Friday, December 28, 2012

Bucket List

A wise man once said, goals that are not written down are just wishes.

So, since the world did not end last week, I have decided today, after spending all my year-end bonus in Singapore, to write down all my wishes and hopefully, it will turn to goals (terrible pun not intended).

Looking down the rather short list, I noted that this list (except for one particular item) is a worldly list. And, a selfish one at that. Nothing about feeding the poor or striving for world peace or saving the whales or fighting the jihad in Palestine. It's all about me. And, I suppose it does say something about me.... I am a worldly, somewhat materialistic person.

I traced back my life and I saw that I was not a worldly and materialistic person until maybe 10 years ago. That's when, after reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I realised that life has been making all the decisions for me. That's how I end up to be what I am, where I am now. Not that I am doing badly, and every time I prostrate in my daily prayer, I thank Allah for all that He has given me and I pray that He will not take it away. But, in the back of my mind, there is this little voice that keeps saying, you could have done better.

There are places I want to see, things I want to do and luxurious things I want and would like to have. Worldly things, pleasurable things that some more religious people would shun, because these things distract you from your obligations.

There were times, I thought, yes Allah did not want me to have these things because then I will lose my way... I will stray from the right path... That I will become irresponsible... Maybe probably, I would have, should I acquired all that I desired when I was younger. I am older now, and as you grow older, you tend to care less about what people think or say about you, and you begin to do things that pleases you, not wanting to show-off, or impress anyone. Maybe it is just mid-life crisis kicking in... but what the heck... now that the children are growing up and becoming more independent, I don't think it's wrong to start pampering myself, before I die.....

Forgot to put bungee jumping on the list.

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Days to Live

This coming Friday, on December 21, 2012, the planet Nibiru, last seen only by the ancient Sumerians a few thousand years ago, will come around and pass so near our earth that it will shift the poles and cause a cataclysm, wiping all living things on our planet. According to Nancy Lieder, this phenomenon was first predicted to happen in 2003, but when nothing happened then, she postponed it to 2012. Ms Lieder claimed that she was abducted by aliens when she was young and later released so that she can warn all of us of the impending end of the world.

Something is going to happen on December 21, some people insists, because that is the last day on the Mayan Calendar. The Mayan Calendar it seems is as accurate as the atomic clock, marking exactly the celestial events for the last 5,000 years. Some say that a meteor will fall to earth and we will then go the way of the dinosaurs. Or.... a huge solar flare occurs, engulfing and annihilating all planets in its path, earth included. Or... the planets will align causing the earth's magnetic fields to reverse and everything goes haywire. In a documentary I saw, a guy with weird hair said that the last day in the Mayan calendar marks the return of a Mayan god, Bolon Yokte, who is really an alien and the god of destruction, to take all our sinful souls to hell.... or something like that.

But, whether the Mayans actually penciled in their calendar that the last day in their calendar is to be the last day of earth, I do not know..... and I don't think so. The Gregorian calendar ends on December 31 every year and the next day it goes back to January 1. Maybe the Mayans had a lot of time on their hands to make a huge calendar (carved in stone, no less) that is thousands of years long.

In their website, NASA scientists said that there don't seem to be a big enough meteor hurtling down to earth that can cause total destruction that they are aware of; nor are they aware of any alignment of the planets happening any time in the near future (the last one happened in 2000). Solar flares, according to them, will affect communication satellites and that's all. Solar storms peak every 11 years.... hardly a strange phenomenon.

In actual fact, if the Mayans are still around today, on December 22, 2012, they will be celebrating a new B'ak'tun, just as we would celebrate a new century or a new millennium. (1 B'ak'tun = about 400 years)

As for me, I will follow suit what my friend Sukman is doing; start to think about my resolutions for 2013.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

An Ironic Epiphany

During a cigarette break, a colleague and I starred out at the city skyline.

"What if somebody gave you five million. What would you do with it?" suddenly he asked.

I looked at him but he continued to gaze at the jagged horizon. "I don't know. Maybe I'll buy some properties, rent them out....." I said.

"That's it, isn't it... " he suddenly turned to me, excited. "That's what I told this stupid friend of mine, just take the money and buy real-estate and earn passive income.... What a jerk.." he trailed off.

"Your friend has five million?" I asked.

"No..... but, his girlfriend was willing to give it to him, and he refused..."

"Why? What's wrong with the guy?"

"He's married... happily married.. but this girl at his workplace, the daughter of the bloody filthy rich boss, is crazy for him. She's willing to be his 2nd wife... But, this idiot friend of mine, he refused. In fact, he quit his job to get away from her."

My friend shook his head blowing smoke out of his nose, unintentionally, as he was sighing.

"He refused? What's wrong with that guy......" I said slapping my forehead.

"Stupid right??"

We both starred out at a luxury apartment building under construction in the distance in silence for while.

"How come these things don't happen to us?" my friend wondered.

"Yeah... why...."

We both crushed our cigarettes and went back into the seminar room.


On my way home, stuck in the normal daily traffic congestion, I reflected on that conversation and suddenly realized that the fact both of us even asked the question "Why it doesn't happen to us?" is the very reason God didn't let it happen to us.... For, we would have failed the test, miserably.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why I am NOT a millionaire.

The 10 Commandments of Financial Success (or why I am not Tony Fernandez)

  1. Be honest with all people (OK. I can do that….)
  2. Practice self-discipline (Fail – Only do things when I feel like it)
  3. Get along with people (Fail – only those I can stand which are not many)
  4. Find a supportive spouse/partner (??? – you mean find another one? Hehehehe…)
  5. Work harder than your peers (Fail – Come on laa… my peers already do all the work, I relax laa…Too many cooks spoil the broth....  Work smart, doh…)
  6. Love your chosen career/business (Fail – chosen? No work, no pay, no eat, no astro, …. No choice.)
  7. Develop strong leadership qualities (Fail – see 3 above. Humans do not deserve my attention… too, emotional.)
  8. Be a competitor (Fail – I Malay laaa… where got competitiveness one)
  9. Get (and stay) organized (O shoot…. I am supposed to be in a meeting half an hour ago !!... Where’s my pen, my note book… didn’t they give me some notes to read before going into the meeting?? Where is it???)
  10. Learn to sell your ideas/products (Geezzz…. I thought these things sell themselves)

Major personality overhaul required. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Acting My Age

I went to Singapore, for a convention last week.  My colleagues and I got there a day earlier and we went to visit the Universal Studios theme park, on Sentosa Island.

Apart from the 15 to 50 minutes wait to get on a less than a minute ride, I love it and I plan to start saving to bring my family in the future. I especially like the roller coasters. The Transformer ride is the most awesome. Yes, "awesome" was the only word I can describe the experience, but having said the word in my mind, I refrain myself from using that word when describing the ride to other people.

Thanks to my colleague, I was brought down to earth, when he asked me in a incredulous manner, "why?" when I told him that I wanted to go on the Battlestar Galactica Roller Coaster.

It caused me to hesitate. I walked around the area for quite a bit, looking at the duelling roller coasters (the ride actually consists of two separate tracks, one for humans, one for cylons). After a while, I decided that I must do it, while I can.... and besides, I did not pay RM150 (non peak season price) to just go see the sights. I walked towards the entrance, but the girl with the scanner stopped me when the device beeped furiously. Sorry, sir you have to empty your pockets, you can put them in the lockers over there. Ah, another obstacle, maybe it is fated that I am not to take this train. As I turn the corner towards the lockers, I told my friend what the girl said, and he extended one of his shopping bags for me to put my stuff in. Go for it, man, he said.  I dropped my belongings in the bag and walked up the long path to the turnstiles to get on the ride.

As this is a non peak season, the only other people waiting for our turn were two teenagers and 3 little girls who was running around to get to the best seats at the very front. When the crew asked how many in my party, I apologetically point to my chest and then hold up the same finger to tell him, I am alone.

The ride was great, but how weird I must look in the eyes of the young crew operating the ride, that this old man is riding this thrill rides. They are probably thinking.... Maybe he is dying.... and he wants to do all the things he couldn't do when he was young before he dies. Poor old man, thought the young man who ushered me on to my seat. I am sure he glanced at the Automated External Defibrillator just as he was securing me in my seat.

I only rode the "Human" part of the ride, but as I am writing this I regretted I did not try the "Cylon" ride, too.


Back home, I have been looking in the mirror a lot lately and wonder if I should change my wardrobe. I am most comfortable wearing jeans and t-shirt (round neck and worn-out), now I wonder if people around me see me like one of those old rockers who don't know they are old, walking about with their bellies spilling over the top of their faded blue jeans. Maybe, I should buy more slacks and batik shirts. MAybe, I should stop playing Angry Bird or Temple Run or Fruit Ninja on my phone. Or, maybe I should stop hanging out with these younger people (my EMBA friends) and start joining the pensioners teh tarik sessions to which I was once invited (by my neighbor) but declined.

One of my MBA classmates, on my birthday, posted on my wall "48? I thought you were 38?". I know she meant it to be a compliment (thanks, Jee), but I am beginning to wonder, maybe I should start acting my age. ... just as soon as I know how a 48 year old man is supposed to act.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Secret of a Happy Marriage..... I think...

I have a friend.. a very young friend. So young, that I am old enough to be his father, if I got married at 18.

Anyway, he is still single and his parents are worried. As parents do... especially in this day and age, not only are we parents worried that our daughters may become spinsters, but we also so worried that our sons maybe gay.

My friend's auntie is trying to match-make him with a cousin and according to my young friend, she seems ok. He asks for opinions and wondered if any of us (older friends) have ever experienced falling in love after marriage.

I believe, everybody falls in or out of love after marriage. Because, whatever happens before marriage is mostly fantasy.... unless of course, the couple have lived together for many years and have many children and, only then decide to get married, like Brad and Angelina. We do not tolerate that in Islam, so as far as we are concerned, marriage is the time a woman and a man really start to get to know each other. 

I guess, traditionally, Malay people are afraid of getting divorced. Or maybe, people of other religions, too, who are more orthodox and conservative in their ways. Divorce is a dirty word. As my mother-in-law likes to say, only the shovel can separate a married couple... a shovel that digs the grave that is.. 

And, we humans like to analyse things and we list down all the reasons of failed marriages and we match these reason to future cases of divorce and separation. But, then I know a few happily married couples who have one or more of these "marriage failure factors" yet they seem happy and contented.

One couple I know... The wife is an architect, the husband a taxi driver. The woman chartered the man's taxi to go to work everyday, they fell in love and got married. All of their children (five I think) are either in colleges or doing very well in school. Another couple, the wife is a successful business owner, and the husband is not working. Maybe this is normal overseas, but I can only imagine the looks and sneers and whispers behind them when they tell people of their situation. But, again, they are happy. Another happily married couple that  looks normal at first, because the husband is holding a high position at his work place, the wife.. is a "homemaker".... except that she makes nothing at home. She is so lousy in the kitchen, she can't even make a decent omelette. She can boil water only using the electric kettle. Again, they seem happily married. The adage that the way to a man's heart is through his belly, does not apply.

I think tolerance is the key. It doesn't matter how your spouse looks, or behaves.... if you can tolerate each other's idiosyncrasies with an open heart, then you are happily married. No matter how much you love somebody, if you can't tolerate him/her... best you go separate ways.

To Firdaus...... We cannot predict the future. I know you are a nice guy... So, if you think she's nice (and I'm sure your auntie has your best interest at heart) go for it!! Take the plunge!! And, Please DO NOT forget to invite me to your wedding... (I am warning you).

Friday, July 6, 2012

End of...... Something...

The most grueling test I have to face during my EMBA program was the Viva. After the Q & A session, we were asked to leave the room as the examiners and our adviser elaborated on our performance a-la that cooking program "CHOPPED" (which I like very much, BTW). When our adviser, the ever cool and relaxed Prof. Dr. Ismail, appeared from the room, he shook our hands, said that our study will be extended, maybe by the Institute of Zakat Study (IKAZ) but asked why we did not put in the problem statement. I said we did, but it's my fault that I did not emphasize it in our presentation.

The Q&A itself went smoothly, as we answered all the questions, but the examiners were not satisfied with our conclusion, and asked us to revisit it. Our literature reviews needed to be "enhanced" despite our earlier statement that there isn't much earlier study directly related to our research. The petite Prof. Sa'adiah seems to understand this, but our other examiner, Dr. Rahimi insists that there are studies on Zakat Efficiency done before. So, we have to look some more.

Otherwise, both examiner congratulated us for choosing the subject matter... but I got a feeling that they were really saying, "What the hell were you guys thinking doing something nobody else has done??". The other thing they liked was our presentation slides which Prof. Sa'adiah said was very professional.

At home, as I stripped of the suit and tie (and our presentation was at 2pm....), I felt.... sad. I felt that I have failed, not in the sense that I am going to fail, but, I felt that I could and should have done better. I felt that I have let my friends (Sukman and Joe) and Prof. Ismail down. Maybe my expectations were too high...

I wrote on my whatsapp, I felt relieved but there is no sense of achievement. And wallowed in my sorrow for the rest of the day... 


The next day, I went to work, and that was a good thing. I did not have time to mope around about what happened yesterday. Besides, I had to finish all the things for the day as early as possible, because I want to rush back in time for the farewell dinner.

The dinner was fun, and I liked it especially because, it wasn't all sad and melancholy. We had a great time, the lecturers who attended we very sporting, everybody had a chance to speak their hearts and mind and the food was quite good.  We ended the night signing each other's souvenir booklet and belting out songs from the karaoke machine. I will remember this for the rest of my life.

But, it really isn't over. We still have to do the amendments, and run around getting the examiner's endorsements on the "endorsement form".

It is, however, the beginning of the end.

When I graduated with a degree some 20 years ago, it was the end of my student life and the start of my working life. It was a transition into another phase. It was an evolution of some sort. From being carefree to being a person responsible for my own daily bread.

I wonder today how my life will change once I get my Masters Degree. The same time next year, will I be someone else than I am today? Somethings would have changed I supposed, but nothing compared to when I get my degree.

The best thing that came out of this EMBA programme for me, getting to know my wonderful and colorful classmates, and great lecturers.

Other than that... I guess we'll have to wait and see....

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In Denial

I saw a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond last weekend. In that one, Ray found out that he's shrunk by a quarter inch. Thereafter, mid-life crisis sets in and he started to list out things to do before he dies.

But, I am not talking about living your dreams, or about dying, what really got stuck in my mind was what Debra (Ray's wife) said towards the end of that episode. She said that having a proper mid-life crisis is not to start planning for your death, but by going into denial, "like a normal person".

I am a normal person. Last year, I had a niggling pain in the joint of my right big toe. I went to a doctor and he said it's probably gout. I said, it can't be. He said, ok lets do  a blood test. And, sure enough, my uric acid was very high, and I guess the symptom fits.

Then, there isn't any more attacks. I still buy a Big Mac one a week, but whacked prawns and crabs like nobody's business. And, no gout. And, therefore, I re-convinced myself that that little big toe pain was definitely not gout.

Today, in my room, on my bed, I write this blog on a hazy balmy Wednesday afternoon, I have to concede that I have gout. It came over a week ago, and had stayed on in that joint at the end of my big toe until yesterday, when I thought it was going away, but the irresistible prawn fritters my wife make, turned it around and settled itself right back where it seemed the most comfortable.

Here I am, on medical leave, browsing the internet for remedies and diet plans, and guess what, Roti Canai and Teh Tarik is not on any of the recommended food. Neither is, oxtail soup, nasi lemak, spaghetti bolognese, cantonese noodles, masak lemak cili padi, asam pedas..... NOTHING!!

Ok, there's oatmeal, and fresh yougurt, and surprisingly, eggs are ok... One website recommends multi-grain bread for breakfast with a pack of Milo and chicken with rice for lunch and multi-grain bread with Milo like a snack and for dinner, multi-grain bread .... with Milo....

Or, I can have omelette with spinach and fetta cheese, served with honeydew for breakfast, for lunch salmon salad with crispy potatoes served on wholemeal pita bread and for desert I can have a sugarless fudgsicle (whatever that is) and a cup of skim milk.... hummus and carrot sticks (4 ounces only) for snacks and for dinner, we are having 2/3 cup brown rice with steamed spinach.... how loverly.... NOT!!

Ahhh... what the hell, as soon as this pain goes away, I am going to have a whopper burger at the newly reopened Burger King at section 13.....

Monday, May 28, 2012

Short Attention Span

I think I have a dream job. The work environment is laid back, relaxed.... once in awhile we get a project to do but, if we don't achieve the target, we get a mild tongue lashing from a very nice considerate boss. My boss will approve my leave without even looking at why I'm going on leave or for how long. So much so he may come looking for me to ask me something and then realized I am on leave. And, he'd apologize for disturbing me.

Not surprising we have staff who's been here almost all their lives. Mostly women, they started working here after they finish secondary school at 18, got married (some to co workers, some to customers), have children, the children grew up and got married and have children of their own.... This is their lives, they know no other employers and they do not care to know.  Ironically, not many of them encourage their children to work here. Maybe on part time basis, while waiting for their SPM results.

This is a utopia.... a shangri-la of employment. There were some animosity among some of them, but otherwise, it like a big family here.

After more than a decade in the construction industry, I was ecstatic when I was offered a job here. It was what I have been praying for.  To get away from those engineers who do not understand that there is such thing as procedures and documentations when we want to make payments. Away from incessant calls from subcontractors who never seem to have any money. From bosses who yelled and cussed and cursed.

I have not heard a single expletive since I've been here since 2006.... that I think I miss it. In fact, I am beginning to miss the construction company environment. (Sigh)

This sedate surroundings is starting to take it toll on me. The predictableness of each day, and the simplicity of the minds that I have to deal with makes me long for another change. I cannot imagine how people can do the same thing the same way for decades. I need a change.

This dream must end......

Monday, April 2, 2012

Be all you can be....

Yesterday, my son told me that he wants to pursue a career in the arts. No, not an artist or actor or a dancer, but a script and/or screenplay writer. I knew about this for a long time because he's been asking me about it a few times. And, I must admit, while I try not to sound discouraging, my answers were carefully chosen to make him reconsider the option.

I guess I want him to be an engineer or a doctor. I was happy when he said he's taking engineering drawing at school but later I found that he did that because he didn't think he qualified to take biology. He spends his time reading Japanese Manga and his favorite Astro Chanel is 715 - Animax. He spends a a lot of time discussing with his friend, Imran (who's a Manga artist in the making) about a Manga comic book based on their friends at school. Before exams, he'd study for an hour or so, then he retires to bed carrying my laptop to read the online Manga before going to bed.

At the Career Day exhibition at his school, he already chose the college he wants to to go that has the course in script writing.

When I was growing up, I told people I wanted to be a pilot. But, I never knew how to go about it. No career guidance, and probably nobody really believed I could actually be one. Looking back I, though, I never really knew what I wanted to be.

Well, my son knows what he wants, and of that I am proud.

And, although in earnest of what the future may bring, I will be behind him all the way.....

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hoping It won't Drag(0n)...

Feng Shui wise, I am in for a turbulent year. The coming Chinese new year is the year of the Water Dragon and me being a wood dragon born in the month of the water dog on the day of the horse in the hour of the rat, will have terrible luck next year. In fact, I did a whole life cycle forecast and it seems that my luck will only change when the stars are in my favor when I am 120 years old..... I can't wait.

This is the my 4th cycle of the zodiac. For the uninitiated, the Chinese Zodiac has twelve animals in it. They are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog & Pig (source: wikipedia.... where else).

Ok, enough of that. I actually have a lot of hope for this year. I need to have this year to be a good year. According to this website I was using to assess my luck (using a fake name) I have to find a good Chinese name for myself to change my luck. I was thinking Alan Tam, or Donnie Yen... Or Jackie Chan. I'll give it a good thought.

What I've decided to do this year is to finish some of the stuff I started to do, some of them 4 or 5 years ago. One of them is this novel I am writing. Actual, two novels, both are crappy.. that I'm sure. One is in Malay and one in English. I will write it in between my Applied Business Research (ABR) Paper... because, ABR is so boring, I need the distraction.

OK. That is the scariest thing I have done today... to actually declare that I will finish something I started. To set a goal... To make a (gulp) commitment.

I should do this more often.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reflection 2011....

End of week one in the new year. This will be a challenging year, with Afiq, Ija and Aiman sitting for their major school exams, and I will be in my final semester for my MBA course (God willing).

I planned to write this earlier, to look back on the year that's passed.... Which I do not often do since I have decided, somewhere in my life that I will live only in the present. There's too many regrets in my past.

But I decided to do this because Dr. Paul Jambunathan, clinical psychologist on Lite FM said we should, and also to reflect on how each incident affected us.

Ok... 2011 negatives. I can think of only one devastating incident.... the passing of Kak Esah, my beloved sister, on 14 November. How this affects me? Sad of course. But, death puts us in a dilemma of sorts. You want those you love to always be around... at the same time we know for every beginning there must be an end. That's the will of Allah. As for Kak Esah, I believe she's had a wonderful fulfilling life, a loving husband, three successful children, great friends (as evidenced by the number of people at the mosque who turned up for her last rites). I owe her a lot. She put up with me when I was in standard 5 and 6 and during my diploma and my degree days at ITM and paid me allowance. My father spent his last days in her house in Bangsar. I crashed her three month old Proton Saga. I tried to pay her back, but got scolded instead.... she said she was just carrying out her responsibility. Allah bless her soul. I LOVE YOU, KAK ESAH!!

The positives...

Sent Kak Long to college. Happy and sad at the same time. That's how your children make you feel. You want to hang on to them for as long as you can, but you know you will have to let them go and some point. Let them spread their wings.... learn about life, make their own mistakes, feel their own pain and create their own memories.

Went to Kota Kinabalu (without Kak Long, which is a negative). I like KK. I don't know why. But, I must say, staying at Le Meridien helped. Touring and snorkeling at nearby islands and travelling up to the foot of Mount Kinabalu, letting fish nibble at your feet at Sungai Moroli in Kampung Luanti, the canopy walk at Poring.... enjoyed it all.

Got a double increment this year!! Thank you, Brig. Gen. Dato' Ahmad Zahudi... my CEO.

Almost got a 4 flat for my second semester. (Maybe this should be a negative). But, I got the full spectrum of As.. A+ for Financial Management, A for Econs and A- for Marketing. I have resigned that I am destined to never get 4 flat..

Went to Langkawi on Christmas... nice but, KK was better. There were some anxiety when we suddenly realized that we went crazy spending about RM500 on chocolates, and we have surpassed the excess baggage limit set by Tony Fernandez. But, it turned out we didn't have to pay extra.... The highlights for me are the mangrove tour and the Laksa at Teluk Yu.

It was a great year. This year.... I don't know. I forecast stormy weather up ahead. Emotional for sure. High anxiety..... Not only because of the children's exams, but I think Sapiah will continue her position as acting head or perhaps she'll be promoted to be the head of Subang BC. Either way, balancing work and ensuring the kids (the boys, especially) keep their focus on their studies will be one hell of a challenge.

Well, if the world doesn't end this December.... I hope to reflect on this year with more positives....

See you on the other side......