upon a chance to meet someone I dont know, who told me that they read my blog. But even so, I really dont think I am famous or in that sense, popular like other prominent bloggers. If you guys enjoyed my writings, I am truly flattered and thankful. I am just relating my life experiences and what I thought, from my point of view. And if you dont like what I wrote and dont agree with my views, seriously, I really dont mind.

And please, no groupies or stalkers, okay.

Friday, September 11, 2009

OF FATHERHOOD, 3 LITTLE PRINCESSES AND AN AUDIO VIDEO CONFESSION

When I was still single, I was totally into the audio video, home theatre thing. My old Civic LX was fitted with the finest and latest CD audio component, since at that time I was spending way a lot of time travelling.

I had 2 systems in my home. For my listening pleasure I had an Audio Lab amp, Marantz CD and a Technic double casette deck player, pair of Infinity floor standing speaker for playing cds and cassettes. For movie playback, I had a Sony Laser Disc for LDs, a Panasonic VHS for videos a VCD player (cant remember the model) for VCDs. An Onkyo AV Receiver and Paradigm surround speakers completed my home theatre set up.

And lots, lots of casettes, VCDs and CDs. LDs were so expensive back then. I think I owned perhaps 2 or three movie titles on LDs and usually rented other LD movies from a favourite video rental shop in Alor Setar.

I did not consider myself as an audiophile, but I know enough, and I used to keep track of the AV evolutions and happenings over those years.

Then marriage happened.

Following that, then , fatherhood showed up.

And somehow, slowly and surely, I drifted away from the audio video world. I found that I no longer have the pleasure and time to listen to musics and experienced movies at the full blast of a home theatre system. Driving my car while listening to booming sounds of heavy metals bands became a thing of the past. Babies on board.


My life was centered around my infant daughters. You know, the can't-make-any-noise-or-the-babies-will-wake-up-and-give-you-hell sort of stuff. The other thing was, I realized that I cannot win the fight for my rights to hear full blast music (as I usually did when I was single) with my love one. "Yes dear, I'll shut it off right now" was the only response I could offer when my love one reminded me that we have babies sleeping in the house whenever I tried to listen to some music or watching movies. It was indeed a losing battle. So I ditched my AV stuff to concentrate on the fatherhood routine and drills.

Only on rare occasions I had some moments and glimpses of the latest gadgets and happenings in the audio video world. My listening to music was reduced to hearing it from Ipod, which is great for exercising but not so if I really want to enjoy the details.

A few days ago I decided that my years of self impose exile from loud noises were now over since my youngest daughter is finally attending primary school.

I already have a Toshiba 42 inches Regza and I needed a good home theater system to go with that. I was looking for a system which can fit in a small room . After some research and test I decided to get the Philip Soundbar DVD Home Theatre HTS8100. Its an integrated 5.1 surround channel in a one piece system with a built in CD/ DVD player.


It has all the necessary HDMI, Optical, USB and digital input. A separate auxiliary input for MP3 links/ players, it can play music from any MP3 players as well. A FM tuner allows you to listen to favourite FM stations.

The soft touch screen on the control panel is an excellent and a very cool feature. The panel slides to the right revealing a hidden compartment to slot CD/DVD in for playback.


The best thing that surprised me was that it also came with a separate Ipod dock. Once connected, it play the songs, and you can also watched movies or video clips from your Ipod on the TV screen. This unit remote control also controlled the Ipod's functions, which I found very convenient.


Digital photos can be viewed on the TV via the USB input. Just plug in your USB drive, and its good to go.

This Philips Soundbar has a separate sub woofer unit to complete the system.


For this system review, you can check out the following website.

I was lucky in the sense that I bought this Philip Soundbar way below the normal price, as it was on offer. And on top of that I managed to get an Integrated TV Mounts with heavily discounted price, which is a perfect place for all my audio video components including my children game consoles.


I definitely am back!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

THE THING ABOUT GENEVA - Part 2

Lets explore shopping in Geneva.

Well, for starters, there's definitely not a lot of shopping complexes if we compare what we have back home in Malaysia. The most prominent one is Balexert, followed by Manor, I think. (To give you and idea how big the shopping complexes here compared to Malaysia, size wise, let just say that it will take about 30 Balexert to fit in one Suria KLCC). Apart from that here are a lot of designer label shops in the old part of Geneva. Almost all of the famous brands had a store here (this is of course la a hit with the love one, whenever the subject of all things `designer label stuff' crop up in our conversation, where I would usually roll up my eyes, wishing hard I was somewhere else. :).

The most interesting aspect is that, whenever you want to buy something, lets just say, shoes for example, just pick up the one you want and pay. Thats it. No bored sales person to bug you, no lengthy sales pitch by the sales assistant. I like it that way. I don't need to say anything, just pick what I want, try it and see whether its fit and if I am satisfied, pay for it and get the hell out. Its efficient.

Friends here told me that its much more cheaper to shop in France. I dont know, but with the Swiss Franc to Euro exchange rate always favoured the latter, maybe its just true for some stuff. I mean its expensive in Geneva, but if converted to Euro, taking into account you have to pay more Swiss Franc for the same thing, you are actually paying the same amount.

In halal food case, as in meat and chicken, I can say that its 50 percent cheaper in France than in Geneva. So I buy all the halal food stuff in Anamasse or in Ferney, both in France.

Another thing I observed here, is that there's a lot of factory outlet around Geneva and in the whole of Europe for that matter. Foxtown in Lugano, Switzerland is a popular place for shopping with the expat community here. With 160 factory stores representing various famous brands, you could fulfill your deepest heart desire there for a reasonable price.

Theres also a small factory outlet in Aubonne, about 30 minutes drive from Geneva where they have a Nike factory outlet and other famous sports brands shop like Adidas and Reebok. I considered the prices as okay, and it will get cheaper if its sales time.

My favourite place to explore without any doubt is Media Markt where they sell those audio video stuff, computers, handphones, cameras, CDs, DVD's, Blue Ray Discs, video games............ well you get the idea. Its like a mini Low Yatt and a place where my male colleagues and I got our weekly and sometimes almost daily gadgets fix. Come to think of it, its very rare for me not to buy something there every time I visited the store.

A female colleague once remarked that she don't understand why we guys could spent hours browsing this kind of shop and what we searched for. To which I replied, "And you honestly think we can understand you ladies, wherenever you go shopping?"

:)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

THE THING ABOUT US: NAK GADUH?

Remember when we were kids, theres this melodious tune that we sang, whenever we quarreled with our friends? It goes something like this;

TAK MAU KAWAN SUDAH!
NAMA ENGKAU DOLAH
TETEK ENGKAU SEBELAH!

and this;

TAK KAWAN SUDAH!
NAMA ENGKAU ABU
TETEK ENGKAU SERIBU!

I dont know what pissed us off so much when we were bombarded with this insulting chants. Perhaps our young mind at that time were thinking that if it were said many times enough, it will come true?

I have to admit that I got into a lot of fights with my friends whenever it escalated to name calling like this. And so were my friends, with me.

I wonder, perhaps breasts was an important component for our self integrity during our childhood days and thus when someone provoked our developing mind by insulting our errr..... breasts, then there was not other way to redeemed and defend that sacred honour other than fist fight?

I don't know, but come to think of it, I think its weird.

Weirder still, some of my childhood friends, whenever somebody touched them on top of their heads, they will automatically pat their chin upwards twice or thrice in quick succession as if to correct the imbalance of their head (cause by that touching on top of the head). I remember laughing like crazy when this girl, Nani, frantically tapping her chin upwards when a teacher slap her head with an exercise book. It doesnt make sense to me then, and it still doesnt make any sense now.

Back to the quarrel thing, I think, being at my age right now, falling out with friends are something that feels undesirable. I mean, I dont want to have a quarrel over silly, simple things. Trying to win an argument for instance, or when I was asked to do a favour that I dont agree with.

If I am in that situation, usually I will say no, and thats it. No means no. Or I will walk away from it. And if the other party still doesnt get it, its not my problem. They are the one who should deal with my decision. I don't owe anybody any explanation for saying no or walking away.

The more important thing is that, adults, when they quarrel, do behave like small kids. I have witness and personally experienced similar things. Small matters were blown up and months, or even years of friendship could end just like that.

I honestly think that its more a matter of opinion, and if we dont agree with it, so what, we just dont agree. What sane mind who feels the need to pursue such matters further is sometimes beyond me. And seriously its a stupid thing to act on. There are more important things to think about..... like world peace (Heheh).

Having said that, and if we still feel the need to feed the hunger of revenge in our egoistic mind, please feel free to yell the TAK KAWAN, SUDAH ! chant.

As many times needed, of course.