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Showing posts from 2011

Guest Post: A Year of Changes

Guest blogger Jehan Mohd ponders the old year as the new one approaches.

We’ve come to that time of the year where we take stock of our lives and make up lists of resolutions which will inevitably go out the window within the first month or so. Next year being 2012 brings an interesting twist, though. Looking up the significance of the year yields hundreds of thousands of results but one thing that seems to come up in various interpretations is that 2012 is supposed to be a time of great change.
Despite its significance, I’m approaching 2012 as any other year as my ‘year of change’ had crept in slowly this year, the year I turned 32 — and I had never anticipated anything big happening in my 33rd year of existence.
How does my age come into play? I blame it on my affinity for numbers.
I have always believed in the power of numbers — not in the way that makes me good with them or even like the subject of Mathematics (I failed Maths in primary school, spurring my parents to cart me off…

Merry Christmas from Marc Anthony

Merry Christmas everybody!

Much to protest about

Click here for Top 10 Protest Songs. Enjoy!

Gurmit Singh: Malaysia's first bicycle advocate

Environmentalist Gurmit Singh (pictured above) says the cycling culture has almost disappeared in Malaysia. He cites a lack of dedicated lanes as one of the reasons. Gurmit Singh was Malaysia's first bicycle advocate; he supported its use to combat traffic problems in the city. "If (people) use bicycles for transport, they will know the environmental problems cyclists face" (New Straits Times: June 7, 1988).

For more on cycling in Malaysia, click here.

When peace descends on me

Sadness is everywhere. Death, divorce, destruction and tragedy. These are among the things that make us sad. Some are able to bear their misfortunes bravely. Others, however, are too wrapped in misery to move on.

We crave for a perfect spouse, a beautiful home, plenty of money, supportive friends and relatives, lots of good luck and all those things that make us happy.

But what happens when sadnesses are more than joys. Take the man who can't seem to manage without his wife who died recently. Or the farmer who lost his vegetables as a result of flood damage. Consider the case of a battered wife whose husband treats her like trash.

Can we ever get over our troubles? This question dates back to ancient times. Early humans had to endure the elements, hunger, animals and other humans, among others before things got better.

Experience has taught me that life may seem unfair but it has also shown me that hard times will come to an end. Patience is the name of the game. An incident which…

A drop in the ocean

The monsoon season in Malaysia didn't mean much to me until I came face-to-face with it recently in Kuala Terengganu, the state and royal capital of Terengganu. I was there on an assignment and soon realised that travelling is much more difficult during this period of heavy rain in the east coast states of Malaysia: Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.

This year's monsoon rains have flooded many villages in the three states but that is another story.

The monsoon blew relentlessly into my face as I dashed to the lobby of Felda Residence, my home for three days, from the vehicle that took me to the hotel from the airport. I dumped my stuff in my room on the sixth floor after checking in and came down to a waiting vehicle which will take my colleague and I to the famous Pasar Payang (Payang Market), the city's main shopping area.

Even though it is not far from the hotel (a mere 20-minute walk), it would have been impossible to saunter to the market because of the rain. My shopp…

Young and carefree

The water in this stream, called Sungai Meru near Taman Meru, Ipoh, Perak, looks cool and inviting. These teenagers, who live nearby, often spend the afternoon after school swimming or just splashing around. It is nice to know that in the age of the computer youngsters still enjoy the outdoors.

Sweet Diwali

In Malaysia, as in India, Diwali  -- which means "rows of lighted lamps" -- is a time for Hindus to rejoice.

To prepare for Diwali, which is known as the "festival of lights", Hindus spring-clean their homes, prepare special meals and adorn dwellings and other buildings with lights.

On the day itself (Oct 26, 2011) they wear new clothes, say prayers, exchange gifts  usually sweets (pictures) and dried fruits and visit family and friends.


Life's Too Short wishes its Hindu readers a Happy Diwali.

Guest Post: Four seasons

By Patrick Follez



Patrick Follez, who lives in Antwerpen, Belgium, shot the images (above) of this ornamental apple tree (malus) over 12 months covering the four seasons.I will share his musings on autumn with readers of Life's Too Short. Enjoy!

Autumn is here and the tree on the street before the house is showing its yellow and autumn colours. The tree is a malus or ornamental apple tree and it is used to line the streets.
Autumn is a reflective period as nature slowly retreats to its dormant state out of human view. The malus tree does it with a burst of colours and red berries inviting the blackbirds for a last feast before the meagre times of winter.
I have been watching this tree for nine years from the day I found that I could turn my webcam outside (modified with a 200mm old zoom lens) and brought the tree live as animated wallpaper on my computer. Over the years 12,000 images were stored in a backup copy that came to light when I was cleaning up the hard drive.

It is a tr…

It's only a creepy ghost story!

Kathy posted the following on her Facebook: "Nice cool morning ... but there was something (or someone) at the far right corner of the cemetery".

Several friends responded to the post and wanted to know more. Kathy, who lives in an apartment which overlooks a Muslim burial ground, offered details: "Caught a glimpse of movement when I opened the balcony door just now. Didn't wait to see more. It was just after 5am, I couldn't for the life of me imagine anyone being at the cemetery at such a time."

More comments followed. They mainly expressed fear, curiosity and caution. These reactions are consistent with the findings of those who study the phenomenon of fear. Admit it! Evil and horror are fascinating! The continued popularity of the horror genre -- both in literature and the movie industry -- bears testimony to this view.

But that will not make former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad happy. He expressed his dismay recently at the proliferation of ho…

All roads lead to Ipoh

I have been spending a lot of time in Ipoh, the capital city of Perak state, Malaysia lately. My birthplace is Batu Gajah, some 40 minutes' drive away, but I grew up in Ipoh. When I am asked to name my hometown, the enthusiastic answer is Ipoh. Batu Gajah is an afterthought.

Ipoh is two and half hours by car from Kuala Lumpur, so it qualifies as a short journey. Each time I cross Hulu Bernam, the border town of Selangor and Perak, the excitement of getting close to "home" becomes stronger and I have to will myself to be patient.

Ipoh has that effect on me. It gives me a sense of place, a sense that I belong to a tiny haven of peace and tranquillity. I don't get that feeling when I return to Kuala Lumpur from Ipoh even though I have stayed in the city for a good part of my adult life beginning from the day I entered university. I learned about life's harsh realities in Kuala Lumpur but it is, essentially, my workplace, not my home.

When I am in Ipoh, I always mak…

Steve Jobs: Words of wisdom

The Huffington Post remembers Steve Jobs through his 11 best quotes. Here are five.


"That's been one of my mantras -- focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."
-- BusinessWeek interview, May 1998


"Picasso had a saying: 'Good artists copy, great artists steal.' We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas...I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians, poets, artists, zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world."
-- 1994


"[Y]ou can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has ne…

Balik kampung: Yes or No?

The upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr celebration is a major event which takes many Muslims back to the family home. It is arguably the most important social reunion because it  allows returnees to reconnect either with family members or long-time friends in the old hometown.

Such events are called balik kampung in Malaysia and mudik lebaran in Indonesia. The other opportunities for such gatherings are funerals, religious festivals and ceremonies.

It is usually an emotional reunion between the returnees and their loved ones. After being apart for some time  -- years in the case of some -- they are coming together to honour the first day of Syawal. As they greet each other, their eyes fill with tears. You feel the affection and tenderness.

But life is never neat and tidy. Many of us have had to deal with meddling relatives and/or unresolved family conflicts. Unsurprisingly, the prospect of a family reunion fills some with dread. The interaction may unleash pent-up frustration and the scary scenari…

Big spenders from the Middle East

Gulf Arab women in flowing black robes dashing through fancy malls in the Bukit Bintang shopping belt clutching bags of cosmetics, accessories, shoes and toys with children in tow seem to have become a permanent fixture in the tourism landscape in Malaysia.

They usually go for branded stuff and locals can barely keep up with the high-spending customers from the Middle East. They are Malaysia's favourite shoppers because they have both money and taste.
Malaysia projects an air of warmth and hospitality. It has taken steps to make visitors from West Asia feel very welcome here. Besides English and Malay, arrival and departure announcements at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport or KLIA are also made in Arabic. Many hotels in Kuala Lumpur employ Arabic-speaking staff and there is also an "Arab street" in Kuala Lumpur's "Golden Triangle" which offers all things Arab.


Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen recently announced that Ramadan will be promoted …

Eat your meal before the fast

Non-Muslims often bombard me with this question: how can you eat so early in the morning? They are referring to sahur, the pre-dawn meal practising Muslims take before the fast during Ramadan. 
That is an easy one. Actually, I have no problem consuming food at that time. The tough part is getting up at 5am or earlier for the sahur meal. That's why in previous years I have always eaten this meal at around 1am and turn in half an hour later. 


I have changed the routine this year and sahur is now at 5am. I struggled on the first day; getting up at 6am is bad enough. It takes a lot of willpower and discipline to drag myself out of bed at 5am, head straight to the kitchen and fix the very early breakfast.


But as Zafar Nomani aptly puts it: "To follow the spirit of Ramadan and other fasting traditions, discipline, control and behavioural change are critical." The reason for making the switch is simple: I wanted to see if I could do it. So far, so good.


Some of my Muslim friends, w…

Ramadan must-haves

Ramadan, which begins tomorrow in Malaysia, won't be the same without dates (see picture above).  The fruit is part of the ritual of breaking the fast, as was the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.A.W).He was reported to have said: "If anyone of you is fasting, let him break his fast with dates. In case he does not have them, then with water. Verily water is a purifier." 
Until the late 80s good quality dates were a rarity in Malaysia. People had to make do with inferior quality ones and only the well heeled could afford the best. Today it is difficult to choose from the vast array of varieties on offer.  This was my dilemma yesterday when I had to pick between dates from Tunisia and those from Saudi Arabia at a supermarket near my apartment. 
Indeed, the types available in Malaysia range from cheap to expensive. In between is the fresh and gourmet selection. Customers usually receive gifts of dates from companies they do business with during Ramadan. The quality of t…

What will Shunya Susuki think of next?

I learned recently that my friend Shunya Susuki had bought a “cheap” violin on Net auction. He plans to teach himself to play the musical instrument “although they say it will be difficult to do so”.

The purchase is a fulfilment of a dream that dates back to his days at Kyushu University when he wanted to be a violinist, among other aspirations.

But a cello player, his senior at the university, had told him that a violin was “too expensive to buy” and Susuki gave up his musical ambition until recently.

Some may think that Susuki, at 57, is being very ambitious but they don’t know the multi-talented Japanese architect, urban planner, inventor and educator. He sees life as a voyage of discovery: creating a robot, designing green cars and sculpting are among his many artistic pursuits.

So learning to play the violin is one more path to personal gratification and development. According to wikiHow, “the road to learning the violin is a long one” and it takes lots of discipline to “practice dif…

Pitbull and Marc Anthony: Rain Over Me

Soothing words from a good friend

Dr Koh Soo Ling has a gift for putting feelings into words. See below for her latest offering.


Don't make promises you can't keep

American celebrity Samuel Ward McAllister reputedly said the following:
“A dinner invitation, once accepted, is a sacred obligation. If you die before the dinner takes place, your executor must attend.”

The Arabic term InsyaAllah which means “God willing” or “If is God’s will” essentially conveys the same message.

Muslims are taught to add InsyaAllah to the end of a declaration of intent. For example, a friend invites you to his son’s wedding party and you graciously accept the invitation: “Thank you very much for inviting me to your son's wedding. I will be there, InsyaAllah (God willing)”.

The phrase InsyaAllah reminds Muslims that they are not privy to God’s plan and they cannot say with any certainty where they will be at a particular point in time. Sickness, death -- whether that of a family member or their own -- and other compelling situations could prevent them from fulfilling all their obligations, social or otherwise.

The above argument allows Muslims to break their commitme…

Muslims gear up for Ramadan

Ramadan, the annual month of fasting, will begin on August 1, this year and preparations to welcome the holiest month on the Muslim calendar are already in full swing.

Muslims who observe Ramadan are counting down to the special month by preparing themselves --mentally, spiritually and physically -- for the fast.

They constantly remind themselves that Ramadan is not just about refraining from eating and drinking during the day but also a time to be very close to God by offering more prayers than usual and to practice patience, humility and spirituality.

Some Muslims began fasting in June for a few days a week to ease their bodies into the month-long fast in August. My late father would do the mini fast three months before the start of Ramadan and when it finally came he grew accustomed to the idea of waking up at 4am for the pre-dawn meal (sahur), going without lunch and having a glass of water by his bed at night to hydrate.

My father also worried about food wastage during the ninth …

Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez

Angkor ruins excursion

"If you only see two temples, Angkor Wat and Bayon should be the ones." That is the advice from this website and my friends and I did just that on the final day of our recent stay in Siem Reap, Cambodia. In addition, we visited the Ta Prohm temple.

Half a day is hardly enough to cover the numerous religious structures in the Angkor Archaeological Park, which is close to Siem Reap city.

Khmer domination over the Angkor Kingdom lasted about 600 years beginning from the 9th Century and during this period several hundred temples were built. Our guide told us that some 300 have been listed and restored.

I enjoyed the visit to the "palaces of gods" so much that I plan to visit Siem Reap again; this time to explore the ruins thoroughly.

Michael Freeman and Claude Jacques (Ancient Angkor, 2003) write: "To gain a proper understanding of what a Khmer temple was, it should first be recalled that it was not a meeting place of the faithful but the palace of a god, who wa…