Sir, can you spare some change....

Well, you might not hear that anymore in the future. Not if how things are developing at the mosques in the Federal Territory have anything to show about the future of donating or in islamic terms, sadaqah. Ever found yourself in a situation where you forgot to bring your wallet as we all know, wallets are cumbersome things to bring to the mosque if you're going in your most comfortable worship garb which has no pockets (read: kain pelikat) Now, you can come to the mosque and donate without having to bring your wallet or a pocket full of heavy coins! All you need to bring along with you is your debit or credit card! You can even hide your card in your songkok! ;)

Last Sunday a friend of mine organised a "special" session for the Umrah I'm going to next week, with the Imam of the Muadh bin Jabal mosque in Setiawangsa. It was quite a while since I last went there and masyaAllah the mosque compound is very big, bigger than how I remembered it to be. It has an attached school and lecture rooms for seminars etc.... The Imam was a friend of a friend and he turned out to be one of the mentors on Astro's Imam Muda. On that day, the Imam was a little late due to some family matter so we had some time to check out the mosque. Not all mosques are the same mind you so if you've been to one, you haven't been to them all.  

After praying sunat Duha, we noticed a familiar sight right next to the entrance to the prayer hall. It was a credit card reader!! In a mosque?! Erm, really? This can't be true! Its a pretty novel thing this. One has the choice of channeling your donation for 1) The mosque fund, 2) Orphans, 3) The mosque renovation fund, or 4) The welfare fund. This is excellent as you know exactly where your money goes.

There are some down sides which I can see though. 1) It is rather slow compared to just dropping a few coins or some cash into a donation box. 2) the minimum amount of donation is RM10. This may be too much for some people. In Islam, donating less money frequently is more called upon than donating once in a while but in large sums. Of course donating large sums of money frequently is ideal but one must try to see the reason behind such calling. To me, I think Islam endorses a culture of giving. By giving often our character will be influence and giving will be second nature. Giving large sums of money once in a while is feared to promote arrogance and showing off, both traits despised in Islam. My father has always trained us since we were toddlers to put RM1 the a mosque's donation box everytime we go to the mosque. It may not be much money but It has been training for the young ones to be generous and donate money regularly, even if it is just 1 ringgit..  


Further out, I noticed another familiar sight. It looked like a bank ATM/Cash point but as I walked closer, the machine was another of (Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan) MAIWP's donation machines. This machine however accepts both cash and card! Okay, the same issues are evident here too with the cash machine only accepting a minimum of RM10 notes but hey, for those wanting to pay their zakat, or who have some extra cash at a particular time, these machines are a "god send" (sorry, couldn't resist the pun).  


All in all, this is a good development and I was pleased to see this type of convenience provided to the congregation. May it encourage us all to give more, more frequently. The only thing is that at the back of my head I can't get rid of this feeling that a portion of our donation will go to the giant corporations that are Visa, Mastercard and the likes....  

Musang 2

Some thing very odd happened yesterday. Odd not because of the event it self, but because it happened for the second time at the exact same spot! Apparently for the past few days/weeks my brothers have been noticing a couple of maggots falling from the ceiling. These maggot had a black tinge to them. It suddenly occurred to us that this might be a repeat of what exactly happened last Eid-ulfitr. When we got home from Kelantan we noticed the same thing. Maggots falling from the ceiling. Back then we suspected that something must've died in the attic, and we suspected the same thing this time. So, up we went, me and my youngest brother into the attic to check out what had died. On top of the dread that we had to find a dead animal carcass somewhere in the attic, we also dreaded being up in a place that so hot at the hottest time of the day! Equipped with forehead mounted torch lights we climbed up into the attic which in itself was rather a challenge due to our ladder which wasn't that tall. Anyhow as we found out later, getting up was the least of our worries. Getting down was even more tricky... and scary! 

The smell of a decomposing body wasn't so strong as the last time. This could mean two things: 1) the dead animal wasn't that big or 2) the carcass was severely decomposed already. So, this is what we found up in the attic:

 

It was another "musang" or in english the Civet. Yes my Malaysian readers, this is how a musang looks like. It is not a fox as commonly translated to. Other than the ones in Zoo Negara, there are no foxes in Malaysia. Ironically someone has complained about this erroneous use of fox as the translation for musang here. The ones that roam around my neighbourhood are said to be called the musang pandan due to the smell they give out which is similar to the smell of pandan leaves. This one however was very dead and only smelt the horrible stench of a decaying carcass.

Lessons learnt from our previous experience meant that we could dispose of this body much quicker than before using the same method we used the last time. One person would dislodge the carcass whilst another would "catch" the carcass. Obviously no hands were going to be touching the dead animal!

The poor civet like the previous one had his tail stuck at one of the roof tiles on his way into the attic and could not get himself free. The poor animal probably died of starvation. Which would probably explain the not so stinky carcass. Other than that, the carcass was quite small and already fairly decomposed. Its fur was falling off everytime we tried to free the body, which mind you was already really stuck. The tail was so stuck that my brother had to go up there and with his hands wrapped in plastic bags, manually dislodge the tail from the roof tile. Brave stuff. I don't do dead or alive bodies. I was destined never to become a doctor from birth...

After successfully catching the carcass and sealing the bag, we noticed that the carcass was already severly decomposed and was very light. So we thought we'd just put it in the bin and let it decompose with everything else at the land fill.... hehehe... The next tricky bit was to get down from the attic which only after I had badly grazed myself getting down, did we devise a safe method of getting down from the attic. So, apart from the increased cost of maintenance due to more things that can go wrong, living on landed property has the added inconvenience of wildlife dying in the house, and i'm not just talking about ants and cockroaches... Buyers beware... 

O Re Piya (Oh My Love)

I was going through a walk down memory lane tonight but figured I didn't want to write about it now lest I might end up going to bed late (which I already am anyways...). So I was about to write about a few songs that importantly signified certain years of my childhood. Just one or two song really... which through you tube browsing quickly swelled to 4 or 5 songs... This song though, I think deserves a post of its own. Firstly because it is quite a recently song introduced to me, the rest are quite old songs and secondly because It has a link to one of my previous posts which you can read here. During that post I wanted to post this video that really caught my eye. It is a clip from the Yasmin Ahmad film, Talentime. An excellent film in it's own right but when I was invited by my friend to the film premier and "cocktail", the thing that caught my eye, well, my ears at first was this song which had a very soulful melody and vocals to match. Eventhough I couldn't understand any of it at it was in Urdu/Hindi I was instantly hooked on to it. I followed that song which led me to the front of the crowd and there was this little girl at the front of the "lounge" doing this very beautiful dance, the dance you see in the clip below only in real life it's 100 times better. The song I quickly found out was O Re Piya sang by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan but I never found out who the dancer was.

Anyways, I wanted to post this video in the last post about Qawwali songs but I couldn't find the video clip anywhere on youtube. Now, with the power and ease of use of Microsoft Live Movie Maker, sniping parts of a movie and posting it on youtube is a cinch. One can now edit and directly upload the final product on the internet! Very convenient. Anyways, I didn't intend to write much today. Click on the links for more info about qawwali songs which are Sufi inspired. You can get the lyrics for this song there too. So, I guess you guys please enjoy the song and dance!

Experience to believe

petronas-mystery.jpg

If you are a reader of Paultan or the Star online, you might have seen the photo above before. Well, last Wednesday was the media launch for the "Experience to believe" campaign that selected staff have been in on earlier in the year. Apparently the branding guys took some of my comments and incorporated it in the presentation slides to the media. I tend to comment alot on these things if given the chance.

Anyways, what is this "Experience to believe" campaign you may ask? Basically it is a public field trial of the new fuel we have been developing here at where I work. When I say we, it doesn't really include me but I participated in the internal trial that is this "Experience to believe" campaign.

So, how does it work? Well, first we had to apply to the organisers via email providing them with the details of our car, year and make. They selected us based on how our cars and daily commute conditions suited their certain criteria such that they would get a good spread of users that could represent the various target consumers. I was selected so the first thing I had to do was come for a briefing by the organisers.

At this meeting we were briefed on the background of this project, what they wanted to achieve and how. We were also told to keep this secret but since the media campaign has begun then I guess I can tell you guys abit about it. I still can't tell you about the actual product which I will call Product X, inline with what the branding guys are calling it.

After the briefing, our cars were inspected to make sure they are in good running condition, oil levels, battery charge and tyre tread wear levels were all checked and recorded in the booklet below. What fuel and lube we currently use was also recorded together with the current vehicle mileage.


We were then told to come back after we'd emptied our current tank so that we can fill up with Product X. once filled up, we were asked to record our experience each day running on Product X. We were asked to comment on how our car performed and felt in terms of ease of starting, acceleration, power, smoothness and fuel economy. All very subjective i would say accept for the last - Fuel economy. As I am one who is very particular about fuel economy and has a good feel of what kind of fuel economy I could get out of my car, I decided to concentrate more on this performance area of the fuel. The other areas though can vary between fuels are not very easily noticeable to the untrained observer. Like, if you drive a normal 1.6 litre car, can you really think you can detect a 2-3% increase in power? Erm... I don't think so. So to be really fair, I decided to be more methodical and set my own little "experiment" for Product X.

So once I had emptied my current tankful, which is always a Petronas fuel anyways, I went in to get my tank full. Before that they inspected my car once more to confirm the first inspection results. I then filled up with 35 litres of Product X. My car's tank is a 40 litre tank so there was actually 5 litres of residual fuel left inside my tank. An insignificant portion they told me. So the trial began. I zeroed my Odometer and started to drive my daily routine as normal. As expected, I couldn't really feel any noticeable difference if compared to the current fuel I use. There might be improvements, lab tests could probably confirm that but in the field, the average Joe would be hard pressed to find any difference. But I was closely monitoring my mileage.

After a week plus using Product X, I finally emptied my car's tank. I filled up my tank with my regular fuel and the pump indicated that I had filled up with 35 litres of fuel. This was excellent as It confirms that I had used the exact amount of fuel for this "experiment" of mine. On my current fuel, my car's mileage on a full tank can range from 500 km to 600 km depending on whether I was ever stuck in any traffic jams on that tank. This time the traffic was average. I was expecting a range of at least 550km which was my average mileage on a tankful.

I was pleasantly surprised when the odometer read 580km - 30km more than the average on my current fuel. Therefore, I can confidently say that my experience with a tankfull of Product X gave me better fuel economy and savings per litre or how a certain oil company puts it "lebih kilometer" on a tank full...

I am not sure when the new product will be publicly launched but when it does, do try it out. Trust me, I've tried it.... =)   

Can you last 30 seconds?

Yesterday's kickboxing was pretty intense. It was conditioning day so the theme was pushing our bodies to the limit. The session started with warm up with punching targets 50 times each hand with various combo punches and kicks, incorporating jab, crosses, hooks and upper cuts. This alone left our arms sore and weak. Next up, we were given 30 seconds to unleash all the combos we previously practised on the punching bag, full power, non stop. A typical round of boxing, or kick boxing for that matter only lasts around 3 minutes. This was just 30 seconds you might think... but non stop action means that you can see and feel your arms getting heavier, punches getting slower towards the end of the 30 seconds. Of course, the idea is to reach a level where one can last 30 seconds without any performance drop, but I don't see that happening for me anytime soon... In real life, you probably don't have to punch that many times in a real fight as one or two punches to the face is probably all it takes to knock out a person. This is more for competition boxing/kickboxing. To end the session we had to put on 2 layers of Taekwondo body armour and were given 5 punches each left and right to each other's bodies. This is to condition ourselves so that we can take repeated blows to our abdomens. An untrained person would be winded at first punch, without the body armour and even us trained persons felt the punches, especially the one to the "solar plexus" which is the weak spot for even the most trained of people. I dread the day that we will have to go down to one body armour and eventually no body armour!! :s

The session pretty much ended with that and we all went home feeling like Jean Claude Van Dam from the film "Kickboxer" hehehe... I managed to take 3 videos of our punching bag session. Didn't have time to take any footage of the other drills. There were only 3 of us there. Me, Joe and an 11 year old Egyptian-American. Only managed to take the final 10 seconds or so of Joe's 2nd go at the bag (we had to go 3 times) so he was starting to get slow. Next class is tomorrow! Enjoy the vids!




Your's truely giving it my best. You can see that the punches get slower and weaker towards the end...



Joe's final 9 seconds, didn't get the bit when he was punching harder...



Egyptian kid's 2nd attempt at the bag. Giving it his best but kid, you gotta keep the guard up even when you punch!



Tea

When I was younger, I never really cared much for tea. Yes, I did drink it and enjoyed it but that was about it. In 2007 I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to go on a job assignment in Japan for 3 months. During that time I was introduced, while not for the first time, to Japanese green tea. I have tried green tea before but never on a almost regular basis like this. Over there in Japan, green tea is to them at restaurants as what "Air suam" is to us. It is a standard drink with every mean, with free refills! Another popular drink over there was "Oolong cha" which is Japanese for Oolong or Chinese tea. 


Somehow tea in Japan just makes sense, in a way that I could have it even without any sugar - and everyone knows I like my sugar... hehehe. It is here where I started noticing the different types of tea available on the market. Of course I brought home some green tea with me when I got back but when that ran out, I started to look for local versions and before i knew it, I had already developed a taste or green tea. Only the green tea i bought, the Boh one isn't so nice and gave me a strange obnoxious feeling if over infused... not good...I still haven't finished that box of green tea...


Fast forward another 2 years, 2009. This is when I planned my "great" solo back packing trip across Spain and Morocco. I have always held the opinion that travel broadens the mind and opens the heart. Especially if you travel solo. For most of my travels, I was alone and when you're alone you tend to be friendlier and ask more questions, make more friends. When I was in Granada, which is in Spain and is where the awesome Alhambra is I started to make friends with this Moroccan shop keeper. He sold souvenirs at this shop in between Alhambra and the hotel I stayed at. I was there for 2 days and everytime I was in town, I'd pass by his shop. Because his english was kinda ok, we managed to have quite a few engaging conversations. Sometimes I'd un knowingly pass by his shop and he'd call me out by calling me "Amigo!" hehehe... We never really asked each other's names. It's a shame I forgot to take a photo with him or even get his Facebook/email address. He was telling me that he was getting married in a few months and he said that it was too expensive to get married in Spain so he's getting married in Morocco. 20,000 euros is the standard wedding cost if he were to get married in Spain!

Anyways, I also bought most of my souvenirs from him (which weren't much either as I bargained for the stuff i bought) and in return he gave me a packet of Andalucian tea. He said it wasn't available in Morocco after I told him if I could get it in Morocco. I didn't think much of it at the time, not until I got back to Malaysia and tried it. It  was the best tea I've ever tasted in my life!! It has a smooth taste with a subtle hint of orange. Perfect for my taste buds! I was really sad when I ran out of it. I've been looking all around for it in Malaysia to no avail. I asked my friend in the UK to look for some if she could find any there but the best she came up with was this Moroccan blend tea which had mint and spices. Very close but not it.



It was pretty strange as when I was in Morocco, I stayed in their "riyads" or those moroccan houses with a patio in the centre and seats overlooking the patio/garden. Upon arrival, they will serve visitors mint tea, which was not the Lipton Moroccan tea I got. Anyway, the point I'd like to make is that the tea was the sweetest tea I've ever tasted! Even with my sweet tongue it tasted too sweet. I wonder why the people there don't all have diabetes?! 

Coming back from Morocco, my substitution tea as this Dilmah Moroccan mint tea. Not so minty but nice enough. If I wanted a more minty flavour then I guess I could buy my own mint leaves and infuse it together with the tea. The best thing is that this tea is readily available at supermarkets so I don't have to pay extortionate prices at specialty stores. 


Fast fast forward, last week I used up the last tea bag of my Lipton Moroccan tea. I thought I'd dissect the tea bag and see what makes it tick... It said on the box that it contains cinnamon, Chicory Root, Rosehips, Liquorice, Orange peel, Natural flavouring (i wonder what that is really? Secret ingredient maybe?) and spearmint. Cutting open the teabag reveals this:






Not much I could make out from this, so I took a picture of it and threw the stuff away. It's amazing what goes into these tea bags. If you search the net you can find all sorts of tea from green to yellow to black. From tea from leaves to teas from flowers. Over here we have our standard "Boh" Cameron highland tea. That's all the tea that most Malaysians know of. Maybe that is a good thing - support local businesses. But next time you brew your cup of tea, know that there are hundreds of different flavoured teas available out there!


My latest attempt at finding an Andalucian tea substitution:




The verdict is, the tangerine has a funny after taste to it... I'm not sure if i can finish all 25 of these...:s Anyways, if anybody is going to Granada anytime soon, please get me some Andalucian tea! =)

Al Jazeera Forum: Ahmet Davutoglu

In this video, Turkey's foreign minister talks about how the region has rediscovered its sense of possessing a common destiny. The event currently unfolding in the middle east have brought a new sense of hope for the people of the region who, for the most part have only known authoritarian rulers and governments. A far cry from the past glories of the Muslim Empires. The man behind the foreign policies of the AK party from the days of Ahmet Necdet Sezer to the present, Ahmet Davutoglu (Arabic: Ahmad Dawood Ogloo) shares his views of the future of this region. Branded by some as a proponent of Neo-Ottomanism, Prof. Dawood sheds an optimistic view of a potential middle east and discusses what needs to be done to achieve it. It is a lengthy "lecture" but very interesting to those interested in world politics. His ideas do seem slant towards a unified middle east which some might see as neo-Ottomanism but I see it as the him proposing an EU of the middle east as sorts. But the middle east is a fragmented region, though sharing a common language (accept Turkey and Iran of course), history and religion, they never seem to be able to be united. Anyways, I will not carry on rambling on a subject best left to the experts. Enjoy the video!


A little background on the Al-Jazeera Annual forum:

THE AL JAZEERA ANNUAL FORUM

The Al Jazeera Annual Forum was launched in 2004 to provide an opportunity to discuss and debate the critical dynamics of the Middle East as part of a globalized world. The impetus for the Forum grew out of the need for a journalism that can better capture how events and realities interact and play out on the ground in an eventful region. The successive editions of the Forum aimed to take an in-depth look at alternative visions for the Arab and Muslim worlds from the perspective of socio-political, cultural, and geopolitical change, as seen through the eyes of emerging movements, non-state actors, governments and civil societies, all contributing to and altering the power matrix of the region.

Since the Middle East is in a state of near-constant flux, the Forum aims to bring together people from varying backgrounds and worldviews to discuss some of the more pressing issues facing the Arab and Muslim worlds, and to determine their implications both regionally and globally. The Al Jazeera Annual Forum boasts an international mix of journalists, analysts, academics, intellectuals, traditional and new media experts, activists and bloggers, as well as leading thinkers and strategists, all convening to explore and understand the changing face of the region and its place in the world.

A little background on Prof Ahmet Davutoglu:

Saman ekor...

I never agreed to these pesky speed traps. Giving a 500m warning before the cameras seems to be a reasonable thing. Anyways, this is an interesting video, in Bahasa Malaysia about the legality of these "saman ekor" and the black listing of vehicles because of traffic offenses...


Khairy joins in on the action....

Malaysian Crafts

Ah... me and handicrafts just cannot be separated. I few weeks ago I saw banners flying about around the streets of the city centre and I told myself that I'd definitely go this year. Its an annual thing and I always wanted to go but end up missing it for some reason. Thought it is the national craft "day", the exhibitions & sales run for 2 weeks. 

For those out of KL, here's a map of where the Komplex Kraf Kuala Lumpur is:


It is located next to the Royal Chulan Hotel & restoran Seri Melayu.

Specially for this event, the organisers have provided visitors with free parking! wheee heee... hahaha... parking in KL is very outrageously expensive so free parking is always welcomed. =)

I went there straight after work on Monday and was there actually to meet up with a guy I had a previous dealing with to check up on the progress of my dealing. Since I was there, I decided to take the opportunity to take a look around what was there. The roads were jammed at that time anyways so i thought i'd look around while the traffic eases. 

They had actual craftsmen there so you can see them in action. This guy is a silversmith. He's resizing a ring for that man standing next to him. Beautiful to see him at work! 

So, what was there? Well, anything and everything arts and craft related and "Made in Malaysia" was there! You name it. From traditional arts like jewelry, Keris, Parang, Carpal etc, to pottery and ceramics, to woodcraft, furniture etc to fabrics, Batik, Songket, Songkok and ready made dresses, and lastly food, cakes etc... There's something for everyone! ;) I walked around, checked out some booths closer, talked to some of the exhibitors and it was an interesting experience. Sometimes I felt like I was a journalist, asking all these questions.... before I knew it I had spent almost 3 hours there! :s 

A silver shop selling silver jewelry, rings and bracelets. You can customise your ring here or better still custom design a ring of your own! In the background there's a woman's boutique.


The woodcraft section is especially nice!! Woodcraft has always been the type of art favoured by the peoples of the Malay archipelago. This could have something to do with the abundance of wood, especially hard wood in this region. I myself have been into woodcraft ever since I was in school. I have not done any intricate and big designs like this but once I have the right tools, I'd definitely start working on bigger work pieces! There bedroom sets, tables, chairs, Wakafs, wooden musical instruments, art pieces and much more.


The booths, though all local have the state that there are from stated on their booth. A quick observation is that certain states have more craftsmen in a particular area. For example, almost all the silversmiths were from Kelantan. The songket makers were all from the east coast, mostly terengganu and a few from Kelantan. The "manufactured" crafts, the pewter jewellery,  plaster decoration manufacturers were from the Klang valley. Wood carvers were mostly from Terengganu and some from Sarawak. All this is pretty interesting when one looks for certain types of art. Look for them at the states where the most manufacturers are from. The possibility of finding a really good craftmen is higher  in these states.


Anyways, I did buy a few things there. Mostly things that I've always wanted to buy buy couldn't afford it when I was younger or when there's no discount. Yes, everything at the exhibition is sold at a discounted price! =)








This my friends is a Pending (above). It is worn with a metal belt, the tali pinggang (below). used in the olden days as sort of protection against keris stabs to the abdomen and also as status symbols for aristocrats and kings. It is believed to have been introduced by the Siamese and popularised to the malay world by the Pattani malays. Usually pendings are made out of copper being silver or gold plated, with or without stones. Those normally cost upwards of RM1,000! For something I probably won't wear that often I think that's too steep a price, despite me wanting to complete my busana melayu.... The one I bought was relatively inexpensive, being made of pewter and Rhodium plated. The tali pinggang i bought was an antique one which is in relatively good condition and have very detailed engravings on it. Antiques are always abit more expensive than new ones as the new ones are not done in the same way as the old ones and the material of the old ones are of better quality. I'm overall happy with my purchases...=)





My final purchase is these babies.... Made in Muar... hehehe... doesn't that sound way cooler than Made in china!? hehehe Anyways, the traditional carpal worn by Malays zaman dulu dulu had a really hard insole. very not good for either comfort or health. My uncle used to tell me how my late grandfather used to make him wear carpal for raya and how he wood make sure my uncle's songkok was slightly tilted... hahaha... very the Umno my late grandfather.... hehehe... Anyways, these examples have a leather  insole with rubber outer sole. This makes them much more comfy than the traditional type whilst styled modernly with a hint of traditionalism. My kinda style and that sold it for me. Pretty disappointed that the seller didn't give me that extra RM10 discount I was haggling for but all in all still a good buy. =)


So, there you have it. My shopping endeavours at the National Craft Day.... I highly recommend you guys pay the place a visit. Parking is free if you get the parking coupon stamped. For craft lovers and those wanting to support our local industry, this is a must visit!