Saturday, December 20, 2008

Aligning Your Job With Your Values

Some soul-searching can help job-seekers find what they really need.

By Wendy Cornett

You spent months combing the classifieds and surfing the Web for
that "perfect" job. You nailed the interview. The potential
earnings and advancement sealed the deal. You accepted the offer
with earnest enthusiasm.

That was six months ago. Now the pairing you thought was kismet
has turned out to be catastrophic. Meanwhile, a colleague in the
next cubicle thrives. What did you do differently? Chances are,
it's what you didn't do that cost you your job satisfaction.

Before opening the paper, logging on to the Internet or running
off 200 copies of a resume, job seekers should strike a lotus
position and do some serious soul-searching--literally.

"People spend too much time evaluating potential opportunities,
and not enough time evaluating themselves and what's important
to them," says Celia Crossley, career strategist and owner of
Celia D. Crossley & Associates in Columbus, Ohio. "A little
reflective time speeds up the job search because you know what's
important to you." Self-discovery not only saves time, it also
helps to reduce a job seeker's chances of making the wrong

To help clients determine what brings them professional
satisfaction, Crossley uses an exercise in values. Supplying
clients with a list of 15 common values, Crossley asks them to
pinpoint their top five. The list includes friendship, location,
enjoyment, loyalty, family, independence, leadership,
achievement, self-realization, wealth, expertness, service,
prestige, security and power. The client must determine which of
their top five, if any, are supported by or shared by the
employer. Where Crossley witnesses alignment, she sees a
potential for career satisfaction and success.

People dissatisfied with a recent job move or those adversely
affected by a merger or change in management can use this
exercise to help determine whether or not their situation is

Crossley recommends that, at the very least, an employee needs
to find an alignment among two of their top five values.

One recent values assessment that Crossley conducted with
executives from a small, growing Columbus company revealed that
each manager aligned five out of five values. The company,
Crossley says, is growing by 17 percent.

"I keep seeing this pattern," she says. "When you see four, or
five out of five values in alignment, you see successes."

Conversely, Crossley recently assisted someone whose values were
in alignment with those of the company, but who still considered
moving on because of a recent management change. A decision of
this kind, she noted, should not be taken lightly.

"If you're two or three years from being fully vested and
there's a management change, just recognizing and acknowledging
the facts can help you find ways to work it out," Crossley says.

Crossley refers to her process of values assessment and
self-discovery as "doing your due diligence."

"This means doing your own personal homework to make sure the
facts and figures align with what's important to you," she

As in personal relationships, occasional periods of discontent
do not constitute a mismatch. This is when it's time to refer to
the values assessment for reassurance.

"Never change jobs on emotion," Crossley adds. "Do your due
diligence before deciding upon any transition."

Consider time spent on introspection as a valuable investment
toward building a satisfying professional future.

"A job paying $50,000 annually turns into a $1 million
investment in 20 years," Crossley says. "No venture capitalist
would give you $1 million without a plan."

Once you've done your due diligence, it's time to make sure the
potential employer has done the same. Crossley recommends that
all candidates ask about expectations.

"Once the job has been offered," she says, "but prior to
accepting it, ask the hiring manager the following question:
'Let's say I've been on the job for six months. You're telling
me I'm doing a wonderful job. What would I have accomplished?'"

If the question isn't answered to your satisfaction, it might be
best to pass this one up. "You can't deliver unless someone has
well-defined expectations," she says. And likewise, "Unless you
have your own criteria, you're likely to make another mistake."

Whether you achieve self-discovery privately through meditation
or by seeking help from a professional career adviser, what's
important is that you define your values, refer to your list
from time to time and update it when circumstances change.

The secret to any successful relationship is determining exactly
what you want, and then finding it.

"We spend a lot of our week in that (work) relationship,"
Crossley says. "If it doesn't make us happy, we're not

Wendy Cornett is a freelance writer based in Columbus, OH. She
worked for the Columbus Dispatch for six years after a four-year
stint in corporate communications. She is a member of

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why is a man allowed to have more than one wife in Islam

Q.Why is a man allowed to have more than one wife in Islam? i.e. why is polygamy allowed in Islam? ? 

A. 1. Definition of Polygamy Polygamy means a system of marriage whereby one person has more than one spouse. Polygamy can be of two types. One is polygyny where a man marries more than one woman, and the other is polyandry, where a woman marries more than one man. In Islam, limited polygyny is permitted; whereas polyandry is completely prohibited. Now coming to the original question, why is a man allowed to have more than one wife?

2. The Qur’an is the only religious scripture in the world that says, "marry only one". The Qur’an is the only religious book, on the face of this earth, that contains the phrase ‘marry only one’. There is no other religious book that instructs men to have only one wife. In none of the other religious scriptures, whether it be the Vedas, the Ramayan, the Mahabharat, the Geeta, the Talmud or the Bible does one find a restriction on the number of wives. According to these scriptures one can marry as many as one wishes. It was only later, that the Hindu priests and the Christian Church restricted the number of wives to one. Many Hindu religious personalities, according to their scriptures, had multiple wives. King Dashrat, the father of Rama, had more than one wife. Krishna had several wives. In earlier times, Christian men were permitted as many wives as they wished, since the Bible puts no restriction on the number of wives. It was only a few centuries ago that the Church restricted the number of wives to one. Polygyny is permitted in Judaism. According to Talmudic law, Abraham had three wives, and Solomon had hundreds of wives. The practice of polygyny continued till Rabbi Gershom ben Yehudah (960 C.E to 1030 C.E) issued an edict against it. The Jewish Sephardic communities living in Muslim countries continued the practice till as late as 1950, until an Act of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel extended the ban on marrying more than one wife.

3. Hindus are more polygynous than Muslims The report of the ‘Committee of The Status of Woman in Islam’, published in 1975 mentions on page numbers 66 and 67 that the percentage of polygamous marriages between the years 1951 and 1961 was 5.06% among the Hindus and only 4.31% among the Muslims. According to Indian law only Muslim men are permitted to have more than one wife. It is illegal for any non-Muslim in India to have more than one wife. Despite it being illegal, Hindus have more multiple wives as compared to Muslims. Earlier, there was no restriction even on Hindu men with respect to the number of wives allowed. It was only in 1954, when the Hindu Marriage Act was passed that it became illegal for a Hindu to have more than one wife. At present it is the Indian Law that restricts a Hindu man from having more than one wife and not the Hindu scriptures. Let us now analyse why Islam allows a man to have more than one wife.

4. Qur’an permits limited polygyny As I mentioned earlier, Qur’an is the only religious book on the face of the earth that says ‘marry only one’. The context of this phrase is the following verse from Surah Nisa of the Glorious Qur’an: "Marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one." [Al-Qur’an 4:3] Before the Qur’an was revealed, there was no upper limit for polygyny and many men had scores of wives, some even hundreds. Islam put an upper limit of four wives. Islam gives a man permission to marry two, three or four women, only on the condition that he deals justly with them. In the same chapter i.e. Surah Nisa verse 129 says: "Ye are never able to be fair and just as between women...." [Al-Qur’an 4:129] Therefore polygyny is not a rule but an exception. Many people are under the misconception that it is compulsory for a Muslim man to have more than one wife. Broadly, Islam has five categories of Do’s and Don’ts: (i) ‘Fard’ i.e. compulsory or obligatory (ii) ‘Mustahab’ i.e. recommended or encouraged (iii) ‘Mubah’ i.e. permissible or allowed (iv) ‘Makruh’ i.e. not recommended or discouraged (v) ‘Haraam’ i.e. prohibited or forbidden Polygyny falls in the middle category of things that are permissible. It cannot be said that a Muslim who has two, three or four wives is a better Muslim as compared to a Muslim who has only one wife.

5. Average life span of females is more than that of males By nature males and females are born in approximately the same ratio. A female child has more immunity than a male child. A female child can fight the germs and diseases better than the male child. For this reason, during the pediatric age itself there are more deaths among males as compared to the females. During wars, there are more men killed as compared to women. More men die due to accidents and diseases than women. The average life span of females is more than that of males, and at any given time one finds more widows in the world than widowers.

6. India has more male population than female due to female foeticide and infanticide India is one of the few countries, along with the other neighbouring countries, in which the female population is less than the male population. The reason lies in the high rate of female infanticide in India, and the fact that more than one million female foetuses are aborted every year in this country, after they are identified as females. If this evil practice is stopped, then India too will have more females as compared to males.

7. World female population is more than male population In the USA, women outnumber men by 7.8 million. New York alone has one million more females as compared to the number of males, and of the male population of New York one-third are gays i.e sodomites. The U.S.A as a whole has more than twenty-five million gays. This means that these people do not wish to marry women. Great Britain has four million more females as compared to males. Germany has five million more females as compared to males. Russia has nine million more females than males. God alone knows how many million more females there are in the whole world as compared to males.

8. Restricting each and every man to have only one wife is not practical Even if every man got married to one woman, there would still be more than thirty million females in U.S.A who would not be able to get husbands (considering that America has twenty five million gays). There would be more than four million females in Great Britain, 5 million females in Germany and nine million females in Russia alone who would not be able to find a husband. Suppose my sister happens to be one of the unmarried women living in USA, or suppose your sister happens to be one of the unmarried women in USA. The only two options remaining for her are that she either marries a man who already has a wife or becomes public property. There is no other option. All those who are modest will opt for the first. In Western society, it is common for a man to have mistresses and/or multiple extra-marital affairs, in which case, the woman leads a disgraceful, unprotected life. The same society, however, cannot accept a man having more than one wife, in which women retain their honourable, dignified position in society and lead a protected life. Thus the only two options before a woman who cannot find a husband is to marry a married man or to become public property. Islam prefers giving women the honourable position by permitting the first option and disallowing the second. There are several other reasons, why Islam has permitted limited polygyny, but it is mainly to protect the modesty of women.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A flirter's guide (but beware!)

The following is a selection of popular chat-up lines. The list does not claim to be an accurate cross-section and most certainly offers no guarantee of success.

"I seem to have lost my telephone number, do you think I could have yours?"
Assessment: direct and in certain circumstances very effective.

"I thought you were great in the last episode of Bay Watch."
Assessment: fun, but what if she doesn't have a television?

"What a horrendous day. The only thing that could save it now is the smile of a beautiful woman. Would you give me a smile?"
Assessment: A classic line with a lot of charm, unless she has crooked teeth.

"Who does this cute little fellow belong to?"
Assessment: solid, so long as it's his or her dog. A love of animals always goes down well.

"Excuse me, but which of all the chat-up lines would you most like to hear?"
Assessment: intellectual, polite, but risky--she might demand a list of the alternatives.

"If I were to follow you all the way home, would you keep me?"
Assessment: cute, in a humble sort of way. Chance he or she might say no.

"I would love to cause you sleepless nights."
Assessment: ambiguous--do you really want to compare yourself to a nightmare?

"You're turning my software into hardware."
Assessment: very cheeky, only for computer nerds.

"I'm an organ donor, do you need anything?"
Assessment: witty enough, if you have two kidneys, that is.

He says, "You look a lot like my fourth girlfriend."
She says: "How many girlfriends have you had?"
He says: "Three."
Assessment: Love and maths don't mix, not very romantic.-- dpa

Friday, December 5, 2008

A lift for the lowly umbrella

Sunday, July 23, 2000

By Kee Hua Chee

Human friends tend to desert us in our hour of need, preferring to consort with us during fair weather. Dogs and four-footed friends stick with us through thick and thin but they too will abandon us at the first raindrops.

It is the trusty brolly, parasol, sun shade or more commonly known as 'umbrella' that is our indispensable companion regardless of fair or foul weather!

An umbrella is one of the few items that can span the spectrum of usage--it is used to keep us dry from the rain or prevent us from getting wet from sweat due to the sun! It is the most unsung item in the house, discarded into the dark recesses of the cupboard and forgotten until the heavens open or a heat wave beats down on our bare heads!

The Malay Sultans use only yellow umbrellas on public occasions. This tradition stems from the time of the Malacca Sultanate about 600 years ago. Legend has it that the Ming Emperor sent his daughter Hang Li Po to wed Sultan Mansur Shah and augment the relationship. The princess arrived with an entourage of 500 and was brought ashore beneath a yellow umbrella.

The Bunga Emas tribute sent to the Thai King by Kelantan assumed the shape of umbrellas in layers. The King of Siam's umbrella consists of nine alternating umbrellas to signify the nine stages of paradise.

Umbrellas are among the first inventions as they are obviously easy to make and are relatively important in sheltering the head and body from the elements. The first umbrellas taking our present form was made at least 3,000 years ago by a Chinese carpenter. A Chinese emperor was so enamoured with what he called 'mobile pagodas' that six men were needed to carry the umbrella.

A PART OF HIS ARSENAL: In the business district of London, every man worth his credit card is a member of the brolly brigade.

In Buddhism, umbrellas played a part in protecting Siddarta Gautama, the Enlightened One. After he attained enlightenment, the Mara, Evil Incarnate, sent a devastating storm to demolish him. He was protected from the onslaught by the Naga king with an umbrella.

Umbrellas even played a role in creating a Chinese deity. A young man was told he could be a god only when he saw men carrying bronze umbrellas, a river flowing backwards and he was neither inside nor outside a house.

One day he saw a funeral procession. Suddenly it rained. The pall bearers covered their heads with their cymbals. At first the young man laughed at the ludicrous sight of men wearing bronze hats. Then he realised the significance--bronze umbrellas! He glanced at the nearby river. Some men were damming it with rocks so, for a while, the waters were forced to flow backwards. Transfixed, he noticed he was standing in the porch of a walled courtyard, neither in nor out of the house!

He knew the time had come. He sat cross-legged in the lotus position waiting to be transformed. His mother ran out and not knowing what was happening, tried to prise his legs apart. At that moment he became a god and that's why his statues show him with one leg sticking out!

The common saying "to be under the umbrella of so-and-so'' means to be under the influence or dominion of a particular person and is often used as an emblem of sovereignty. In 1876 the sacred and royal umbrella of King Koffi of the Ashanti tribe was forcibly captured and whisked to South Kensington Museum as proof Koffi was not invincible. The ploy worked as the Ashanti tribe became so demoralised the British took over their lands without bloodshed. Umbrellas were always buried with royalty and nobility as no one could ascertain posthumous weather.

In the business district of London that is simply referred to as the city, every man worth his credit card is a member of the brolly brigade. The lowly umbrella continues to be part of his arsenal of bowler hat, pin-striped suit, pressed trousers, brogue shoes and brief case. Despite
the entrenchment, the umbrella was not common until the middle of the 18th century.

The person responsible was Jonas Hanway (1712-1786) who carried the modern day umbrella to stave off rain, sleet, hailstones and ordinary rocks thrown at him. Street urchins enjoyed throwing stones at him just to see him use the umbrella as a shield while stagecoach operators saw him as a threat to their business and would threaten to whip him or run him into the gutter.

The wealthy, of course, summoned the coach each time the skies darkened and owning an umbrella made it patently clear one did not own a carriage. Worse, small boys would point to the folded brollies and call them "sticks in petticoats!''

Umbrellas had a tough time weathering such assaults before becoming socially accepted!

The French naturally took it to new heights of folly. An enterprising man set up a roaring business by renting out colourful umbrellas at each end of the elegant Pont Neuf in Paris. For a few centimes, fashionable ladies and foppish dandies could pick a parasol to match their outfits and sashay across the bridge where they could give it back at the other end. The parasols bore perplexing but provocative names like Suppressed Sighs, Dauphin's Dirt, Aroused Nymph's Thighs, Stifled Passions or Golden Cascades to the Bosom.

By the 19th century, there were patents for everything, including telescopic, self-opening umbrellas and even a safety umbrella for those fearful of venturing out in stormy weather. This version had a built-in lighting conductor with a metal spike earthed by a wire attached to a small metal ball. This was to conduct electricity safely away should the holder be struck by lighting.

The handles, of course, were put to good use and turned into an art form. The handles or knobs crossed the spectrum from the sublime to the silly to subterfuge. Handles concealed ticking watches, a poodle's head that, when pressed, shot out its tongue to one containing a small knife. Some knobs were nothing more than pepper shakers, used to great effect in breaking up dog fights in the park!

The Pathfinder model included torchlight and candles while some handles could be unscrewed to expose space for cigarettes, powder, opera glasses and contraband.

Brollies were useful weapons for fencing or poking others in rib and eye, which is why modern versions have softly rounded tips instead of the old, dangerous metal tips.

In England, don't be offended if a stranger dropping his umbrella near you asks you to pick it up for him. He is not treating you as cheap, oriental labour but is asking a favour as it is considered unlucky for the dropper to pick it up himself.

If you open one on a sunny day, you are tempting fate and it will pour buckets later when your umbrella is left at home! Nor should one be opened indoors.

"Umbrella'' comes from the Latin 'umbra' meaning 'shade' or from the Italian 'ombrello' referring to the shadow cast by it. 'Parasol' reveals its lineage as 'sol' is sun.

One would have thought there is nothing left to spout and shout. The last option is lethal. Remember the Brolly Murder of 1978. A Bulgarian exile in London was crossing Waterloo Bridge when he was accidentally poked with the tip of an umbrella in full view of passers-by. The man apologised and strolled away. Hours later the victim was dead, poisoned by the tip of the assassin's umbrella!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Life & Times: School daze: All about ringgit and sense

By Mariam Tan Abdullah
09 August 2000

KHAIRUL only learnt to handle money when he started primary school.
Although he had copy cutouts of the different denominations of coins as
a kindergarten project and knew how to add and subtract, he'd never
bought anything on his own.

He managed to buy food from the canteen but forgot his change on several
occasions. Once I forgot to give him his pocket money of RM2 for the
day, so he had to go hungry. His friends refused to give him a loan
because he did not lend them money when they wanted to borrow from him.

Recently, his toddler brother ferreted his wallet out of his school
shirt pocket and hid it under the bed together with a colourful sock and
a loose parquet flooring. Khairul had to go hungry again.
On another occasion, Khairul dropped his food and since he had already
run out of money, he had to pick his food off the floor and eat it after
giving it a wash.

Although it might not be apparent from their behaviour, children take
their cues and life-long attitudes about money from watching their
parents. Children pick up their traits, tendencies and mistakes.

When it comes to discussing money, "it's sort of like teaching children
about sex. You don't want to tell them more than they need to know, and
it's never appropriate to draw children into an overly detailed
discussion of the family finances," said a clergyman.

General personality traits can be taught through teaching a child how to
use money. The larger themes and issues of responsibility and discipline
can be taught through the handling of money - how to save today for
tomorrow, how to realise you can't have everything and someone has to
work hard to get the money.

Khairul is picking up very mixed signals from his parents on monetary

I am very cheap to run on and shop like a man these days - dash in to
grab exactly what I want and make a quick exit. Will Khairul learn a
woman will pay RM1 for a RM2 item she doesn't want or will he be
nonchalant like a man and pay RM2 for a RM1 article which he needs?

I am tightfisted about money. Blame it on my background in economics but
someone has to do the dirty job in the family.

Abah never borrows anything - be it money or things - which he can buy.
He goes for originals as far as possible, never bargains nor waits till
the sale.

Khairul has upped his fee for vacuuming the flat from RM1 to RM2 since
the start of the century. Talk about confused messages about money -
abah and mama paid him independently of each other when he first started
his chore and he ended up with RM1 and 50 sen for the same task!

Ever since I gave him an emergency stash of RM2 two weeks ago, in
addition to his regular pocket money, Khairul has been raiding it.
Issuing dire warnings of being left in the lurch does not seem to
provoke any verbal response or a mending of ways.

Looks like I have to revert to getting him a prepaid telephone card
which he lost after a term in school.

Ahmad, Khairul's brother aged two plus, has the last word on money:
"Abah ada 10 dollars," was his reassuring reply to my rhetorical
question of whether money grows on trees.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sunday Focus: Ramblings: Paying RM9 at cineplex and being buffeted at dinner is too much

By S.H. Tan
13 August 2000

TED Dorall, a friend, dropped in and after the usual courtesies, said:
"Have you seen Dinosaur? "Nope," I said. "Haven't been to the pictures
for ages."

When he chuckled, I was baffled. So I asked him what was the joke.

He said: "Nobody says go to the pictures anymore.

When I blinked, he said: "Nobody says go to the movies either."

When my jaw dropped, he said: "Nobody says go to the thea...."

"All right, all right," I interrupted. I said that I had the hang of
what he was driving at. "So what do they say?" I asked him.

"Go to the cineplex," he said.

When I was perplexed, he said: "A cinema is five six or seven cinemas in
a shopping complex."

Embarrassed, I decided to do what companies do when they have been found
wanting.... reinvent myself. That Sunday, I took my wife and daughter to
see Dinosaur at the cineplex at the One Utama, Bandar Utama. Coo...
things have certainly changed since I last when to the pic.... I mean
whatever. To buy a ticket, instead of a tiny room with a tinnier hole
through which there was just enough room for me to slide my cash in and
for the ticket seller to slide a ticket out, there is a counter like
those in banks.

And transactions are carried out not surreptitiously but through wide
open grilles the length of the counter itself.

Chocs, popcorn and drinks can be bought at a colourful booth and not
from roadside hawker stalls or from a digny cubicle in the cinema. The
lobby is carpetted. So are the stairs. And the hall. What is more, the
carpet is so thick, it makes the mattress I sleep on feel like a tikar
(straw mat).

And as for the hall ...! The cushioned seats, tapestried walls,
decorated ceiling, and all-round sound system make the last cinema I
went to look and sound like a squatter hut.

How many halls are in this cineplex I could not tell as there was such a
crowd, I could not see the number for the people.

Finally, to go in there is one entrance and to go out there is another.
So when the show ended, there was no stampede with people going out
elbowing their way through those coming in.

The only complaint I have is the admission charge. It was RM9 whether
you sat in front or at the back.

The first time I went to a cinema. I paid one cent, it was a zinc
enclosure with no roof, the film was silent, the star was Buster Keaton,
the seats were benches and the grass was still growing under them.

All right, all right, it was so long ago you do not want to hear about

Ancient history aside, the last time I went to a cinema, there were 1st,
2nd and 3rd class seats, the 1st being upstairs or the balcony. And the
prices were RM3, RM2, and RM1. And I would cough up to RM2 only when
there were no more RM1 seats.

But RM9? There is no doubt about it... my cineplex days are over. It is
more thrifty to stay at home and watch TV.

No sooner had my general knowledge been enhanced than I was brought down
to earth again.
Siow, Ching Cherd, a former colleague, dropped in with an invitation to
his daughter's wedding.
When I glanced at the card, I said: "H'm ... dinner is not buff fat is

Unlike Ted, he did not chuckle. He looked at me in disbelief instead.

When I said that I could not stand buff fats, he said gently: "It is not
buff fat but boo fay."

"So what?" I said: "No matter how you pronounce it, it means the same to

As we had the whole afternoon for idle chat, I said that buff fats, boo
fays, or whatever are merely a stampede by too many people for too
little food.

More often than not, when the host or hostess hollers "come and get I "
pandemonium breaks out. The guests who have been behaving themselves
with decorum and small talk, suddenly go berserk.

The women are told "ladies first". So they trot to the table groaning
under the grub, garb a plate, and fill it with whatever catches their

And this is when the men have to keep a look out for the rustlers _
other men waiting for their turn to swoop in.

Women being women, they would take an unbearably long time to make up
their minds what is good _ or bad _ for their waistlines, their
resolutions or their taste buds. If some of the rustlers were starving,
their patience would be exhausted. They would then sneak in and join the

The louts among them would think nothing of falling either in between or
in front of the women and not queue behind them.

And this would be enough to goad the gentle men in charge in _ they were
dashed if they were going to allow the others to sapu (sweep) the meat
and gravy and leave them the skin and bones.

As the guests jostle with one another, the scene is like a free-for-all
at a refugee camp.

When Ching Cherd could not believe his ears, I said: "Now you know why
it is called buffet, never mind how you pronounce it. To scoop up a few
tit-bits, you are buffeted from left, right and at the back.

"Veterans of such campaigns like myself prefer to sit down and be
served. As I am timid, when I go to a buffet, I enjoy the spectacle more
than the spread. After all, who cares for soggy, left-overs, the
bishop's nose, or the skeleton of a pomfret?"

Ching Cherd assured me that at his daughter's wedding, I will not be
bufetted as it will be a Chinese dinner. So I accepted his invitation
with alacrity.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

All's not well in 'Welbourne'

Sunday, July 30, 2000
Aussie Life

By Phoebe Fong

WELCOME to our wet, wild, windy, woolly and
wickedly-wintry Welbourne. Er, Melbourne, to the
uninitiated folks then.

Whoever dreamt up that catchy touristy phrase
"Marvellous Melbourne'' obviously had never lived a
day in this chilly city in the dead of winter. Jordan
and I have just spent an entire day in Welbourne, all
attributed adjectives listed above included.

Although our day's adventures haven't exactly been
disastrous, we nevertheless both felt somewhat
exhilarated by some of our skin-of-our-teeth's
experiences. They were almost like a sick comedy of
twisted errors that somehow righted themselves at the
very last split-second.

Granted, the day could certainly have started off a
little better had I remembered where I had placed my
keys, which, of course, took some precious 10 minutes
to finally locate.

Well, if you must know, I had put them in my overcoat
pocket the night before so I wouldn't have to waste
time looking for them in the morning. Great idea,
negated by frightful dementia.

We had decided to take the train to the Big Smoke
solely because my four-wheeler had been spluttering on
me all last weekend and it had been at the mechanic's
for several hours the day before. Besides, I am a real
klutz when it comes to driving around the city.

So, I drove like a lunatic to our local train station.
Passengers were already alighting from the train by
the time I pulled into the station.

Panic bile rose as we raced up to the ticket counter,
only to find two women arguing like fish-wives with
the exasperated ticket-seller while the PA system
blared its final announcement for passengers to board
the train that was due to leave in 60 seconds.

If I hadn't had both hands full at that very moment, I
believe I'd still be cooling my heels at the local
cop-shop lock-up, waiting to make bail. Anyway, the
train was already starting to inch along the tracks as
Jordan and I jumped on board, minus train tickets.

Although I had to explain to an irate conductor why we
had no tickets on us, I was thankful we had not missed
the train altogether. What I didn't bargain on was
having to share opposite seats with those two loud
fish-wives so I snoozed all the way to the city.

Being unfamiliar with purchasing tram tickets from
vending machines, we approached several uniformed
station staff whose jobs are to send ignorant tram
patrons, like us, on wild goose chases all day long.
Eventually, I located one forlorn-looking tram ticket
counter, tucked way out of public view, that was
actually manned.

I had to bite my tongue and not spit venom back at the
ticket-seller's rudeness when she slammed the tickets
on the counter with one hand while stuffing a muffin
into her face with the other. Jordan gave her a dirty

Not wanting to miss my stop, I told the tram driver
that we'd be alighting at Queensberry Street. He
replied, "Sure, no probs.''

The tram was so sardine-packed neither Jordan nor I
could look out for the passing street signs. After a
dozen or so stops that didn't seem right, I asked the
person standing next to us if we were near Queensberry
Street yet.

She looked at me in mock wonderment and said,
"Queensberry Street? Well, that was two stops way back

So, Jordan and I hopped off at the very next stop and
trudged three city blocks back, in pelting icy rain.
We finally got to where we wanted and stood shivering
in 5 C temperature for several minutes before a
sleazy-looking character saw fit to let us through the
door even though I had re-confirmed our appointment an
hour before.

Five minutes after listening to his parasitic
complaints, I told him where he could shove the rest
of his spiel. Jordan looked bemused as he picked up
his knapsack, led the way out and opened the door for

By now, the rain was bucketing down outside with a
shocking vengeance and the winds blustered fiercely
all around. Like pathetic drowned rats, we managed to
seek some refuge from the elements at a bus-shelter
where I made a call to the person with whom we were to
meet next.

Thank goodness, this godsend of a lady took pity on us
and arranged to pick us up within 15 minutes. Only
problem was that she was new to the city herself and
had to find one of her colleagues to draw her
directions to where we were stranded.

After a couple of hours of sorting through some issues
with the lady while, thankfully, getting dried, Jordan
and I once again found ourselves out on the street,
soaked to the skin, in the ever relentless downpour.

I rang the next person on our day's agenda and
arranged to meet up at a particular tram stop. Yes,
you guessed it! The tram didn't care to stop where we
wanted it to but rolled around the corner and trundled
further down another street away.

Well and truly frozen to the bone and starving by now,
we spent the next hour in the nearest coffee shop
before realising that we had less than 30 minutes to
hurry back to Flinders Street Railway Station to catch
our train home. Of course, the train was already there
by the time we ran up to the platform, all puffed out.

Now, two hours after having arrived home, my fingers
are still frost-chilled, my knees rheumatoid
arthritic-stiff and the rest of me barely half-thawed
out. However, my exhausted little cherub has already
fed himself, taken a hot shower and snugly tucked
himself up in his warm-as-toast bed.

Before I go crash for the night, I need to upload this
article onto my website but my Internet connection has
gone on strike! Does WWW stand for Wrongly Wired

* Phoebe Fong is a freelance writer living in
Australia with sons Ian and Jordan. E-mail:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Break away from loneliness

Wednesday, September 13, 2000
Loneliness is often accompanied by other negative
feelings and also increases the likelihood of fatal
disease. Barbra Williams Cosentino advises on ways to
escape the loneliness trap.

LONELINESS is a universal experience known to every
human being--single parents, teenagers, divorcees and
even the happily married. No one is immune. Even the
rich and famous suffer from loneliness.

The late singer Judy Garland once said: "If I'm a
legend, then why am I so lonely? Let me tell you,
being a legend is all very well if you've got somebody
around who loves you.''

Many more of us are probably lonely but reluctant to
admit it, feeling ashamed and stigmatised by our
loneliness and seeing it as a sign that we are
unlovable or defective instead of recognising it as
part of the human condition.

James Park, an existentialist philosopher, asks: "Is
there a person who has never known the eerie distance
of isolation and separation, who has never suffered
the pain of rejection or the loss of love?''

Park eloquently goes on to say that "loneliness is an
aching void in the centre of our being, a deep longing
to love and to be loved, to be fully known and
accepted by at least one other person.''

Experts say there are several kinds of loneliness.

Emotional isolation springs from the absence of close
emotional attachment. Dr Robert Weiss of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a social
scientist who did much of the seminal research on
loneliness, describes emotional isolation as the
terror of a small child who feels abandoned by his

Social isolation results from the lack of a social
network. Weiss characterises social isolation as the
mindset of a child who is bored and feels left out
when his friends are unavailable at a given time. It's
no coincidence that children often create imaginary
companions to chase away feelings of loneliness.

Spiritual loneliness stems from a void within
ourselves, a sense of feeling incomplete and
unfulfilled even when we have many loving people in
our lives. Psychiatrist Mark Epstein, the author of
Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, tells his
patients that instead of fearing this emptiness, they
should learn to embrace it.

He writes: "Only when we stop fighting with our
personal emptiness can we begin to appreciate the
transformation that is possible. Only then can we have
access to the still, silent centre of our own

Only the lonely ... people who suffer frequently from
loneliness also have to endure negative emotions
including sadness boredom, anxiety, restlessness and

Although divorce, moving to a new state or a child
leaving home can cause feelings of loneliness and
loss, such feelings are often based on an internal
sentiment rather than external reality.

Even a socially active, "popular'' person can feel
emotionally isolated when surrounded by a roomful of
superficial acquaintances with whom she lacks a true
emotional connection.

And people in a satisfying intimate relationship can
feel lonely if they don't have a network of friends to
turn to for support when their partner is physically
or emotionally unavailable.

Because aloneness is different from loneliness, we
need to tune in to the unique pleasures of solitude.
We need the freedom to devote hours to our passions,
the opportunity for self-reflection and introspection,
and space to engage in activities in which creativity
gushes forth so that we are oblivious to the passage
of time.

People who suffer frequently from loneliness find that
it is often accompanied by a host of other negative
emotions, including sadness, boredom, anxiety,
restlessness, self-pity and a lowered sense of

One lonely woman says: "I feel like my stomach is a
big cheese with a little rat gnawing at it--never
making any progress.''

In his 1977 book The Broken Heart, James Lynch of the
University of Maryland Hospital in the United States
makes a powerful connection between social isolation
and heart disease, pointing out that "reflected in our
hearts there is a biological basis for our need to
form loving human relationships.''

More recent research reveals that people who live
alone after their first heart attack are almost twice
as likely to have a second attack or to die from heart
disease than those who share a home.

Studies also show that people diagnosed with breast
cancer, malignant melanoma and other potentially
malignant diseases survive longer if they join a
support group.

These patients also show evidence of increased
activity of "natural killer cells'' that reflect
improved immune functioning.

To feel complete, we need to nurture a strong
connection with our inner selves as well as all kinds
of social connections--spouses, lovers, best friends
or mentors with whom we can share our most private
thoughts and feelings.

We also need casual buddies to "hang out with''
(shopping pals and let's-see-a-movie friends) and work
or church acquaintances who share common day-to-day

If you are lonely, here are some things to avoid:

Isolating yourself or escaping into endless sleep.

Watching TV excessively or surfing the Web for hours
on end.

Overindulging in food, alcohol or drugs to numb the
Here are some positive ways to deal with loneliness:

Seek out people _ If you're lonely due to a
situational factor (recent divorce, job loss or a move
to a new community), realise that your feelings are
transient. Give yourself some grieving time, and then
seek out people in a similar situation. Find a support
group, or join a community centre, health club,
theatre group or religious organisation where you can
meet other people and share something in common.

Explore chat rooms, websites for singles or divorced
people, single parents, folks in recovery from
substance abuse and others who might be prone to

Build social skills--If you're chronically lonely
because you're shy or don't relate easily to other
people, brush up on your conversational or social
skills. Force yourself to engage others in
conversation (remember, people love to talk about
themselves, so ask plenty of questions) and go places
where there will be people to talk with.

If your loneliness has led to serious depression, see
your doctor or seek psychotherapy.

Be active--Take part in activities you love. It's hard
to be lonely when you're smashing tennis balls back
and forth or soaring down a ski slope. It's also
likely that you'll meet people there who enjoy the
same kinds of things you do.

Text: LAT-WP

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cleverest of them all

Monday, October 2, 2000

With the completion of of the Human Genome Project
earlier this year, scientists can finally figure out
how many genes make up a human being. The result of
the count is not only surprising but also raises
questions about the further evolution of the human
race, writes MATT RIDLEY.

HUMAN self-esteem seems to depend on seeing our
species as exceptional. That is partly why the likes
of Galileo and Darwin went down so badly at first:
they made our planet and our species routine, not

The geneticists are about to deliver another blow.

It concerns the number of different genes that a
species has. The number of genes is a good measure of
how complex a creature is because it reflects the
quantity of information needed to put the body
together. The flu virus has eight genes, syphilis has
1,000 and yeast 6,000. The fruit fly has nearly 15,000
and a microscopic worm has surprised everybody by
having 19,000.

On this scale, because of our complex and clever
brains, we expect to be top scorer by a mile. Until a
year ago or so, scientists were predicting that human
beings would have about 100,000 genes, comfortably
more than any other species. But now, for the first
time, they are in a position to count them and the
score is only 40,000.

Scientific humiliation looms: we are only twice as
complex as one of the simplest worms. Worse, we might
find that some other creature--a budgerigar, perhaps,
or an oak tree--has more.

In vain do we comfort ourselves with the fact that
40,000 genes is still a very large number. Even to
list them all, let alone describe what they do, would
fill a decent book. Yet all over the world, people
will be seeking counselling for their wounded
self-esteem: just 40,000 genes is all they have.

However, reassurance is at hand. A brilliant new book,
Mendel's Demon, by the Oxford evolutionary biologist
Mark Ridley (no relation), argues that we are,
nonetheless, about as complicated as life can get. It
is unlikely that we are going to be overtaken.

Ridley sees the evolution of complex life as a matter
of combating genetic decay. The more genes a creature
has, the greater the risk it runs of accumulating
disastrous mutations, so it was not until
sophisticated proof-reading mechanisms were invented
that complex life even became possible.

One of these mechanisms was sex, which efficiently
purges mutations from the species. So does selective
mate choice.

Once these mechanisms were working, complexity was
bound to increase, as it paid dividends in the
struggle for existence, first through size, then
through intelligence. Despite occasional setbacks
caused by asteroids, the largest brains on earth
(relative to bodies) grew progressively larger until
the appearance of people.

Can it go further? Ridley argues that it cannot,
partly because we have probably relaxed the pressure
imposed by natural selection to purge mutations (we
keep alive people who might have died young in the
Stone Age; colour blindness has probably doubled in
frequency since civilisation began).

So the "mutational meltdown'' of our species may
already have begun: our genes are fraying. This is not
yet happening to our brainiest competitor, the
bottle-nosed dolphin.

In any case, Ridley calculates that we may be near the
limit of complexity for the current
mutation-correcting machinery and that a more complex
creature, such as a man with wings, is probably
impossible (although he bases his calculations on
60,000 human genes).--

 Telegraph Group Ltd, London

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dua Malaikat

Rasulullah s.a.w. ada bersabda, katanya, "Setiap anak Adam akan dijaga oleh dua malaikat. Malaikat yang di sebelah kanan lebih berkuasa dari yang sebelah kiri. Sekiranya seseorang anak Adam melakukan dosa maka malaikat yang di sebelah kiri akan bertanya pada malaikat di sebelah kanan katanya, "Apakah yang harus aku catit?" Kata malaikat di sebelah kanan,"Jangan kamu catit dahulu dosanya sehingga ia melakukan 5 kesalahan." Malaikat yang di kiri bertanya lagi, "Kalau ia telah melakukan 5 kesalahan, apa yang harus aku catitkan?" Jawab malaikat kanan, "Biarkannya, sehingga ia membuat kebaikan kerana kami telah diberitahu oleh Allah s.w.t bahawa satu kebaikan akan mendapat 10 pahala. Oleh itu hapuskanlah 5 kesalahannya yang lalu sebagai tebusan dan kami masih simpankan untuknya 5 pahala lagi." Tercenganglah syaitan mendengarkannya lalu berkata, "Kalau macam ini sampai bilakah aku dapat merosakkan anak Adam." Demikianlah rahmat Allah pada hambanya, kasih sayangNya melimpah ruah tiada terbatas hanya hambanya saja yang lalai dan leka dengan keseronokkan serta kemewahan dunia.

 Al-Quran: "Say Your Prayers Before Prayers For You Are Said".

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ramblings: Easier to stomach children's prattle than some headlines

Sunday Focus
By S.H. Tan
06 August 2000

TZE Chi called me Papa and her mother Mama. This was what we had instilled in her and she had no problem with it.

But, after being in Standard One SRJK (C) Puay Chai for only one month, she called me Daddy.

I told her no, I was Papa. But she insisted that I was Daddy.

When I asked her why, she said that her school friends referred to their fathers as Daddy.

She did not say it, but, apparently, she must have thought that she would have sounded odd if she did not speak like her friends.

Not surprisingly, her mother is now Mummy.

I realised what I was up against when I accompanied her to her class the other day and heard one pupil say to another: "You on the fan can or not?"

And the other replied: "Sure can. But why you so late one?"

And so, back home, when Tze Chi said "Daddy, please on the TV for me", I did not lift an eye-brow although I had taught her to say "turn on the TV" or "switch off the light".

It followed that it was nothing new when she came home one day and said: "I don't like Kevin one."

As she is now six going on seven, I know that no matter how I try, I will not be her role model till she is able to think for herself.

My suspicion that I just could not win was confirmed when I took her and her mother to a fast food restaurant. At the next table were two SYTs in discreet but animated conversation when one of them suddenly exclaimed: "Like that kind susah (difficult) for me."

Her friend said: "Why you so chicken? Hantam (clobber) him."

And the first SYT said: "Aiyah ... tak guna (no use) lah. When he walks out, lagi teruk (more serious) for me."

With children and teenagers talking like that kind one, is it any wonder that some adults in TV sitcoms have also got into the act?

Imagine this scene:

She: "I cinta (love) you, you cinta her, she cinta him dan (and) he cinta them."

He: "Siapa (who is) them?"

She: "His ibu (mother) dan bapak (father)."

Apparently, in the society the two characters move in, there is no word in Malay for personal pronouns.

With rojak (salad) being made of English and Malay, some newspapers have become addicted. But, instead of Manglish (Malaysian-English), they discard simple and concise words for clumsy, tortuous, half-intelligible words and phrases.

Or several words are roped in to do the work of one word. Just as the shorter and more familiar word is often the best, so the simple word is better than the long phrase which adds nothing to the meaning.

For example, there is no good reason to use "prior to" instead of "before". Yet "prior to" is appearing with such frequency in newspapers that it is alarming.

"Before" is simpler, better known, more natural, and, therefore, preferable.

By all means use the phrase "a prior engagement" where prior is doing its proper job as an adjective. But to say that you made an engagement "prior to" receiving the second invitation conveys grandeur which is non-existent.

Will children in a kindergarten understand a teacher who says "prior to participating in the egg-and-spoon race, dispense with your footwear"?

Wouldn't "before taking part in the egg-and-spoon race, take off your shoes" be less ambiguous and so less confusing?

In the same vein, Kuala Lumpians do not "use" but "utilise" the LRT.

Some of them live not "near" but "adjacent to" the station. If "adjacent to" is not verbose enough, "in the vicinity of" is an elegant variation.

On arrival at the station, they do not "go" but "proceed" to the counter not to "buy" but to "purchase" or "for the purpose of purchasing" a ticket.

And their journey does not "begin" but "commence" from Kelana Jaya.

It will not be long before we hear a child sing "when the pie was opened, the birds commenced to vocalise." After the "rendition" on the way home, should he be mugged, he does not yell "help, help" but "assistance, assistance".

"Now" or "at present" is elementary, my dear Watson. It is "at his moment in time".

All these, however, pale into insignificance beside the headline "Cros maul Giants".

Eager to find out how the giants could have met such a gruesome fate, I read the report. But I just could not see a croc or a giant anywhere.

"Turtles tame Panthers" again led me up the garden path ... there was not a turtle, panther, or even any other animal in the report.

And so, when I saw "The Shark to undergo hip surgery", I immediately smelt a rat. True enough, when I read the report, there was no shark anywhere to justify the headline.

The result of the hocus-pocus is that reading newspapers is now lagi teruk than listening to the prattle of children and teenagers.

But give me the prattle anytime. If nothing else, it does not make a monkey of me.